Despite winning 108 games and the World Series just last season, the Boston Red Sox are not the favorite to win the AL East in 2019. That honor goes to the New York Yankees, who once again are poised to be Boston’s biggest threat within the division. Boasting superstar talent across the board, 2019 should produce another fantastic season between these two longtime rivals.
The New York Yankees: AL East Preview
The Yankees Offense
The 2018 New York Yankees broke the single-season record for home runs, and the 2019 Yankees should push to break that record again. Right fielder Aaron Judge is one of the best sluggers in baseball, and he should improve on his 2018 numbers. The gigantic outfielder missed six weeks with a wrist injury in 2018, and that’s not likely to happen again in 2019. Entering his age-27 season, Judge is still in the age where he should only improve.
The powerful righty is far from the only notable bat in the lineup. Giancarlo Stanton may be inconsistent at the plate, but nobody can deny his ability to change the game with a swing of the bat. When factoring in talented young players like Gary Sanchez, Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres, and Aaron Hicks, it’s hard to find a weak spot in New York’s lineup.
The biggest question with the Yankees offense is at the middle infield position. Didi Gregorius will miss the majority of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, meaning that New York will turn to Troy Tulowitzki to play a big role for New York. Tulowitzki was one of the best shortstops in baseball in his day, but the former Toronto Blue Jay has battled injury and inconsistency for the majority of the past two seasons. New York is banking on the former All-Star finding his early-career form, but that’s anything but a given.
The Yankees Starting Pitching
The Yankees starting rotation is the closest thing to a weakness on their roster. Their starting five currently consists of Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, J.A. Happ, and C.C. Sabathia. This is essentially the same group the Yankees sent out in 2018, with Paxton being the lone newcomer. Paxton pitched 160.1 innings with the Seattle Mariners in 2018, compiling a 3.76 ERA, 3.24 FIP while striking out an impressive 11.68 batters per nine innings. The Red Sox got the better of Paxton in their one meeting in 2018, as the lefty allowed six earned runs in just 2.1 innings of work against Boston.
The Yankees will enter the 2018 season without the services of their best starter. Luis Severino, fresh off a four-year, $40 million contract, suffered a shoulder injury and will be off the mound until “at least” May. This is obviously a huge blow to New York, as Severino is one of the best young pitchers in baseball. This division race should go down to the wire, and Severino’s availability may be the difference in who ends up winning the division.
The Yankees Bullpen
If New York’s starting pitching is underwhelming, the bullpen more than makes up for it. Boasting a bullpen headlined by Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, and newcomer Adam Ottavino, the Yankees have perhaps the best bullpen in all of baseball. New York lost David Robertson in the off-season, but one could argue that Ottavino is actually an upgrade. All three of these pitchers would easily be the best arms in the Red Sox bullpen and combine to form a near-unstoppable unit.
If there is one weakness among the big three, it’s Aroldis Chapman. For whatever reason, the 31-year old lefty simply cannot pitch well against the Boston Red Sox. Since joining the Yankees, Chapman owns a career 7.56 ERA and a 5.02 FIP against Boston. He walks more than a batter an inning and simply can’t seem to consistently get the Red Sox out. Granted, we’re talking about a 16.2-inning sample, but it’s remarkable how bad Chapman’s been against the Red Sox in recent years.
Baseball is at its best when the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are battling for divisional supremacy. The Yankees won 100 games last year but ultimately lost the division because the Red Sox were just that good. New York and Boston are still the two best in the AL East, but the gap between the two should be a lot closer in 2019.
Losing Didi Gregorius and Luis Severino to start the season is going to be a big blow to New York’s success. However, the rest of the roster is so stacked that they’ll be able to remain one of the most competitive teams in the league. The race for the division could go either way, but right now I’m giving the Yankees the nod to win 102 games while the Red Sox “only” win 99.