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OC Register: 2022 AL East season preview

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Capsule previews of the AL East teams, listed in order of their 2021 finish:


2021: 100-62, first place, lost to Red Sox in Division Series

Manager: Kevin Cash (eighth season)

Opening Day: Friday (April 8) vs. Baltimore

He’s Here: RHP Corey Kluber, LHP Brooks Raley, OF Luke Raley

He’s Outta Here: INF Joey Wendle, DH Nelson Cruz, RHP Michael Wacha, RHP Chris Archer, INF Mike Brosseau, RHP Colin McHugh, RHP David Robertson, RHP Chaz Roe

Top Hitters: 2B Brandon Lowe (.247, 38 HRs, 99 RBIs, .863 OPS, 97 runs), C Mike Zunino (.216, 33, 62, .860 OPS), LF Randy Arozarena (.274, 20, 69, .815 OPS, 20 SBs, 94 runs), SS Wander Franco (.288, 7, 39, .810 OPS in 70 games), DH Austin Meadows (.234, 27, 106, .772 OPS)

Projected Rotation: LH Shane McClanahan (10-6, 3.43 ERA in 25 starts, 141 Ks in 123-1/3 IP), RH Corey Kluber (5-3, 3.83, 82 Ks, 80 IP in 16 starts for Yankees), LH Ryan Yarbrough (9-7, 5.11 in 30 games, 21 starts), RH Drew Rasmussen (0-1, 4.24 in 15 games with Brewers; 4-0, 2.44 in 20 games, 10 starts, with Rays), RH Luis Patiño (5-3, 4.31 in 19 games, 15 starts)

Key Relievers: RH Andrew Kittredge (9-3, 1.18 ERA, 8 saves in 51 games, four starts), RH Pete Fairbanks (3-6, 3.59 in 47 games), RH J.P. Feyereisen (0-2, 3.26 in 21 games with Brewers; 4-2, 2.45 in 34 games with Rays), LH Brooks Raley (2-3, 4.78 in 58 games with Astros), RH JT Chargois (1-0, 3.00 in 31 games with Mariners; 5-1, 1.90 in 25 games with Rays)

Outlook: After winning more games than any team in the American League over the past three seasons, reaching the World Series two years ago and setting a franchise record with 100 wins in 2021, anything short of a fourth consecutive postseason berth will be disappointing for the two-time defending AL East champions. Cash and president of baseball operations Erik Neander have built the Rays for sustainable success. Franco was signed to a $182 million contract following an impressive 2021 debut. The team also added Kluber, a two-time AL Cy Young Award winner. While pitching and defense remain integral components of the team’s success, the Rays are primed to hit, too, with a versatile lineup built around the 21-year-old Franco, Brandon Lowe, Arozarena and Meadows. In addition to leading the AL in ERA and run differential, Tampa Bay scored the second-most runs in the majors last year. Even with RHP Tyler Glasnow expected to miss most – if not all – of the season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, the rotation is formidable with Kluber joining a talented collection of young arms that includes McClanahan, Rasmussen, Patiño and Shane Baz. Raley represents the biggest change to a bullpen that led the AL with a 3.23 ERA while also pacing the majors with 58 wins last year.


2021: 92-70, tied for second place, lost to Houston in ALCS

Manager: Alex Cora (second season of second stint)

Opening Day: Thursday (April 7) at New York Yankees

He’s Here: 2B Trevor Story, RHP Michael Wacha, LHP Rich Hill, OF Jackie Bradley Jr., LHP Jake Diekman

He’s Outta Here: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez, OF Kyle Schwarber, RHP Garrett Richards, LHP Martín Pérez, OF Hunter Renfroe, RHP Adam Ottavino

Top Hitters: 3B Rafael Devers (.279, 38 HRs, 113 RBIs), DH J.D. Martinez (.286, 28, 99), SS Xander Bogaerts (.295, 23, 79), 2B Trevor Story (.251, 24, 75 with Colorado)

Projected Rotation: RH Nathan Eovaldi (11-9, 3.75 ERA), RH Nick Pivetta (9-8, 4.53), RH Tanner Houck (1-5, 3.52), RH Michael Wacha (3-5, 5.05), LH Rich Hill (7-8, 3.86)

Key Relievers: RH Matt Barnes (6-5, 3.79 ERA, 24 for 30 save opps), RH Garrett Whitlock (8-4, 1.96), RH Ryan Brasier (1-1, 1.50), RH Hirokazu Sawamura (5-1, 3.06)

Outlook: The Red Sox rebounded from a last-place finish during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season by getting within two wins of the World Series. They beat the rival Yankees in the wild-card game at Fenway Park and then ousted top seed Tampa Bay in the Division Series before losing to Houston in the ALCS. In the offseason, they lost Rodriguez and Pérez – and then the rotation took another hit when Chris Sale reported to the lockout-delayed spring training with a broken rib. That leaves Boston relying on Pivetta, Houck, Wacha and the 42-year-old Hill, who all combined for 20 wins last season, behind Eovaldi. The major acquisition was Story, an All-Star shortstop who will move to second base to keep Bogaerts at his natural position. That leaves Kiké Hernandez as a regular center fielder, with defensive star Bradley hoping to revive his career after hitting .163 in Milwaukee last season. Boston is also hoping Barnes can regain some reliability as closer after losing the job midseason. More consistency from 1B Bobby Dalbec, who batted .219 in the first half and .269 in the second, would also help.


Record: 92-70, tied for second place, lost at Boston in wild-card game

Manager: Aaron Boone (fifth season)

Opening Day: Thursday (April 7) vs. Boston

He’s Here: 3B Josh Donaldson, SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa, C Ben Rortvedt

He’s Outta Here: OF Brett Gardner, C Gary Sánchez, 3B Gio Urshela, 1B Luke Voit, RHP Corey Kluber, RHP Darren O’Day, 2B Rougned Odor, INF/OF Tyler Wade

Top Hitters: RF Aaron Judge (.287, 39 HRs, 98 RBIs, 89 runs, .916 OPS), DH Giancarlo Stanton (.273, 35, 97, .870 OPS), 1B Anthony Rizzo (.248, 22, 61, .783 OPS for Cubs and Yankees), INF DJ LeMahieu (.268, 10, 57, 84 runs, .711 OPS), 3B Josh Donaldson (.247, 26, 72, .827 OPS for Twins), LF Joey Gallo (.199, 38, 77, .808 OPS, 213 Ks, 111 BBs for Rangers and Yankees)

Projected Rotation: RH Gerrit Cole (16-8, 3.23 ERA, 243 Ks in 181-1/3 IP), LH Jordan Montgomery (6-7, 3.83, 162 Ks in 157-1/3 IP), RH Luis Severino (1-0, 0.00, 6 IP in four games following return from Tommy John surgery and groin injury), RH Jameson Taillon (8-6, 4.30, 140 Ks in 144-1/3 IP), LH Nestor Cortes Jr. (2-3, 2.90, 14 starts, eight relief appearances, 103 Ks in 93 IP)

Key Relievers: LH Aroldis Chapman (6-4, 3.36 ERA, 30 for 34 save opps, 97 Ks in 56-1/3 IP), RH Chad Green (10-7, 3.12, six saves, 99 Ks in 83-2/3 IP)

Outlook: After losing 6-2 in the wild-card game, the Yankees didn’t make major moves until after the lockout, acquiring Donaldson, Kiner-Falefa and Rortvedt from the Twins for Sánchez and Urshela, re-signing Rizzo and trading Voit to San Diego. Aaron Hicks is back in center field after season-ending surgery last May 21 to repair a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist. LeMahieu, the 2020 AL batting champion, is trying to rebound from a sports hernia that slowed him last season. Left-handed reliever Zack Britton is out for the season following Tommy John surgery last Sept. 9. The Yankees are looking for more consistency than last year, when they had winning streaks of 13 games, seven and six, and two each of five and four, but also lost seven in a row and five straight along with a quartet of four-game skids. Despite having Rizzo and Gallo, the Yankees still appear overly reliant on right-handed hitters. Yankees left-handed batters were last in the majors with a .207 average, 26th in home runs with 53 and 28th in RBIs with 148. Their righties hit .249 with 169 homers and 518 RBIs. Gardner, one of their few lefty bats and the last link to the 2009 championship team, was not re-signed. Gleyber Torres was moved from shortstop to second base in September because of poor defense and will remain at second. Cole had a 1.78 ERA before MLB’s crackdown on unauthorized grip-enhancing substances started June 3, then a 4.15 ERA the rest of the season, when he was bothered by a hamstring injury.


2021: 91-71, fourth place

Manager: Charlie Montoyo (fourth season)

Opening Day: Friday (April 8) vs. Texas

He’s Here: RHP Kevin Gausman, 3B Matt Chapman, LHP Yusei Kikuchi, OF Raimel Tapia, RHP Yimi Garcia, LHP Andrew Vasquez, 1B Greg Bird, RHP Shaun Anderson

He’s Outta Here: 2B Marcus Semien, LHP Robbie Ray, LHP Steven Matz, OF Randal Grichuk, RHP Kirby Yates, INF Breyvic Valera, INF Kevin Smith, RHP Joakim Soria, OF Jarrod Dyson, OF Corey Dickerson, LHP Kirby Snead

Top Hitters: 1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (.311, MLB-best tying 48 HRs, 111 RBIs, 1.002 OPS), OF George Springer (.264, 22, 50 in 78 games), SS Bo Bichette (.298, 29, 102), OF Teoscar Hernandez (.296, 32, 116), 3B Matt Chapman (.210, 27, 72 with Oakland), OF Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (.276, 21, 84)

Projected Rotation: RH José Berríos (12-9, 3.52 ERA, 204 Ks with Minnesota and Toronto), RH Kevin Gausman (14-6, 2.81, 227 Ks with Giants), LH Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-10, 4.37), RH Alek Manoah (9-2, 3.22 in 20 starts), LH Yusei Kikuchi (7-9, 4.41 with Seattle)

Key Relievers: RH Jordan Romano (7-1, 2.14, 23 for 24 save opps, 85 Ks in 63 IP), LH Tim Mayza (5-2, 3.40, 1 save), RH Nate Pearson (1-1, 4.20 in 12 games), RH Julian Merryweather (0-1, 4.85, 2 saves in 13 games)

Outlook: The Blue Jays finished one win behind Boston and New York in the wild-card race last season, then lost Cy Young Award winner Ray and slugging infielder Semien in free agency. Toronto responded by signing Gausman for the front of the rotation and acquiring Chapman from Oakland, adding a defensive superstar to the infield. Two free-agent pitchers, Kikuchi and Garcia, provide depth for the rotation and bullpen while Tapia, acquired from Colorado for Grichuk, brings speed and a lefty bat to a righty-heavy lineup of sluggers led by young talents Guerrero and Bichette. The Blue Jays played home games in three cities last year because of border restrictions related to the pandemic but can expect a full season at Rogers Centre this year. Springer battled multiple injuries in his debut season with Toronto. His absences, plus several games lost by a leaky bullpen, might have combined to cost the Blue Jays a playoff berth. A full and productive season from Springer would be a big help to Toronto’s chances in 2022.


2021: 52-110, fifth place

Manager: Brandon Hyde (fourth season)

Opening Day: Friday (April 8) at Tampa Bay

He’s Here: 2B Rougned Odor, RHP Jordan Lyles, C Robinson Chirinos, LHP Cionel Pérez, INF Chris Owings

He’s Outta Here: RHP Matt Harvey, C Pedro Severino, INF Pat Valaika, C Austin Wynns, RHP Brooks Kriske, LHP Fernando Abad

Top Hitters: CF Cedric Mullins (.291, 30 HRs, 59 RBIs, 30 SBs), DH/1B Trey Mancini (.255, 21, 71), 1B/DH Ryan Mountcastle (.255, 33, 89)

Projected Rotation: LH John Means (6-9, 3.62 ERA), RH Jordan Lyles (10-13, 5.15 for Texas), LH Bruce Zimmermann (4-5, 5.04), LH Zac Lowther (1-3, 6.67), RH Tyler Wells (2-3, 4.11 in 44 relief appearances)

Key Relievers: RH Cole Sulser (5-4, 2.70, 8 for 11 save opps), LH Tanner Scott (5-4, 5.17), RH Dillon Tate (0-6, 4.39)

Outlook: The Orioles have two of baseball’s top prospects in catcher Adley Rutschman and right-hander Grayson Rodriguez. Both could be in Baltimore soon, although Rutschman was sidetracked recently by a triceps injury. The Orioles drafted him with the top pick in 2019, and they’re picking No. 1 again this year, so there’s reason for Baltimore to feel some hope about the potential of this rebuild after the team bottomed out in recent seasons. Mullins was a bright spot last year and will try to build on his 30-30 season, while Mancini and Mountcastle can provide power. There’s little reason to expect much from the pitching staff, however, after it compiled a major league-worst 5.84 ERA last year. The pitchers should get a bit of a reprieve from the new dimensions at Camden Yards, with the left-field wall moved back. This figures to be another year with a lot of losses in Baltimore – but perhaps some glimpses of a brighter future.

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