With Spring Training action beginning in the MLB this week, what better time than now to take a look at, and make some early predictions about baseball’s toughest division: the American League (B)East.

5. Tampa Bay Rays

Trading their best pitcher, Tyler Glasnow to the Dodgers will be devastating for Tampa Bay in 2024. Adding to the devastation, their second best pitcher, Shane Mcclanahan, continues to rehab from his Tommy John Surgery. Wander Franco, their 180 million dollar shortstop, is out indefinitely for being on the wrong side of a sexual abuse court case.

Despite all of the turmoil, Tampa brings back last year’s batting champ in Yandy Diaz, as well as Randy Arozarena, Josh Lowe, Brandon Lowe and other proven hitters. Even if some of these names have down seasons, the Rays should have an above average offence.

It comes down to the lack of pitching and franchise turmoil, that will hold the Rays back this year. Some may call it blasphemy to rank this team last, considering the bats they boast, but in a loaded AL East division, pitching is paramount.

4. Boston Red Sox

The 2024 Red Sox are one of the hardest teams to forecast in all of baseball. Having finished last in the division in 2023 (and not by much), the club made moves in the offseason to… get better?

The team traded Chris Sale to the Braves for talented infielder Vaughan Grissom. They also got two other veteran pitchers in Corey Kluber and James Paxton off the books. The rotation this season will be much younger, with their home grown guys looking to take a leap – and Lucas Giolito, who was signed to be their de facto ace, despite an up and down 2023 season.

Star reliever Liam Hendriks will join the club upon his recovery from Tommy John surgery, and Gold-Glove outfielder Tyler Oneill was acquired via trade.

All in all, the moves they made should leave Red Sox fans feeling cautiously optimistic. There is potential for this team to be well over .500, and potential that they fall well short. If star third baseman Rafael Devers can put together an MVP calibre season, which is in the cards, the Red Sox can climb the rankings. For now, the lack of internal turmoil elevates them comfortably over Tampa Bay.

3. Toronto Blue Jays

The virtually unchanged Blue Jays sit in the middle of the pack ahead of 2024. While there were opportunities to make a big splash in free agency, and technically still are with Blake Snell and Cody Bellinger being unsigned (as of February 22nd), the Blue Jays did not budge. General manger Ross Atkins signed Isiah Kiner-Felefa to bolster an already solid middle infield core. Brought in an old Justin Turner to replace a less old Brandon Belt.

The Jays have not done anything to make rational baseball watchers believe they will be much better in 2024. The hope for Jays fans is that the hitters who slumped last season (Vlad Guerrero Jr., Alejandro Kirk, Daulton Varsho, etc.) will simply hit better this year.

The good news is that, at least on paper, the starting rotation is among the best in baseball, and the bullpen is nothing to sneeze at. That being said, the rotation last year was the best in the Majors, and it led to a third place divisional finish. The question becomes, “why should this year be any different?” Maybe they’ll prove the doubters wrong:

2. New York Yankees

It may seem bold to put a Yankees team that last year finished only 4 games above worst in the division in the two-spot here. This team made bold moves that warrant some high expectations.

New York sold the farm for superstar outfielder Juan Soto, and from afar, it’s a match made in heaven. Soto screams Yankee, and is due for an MVP level season. Having two top ten-ish hitters in baseball in the middle of the order, in Soto and Aaron Judge, is a bit of a cheat code. On the fringe, there is a lack of depth in the lineup. Giancarlo Stanton’s contract is a bit of a black hole, but this can be a moot point if the stars play like stars.

Pitching wise, the addition of Marcus Stroman makes their starting staff much more dynamic. Last year’s Cy Young winner, Gerrit Cole, should continue to be excellent, and lefties Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes will now be flanked by Stroman. There is potential for this to be one of the best rotations in the MLB.

This is a vital year for Yankees manager Aaron Boone. If he wants to keep his job, he has to take this team to the playoffs. If/when they get there, they will be dangerous in the AL East. Until then, the pressure is on in the Bronx.

1. Baltimore Orioles

The 100-win, AL East champion, Baltimore Orioles added a 2021 Cy Young winner in his prime, without sacrificing Major League talent. There is no reason to suspect that the Orioles will surrender the AL East crown this season.

Some may remember that the Orioles flamed out in the Divisional Series. However they flamed out against the eventual World Series champion Texas Rangers.

Ascending stars Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, and Jackson Holliday should continue to, well, ascend. The pieces that got them to 100 wins last season are still there. They may have more trouble winning 100 this year than last year, but it is Baltimore’s division to lose.

Make sure you check out more sports news and MLB news at Area 51 Sports Network!