The MLB season is 40 games in (more or less for each team) and we can already get a good read on each division. With that being said, here are the biggest storylines in each division. This will be a two-parter, with the American League up first.
East: Banged Up Yankees Holding On
A lot can be said about the Tampa Bay Rays getting off to a tremendous start, or the Boston Red Sox starting 2019 with a serious World Series hangover. The biggest surprise of them all has to be what the New York Yankees have been able to do with all of the injuries that they have had heading into the middle of May.
Didi Gregorius is on his way back from Tommy John surgery, but the earliest will see him don the pinstripes would be June. James Paxton, whom they traded top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield for during the offseason, won’t be back for a couple more weeks. Luis Severino has not thrown off a mound since Spring Training, and a return after the All-Star break continues to be his best case scenario. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, their twin cannons in the heart of the order, remain without a timetable. And now Miguel Andujar will miss the rest of 2019 after undergoing shoulder surgery.
Somehow, that hasn’t stopped them. Obviously, a lineup with Stanton, Judge, Gregorius, and Andujar joining Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez would strike fear into a pitcher that only the Houston Astros could match. But the guys that have stepped up are REALLY stepping up. Gio Urshela and DJ LeMahieu (.330 and .322 respectively) have done their part in setting the table. Meanwhile, Luke Voit has provided thump for a team that could really use it, slugging 10 home runs with 32 RBI’s. On the mound, Domingo German has taken over for Severino, going 8-1 with a 2.50 ERA and 52 strikeouts over 50 innings of work.
Central: Minnesota Flexing Their Muscles
What more can we say about the Minnesota Twins right now, other than their bats are on fire? Minnesota boasts a lineup with the second-best team batting average in the AL (albeit 20 points behind Houston) at .262. On top of that, they’ve produced the fifth highest run total at 222, and the third highest home runs in the AL with 76. Jorge Polanco (.331 BA) and Eddie Rosario (13 HR, 34 RBI’s) are the leaders of the lineup, and elder statesman Nelson Cruz (.270, 7, 22) and one-time uber-prospect Byron Buxton (.278 with 8 stolen bases) give the Twins a formidable punch.
Pitching had been a problem for the Twins in past seasons and was a big reason the Cleveland Indians had buried them. While Minnesota’s 3.83 team ERA doesn’t scream out as a great mark, it is good for fifth best in the AL. That being said, they need guys that can pick up the big strikeout when they need it. Minnesota currently sits in 10th with 353 strikeouts as a pitching staff.
Top to bottom, this Twins rotation has a lot to offer. Jose Berrios (3.05 ERA, 59 Ks, 1.08 WHIP) is the ace of the future for this team, and with Jake Odorizzi (2.63, 1.06 WHIP) and Martin Perez (3.11 ERA, 46 K’s), Minnesota has a strong trio The question then comes up in the back end. Kyle Gibson hasn’t been bad and will probably be what you would expect out of a No. 4. Michael Pineda, even with a strong 35:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio, needs to get over his case of “homeritus” (he’s given up 10 long balls in 40 innings of work) to be a viable option moving forward.
West: Same old song and dance
The Houston Astros continue to dominate everybody with the best lineup in baseball top-to-bottom. They lead the majors in batting average, home runs, runs scored, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, you name it. The Seattle Mariners started off the year on a torrid pace but have since cooled down and have fallen below the .500 mark.
Los Angeles continues to waste Mike Trout’s prime with serious underperformances. Side note about the Angels: they now employ two two-way players on their roster with the promotion of Jared Walsh. At the bottom of the division, we have the Texas Rangers, who can put up the runs necessary to win ball games, but the pitching staff, with a 5.29 ERA and a .278 opposing batting average, has been trash. Oakland, well, I can’t figure out what is going on out there, and I would not be surprised if the A’s did not try to rush Sean Manaea back from shoulder surgery.
Tomorrow, we’ll take a look around the National League, where Philadelphia has benefitted from a weak division, the Central looks like the best division in the league, and San Diego might be ready to challenge the Dodgers for the division title