MLB: AL East – The Toughest Division in Baseball

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Credit: USA Today Sports 

By: Adam Pasternak

This article was written on June 19th. All stats and information are as of that date.

The American League East division is proving yet again that it is indeed the toughest division in all of baseball. While it is only June and there is a lot of baseball left to play, it isn’t too early to say that the race for the division crown will be a close one. As of June 19th, the Baltimore Orioles are the best team in the division, with the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays right behind them (Boston = 1 game back; Toronto = 2 games back). Even the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays are within reach, being 5.5 and 7.5 games back respectively. Baseball fans should be excited for the summer, as the division battles will only get more intense. There is a lot of grit and toughness on all of these teams, and some old school managers who just won’t let the bad blood pass over.

The Orioles enter today’s contest against the Jays on top of the AL East, sporting a 39-28 record. Behind strong performances by MVP candidate and overall stud, Manny Machado, the returning ‘Crush’ Davis, and the resurgent Mark Trumbo – the Orioles look poised for their second AL East title in the last three seasons. The O’s are absolutely crushing the long ball this year, led by Trumbo, who has launched 20 home runs already in the early stages of the season. Machado hasn’t disappointed either, knocking out 17 home runs of his own, and how can you forget about  Davis, who has mashed a quiet 16 home runs as well. With five players in double digit home runs already, the Orioles look to be one of the scariest offensive teams in baseball right now. With Yovani Gallardo and J.J Hardy fresh off the DL, the Orioles have now gotten a huge boost to both their starting rotation and lineup. Hardy, a power hitter in his own right, adds even more pop to what already seems to be one of the most powerful lineups in the MLB. If the Oriole starters can find their groove, there is no telling how far Baltimore can go. Unfortunately for them though, the Red Sox and Blue Jays are in very similar positions.

The Boston Red Sox had an incredible start to their season, but the month of June has not been kind to them. In my opinion, the Sox are the surest bet to win the division. David Ortiz, in what is supposed to be his last season playing professional baseball, is having one of the best offensive seasons of his career – hitting .342 with 18 home runs and 59 RBI’s – and he doesn’t even have the best average on the team. Shortstop, Xander Bogaerts is having an impressive season in his own right, hitting a monstrous .352 and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Both Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. each have had their own 20+ game hit streaks and the youth movement in Boston is definitely leading this team. Mookie Betts had five home runs in only two games against the Orioles a few weeks ago, Travis Shaw has solidified himself as the third baseman of the future, and Christian Vasquez has been a stud defensively behind the plate since his return from the DL. The Red Sox offence was absolutely scorching early on, scoring 10+ runs in a game on multiple occasions, but as soon as the MLB season hit the month of June, the Sox hitters have come back to reality somewhat. If the Sox can find their groove once again, it will be a scary sight for the rest of the division and all of baseball.

As the Red Sox’ offence has come back to down to Earth, the Jays hitters are just starting to heat up. In their last week or so of baseball, the Jays have scored 13 runs (twice), 11 runs, 10 runs and 7 runs in their victories, including a three home run game by the surprising Michael Saunders. Players like Russell Martin, Kevin Pillar and even Ryan Goins, to an extent, have come alive of late. Martin had an abysmal start to the 2016 campaign, but has been producing runs as of late. Pillar had a two home run game in Philly a few nights ago, and Goins had a few hits including an RBI triple in the same game. Everyone is producing offensively right now, led by the “Parrot Man” himself, Edwin Encarnacion. Edwin enters today’s contest against the O’s with some big numbers, hitting .261 with 18 home runs and 61 RBI’s – by the way, it’s only June! Some players never have a stat line like that in a full season, let alone in the first two and a half months of the season. Eddy is definitely on his way to another huge season and a solid raise come the offseason. Everything (except for Marcus Stroman and Jose Bautista) is clicking for the Jays right now. Aaron Sanchez and Marco Estrada are pitching extremely well, helping fans forget about the loss of David Price during the offseason with their incredible showings thus far. Estrada could be a legitimate Cy Young candidate this year if he keeps producing like he is, putting up Kershaw-like numbers. The Jays had a rough start, but are looking like they will have yet another massive summer. Don’t be surprised if you see the Jays challenge for that division crown, but in my opinion they will get one of the two wild card spots when it is all said and done. I hope they surprise me though, and win the division.

The slumping Yanks and Rays have started to play better as of late, and they could also make the division really close if they can continue to play well.

The race for the AL East crown is going to be one of the most exciting races in recent memory. Every team has a chance to win it, and with a lot of baseball left to play only one thing is for certain: we’re gonna watch some great baseball this summer!

What do you think – will the Orioles hold on and win the division? Will the Red Sox find their form from April and May and mash their way to a division title? Will the Jays get hot at the right time and squeeze into the playoffs? Comment your thoughts below!

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