Not surprisingly, we’ve spent most of our time focusing on what’s going on at the Yankees’ spring training facilities in Tampa. But how has the rest of the American League East been doing? Let’s check in on the Yankees’ division rivals so far.
The Orioles are projected to be among the worst teams in baseball for the third straight year. FanGraphs projections peg them for a 60-102 record and give them a 0% chance of making the playoffs, let alone winning the division.
Just don’t tell that to the Orioles, who have out-performed expectations in the Grapefruit League, thanks in part to a six-game undefeated streak (with ties) that places them at 7-5, just 1.5 games out of the top spot. Their offense has been anchored by strong performances from Chris Davis, who has a .647 OBP in 15 plate appearances, and shortstop Pat Valaika. This has allowed them to handle injuries to shortstop Jose Iglesias and outfielder Trey Mancini, although both are expected back for Opening Day.
Unfortunately for the Orioles, this will probably be their peak for the season. But hey, at least their fans can see some (exhibition) success this year.
In their few home games that occur stateside, the Blue Jays have played fairly well, posting a 6-3 record despite weak performances from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (.690 OPS), Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (.583 OPS), and Travis Shaw (.276 OPS). Most importantly, however, the Blue Jays have remained very healthy, with the elbow injury to Ryan Borucki being the only one of note — and the twenty-five year old already was on the outside looking in at a rotation spot.
For the most part, this has been an ideal spring so far for Toronto, as the best a team can really do in March is get to April intact.
Oh how far the mighty have fallen.
It’s easy, and often desirable, to forget that just a year ago, the Red Sox looked like a juggernaut. Fresh off a World Series championship that capped off a season in which they won 108 games, Boston had a dominant lineup and two aces at the top of what appeared to be a deep rotation. Since then, the Red Sox limped to an 84-win season that they followed up on by trading their best player (Mookie Betts) and a top starter (David Price). Meanwhile, the big return from that deal, Alex Verdugo, has been sidelined in camp due to a stress fracture in his back. Xander Bogaerts only made his first appearance yesterday because of an ankle injury, and Chris Sale — already headed for the injured list to give him time to recuperate after reporting to camp with pneumonia — has been dealing with elbow troubles, although he has avoided Tommy John surgery so far.
Needless to say, a 4-7 record with a -18 run differential in the Grapefruit League is the least of their concerns. The Red Sox purposely took a step back in the winter and have seemingly taken another one during spring training.
For most teams, having your ace go down with an elbow injury is reason enough to worry. Even when you have two aces on your staff, like the Yankees do, it’s a blow to the team. But even if Blake Snell’s elbow injury turns out to require surgery (which it doesn’t appear to, at least so far), the Rays should be the last team to be concerned: after all, they’re the pioneers and experts at not using starting pitchers to great success.
Because of this, although the Rays have three starting pitchers currently rehabbing injuries — Snell, Brendan McKay, and Brent Honeywell — they still remain as dangerous as ever. More so, in fact, due to the Yankees’ bad injury luck continuing into the new season. As expected, the Rays remain the team to keep an eye on in the AL East.