The 2024 MLB offseason has already seen the tip of its mountain collapse, but plenty of moves are yet to be made, with several quality contributors still aboard on the free agent market.
Specifically, teams in the American League East have done little to improve their offence with the exception of a certain trade down in the Bronx. With this in mind, it's hard to envision a big difference in results compared to last year barring any significant internal improvements and/or regressions.
Below are the rankings of the hitting cores in the division, along with each club’s top projected hitter for 2024 according to ZiPS.
5. Boston Red Sox
Top projected hitter: Rafael Devers (128 wRC+)
Get ready for another year of the Red Sox scoring 800 runs despite having a mediocre lineup on paper. But in all seriousness, the lineup doesn't look as enticing with lingering issues related to consistency and scarce star power.
Devers is a perennial top third baseman who's expected to have a great season at the dish, and Jarren Duran showed serious promise with an .828 OPS and 24 stolen bases in 102 games last year. Triston Casas also broke out with an .856 OPS in his official rookie season. However, things get questionable when looking at the rest.
Tyler O'Neill has an opportunity to get back to his 2021 self with a fresh start on a club looking to carve its identity going forward, and Masataka Yoshida looks to see if his second half demons were nothing more than a flash in the pan. If these two can figure it out, perhaps Boston can manufacture enough scoring to make for an interesting season.
Until we see how they play out and if everything can click as desired, it's safe to assume this is the year where Boston is ostracized within this division, from wire-to-wire.
4. New York Yankees
Top projected hitter: Aaron Judge and Juan Soto (160 wRC+)
Yes, Soto is now a Yankee, and it will make a difference. Having him join Judge makes for arguably the best hitting duo in the majors, but it takes more than two to tango in this dance. The Yankees finished 2023 with a team wRC+ of 94, which ranked 19th in the MLB, and the questions regarding the rest of the team's ability to curb that ailment run knee-deep.
Will Gleyber Torres repeat a solid hitting campaign? Does D.J. LeMahieu have anything left in his bat? What kind of jump does Anthony Volpe make in year two? Can Anthony Rizzo bounce back following a concussion-plagued season?
The polarizing complex of this lineup can either excite Yankee fans or leave them trembling on the memories of last year, and it won't be until around the midway mark of the year that we'll see how New York functions beyond their dynamic duo.
3. Toronto Blue Jays
Top projected hitter: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (133 wRC+)
If not for a potential Vladimir Guerrero Jr. resurgence, this team could be in a lot of trouble if there are any cracks in the pitching. Hoping for George Springer to become his old self sounds like a lot to ask for at this point, but any juice that's left will help fill the tank. Everyone else seems rather predictable in the lineup, specifically the consistent batting profile of Bo Bichette atop the lineup and the waning health of Danny Jansen, who would make this lineup that much better if he can stay healthy!
Several issues plagued the team offensively in 2023 when it came to cashing in runners, and these issues have not been adequately addressed this offseason. Justin Turner, despite entering his age-39 season, is a solid pickup who will provide discipline and some needed pop, but the reality is he could end up being a downgrade over last year's DH Brandon Belt at this stage in his career. And as for the addition of Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the hitting simply isn't where his impact will reflect.
Whether or not it comes in the form of figuring out the third base situation with a trade or signing, one more bat with some power in the middle of the order can make the difference for a team that still finished sixth in the MLB in total hits despite their struggles.
2. Tampa Bay Rays
Top projected hitter: Yandy Diaz (133 wRC+)
Even with rumours of the Rays looking to deal some of their premier sluggers making light in the offseason, they near spring training with their core intact, with players like Randy Arozarena and Isaac Paredes still around (for now). Having these two on the roster makes a dramatic difference, as seen with them supplying the bulk of the power in a season that saw them finish fourth in the AL with 230 team home runs.
It's important to note the leap taken by Yandy Diaz, who set a career high with an absurd 164 wRC+, and is looking to build upon a year in which he added power to his elite plate discipline while being their best hitter.
The improvements displayed last season by Josh Lowe and Jose Siri are also of utmost significance, and if Brandon Lowe can figure out how to hit 30 plus home runs again, this could be the most dangerous offensive team in the AL so long as the bottom of the lineup can provide the bare minimum.
1. Baltimore Orioles
Top projected hitter: Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson (126 wRC+)
All of a sudden, the baby O's have arrived in grand fashion.
Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, Cedric Mulllins, Anthony Santander, Ryan Mountcastle, Ryan O'Hearn; endless players that fused to perfection in 2023, and the band is back together for another attempt as their window is officially kicked open.
Boasting one of the deeper lineups in the league with another year of experience under their belt, it would be discouraging if Baltimore doesn't leap Tampa Bay offensively this year. They also have the opportunity to add whoever they want either before Opening Day or at the trade deadline, given their nominal team payroll and also prospect surplus.
Factor in the emergence of super-prospect Jackson Holliday, and you have a team poised to break the century mark in the standings for years to come, with a slight edge offensively over the Rays.