American League Preview: Let’s try to figure out who’s in the mix for the three Wild Card spots

The American League East is going to be a gauntlet.

FanGraphs projected the Blue Jays, Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees to all finish with matching 88-74 records, and even the Orioles might be worth paying some attention to this year.
What about the rest of the American League? Who’s going to win the Central and the West? And what can we expect in the Wild Card race in the new six-team playoff format?
The American League Central…

The Chicago White Sox cruised to the AL Central banner last season as the Minnesota Twins imploded and the other three teams weren’t actively trying to win. It probably won’t be quite so easy this year, but this is still far from a tough division, and it remains insane that Paul Beeston didn’t want the Blue Jays playing here.
The Twins are better because they’ve added Carlos Correa, though their pitching is still a mess, Cleveland is roughly the same because they decided not to actually pony up cash to keep Jose Ramirez around, the Royals are better because they brought back Zack Greinke and have some good young talent on the way, and the Tigers are better because they added Javier Baez, Eduardo Rodriguez, and former top draft pick Spencer Torkelson will be making his debut.
The biggest obstacle for the White Sox will be themselves, as they’re coming out the gate decimated by injuries. Garrett Crochet will miss the year because of Tommy John while Lance Lynn, Yoan Moncada, Yermin Mercedes, and Joe Kelly will all start the season on the Injured List.
The American League West…

The Houston Astros have won the AL West in four of the past five seasons, with the one interruption being the 60-game COVID sprint in 2020 when the Oakland A’s took the crown. Despite losing Correa, their WAR leader, to the Twins and Grenkie, their innings pitched leader, to the Royals, it looks like Houston is again this year’s best bet in the West.
Oakland will most certainly not be in the mix to unseat the Astros this year, as they completely gave up this off-season, trading Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, and Sean Manaea away for prospects. It’s difficult to imagine the Texas Rangers giving them too much trouble either. They spent $600 million on Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, but that’ll only do so much to improve the team’s 60-win result from last year.
The best two bets to challenge Houston are the Seattle Mariners and L.A. Angels. The Angels are a two-man team with no pitching, but Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani could conceivably combine for like 20 WAR, so maybe they do the unthink …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Sizing up the American League East: New York Yankees

Next up in the series of “meeting the AL East teams” are the disgusting New York Yankees. They have a lot of big names but don’t let that fool you, this team is the fourth-best team in the division. 

Infielders:
Gary Sanchez (Catcher)
Kyle Higashioka (Catcher)
Luke Voit (First Baseman)
Gleyber Torres (Second Baseman)
Gio Ursehla (Shortstop)
DJ LeMahieu (Third Base)
Miguel Andujar (Utility)
Gary Sanchez can hit bombs and has a great arm, but that’s about it. He strikes out 27.5% of the time and is barely above the Mendoza Line at .204. This would be fine, if he was good defensively. He is not. Sanchez had his worst defensive season yet as he finished with a -10 DRS.
Higashioka is even worse with the bat, but actually provides value defensively as he finished with a DRS of 5. He’s Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher and always kills the Jays for some reason.
Luke Voit only played in 68 games in 2021 and he looked okay. He had a slash line of .239/.338/.764 and hit 11 home runs. That’s an alright pace in terms of home runs per game, but in 2020, he hit 22 in 56 games, by far his best offensive season. His K% also increased drastically in 2021, going up from 23.1% to 30.7%. It really depends what version the Yankees get.
Do you remember when Gleyber Torres was a top rated prospect? It’s a cautionary tale about how prospects may not always pan out. While there is no question that Torres is an MLB player, the …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Sizing up the American League East: The Boston Red Sox

This is the second article in the series “meeting the AL East teams.”
This article will be focused on the Boston Red Sox. Unlike the lowly Baltimore Orioles, the Red Sox are a solid team looking to build off a performance that saw them reach the ALCS in 2021. Let’s take a look at the project position player lineup, according to FanGraphs.

Infielders:
Christian Vazquez (Catcher)
Kevin Plawecki (Catcher)
Bobby Dalbec (First Baseman)
Enrique Hernandez (Second Baseman)
Xander Bogaerts (Shortstop)
Rafael Devers (Third Baseman)
Christian Arroyo (Utility)
Triston Casas (First Baseman)
While Vazquez doesn’t produce great offense, he finished 2021 with a 5 DRS and is a career 40 DRS catcher. Unlike Baltimore, the Orioles actually have an MLB catcher. In contrast, Plawecki had a DRS of -3, however had a slightly above average wRC+ of 102. In the shortened 2020 season, that wRC was 134, which is very good, albeit in a small sample size.
Bobby Dalbec is a serviceable 1B with quite a few holes in his game. The 26-year-old had a slash line of .240/.298/.792 with 25 home runs. However, Bobby had an incredibly high K% of 34.4%, which was actually down from his 42.4% in 2020. He’s a right hander with pop, which is perfect for Fenway, but he could realistically be upgraded.
The Red Sox received quite a few players in return for Mookie Betts, one of these players being 30-year-old Enrique Hernandez. The second baseman had a good 2021 owning a slash line of .250/.337/.786. He chipped in 20 home runs as a second baseman an …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Meet the Sellers: Baltimore Orioles

The Baltimore Orioles, yet again, sit at the bottom of the competitive AL East division. Going into July 23rd, the Orioles are the only sub .500 team in that division. They have an abysmal 31-64 record, sitting 27 games back of the division-leading Boston Red Sox. The Orioles are clear sellers but could be in store for some promising seasons if they continue to gather high-end prospects. Before the season, MLB.com ranked the Orioles 5th in their farm system rankings. 

Baltimore could be a tough trade partner for the Blue Jays in my opinion because the players to be mentioned are all under contract for a few years. Will the Orioles want to move these players to a division rival? Another question mark is the availability of John Means; however, he is omitted from this article because I do not see the Orioles flipping a cost-controlled pitcher of that quality this season. I believe he should be kept and built around, and I do not think they should sell him to someone in the division. On the other hand, I could see the Orioles selling off effective relievers with term, although they may not be as cheap to acquire as you …

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Author: Eric Lightfoot / Blue Jays Nation

Leafs take on the Canucks – and try to avoid a trap game

The Canucks have landed on the east coast, and tonight they play the Leafs for their first of three in a row and nine this season. The Leafs are coming off four days of rest after an overtime loss to Edmonton, and though their last game was a loss, they are on a five game point streak. Meanwhile, the Canucks are struggling this season, and just lost two in a row to Montreal.
While most agree that a matchup against the Canucks should be a fairly easy win for the Leafs, the concern for Toronto is to avoid a trap game. Additionally, four days of rest should have them feeling fresh, but it could also mean that they struggle to start on time and get their legs going. The Leafs need to approach this game as though it’s going to be a tough matchup no matter what if they want to get back on a winning streak.
Sheldon Keefe continues to tinker with player rotations, adding Nic Petan to the lineup for tonight’s game. The Leafs are still without Joe Thornton, Nicholas Robertson, and Jack Campbell. While Alexander Kerfoot seemed to be dealing with something earlier in the …

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Author: Mer / The Leafs Nation

Maple Leafs Pregame #45: 5 Things to watch for against the Jets

After a rather long train ride out east, the Jets are enjoying the luxury of flight on their road trip around the Atlantic division. Tonight they get the privilege of playing Toronto against the Leafs, who having to deal with their devastating one game losing streak which has shaken all our beliefs about this team.
Lineups

LW
C
RW
Forwards
ZACH HYMAN
Rating: 73.9#46 LW

AUSTON MATTHEWS
Rating: 82.2#2 C

MITCH MARNER
Rating: 78.5#6 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 78.19#5 FL1

ALEXANDER KERFOOT
Rating: 72.8#70 LW

JOHN TAVARES
Rating: 80.0#8 C

WILLIAM NYLANDER
Rating: 78.0#9 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 76.92#3 FL2

PIERRE ENGVALL
Rating: 73.2#60 LW

JASON SPEZZA
Rating: 70.2#151 C

KASPERI KAPANEN
Rating: 73.0#59 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 72.11#12 FL3

MASON MARCHMENT
Rating: 73.2#59 LW

ADAM BROOKS
FREDERIK GAUTHIER
Rating: 68.9#127 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 71.06#14 FL4

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
Defense
MORGAN RIELLY
Rating: 76.0#10 LD

TYSON BARRIE
Rating: 76.4#12 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 76.17#5 DL1

MARTIN MARINCIN
Rating: 71.8#82 LD

JUSTIN HOLL
Rating: 73.2#45 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 72.51#26 DL2

TRAVIS DERMOTT
Rating: 72.8#57 LD

CODY CECI
Rating: 71.5#81 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 72.16#15 DL3

LW
C
RW
Forwards
KYLE CONNOR
Rating: 78.8#9 LW

MARK SCHEIFELE
Rating: 79.3#12 C

PATRIK LAINE
Rating: 75.1#28 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 77.74#6 …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation