The American League East will have a whole new look by September

Mar 25, 2022; Dunedin, Florida, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu (99) throws a
Mar 25, 2022; Dunedin, Florida, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu (99) throws a / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

As the Toronto Blue Jays host the Yankees for a big division rival series at Rogers Centre this week, fans should remember that the teams won’t see each other again until late September, with the Jays playing their final fifteen games of the regular season against Boston (3 games), New York (6 games) and Tampa Bay (6 games).

It’s likely that these teams will look very different four months from now. And with every team in the AL East above a .500 win-loss record — with all five teams having at least 22 wins — the importance of these AL East matchups cannot be underestimated. Especially given division rivals will play fewer games head-to-head in the regular season this year.

As Yankees beat writer Joel Sherman notes, “MLB is back to a balanced schedule. Teams in each division are playing two fewer series against each other — down from 19 games against division foes to 13. So, for example, the AL East is not going to have as many chances to beat up each other and/or make up ground against each other.”

So instead the Blue Jays will have to take advantage of the weaker teams on their schedule. Just substitute “Blue Jays” for “Yankees” in the article below, and the argument is the same. Toronto will need to beat up on what Sherman calls the “Sickening Six” of the A’s, Royals, Rockies, Nationals, Reds and White Sox.

Another key consideration is that key AL East rivals will look quite different by September. All of Toronto, New York, Tampa and Boston will add back key players by then.

Boston Red Sox

  • Boston could get two-time All Star Trevor Story back by September, along with the injured Adam Duvall. Adding them to a strong offense with Rafael Devers, Triston Casas and outfielders Masataka Yoshida, Alex Verdugo and Jarred Duran should help a team that needs to score a lot of runs to make up for a very suspect starting rotation.

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Tampa placed starter Drew Rasmussen on the 60-day injured list after the righty was diagnosed with a flexor strain in his forearm following his May 11th start. He’ll be out until at least the July All-Star Break. As MLBTR notes, the Rays are already without Shane Baz for the bulk of the season after last year’s Tommy John procedure. Tyler Glashow has been out all year after a Spring Training oblique strain. He’s on a minor league rehab assignment and should be back within the next couple weeks, and left-hander Jeffrey Springs is out for the season after undergoing a Tommy John procedure of his own.”
  • More worrisome for Rays fans is the news that infielder Yandy Díaz will undergo an MRI after exiting Sunday's game against the Yankees with left groin tightness. Díaz has been a huge part of the Rays hot 31-11 start and MLB leading run differential of +120, leading the AL with a .321 batting average and .429 on-base percentage, to go with 10 home runs and 24 RBIs.

New York Yankees

  • The Yankees have been hit hard with the injury bug so far in 2023, They recently added back Harrison Bader and Aaron Judge, and should see Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Donaldson, as well as starters Luis Severino and Carlos Ródon return prior to their next series against Toronto in September.

Toronto Blue Jays

  • The Blue Jays expect to have lefty starter Hyun Jin Ryu as well as reliever Chad Green back later this summer as they both continue to recover from Tommy John surgery. They’ve already retooled their bullpen following injuries to Mitch White, Adam Cimber and Zach Pop, with Nate Pearson and Jay Jackson filling in with much harder stuff than White and Cimber. Spencer Horowitz is certainly making a strong case to be called up from Triple-A Buffalo.
  • And arguably they could improve their hitting with runners in scoring position (RISP). Recall that last season their batting average with RISP was dead last in MLB at .179 in games played through May 23rd, but then they were near league best after May 24th. So far this season, Toronto ranks 16th overall with a .255 batting average with RISP, and hopefully that improves like it did last year.

Hopefully the Blue Jays will take advantage of their 27 remaining games against the above mentioned “Sickening Six" plus the Detroit Tigers and Miami Marlins, all while hanging in against AL East rivals until those huge final fifteen games against Boston, New York and Tampa Bay. Those last three weeks of the stretch drive will be crazy indeed. Let's go Blue Jays!