What is going on, ball boys and girls? As always, I hope you guys are doing super well. Going into spring training, I wanted to gather all the divisions to predict the division's outcomes. I also wanted to predict the most likely CY Young, MVP, and ROY from each division. For each team in the said division, I will give you a breakout candidate, rebound candidate, an impact NRI(non-roster invite), and one Rookie to watch.
Without further ado, let's talk about the AL East!
Tampa Bay Rays: 94-68
Toronto Blue Jays: 90-72
NY Yankees: 88-74
Boston Red Sox: 80-92
Baltimore Orioles: 60-102
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MVP: When the Blue Jays were connected to every significant Free Agent, they kept missing repeatedly. I was getting concerned about who they would end up signing. Nonetheless, they made the perfect signing for their team in OF George Springer. Springer is coming off a season where he hit 14HR, 32RBI with a slash line of .265/.359/.540 in 222PA. That was good for a 13th place finish in the MVP. In 2019 Springer finished 7th in the MVP voting. Going into his age 31 season, with a huge deal and being the new superstar with the Jay's, Springer is set to lead this young Jay's team to its second playoff berth. Springer hits 32+HR, 95+RBI, and slashes close to the .290/.350/.500 or better and gets the Jays into the playoffs; it's a lock for me.
Other Candidates: OF Aaron Judge, INF DJ LaMahieu, SS Bo Bichette, OF Austin Meadows, 3B Rafael Devers
Cy Young: When you pay a guy $36mil a year, you expect him to be in the Cy Young conversation over and over and over again. In his first season in the Bronx, Gerrit Cole finished 4th place with a 2.84ERA/3.89FIP over 73IP. Cole is due for his after his 3rd straight top-5 Cy Young finish. The Yankees need Cole to get 15+W, with to a -3.00ERA and 250+K if they want to keep up with the division's powers.
Other Candidates: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tyler Glasnow, Eduardo Rodriguez
Rookie of the Year: Even after a phenomenal Rookie postseason, Randy Arozarena is still rookie eligible going into the 2021 season. If you forgot, Arozarena owns the Rookie record for HR(10), H(29) in the postseason, and he hit .358/.429/.790 in 91PA in the postseason. Arozarena is a lock for ROY if he reproduces even league average numbers. However, I think there is an exceptional talent here for the Rays.
Other Candidates: SS Wander Franco, 1B Ryan Mountcastle,
Players to Watch: Rays
The breakout is coming for OF Manuel Margot. The OBP has improved from 2018(.292) to 2020 (.327), and he is only 26 and barely getting into his prime. He has shown flashes of being able to be a 20HR/20SB player. In 3520.1 innings in the OF, he has 29DRS. After slashing .269/.327/.352 in 145AB, I am in on Margot.
The Rays essentially are rebound city. The combination of Michael Wacha, Chris Archer, Collin McHugh, Rich Hill give the Rays, in theory, a high upside rotation if all goes well. One of these guys, along with Glasnow, will be a Cy Young candidate.
The NRI to watch is RHRP Hunter Strickland. For some reason, the Rays do an excellent job with the pitchers, and it's because of Kevin Cash. Strickland is going to benefit from the system.
The Rookie I am watching, along with Randy Arozarena, is SS Wander Franco. Franco, without a doubt, will be the opening day SS and will be a force in the lineup.
Players to Watch: Blue Jays
The breakout season is coming for 3B Vlad Guerrero Jr. After dropping nearly 30ILB this winter and getting leaner and meaner. We all can't wait to get our eyes on him. After hitting .262/.329/.462, the numbers are coming into line for him to be an above-average hitter. The 21yo is ready to be #2 next to Springer and work to win the AL East.
The rebound candidate for the Jay's is RHRP Kirby Yates. Yates is looking to get back to his 2018-19 form of 1.67ERA over 123.2IP with 53sv. The Jay's need a stud to close out games, and Yates will be that man in 2021.
The NRI to watch in Jay's camp is LHP Francisco Liriano. After opting out of the 2020 season, we have to look back to his 2019. The 2019 season wasn't awful for Liriano as he posted a 3.47ERA, 50.3% groundball rate in 70IP. Liriano could factor into the back end of the rotation or serve as a swingman.
The Rookie to watch for the Jay's is C Alejandro Kirk. After a short showing of 24AB, he posted a 0.2WAR with a .375/.400/583. With 52INN behind the dish, he had a 1.000FLD%. Look out for Kirk to join the rest of the young Jays in getting into the top of the AL East.
Players to Watch: Yankees
The breakout is coming from OF Clint Frazier. With Brett Gardner out of town and Judge and Stanton always hurt, it seems. The opportunity is there for Frazier. When the 26yo Frazier gets his chance, he is fantastic. He posted a 1.7WAR with a .267/.394/.511 over 131AB. Should Frazier get to play in more than 2/3 of the team's games, both sides will benefit greatly.
The rebound candidate is SP Corey Kluber. From 2014-18 he averaged 218IP, 2.85ERA, and a 28.5K rate. Kluber is a 2x Cy Young winner and 3x All-Star and at 34yo is out to show; he is still just as good as ever.
The NRI to watch in Yankees camp is a trio of pitchers. RHP Kyle Barraclough, LHP Nestor Cortes Jr., and Jhoulys Chacin. Each had disappointing 2019-20 seasons and are just looking for a chance to show they can get back to the pitcher they were prior.
The Rookie to watch for the Yankees this season is RHP Clarke Schmidt. After posting a miserable 7.11ERA over 6.1IP in 2020 for a-0.1WAR. The Yankee's top pitching prospect had a 4.30FIP in 2020. The track record at the MiLB level shows us a 3.39ERA over 114IP with 132K.
Players to Watch: Red Sox
We thought 2020 was a good season for OF Alex Verdugo. I don't think we have only seen the beginning. After posting a 2.2WAr, .308/.367/.478 in 53G and 221PA. Verdugo is ready to lead the youth movement in Boston. Verdugo is too good not to post similar numbers to this last season and only get better with an entire season under his belt.
The rebound seasons are on for a couple of new Red Sox OF Hunter Renfroe and Francy Cordero. Both were coming off down seasons and were moved on by their previous teams. New manager Alex Cora has developed some great hitters in Houston over recent seasons, and I can see both of these men playing right into Cora's hand.
The NRI I am watching in Boston is RHP Zac Grotz because of the limited MLB experience. With the only 24.2IP at the MLB level with 20ER, it looks to me he just hasn't been given a chance. I mean, he was with the Mariners. Look for Grotz to compete for a pen job and win one.
The Rookie I am watching is INF Jeter Downs. The other piece of the Mookie Betts trade along with Alex Verdugo. Downs will get a shot in camp to earn the 2B job. Verdugo has paid off for the club so far, and Downs is in line to prove his worth.
Players to Watch: Orioles
The breakout season is here for 1B Ryan Mountcastle. He is still Rookie eligible through 2021. After playing in 35 games for the O's in 2020, he posted a 0.7WAR, .333/.386/.492 slash in 126AB. Give me an entire season from Mountcastle at that level or close to it; we have a 24yo STUD!
The rebounds are coming from Felix Hernandez and Matt Harvey. Yes, King Felix and the Dark Knight are both in O's camp on minors deals, and if they both stay healthy through spring, both should make the opening day roster. Both will prove to all of us they still have it and are going to dominate for the O's in 2021.
The NRI I am watching, along with King Felix and the Dark Knight, is RHP Conner Greene. Greene is only 25yo and has a mid-high 90's fastball. I am interested to see how the O's work him in.
The Rookie I am watching is Ryan Mountcastle and, of course, C Adley Rutschman. Not only is Rutschman a Tik Tok star, but he is also a phenomenal player behind the dish. Look for this duo to be the primary building blocks of the future for the O's.
Thanks for reading today, I am so grateful for your time reading, and I hope you enjoyed reviewing the winners as much as I have. I also want to thank my partners over at Repp Sports for RAZE Energy. Thanks to this clean and sufficient energy, I can have the intense focus to deliver content to you guys consistently. Click here to save 15% right now with the code "BALL BOY" at check out.