AL East: Best Possible Lineup

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Ranking players at each position can be entertaining, but making an ultimate lineup for each division might just be better. If the five AL East teams combined, this might be the unit they roll out.

Catcher: Mike Zunino, Tampa Bay Rays

After a rough start to his Rays tenure in 2019 and 2020, Zunino exploded in 2021. He was a first-time All-Star and finished 20th in AL MVP voting. He launched 33 home runs en route to a .559 slugging percentage. All told, Zunino had a 138 OPS+ and a rock-solid 3.8 bWAR.

Heading into 2022, Zunino is one of the better power bats in MLB, and he is a good defensive catcher. He should hit more than 25 home runs and be one of the best framers in baseball. Few catchers can say that.

First Base: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays

It only took one season for Guerrero to jump from “potential star” to “best first baseman in baseball.” In 2021, Guerrero led MLB with 123 runs scored and 48 home runs. However, his all-around hitting approach is among the best in the league. Guerrero slashed .311/.401/.601, and he was in play for the traditional triple crown the entire season.

He will look to replicate his 169 OPS+ in 2021, and he could avenge Shohei Ohtani and steal the AL MVP. Guerrero might not be the best defensive infielder, but he is no longer the atrocity he had been at third base. In 2021, Guerrero racked up 6.8 bWAR.

Second Base: Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays

Lowe has had quite the track as a Major Leaguer. After making the 2019 AL All-Star team, Lowe has backed it up with a pair of top-10 finishes in the MVP race. In the last two seasons, Lowe has homered on 6.3% of plate appearances and walked on 11.1% of them, both marks easily clearing the MLB average. He could find his way to 40 home runs in 2022.

Lowe does get the benefit of Marcus Semien leaving the division, but Lowe would have been a potential pick either way. He has an OPS+ of 139 over the last three seasons.

Third Base: Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox

Devers had a bit of a down year in 2020, but he was right back to his usual great play in 2021. Devers made his first All-Star team, and he tacked on a Silver Slugger. He has been a top-12 MVP vote-getter in two of the last three seasons, and he has been an extra-base hit machine. He is a safe bet to clear 30 doubles and 30 home runs.

Like the rest of the infield, Devers is not necessarily known for his defense, but his bat is more than enough to warrant him a spot even in a tough division with the likes of Josh Donaldson and Matt Chapman.

Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox

Bogaerts has been an offensive menace for the last four seasons. Since 2018 began, Bogaerts has slashed .299/.371/.523 with an OPS+ of 133. He has received MVP votes four years in a row, and he has tacked on a pair of Silver Sluggers and All-Star nods. In those four seasons, Bogaerts has finished no worse than 10th in offensive WAR in the AL.

To round out the subpar defensive infield, Bogaerts is famous for his stone hands. However, the infield will contribute to so many runs, that the occasional misplay will not end up mattering.

Left Field: Joey Gallo, New York Yankees

The infield might not be able to play defense, but the outfield can. Gallo has won a Gold Glove in both corner outfield spots, and he has even spotlighted as a centerfielder. Gallo is one of the more polarizing players in baseball, but his strengths are too much to overlook here. He is one of the league’s best home run hitters. Gallo also walks at nearly twice the MLB average for his career.

Even with a career batting average of .206, Gallo has too many tools to not be the slam-dunk starter in left field. The strikeouts will be painful, but Gallo will also flirt with 100 walks and 40 home runs.

Center Field: Cedric Mullins, Baltimore Orioles

Mullins had an all-time breakout campaign in 2021. He was a first-time All-Star, first-time MVP vote-getter, and first-time Silver Slugger. Mullins raised his career OPS+ from a 72 to a 111 after a season with a 135 OPS+. He laced 37 doubles and 30 home runs, and he stole 30 bases. Mullins is also a solid defensive player, but he does not have the strongest arm. With both Gallo and the right fielder, however, Mullins should be free to roam.

Mullins might not replicate his exceptional season with the bat, but he is toolsy enough to slide into this starting nine.

Right Field: Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

Over the last five seasons, Judge has been an elite hitter. He has a 154 OPS+, bolstered by a tremendous combination of a .391 on-base percentage and a .563 slugging percentage. Judge has mashed a home run on 6.5% of plate appearances in his stretch, and his walk rate is 14.9%. Unlike some of baseball’s best hitters, Judge is also a spectacular defensive player. He is +58 in terms of defensive runs since 2017.

Judge averages 7.3 bWAR per 650 plate appearances, and he is one of the easiest inclusions at any position in any of the six division teams.

Designated Hitter: Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees

Similar to the other Yankee sluggers, Stanton does strike out a lot, but Stanton more than makes up for it with his titanic blasts. When Stanton plays more than 25 games, he is a near-lock for 35 home runs. He has cleared that mark five different times in his career including 59 in 2017. When he is in a groove, there might be no hitter that is more feared than Stanton.

Stanton’s worst xwOBA since 2016 fell in the 67th percentile across MLB. His combination of power and plate discipline will make him a difficult out each time through the order.

Pitcher: Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees

Spider tack or no spider tack, Cole continues to be one of the top pitchers in baseball. He has finished five of the last seven seasons with an ERA+ over 130 including a peak of 185 in 2019. With the Yankees, he has romped to an ERA+ of 138, striking out 11.9 batters per nine innings. Cole has five top-five Cy Young finishes including each of the last four seasons.

Cole can be penciled in for 180 innings and 250 strikeouts once again. Will this be the season he finally wins the Cy Young?

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Ryan Potts is an avid football and baseball fan. He covers the NFL and Major League Baseball, focusing on the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Braves.