Photo courtesy of @RaysBaseball via Twitter

Not the AL Least – Where the AL East Stands at the All-Star Break

Just over halfway through the MLB season, one division reigns over all: The AL East. Every team in the division has a winning record, the only division in MLB where that is the case. But who will be the rulers of the East when all is said and done?

Terrific Tampa Sets a Franchise First

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It may be shocking to believe, but 2023 is the first time in franchise history the Tampa Bay Rays lead the AL East at the All-Star break. The four-time division champions sit atop the hill in the AL East with a 58-35 record, just trailing the Atlanta Braves for top-dog in the majors.

For Tampa, it starts on the mound, especially with Shane McClanahan. The Rays ace is tied for the league lead with 11 wins and boasts a 2.53 ERA. It’s not just Shane, however. In his first season in Tampa, Zach Eflin has cemented himself as a crucial cog to the Rays rotation. Eflin leads the team in both strikeouts and innings pitched, a far cry from his bullpen days in Philadelphia.

While pitching is the Rays’ forte, a number of names have stepped up at the plate. Major contributors include All-Stars Randy Arozarena and Yandy Diaz, both of whom are on track for career years. Step ups from role players, while surprising, have been massive to the Rays’ success. And how can you forget Wander Franco. The phenom shortstop sits third in Wins Above Replacement in MLB, behind MVP frontrunners Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuna Jr.

Baltimore’s Best Shine in the First Half

Two seasons ago, the Baltimore Orioles had the joint-worst record in MLB. Now, they sit at the All-Star break with the third-best record in baseball. The night and day difference can be chalked up to one man: Adley Rutschman. The former No. 1 draft selection has established himself as one of MLB’s top all-around catchers in just his second season. In Rutschman’s 199 games, Baltimore is 115-84, the fourth best record in the league during that stretch.

Baltimore’s two-headed bullpen monster has also been crucial to their success. The combo of set up man Yennier Cano and closer Felix Bautista have been nearly unstoppable late in games, combining for 27 saves so far this season. Both men are set to make their All-Star debuts in Seattle this week.

The Best of the Rest in the AL East

The Toronto Blue Jays currently occupy a wild-card spot at 50-41, which mostly can be chalked up to two players. Bo Bichette leads Toronto in almost every offensive category, and ace Kevin Gausman is second in MLB in strikeouts. If star first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. can regain his MVP-like form in the second half, Toronto has the tools to make a playoff push.

For both the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, it has been an up-and-down season. Aaron Judge has hammered 19 home runs, but he has only played 49 games, and while Gerrit Cole is back in Cy Young form, the rest of the rotation has been lackluster for the Yankees. And for their rivals in Boston, the bats of rookie Masataka Yoshida and star Rafael Devers have the Red Sox on a five-game winning streak, but Boston still sits at the cellar of the division with 48 wins. Both teams have the ammo to reach the playoffs, but they must avoid the injury bug to do so.

Earning the AL East

All five of the teams in the AL East have a legitimate chance of reaching the postseason and making waves. Will the next winner of the World Series come out of this stacked division? Only time will tell.

About Max Bernstein

Max Bernstein is a South Florida native who is a Journalism student at the University of Florida. He is specializing in the Sports and Media track, and is currently in his Freshman year at UF.

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