AL East Second-Half Predictions: Blue Jays, Red Sox Poised To Make Run At Top

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There’s a reason the Major League Baseball season is 162 games long, and the Boston Red Sox know this all too well.

The 2011 Red Sox, after all, were atop the American League East at the All-Star break before they collapsed in September and missed the playoffs altogether.

Five years later, Boston is in a slightly different situation, tied for second place in the division with the Toronto Blue Jays and trailing the Baltimore Orioles by two games. As was the case in 2011, though, there’s plenty of room for second-half movement.

Any of those three teams could improve their stock ahead of MLB’s Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline, and there already are signs that the race for the top could look a whole lot different in September.

With that in mind, we’re examining all five AL East squads and predicting how their seasons will play out. First, here are the division standings at the All-Star break:

CURRENT AL EAST STANDINGS
1. Baltimore Orioles: 51-36
2. Boston Red Sox: 49-38 (2.0 games back)
3. Toronto Blue Jays: 51-40 (2.0 games back)
4. New York Yankees: 44-44, (7.5 games back)
5. Tampa Bay Rays: 54-34 (17.5 games back)

Now let’s break down each team and predict how they’ll finish.

Toronto Blue Jays: 94-68, first place
The Blue Jays started the season slow, but they’re starting to hit their stride. Their lineup is as potent as ever, and Marco Estrada and Aaron Sanchez lead a rotation that no longer has a bona fide ace but is solid from top to bottom.

Toronto’s current weak spot is its bullpen, but the club has managed to win 51 games already despite an underwhelming first half from Troy Tulowitzki. This team has all the tools to take home its second AL East crown in two seasons.

Boston Red Sox: 92-70, second place
Boston’s biggest weakness is its rotation, but the good news is the club has three starters — David Price, Steven Wright and Rick Porcello — capable of delivering in the second half. The Red Sox also boast a very balanced lineup and should receive a boost when outfielder Chris Young and closer Craig Kimbrel return from injury.

The Red Sox desperately need No. 4 and No. 5 starters, however, and if they don’t find an internal or external fix soon, winning this division will be a tall task.

Baltimore Orioles: 89-73, third place
The Orioles have ridden historic power numbers to a first-place spot at the break, but there are serious concerns about this pitching staff, as Chris Tillman is the only starter with an ERA under 4.00.

AL home run leader Mark Trumbo is hitting well above his career averages, and if he and the rest of Baltimore’s potent lineup can’t keep producing at a high rate, the Orioles’ lack of pitching could catch up to them down the stretch.

New York Yankees: 84-78, fourth place
One of the most talented bullpens in baseball doesn’t do you much good if you can’t score enough runs to gain a lead. The Yankees enter the All-Star break with the fifth-worst offense in the AL, and their pitching hasn’t done nearly enough to balance that out despite promising first halves by CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka.

New York will save face to avoid its first losing season since 1992, but this team isn’t sniffing the postseason.

Tampa Bay Rays: 76-86, fifth place
The Rays are in a complete free-fall, entering the break having lost 22 of their last 25 games. Their offense is the primary culprit, as Evan Longoria is the only player of any real merit in the lineup.

As usual, the Rays have a few solid arms, but ace Chris Archer had a rough first half, and Matt Moore and Jake Odorizzi could be poached by a contender at the trade deadline. This team is facing a steep uphill climb.

Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images

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