We move to the AL East, an interesting division for dark horses. For a division with so many wins, there’s a large amount of uncertainty for who’s in the ninth. Required disclaimer: these aren’t players to draft outside of nuts-deep leagues. These are spec plays at best and probably just a name to remember should one of the top guys go down.
Baltimore Orioles – Andrew Cashner. The Cash-Man is on borrowed time as a starter. He’s durable and occasionally shows just enough to hold onto a rotation spot. With the O’s in full tank mode all that may not matter. Cashner has velocity and used to have a heavy slider. A few years ago he lost the feel for it and replaced it with a power sinker. I think either could pair with his fastball in the pen. Zach Britton had a great run as O’s closer with a power sinker.
Boston Red Sox – Tyler Thornburg. The Sox are still waiting to get the pitcher they traded for prior to the 2017 season. Thornburg’s a hard thrower and his arm has paid the price, losing seasons to elbow and shoulder issues. He’s working his way back this spring and his velocity is encouraging. The control is taking time to find, however. If he rights the ship, the Red Sox back end is surprisingly open. There are candidates aplenty but no one is currently locking jobs down.
New York Yankees – Tommy Kahnle. Shoulder issues wrecked the 2018 season for Kahnle. His velocity and command were slow to come back despite extensive rehab time. If the offseason allowed him the rest to get right he’s an interesting figure lurking in the shadows. Don’t forget he’s only a year removed from striking out 96 batters in 62.2 innings. Should he, or other Yankees ahead of him, be traded things could open up.
Tampa Bay Rays – Ryne Stanek. As one of the Rays preferred “Openers” Stanek is pitching at the wrong end of the game for our needs. That could change easily. The Rays have shown the most flexibility in pitching roles in baseball. Sergio Romo both opened and closed games for them last season. There’s a trio of quality arms competing for late-inning work but all are on the inexperienced side. Bullpens be crazy and the Rays are the Gary Busey of that lot.
Toronto Blue Jays – Aaron Sanchez. I’m going back to the well on Sanchez this year because it makes so much sense. Some dudes just can’t handle a rotation workload and Sanchez is one of them. The Jays have even put into the pen before because of those concerns. He has nasty stuff when he’s healthy enough to throw it. The Toronto bullpen is also pretty thin. An early season injury followed by a return to the bullpen is well within reason. At that point “Psycho” Giles and Bud Norris are all that’s in his way.