We're two months into the 2023 MLB season and the stacked AL East is the division to watch with a combined record of 135-88 and a winning percentage of .605. The AL East is one of the toughest divisions in baseball as the only division with all five teams above .500.
In 2022, the MLB opted to expand the playoff field from 10 teams in each conference to 12 teams gifting six playoff teams per conference. Despite the recent change to the playoff format three of the playoff seeds will be given to the teams atop their division leaving the margin of error within the AL East critical considering there will only be room for three teams within the conference to stamp a ticket to the postseason.
Let's take a dive into the future of the AL East this season and predict which teams will be contenders and pretenders within the toughest division in all of baseball.
Contender 1. Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay has been off to a historic start to the 2023 season with a 32-12 record. The Rays have been dominant on both sides of the ball leading the MLB in pitching and hitting. Tampa has an OBP of .859 and a team ERA of 3.38 and holding and holds the lowest opposing batting average in the league at .215,
From top to bottom the Rays have been built to contend within the American League and recent history is only an indicator of the potential for this team moving forward. In the last four seasons, the team has made the playoffs including a World Series appearance in 2020.
Tampa has been on the bases often this season with four of their starters slashing for over .300 with key players such as Wander Franco, Harold Ramirez, and Randy Arozarena combining for a total of 23 home runs, 77 RBI, and 86 hits. Shane McClanahan has stolen the eyes of many while looking commanding on the mound for a 2.34 ERA and a perfect 7-0 record while punching out 61 batters on the year.
Despite being one of the lowest teams for payroll, Tampa has continued to develop talent and emerge as a front-runner within the conference. The Rays are 10-7 in divisional matchups with a 3.5 game lead lead in the AL East.
Being able to control the standings and dominate within the division will help the Tampa Bay Rays to roll into the playoffs for a 5th consecutive season.
Contender 2. New York Yankees
The Yanks are off to a head-scratching start to the season hovering over .500 and just simply not meeting early expectations. With a laundry list of injuries, the team has been battling through the season with a game-by-game approach.
New York is somehow last within the AL East with a record of 26-20 but should find comfort in key players that are expected to be back soon for the team. Just 45 games into the season the team is missing Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, Jonathan Loaisiga, Frankie Montas, Carlos Rodon, and just recently got back their 2022 AL MVP Aaron Judge.
Key injuries have slowed down the team but have not slowed down the team's 'Ace' Gerrit Cole who has been a dominant and consistent tool for the team bolstering a 5-0 record, 68 strikeouts, and a 1.09 WHIP rate on the year. Cole has been able to hold it down on the mound for the team even with key holes and injuries in the starting rotation.
Even with the injuries listed at hand the roster for the Yankees is complete enough for the team to contend within the division and for a playoff spot. With the front office always eager to make a push anticipate Brian Cashman and company to pull the trigger and make a few deals later in the season.
Ultimately don't expect the Yankees to stand pat during the trade deadline and expect the roster to fill out once key players return from the IL. The Yankees should be back in contention for yet another year in their quest for the 28th title.