Pitchers and catchers have reported and the 2021 MLB season is officially underway. So, let's dive headfirst into some projections for the upcoming season. These are a bit ambitious - and likely wildly inaccurate - but hey, it's February 17 and Opening Day isn't until April 1, you can't say I didn't try. Plus, it's baseball, so I really just need to bat like .250 to be decent, .280 to be good and .300 to be great.

Without further ado, here is how I think the AL East will play out in 2021, accompanied with quick thoughts for four of the five teams and complete player projections for your Boston Red Sox -

1. New York Yankees: 93-69, 1st in AL East -

- They were on just an 89-win pace in 2020.

- Supremely talented but ALWAYS dealing with injuries.

- Judge: last full season was 2017 (his 52hr “rookie campaign”). Stanton: 135 AB, 7 HR last two seasons combined. Hicks: can’t play a full season to save his life.

- Rotation after Cole is a guessing game. Taillon: didn’t pitch last season. Kluber: who the hell knows? German: 18-game winner in 2019, suspended last season. Severino: coming back from Tommy John. Montgomery: 10 appearances last year with an era north of six following Tommy John surgery.

- PECOTA projection (98-64)

2. Tampa Bay Rays: 86-76, 2nd in AL East -

- Expect a sizable step back for the reigning division champs. 108-win pace a season ago, 96 wins in 2019, 90 in 2018.

- Traded Blake Snell (4-2/3.24 last year, 2018 Cy Young) and let Charlie Morton (16-6/3.05 in ‘19) walk. Destined to return to “openers” instead of a full starting rotation.

- Solid pop 1-9, but not an overly deep lineup. 

- Intangibles: the Kevin Cash-effect. They’ll be in contention for a Wild Card position.

- PECOTA projection (87-75)

3. Toronto Blue Jays: 84-78, 3rd in AL East -

- Their lineup is too good to let this team fail. 1-through-9 will all crank double-digit homers, with their catcher, Danny Jensen, likely the only guy not to crack 20+.

- Hyun-Jin Ryu is a bonafide top of the rotation guy. After that, their rotation isn’t great, but has the potential to be a bunch of guys with era’s between 4.40-4.90. If their starters can limit damage to 4 runs on a nightly basis, and the ‘pen doesn’t screw up too often, the Jays’ lineup will have no issue scoring 5+ runs any given night.

- PECOTA projection (85-77)

4. Boston Red Sox: 81-81, 4th in AL East -

Lineup -

  1. Alex Verdugo: .296/15/54CF
  2. Rafael Devers: .284/30/1013B
  3. Xander Bogaerts: .297/28/93SS
  4. J.D. Martinez: .300/35/98DH
  5. Christian Vazquez: .272/15/62C
  6. Hunter Renfroe: .220/25/59LF
  7. Franchy Cordero: .243/11/41RF
  8. Bobby Dalbec: .229/28/701B
  9. Kike Hernandez: .241/16/562B

Bench -

  • Marwin Gonzalez: .252/13/49UTIL
  • Michael Chavis: .238/15/46, 1B/2B/OF
  • Christian Arroyo: .256/6/23, IF
  • Kevin Plawecki: .258/3/21, C

Rotation -

  1. Chris Sale: 8-4/3.27/128   L
  2. Eduardo Rodriguez: 9-5/4.06/156   L
  3. Nathan Eovaldi: 7-8/4.11/132   R
  4. Martin Perez: 9-11/4.89/119   L
  5. Garrett Richards: 7-6/3.70/97   R
  6. Tanner Houck: 6-4/4.04/88   R
  7. Nick Pivetta: 5-4/4.93/79   R

Bullpen -

  • Matt Andriese: 4-6/4.60/82R
  • Darwinzon Hernandez: 2-3/3.71/79L
  • Phillip Valdez: 2-3/3.86/61R
  • Hirokazu Sawamura: 2-2/4.01/43R
  • Ryan Brasier: 1-3/4.33/57R
  • Adam Ottavino: 3-4/3.56/80R
  • Matt Brasier: 3-5/3.77/87R

- PECOTA projection (80-82)

5. Baltimore Orioles: 65-97, 5th AL East -

- They were scrappy for a while last season, and still finished a game ahead of the Sox for 4th place in the AL East, but 162 games will balance things out and the reality is this team still is among the worst in baseball.

- They’re not the historically terrible team that Baltimore was in ‘18-’19 when they won just 101 games over two seasons. 

- There are some pieces in place at Camden Yards (Trey Mancini, should he make a healthy return from colon cancer. Ryan Mountcastle, the former top-draft pick who debuted last year hitting .333/5/23 in 35 games. John Means is a solid pitcher [would be a good 3-4 man in the rotation on a good team]). Rest of the Major League cupboard is pretty bare, with top-prospects still years away from reaching The Show.

PECOTA projection (66-96)

Jim and Mark break down Mark's projections on The Drive, with one a little more optimistic than the other when it comes to the Sox' chances in 2021 -