With arguably the most historic rivalry in all of baseball, the AL East is primed to have another competitive year with the Yankees seeking to stay atop this tough division with their eyes on a World Series Run. The predictions for this year’s AL East with the surprise player for each team begins with the Yankees on top.
New York Yankees
Surprise Player: Kyle Higashioka
The reigning AL East Champions, the New York Yankees went their first decade without a World Series appearance since the 1910s and are seeking to avenge that. The New York Yankees dished out significant cash for free agent Gerrit Cole spending a record $324 million for a nine-year contract. Gerrit Cole adds a strong veteran presence to an established rotation. The Yankees are looking to continue their dominance over the AL East in 2020 with the much anticipated start of Gerrit Cole in New York. One player that is not slated to make $324 million and is often overshadowed by the star power around him is backup catcher, Kyle Higashioka. With Gary Sanchez entering his age 35 season and already struggling with multiple injuries, with the possibility for that to continue into this season. With the limited time, Kyle Higashioka spent on the field in 2019 was promising and received great praise from his teammates in the Big Apple. With Gary Sanchez slowing down, expect Kyle Higashioka to step up and take a bigger role behind the plate. Kyle Higashioka had a batting average in his 19 games he appeared in. With more playing time under his belt this season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Higashioka be considered for the starting job after this season depending on Sanchez’s health.
Tampa Bay Rays
Surprise Player: Brendan McKay
After a quiet rookie campaign, expect Brendan McKay, the dual threat out of Louisville to take a big leap in the 2020 season. Brendan McKay had highs and lows during his first season resulting in a 3.33 ERA. With Tyler Glasnow returning to the rotation after an injury, less pressure will fall onto Brendan McKay to shine allowing for him to work out his strengths in his sophomore campaign. Brendan McKay will only grow as a player in the Tampa Bay Rays organization and will be an exciting player to watch when playing at NL Stadiums. Brendan McKay and the Tampa Bay Rays pitching juggernaut will help lead this team to a consecutive Wild Card Appearance in the AL.
Toronto Blue Jays
Surprise Player: Cavan Biggio
The debut of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. widely overshadowed the debut of Cavan Biggio on May 24th, 2019 against the San Diego Padres. Biggio, once considered a top prospect a few years ago, has performed well in his first year and we should only expect him to get better. Biggio did not shine or dazzle the league, but with his quick baserunning and his on base percentage of 36% in 2019, Biggio will look to continue with these offensive numbers and work on his defensive game. If Biggio can improve in the field, he can quickly turn into one of the top second basemen in the league. With a young roster filled with rising stars, the Toronto Blue Jays could turn it around in 2020 and be a dark horse in the wild card race.
Boston Red Sox
Surprise Player: Josh Taylor
Falling below expectations in their 2019 Season, the Boston Red Sox are on pace to fall in the rankings another season as their talent ages. The Red Sox pitching staff was underwhelming in 2019 and with another year under their belts, how much longer can they sustain relevancy as one of the league’s best for. With injuries determined to come, expect some of the young pitchers in Boston to take a big step forward with Josh Taylor being included in this bunch. The 26 year old southpaw pitched 47 innings in 2019 with a solid 3.04 ERA during this timeframe. With more experience in 2020, Taylor can be a part of the needed transitions for this franchise. This won’t be a fast process by any means and the Boston Red Sox should continue on their downward spiral of mediocrity in the AL East.
Surprise Player: Miguel Castro
There’s not much to be happy about if you are an Orioles fan nowadays. The Orioles are the bottom dwellers of the AL East and bearing some miracle should stay at the bottom of this tough division. The short-term future for the Orioles does not look pretty, but things are promising in the long-term as they develop their plethora of prospects in their extensive farm system. The Orioles have young talent that are developing into young stars with one rising player being Miguel Castro. The Orioles are the 3rd team Castro has been with since entering the league as an international free agent in 2012 with the Toronto Blue Jays. Castro has gradually improved his performance on the mound and last year appeared in a career high 65 games for the Orioles. Castro had a subpar 4.66 ERA in his 73 innings pitched. Castro has stepped up his strikeout game last season with 71 recorded and with a weak bullpen, Castro can play a bigger role seeing more action at the mound. Miguel Castro can take a big step in the 2020 season and emerge as a strong presence in a bullpen needing relief.
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