Odds to win 2017 AL East Division

Updated: February 28, 2017

The American League East feels like the AL Central in that the division winner feels very certain. The Boston Red Sox are the class of the division and the rest of the teams are fighting for the scraps. That is true to an extent as they are clearly the best team in the division and one of the best teams in all of baseball, but this one could be a bit closer than that. There could very easily be a Wild Card team coming out of the AL East and that means that one of these teams could be pretty good and challenge the division at some point.

AL East – Odds to Win

Boston Red Sox -175
Toronto Blue Jays +425
New York Yankees +550
Baltimore Orioles +750
Tampa Bay Rays +1800

We’ll start at the bottom with the Tampa Bay Rays. They are a pretty huge underdog here, but as always the projection systems think they are going to be pretty good. PECOTA has them at 84 wins and with a little bit of luck, that is a team that is right there in the upper 80s for wins and contending. Based on this alone, that is a pretty good bet.

Of course, there are lots of questions about this team. They traded away one of their best players in Logan Forsythe and one of their best pitchers in Drew Smyly. Uber prospect Blake Snell looks ready to step in on the pitching side and Chris Archer should bounce back after a rough 2016. Matt Andriese and Jake Odorizzi should be solid again and the pitching side feels mostly safe, but maybe lacking depth after losing Matt Moore and Smyly over the past year. Of course, new acquisition Jose DeLeon could solve that problem and a whole lot more.

The pitching should be solid, the defensive will be great. The offense scoring enough runs will be the issue here. A healthy Kevin Kiermaier will go a long way, Evan Longoria should be good and Brad Miller is promising. After that is nothing but questions marks though. Matt Duffy, shortstop? Can Steven Souza and Colby Rasmus give enough offense to match their awesome defense? Can Wilson Ramos come back healthy? The path to contention is there, it’s just not as clear as you’d like.

The Orioles are probably overrated here. Projection systems hate them and it feels like they won’t be great this year. They rode a career year from Mark Trumbo last year and it’s hard to see him leading the AL in homeruns again. Chris Davis is always a threat to drop off and the only true sure thing is Manny Machado.

The question with this team, as always, is pitching. Ubaldo Jimenez is still needed for a bulk of innings, Wade Miley hasn’t been great over the past few years and Chris Tillman leaves a lot to be desired. The only upside is Kevin Gausman who was their nominal ace last year and Dylan Bundy who has a lot of upside. He had a rough go as a starter last year, but most of that trouble happened in the third time through the order. That points to fatigue and hopefully in 2017 he can breakout in a big way. That said, even if he does it might not be enough.

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The Yankees are the Yankees. They just win games, even when they aren’t that great. This team though could actually be great. We saw what Gary Sanchez did last year and this season he should have Greg Bird back to join him. Aaron Judge is a prospect with super power who could join them as the future core and that’s before we get into the Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier and everyone else still in the minors.

The pitching is a question, but it’s not hard to imagine a world where Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda breakout. They are a solid top two and the questions surround everything after that. Is CC Sabathia done? Is Chad Green real? Can Justus Sheffield contribute this year? The Yankees are usually a scary juggernaut, but this year they are a scary underdog. I’m not sure what’s worse.

Toronto is still in the mix, but they will look much different this season without Edwin Encarnacion. They replace him with Kendrys Morales which is a move that is nearly impossible to paint in a positive light. Jose Bautista is back though and he should have a better year in 2017 if he is able to stay healthy. The offense should still be pretty good with Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki and perennial MVP contender Josh Donaldson. Devon Travis is another player to watch and Steve Pearce is one of my favorite signings of the offseason.

The 2016 Jays were carried by their pitching though and it’s a big question if that was for real. J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez were huge in 2016 and will need to be huge again in 2017 for this team to compete.

All that said, it’s really, really hard to try and justify going against the Red Sox. The Chris SaleDavid PriceRick Porcello is one of the best top three starters in all of MLB. Tyler Thornburg being added to Craig Kimbrel, and Carson Smith could be a real shutdown crew.

The offense, despite losing David Ortiz, is filled with players with upside. The move of Hanley Ramirez to DH should help the defense as well as a full season of top prospect Andrew Benitendi in left field. He’ll join Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts to form one of the best defensive outfields in baseball. Looking at the infield, it’s hard to find a weakness there with Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts working up the middle. The only real question is third base with Pablo Sandoval back there. He’s not that far removed from being a real talent though so it’s possible that he could bounceback.

If that happens, the Red Sox won’t just be the best team in the AL East. They’ll be the AL Champions.

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