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The best players in the AL East (according to ZiPS)

Seeing what the projections think the rest of the division has to offer.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

A few weeks ago, Esteban Rivera broke down the then-recently released ZiPS projections for the 2023 Yankees. We’re less than a month away from pitchers and catchers reporting and the offseason is beginning to wrap itself up, so I thought we might take a look around the AL East and see what ZiPS foresees the Yankees contending with this coming season.

Let’s go position by position.


Adley Rutschman (4.7 WAR); Alejandro Kirk (3.7 WAR)

Yankees: Jose Trevino (1.3 WAR)

Lol. Lmao, even. Welcome to the new AL East — It’s Adley Rutschman’s world, and we’re living in it. The Orioles’ quiet offseason means they probably don’t have the upside Vegas is giving them credit for right now, but we should likely get used to complaining about him for a long time. Kirk’s projection is impressive because it’s nearly all bat — especially with Toronto’s new hitter-friendly fence dimensions, he’s going to be a menace for the rest of the division.

First Base

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3.5 WAR); Yandy Díaz (3.0 WAR)

Yankees: Anthony Rizzo (2.1 WAR)

The East is deep at first base. Interestingly, ZiPS is the low system on Vlad Jr., who it views more as a Really Good hitter rather than the otherworldly monster we saw in 2021, which I’m sure you all will be glad to hear. It also seems to agree with Tampa Bay’s extension-worthy evaluation of Yandy Díaz, who it gives a high floor with a chance to blossom into a nightmare for the rest of the East if he ever starts lifting the ball more.

MLB: Wild Card-Seattle Mariners at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Second Base

Brandon Lowe (3.4 WAR); Gleyber Torres (2.9 WAR)

Even coming off a brutal 2022, ZiPS still sees Lowe as the clear-cut best player in the division at the keystone, sitting at the heart of a Rays lineup that’s projected to pack a lot more punch in 2023. Simultaneously, we know it still thinks kindly of Gleyber, and it’s comforting to some degree to know that in spite of the uncertainty surrounding his tenure, he’s firmly one of the game’s (and certainly the division’s) more solid two-baggers.

Third Base

Matt Chapman (4.2 WAR); Rafael Devers (4.1 WAR)

Yankees: Josh Donaldson (2.3 WAR), DJ LeMahieu (3.7 WAR)

Chapman’s top comparison according to ZiPS are Mike Schmidt, Troy Glaus, and Darrell Evans; I don’t typically consider him in the same tier as the Arenados and Machados of the league, but his combination of power and elite defense gives him easily the highest floor in the division. Devers ... anyway, moving on.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports


Gunnar Henderson (4.0 WAR); Bo Bichette (3.9 WAR)

Yankees: Anthony Volpe (3.1 WAR), Oswald Peraza (2.1 WAR)

This was the biggest surprise of this entire list — Szymborski has already written about how his system thinks Henderson is a generational talent. Bichette has led the league in hits for two consecutive seasons, and though Wander Franco (projected 3.4 WAR) could easily challenge for the title of top shortstop in the division, Bichette’s done nothing but hit for four years in the majors, and is a good bet to keep doing so in 2023.

Right Field

Aaron Judge (7.4 WAR), George Springer (4.2 WAR)

Once again, lol, lmao. I have nothing more to add. No matter whether he spends more time in right or center field, Springer projects as the second-best outfielder in the division. He played 133 games in 2022, his highest total since 2018. If he can stay healthy enough to repeat that effort this year, a repeat of his 4.2 fWAR seems likely.

NHL: Florida Panthers at New York Rangers Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Center Field

Cedric Mullins (3.2 WAR); Harrison Bader (3.2 WAR)

Mullins and Bader get to their division-leading projections in similar ways: a blend of elite defense, middling pop, and good baserunning that coalesce to form a dynamic — but volatile — outfielder.

Left Field

Randy Arozarena (3.1 WAR); Alex Verdugo (2.2 WAR)

Yankees: Aaron Hicks (0.5 WAR), Oswaldo Cabrera (1.4 WAR)

Easily the most barren spot in the East, Arozarena is the only player at the position who approaches stardom. Anthony Santander just trails Verdugo at 2.1 fWAR, but ZiPS doesn’t see much upside around here.

Starting Pitcher

Gerrit Cole (4.2 WAR), Carlos Rodón (4.0 WAR), Alek Manoah (3.9 WAR), Shane McClanahan 3.6 WAR), Kevin Gausman (3.0 WAR), Chris Bassitt (3.0 WAR)

The top of the Yankees rotation is projected to dominate the East, but Toronto’s trio of Manoah, Gausman, and Bassitt (along with contributions from Hyun-Jin Ryu, José Berríos, and prospects Ricky Tiedemann and Nate Pearson) should pose a formidable challenge in spite of the hitter-friendly changes to Rogers Centre’s dimensions.

Relief Pitcher

Félix Bautista (1.6 WAR), John Schreiber (1.3 WAR), Jonathan Loáisiga (1.0 WAR), Andrew Kittredge (1.0 WAR), Jordan Romano (0.8 WAR)

Félix Bautista is a bad, bad man. Otherwise, there’s not a lot to note here — reliever projections aren’t worth a ton on an individual level.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Most Power

Aaron Judge (.298 ISO), Rafael Devers (.243 ISO), Brandon Lowe (.239 ISO), Giancarlo Stanton (.233 ISO), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (.230 ISO), Matt Chapman (.229 ISO), Isaac Paredes (.225 ISO)

I just wanted a reason to include Paredes, who ZiPS gives a 50/50 shot at 3.1 WAR and a 119 OPS+. The Rays are projection-friendly, who knew?

Highest Average

Alex Verdugo (.296 AVG), Rafael Devers (.290 AVG), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (.284 AVG), Wander Franco (.280 AVG), Aaron Judge (.280 AVG), Bo Bichette (.280 AVG)

One of these guys will almost certainly break .300. It would also be very unsurprising to see us talking about Franco a lot more this time next year.

Speed Threats

Cedric Mullins (28 SB), Jorge Mateo (26 SB), Randy Arozarena (25 SB), Anthony Volpe (24 SB), Oswald Peraza (22 SB), Whit Merrifield (19 SB)

I’m unclear whether these projections — which are a bit of a crapshoot, anyway — account for the new base size and pickoff rules which are expected to spark an increase in steals.


Alek Manoah (184 IP), Gerrit Cole (177 IP), Kevin Gausman (177 IP), Carlos Rodón (163 IP), Shane McClanahan (156 IP), Nick Pivetta (151 IP)

I just wanted to repost this, which still makes me laugh because it was unequivocally true at the time. 2023 workhorse!

Rookie Watch

Gunnar Henderson (4.0 WAR), Anthony Volpe (3.1 WAR), Bryan Bello (2.2 WAR), Oswald Peraza (2.1 WAR), Grayson Rodríguez (1.7 WAR)

Beyond Henderson and Volpe, who Esteban discussed in detail, ZiPS sees several other high-profile rookies making substantial contributions this coming year. I’m particularly excited to see whether Bello or Rodríguez (currently the consensus runner-up to Andrew Painter as the game’s top pitching prospect) show their stuff for the first time over an extended period in the big leagues.