New York Yankees' Aaron Judge AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Latest Standing Projections For Rays, Yankees, Red Sox and Loaded AL East Division

Kerry Miller

In any other division, the 27-25 Toronto Blue Jays would be in great shape right now. They would surely be expected to win either the AL Central or NL Central, and though they wouldn't be in first place in the AL West, NL East or NL West, they would at least have a strong pulse just a few games back.

But in the preposterously loaded AL East, MLB's northern-most club is all the way down at the bottom, despite a winning record and better than 50/50 odds of making the playoffs.

At the start of play Saturday, the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays each had both a winning record and a positive run differential, while every other division had at least one team seven or more games below .500 and at least one team with a run differential of minus-30 or worse.

But what should we expect from the next four months in the AL East?

We'll start our discussion with some historical precedence for what the division has accomplished thus far before diving into some thoughts on each team (in alphabetical order), as well as where the various predictive models have them finishing the season. And, lastly, our updated predictions—to be dug up and laughed at four months from now.

Statistics, records, betting odds and predictive model projections current through the start of play Saturday.

Best Division Ever?

Tampa Bay's Shane McClanahan Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Collectively, the AL East has been historically dominant.

Since the 1994 split from four divisions to six, the 2005 NL East was the lone instance of an entire division finishing .500 or better—when all five teams finished between 81-81 and 90-82 and failed to even produce a wild-card team.

The AL East entered play Saturday with a combined winning percentage of .596. Over the past three decades since the aforementioned split to six divisions, the best winning percentage by any division was the 2002 AL West—when three of the four teams won at least 93 games for an overall record of 367-281 (.566).

Last year's AL East flirted with all-time greatness, producing a .541 winning percentage with 78-84 Boston the only team that finished below .500. But that was when each division played 190 intra-divisional games.

With the new "everyone plays everyone every season" approach to MLB's schedule, there are only 130 "AL East vs. AL East" games in 2023, opening the door for the division to pad its record against, say, the terrible AL Central, and a few more basement-dwellers from the National League. And outside of the division, the AL East has gone 108-58 (.651 winning percentage).

Maybe one of the five teams crashes and burns over the latter two-thirds of the season, but the stage is at least set for the entire AL East to finish above .500 en route to claiming all three of the American League's wild-card spots.

Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore's Adley Rutschman Mark Blinch/Getty Images

Current Record: 33-18, +35 run differential


PECOTA: 84.6 wins, 34.8% playoffs
Baseball-Reference: 89.1 wins, 54.6% playoffs
FanGraphs: 85.8 wins, 46.1% playoffs
Team Rankings: 86.3 wins, 37.9% playoffs
Combined Average: 86.45 wins, 43.35% playoffs

Despite entering play Saturday with the second-best record in the majors, the predictive models are still firmly in "skeptical mode" with the Baltimore Orioles.

And, well, it makes sense.

The most valuable player on the roster has been set-up man Yennier Cano, who had an amazing-but-unsustainable cumulative line of 21.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 25 K through his first 17 appearances. He and closer Félix Bautista (1.44 ERA, 18.0 K/9) have done a sensational job at the back end of what has been the best bullpen in baseball.

However, the starting rotation leaves a lot to be desired.

The O's biggest offseason acquisition, Kyle Gibson, hasn't been anything special. They traded for Cole Irvin in January, but he didn't even make it through April before getting demoted. Tyler Wells has the best numbers of the bunch, but he desperately needs to get the home runs under control, allowing nine in his last five starts. And highly touted rookie Grayson Rodriguez simply has not delivered on his potential, with a 7.35 ERA and an 0-for-10 mark in the quality starts department. He was optioned down to Triple-A on Sunday to work on various adjustments.

Just kind of feels like the starting pitching will be the culprit when this team comes back to earth.

Also, Baltimore has had some (knock on wood) incredible injury luck. Aside from Mychal Givens missing the first seven weeks with a knee injury, Ramón Urías missing a few weeks with a strained hamstring and John Means still recovering from last year's Tommy John surgery, the Orioles have been basically at full strength all season.

["That must be nice!"—New York Yankees fans.]

This offense has staying power, though.

While the O's are unlikely to have anyone finish top five in the AL in home runs, all of the regulars can go yard, as eight players have hit at least five dingers. Led by Adley Rutschman, Baltimore leads the AL in walks drawn. And led by Cedric Mullins and Jorge Mateo, the O's also steal quite a few bases—though, they've run much less in May than they did for the first few weeks of the season.

Add it all up and they're quietly averaging better than five runs per game.

And let's just say there's room in the budget for Baltimore to address the starting pitching ahead of the trade deadline.

They balked at legitimately trying to make the postseason at last year's deadline and didn't do much this offseason, but they could make things mighty interesting by digging through the couch cushions to find enough money to bring in an Eduardo Rodriguez and/or a Lucas Giolito.

Boston Red Sox

Boston's Rafael Devers Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Current Record: 27-24, +12 run differential


PECOTA: 82.4 wins, 19.8% playoffs
Baseball-Reference: 83.5 wins, 16.6% playoffs
FanGraphs: 82.5 wins, 24.2% playoffs
Team Rankings: 81.6 wins, 14.1% playoffs
Combined Average: 82.5 wins, 18.7% playoffs

After a frustrating offseason which included Xander Bogaerts relocating to San Diego and Trevor Story undergoing a likely season-ending elbow surgery, preseason expectations for the 2023 Red Sox were pretty low—at least compared to the rest of the AL East.

That's still the case as Boston is unanimously projected for last place in the division by a several-game margin.

However, they've been much better than anticipated on offense, racking up doubles left and right en route to the fourth-highest run total in the majors.

Rafael Devers leading the way with 25 extra-base hits and 44 RBI is no surprise—and signing him to a 10-year extension is the one great thing Boston did this offseason.

It's also not particularly surprising that Masataka Yoshida has one of the best batting averages in the majors dating back to April 20, given how well he hit over the past seven seasons in Japan.

But Jarren Duran blossoming into a .300 hitter? Rob Refsnyder playing some of his best baseball at 32 years old? Connor Wong hitting five home runs and emerging as a real asset at catcher? Enmanuel Valdez getting called up and making a real impact at second base?

All unexpected, positive developments for the Red Sox.

Now, if they could just get that starting rotation up to snuff...

Chris Sale has been great as of late, logging quality starts in five of his last seven appearances after posting an 11.25 ERA through his first three starts. And getting James Paxton back from the IL two weeks ago was a much-needed boost, as he pitched quite well in his first two starts.

But Boston has already entered desperation mode with Nick Pivetta and Corey Kluber, moving both of those veterans into the bullpen after giving them more than a month to try to work through their early woes. Tanner Houck has also struggled with an ERA that has hovered in the 4.25-5.50 range all season long.

Garrett Whitlock came back from a month on the IL Saturday. Like Paxton's return, that could be a big help. But we'll see how well the oft-injured 26-year-old does this time around.

If the starting pitching continues to improve, though, Boston could post a winning record with some room to spare. After all, the Red Sox have yet to face the last-place team in any of the other divisions (A's, Royals, Rockies, Reds and Nationals) nor the 22-31 White Sox. That should at least counter-balance the 38 games remaining against the rest of the AL East.

New York Yankees

New York's Gerrit Cole Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Current Record: 30-23, +23 run differential


PECOTA: 94.0 wins, 91.8% playoffs
Baseball-Reference: 91.0 wins, 69.4% playoffs
FanGraphs: 89.2 wins, 72.9% playoffs
Team Rankings: 92.9 wins, 79.1% playoffs
Combined Average: 91.8 wins, 78.3% playoffs

The Yankees rallied quite nicely from a disappointing 30-game, .500 start to the season, to 10 games over that mark in three weeks' time—though they have since lost three in a row.

That turnaround coincided with Harrison Bader's season debut on May 2. He hit .290 with five home runs in his first 20 games, which eventually led the Yankees to finally designate Aaron Hicks for assignment. Similar vibes to Bader's arrival last year.

Between Bader's arrival and Aaron Judge later mashing eight home runs in the span of nine days, the offense got a much-needed jolt, leading the majors in slugging from May 2-23.

Meanwhile, the starting rotation is finally getting healthy.

Luis Severino made his 2023 debut last Sunday, and Carlos Rodón is at least progressing in his rehab from both a forearm strain and a back injury. The Yankees also called up Randy Vásquez to make his MLB debut Friday, though he may just be a stopgap solution until Rodón is ready for his pinstripes debut.

Throw in Josh Donaldson and Giancarlo Stanton getting close to a return after each spending more than five weeks on the IL and you've got a hot team that's still just getting warmed up.

If they're going to storm all the way back to win the division, though, the starting pitching needs to improve. Not Gerrit Cole. He has been outstanding and might finally win the AL Cy Young that has eluded his grasp over the past half-decade.

But he's not getting much help.

Nestor Cortes, Clarke Schmidt and Jhony Brito have each started at least nine games with an ERA well north of 5.00. And while Domingo Germán has posted strong marks (3.75 ERA, 0.90 WHIP), he has already been involved in two sticky stuff incidents and is currently serving a 10-game suspension for it.

Again, getting healthy is huge here, but the combination of Severino's return and Rodón's eventual return doesn't adequately address the fact that 80 percent of the rotation has either been not good or busted for cheating. In addition to getting healthy, the Yanks need the 2021-22 version of Cortes to show up if they want to leapfrog both Tampa Bay and Baltimore to avoid playing in a wild-card series.

Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay's Wander Franco Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Current Record: 38-15, +120 run differential


PECOTA: 95.4 wins, 94.4% playoffs
Baseball-Reference: 104.4 wins, 99.7% playoffs
FanGraphs: 97.1 wins, 97.8% playoffs
Team Rankings: 101.5 wins, 98.1% playoffs
Combined Average: 99.6 wins, 97.5% playoffs

Tampa Bay not even having a triple-digit number as the consensus projected win total is a vivid reminder that you can't win a pennant in April.

The Rays were 13-0, then 20-3 and eventually 29-7. At the latter juncture, we were two-ninths of the way through the regular season, and they were on pace for 130.5 wins.

They're still on pace for around 116 wins, but they've come back to earth a bit amid both a pitching health crisis and an intensifying schedule.

During the 10-game road trip against the Orioles, Yankees and Mets in mid-May, the Rays went 4-6 and had a different starting pitcher in each of the final seven games. They were already without Jeffrey Springs and Shane Baz for the year, and the fourth game of that road trip was when Drew Rasmussen made his last appearance for at least two months.

The good news is that Tyler Glasnow is back, making just his third regular-season appearance in nearly two full calendar years on Saturday. However, it still feels like this rotation is Shane McClanahan, Zach Eflin and a bunch of duct tape.

The better news is that the offense just refuses to slow down.

The Rays haven't put up double-digit runs in a game since April 29, but they have scored at least five runs in 14 of their last 23 games.

Tampa Bay has already had 11 different players hit at least seven home runs this season, which is patently absurd. No other team has more than seven players with seven home runs, three teams—Cincinnati, Colorado and Detroit—have yet to produce a single player with at least seven home runs. In the entire 2022 season, only the Giants (13) and Dodgers (12) had more than 11 players hit at least seven home runs.

And what's really not fair is that Tampa Bay is also leading the majors in stolen bases, adding seven more thefts in Thursday's 6-3 victory over Toronto—thriving on offense even in a rare game without any home runs.

The sheer volume and versatility of offensive weapons is what should keep the Rays on the path to the best record in baseball.

Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto's Bo Bichette Cole Burston/Getty Images

Current Record: 27-25, +19 run differential


PECOTA: 88.6 wins, 66.0% playoffs
Baseball-Reference: 89.9 wins, 62.3% playoffs
FanGraphs: 86.1 wins, 48.4% playoffs
Team Rankings: 89.4 wins, 57.2% playoffs
Combined Average: 88.5 wins, 58.5% playoffs

Life in the loaded AL East was not at all kind to the Blue Jays in May.

They started out the year 4-2 within the division, taking two out of three from both Tampa Bay (home) and New York (road) in April. But they opened May by getting swept in a four-game series in Boston. They subsequently lost three out of four at home against the Yankees, three straight at home to the Orioles and three out of four in Tampa Bay for an overall record of 2-13 against the AL East in May.

But, hey, take those 15 games out of the equation and Toronto is basically the best team in baseball, right?

That's somewhat of a joke, but the Jays were in prime postseason positioning just two weeks ago. They swept both Pittsburgh and Atlanta prior to the recent nightmarish run against New York, Baltimore and Tampa Bay, and—thanks to at least getting that one win over the Rays by a 20-1 margin—do still have a positive scoring margin.

As is the case for this entire division, offense ain't the issue in Toronto.

Bo Bichette is having a phenomenal season, worthy of AL MVP consideration. And heading into Thursday's game against Tampa Bay, he was one of four Toronto regulars batting at least .300, joined by Matt Chapman, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Kevin Kiermaier in that club. Whit Merrifield is also having a solid bounce-back season. While George Springer, Daulton Varsho and Danny Jansen aren't exactly hitting for average, they've combined for 20 home runs.

The only "weak point" among the 10 regulars has been Alejandro Kirk, and Thursday's three-hit performance might be the start of the 24-year-old, 2022 All-Star snapping out of his early funk.

It's the Jekyll and Hyde pitching that has doomed the Blue Jays.

Toronto is 24-3 when holding opponents to three runs or fewer, and 2-20 when allowing at least six runs.

During the six-game winning streak in late April, they allowed a combined total of five runs. In the process of losing their next five games, they gave up 42 runs.

Kevin Gausman and Chris Bassitt have been mostly reliable, but even they've had a couple of implosions amid their gems. And similar to New York's Nestor Cortes, Alek Manoah has just completely fallen apart after putting up great numbers in both 2021 and 2022, handing out walks left and right. (Manoah did twice go seven scoreless innings in April, though, so maybe he can still salvage what has otherwise been a mess of a campaign?)

Projected Standings

Tampa Bay's Randy Arozarena Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

So, after all that, what's the verdict?

Who wins this gauntlet of a division?

And which unfortunate squad becomes the best basement dweller of all-time?

Of the quintet, Boston (+8000 to win World Series; +290 to make the playoffs) is by far the most likely candidate to fade over the latter two-thirds of the season. All five teams have some question marks in the starting rotation, but the Red Sox have been especially disappointing on the mound—save for Chris Sale as of late—however, if you're willing to bet on him staying healthy for a full season, good luck.

The oddsmakers—and, by virtue of said odds, the betting public—don't seem to believe that Baltimore (+3500 to win World Series; -125 to make the playoffs) has staying power among baseball's best. But that's more a product of what we saw from Baltimore from 2017-22 than what we've seen from this team in 2023. The O's are more likely to win this division than to finish in last place in it, especially if they are actually willing to do some trade-deadline spending to improve the rotation.

Toronto (+1900 to win World Series; -120 to make the playoffs) has been a disaster against the rest of the division lately, but could be a buy-low opportunity. -120 odds to make the postseason with easily one of the best top-to-bottom lineups in baseball, a pair of aces and potentially the return of Hyun Jin Ryu after the All-Star Break is a sensible investment, even though we've got the Blue Jays finishing in fourth.

But it's probably going to be New York (+1200 to win World Series; -250 to make the playoffs) and Tampa Bay (+550 to win World Series; -2500 to make the playoffs) jostling for the division title, with the Yankees' ability to get and stay healthy likely to be the deciding factor.

I will add that it is unlikely all three of the American League's wild-card teams come from the East. The second-place finisher in the Central isn't going to put up anything resembling a fight here, but between Houston, Los Angeles and Texas, it's feeling inevitable that the West will at least have a second team that finishes ahead of the East's fourth-place team. But the East should end up with the AL's No. 1, No. 4 and either the No. 5 or No. 6 seeds.

Projected AL East Standings

Tampa Bay Rays (103-59)
New York Yankees (99-63) - wild card
Baltimore Orioles (94-68) - wild card
Toronto Blue Jays (91-71)
Boston Red Sox (81-81)


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