Fantasy Baseball AL East Preview: Don't rush to crown the Yankees just yet

New York Yankees

The Yankees were prohibitive favorites to demolish this division just a few weeks ago. Now? Maybe put some chips down on the Rays. The Yankees have been first or second in MLB scoring the last three years, but it might be difficult to match that level in 2020. And the pitching staff has been crippled, too.

Luis Severino’s done for the year. James Paxton, never the paragon of durability, has a shoulder issue. Giancarlo Stanton’s Grade 1 calf strain was set to keep him out of Opening Day. Aaron Judge (shoulder) isn’t hale, either. Paxton, Judge, and Stanton are all set to benefit from the extended rest that the delayed season has brought, but their status is still up in the air.

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Gio Urshela and Mike Tauchman mark their territory in part because of defense; Miguel Andujar is getting some reps in the outfield, as Urshela usurped him at third. DJ LeMahieu can’t be expected to match last year’s power output, but he can regress a fair amount and still make a profit. Gardner is still a reasonable corner outfielder, but for now, he’s asked to man center field. His stolen base interest has faded the last two years.

Gerrit Cole deserves first-round real estate, but I’d like him more if he stayed in Houston. I’m not opposed to taking high-end pitching, but I am not taking Cole at the capped part of his range. New York’s bullpen could be the deepest in baseball.

Likely Buy/Fade: Voit; Judge/Stanton.

New York Yankees projected lineup. (Photo by Paul Rosales/Yahoo Sports)

Boston Red Sox

Andrew Benintendi battled a laundry list of injuries in 2019, wrecking his season. Now, presumably healthy and parked at the top of what’s still a strong lineup, I like his profit potential, especially if you can land him outside the Top 100. Xander Bogaerts might have to move off shortstop eventually, but he’s a five-category stud on offense. At some point, Alex Verdugo enters the outfield mix, but last year’s back problem isn’t close to healed. Kevin Pillar was a nice value signing, a category-juice hitter who has the defensive chops to play any outfield position. Remember, in Fenway, right field is just as challenging as center field, perhaps more so.

Chris Sale wasn’t going to be ready for Opening Day, and now, he’s out for the year due to Tommy John surgery. My days of drafting Sale proactively are over. Brandon Workman has the closer spot locked down, though last year’s walk problem is worrisome, and there’s no way he’ll have another one-homer season again.

Likely Buy/Fade: Benintendi or Pillar; Sale (he was a fade even before his season-ending injury).

Boston Red Sox projected lineup. (Photo by Paul Rosales/Yahoo Sports)

Tampa Bay Rays

The first-base and DH slots will probably turn into platoons, and the Rays generally make me uneasy with their “162 games, 162 lineups” approach. But Austin Meadows has earned the right to play against all kinds of pitching, and Hunter Renfroe will hit 25-30 home runs if they leave him alone. This is probably the last chance for Willy Adames to make a snappy impression; uber-prospect Wander Franco will likely be ready in 2021. It’s a shame they didn’t keep Travis d’Arnaud; Mike Zunino’s framing keeps him on the field, not his bat.

The rotation could be fantastic, depending on how healthy Tyler Glasnow turns out to be. I’m probably out on Blake Snell, given that he seems priced near his ceiling, off a lost year.

Tampa Bay always has a deep bullpen; Nick Anderson looks like the head of a closer committee, but expect the Rays to use several candidates to finish up games, focusing more on leverage and matchups than defined, singular roles.

Likely Buy/Fade: Meadows, though price is creeping up; Anderson, because price is creeping up.

Tampa Bay Rays projected lineup. (Photo by Paul Rosales/Yahoo Sports)

Toronto Blue Jays

What a fun lineup, with the four legacy kids starting things off. Cavan Biggio is probably the best value of the bunch, though I won’t steer you away from any of them. Just understand you have to draft Baby Vlad like he’s already turned into a superstar. He was a mild disappointment last year. Teoscar Hernandez has always had the raw speed to be a category juice guy, but he’s lacked the polish and nuance. He’s nonetheless a penny stock to consider in those late rounds.

Hyun-Jin Ryu has been underrated virtually his entire career, but I wish he signed anywhere but here. There aren’t any soft landings in the AL East. A closer is an unjustified luxury for a non-contending club, which puts Ken Giles into the midsummer trade blender.

Likely Buy/Fade: Biggio; Ryu (location, location, location).

Toronto Blue Jays projected lineup. (Photo by Paul Rosales/Yahoo Sports)

Baltimore Orioles

I like to say every city has fantasy value worth mining, but this is a rare exception. Trey Mancini was the only Baltimore player priced inside the Top 250 (NFBC ADP, 102), but that was before he had surgery to remove a malignant tumor. He is reportedly doing terrific after surgery, but there is no timetable as of yet for him to resume baseball activities.

After that, it’s a matter of talking yourself into toolsy Austin Hayes or believing in the Renato Nunez power spike.

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Mychal Givens is merely the top of the closer committee; his strikeout rate fits the gig, but he’s prone to wildness and had a 4.50 ERA last year. I don’t know what Baltimore’s plan is, but it’s going to take several years. Go for the park, not for the players.  

Likely Buy/Fade: Fade anyone you want.

Baltimore Orioles projected lineup. (Photo by Paul Rosales/Yahoo Sports)

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