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The Yankees own the best record in the majors but who are their five biggest AL threats?
At 49-17 entering play in tonight’s game, the New York Yankees are the best team in Major League Baseball to begin the year by a wide margin. The club is the only one in the big leagues to have a winning-percentage above .700 and is 9-1 in its last ten games.
The Yankees have put up a run-differential of +143, also the best in the bigs by a ton, on the backs of Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton’s standout offensive performances.
However, the American League features some of the most fearsome starting rotations and starting lineups in the game and as any baseball fan knows, anything can happen in this game, including the Yankees being dethroned in the AL before all is said and done.
5 likeliest AL teams to take down the Yankees?
#5 – Los Angeles Angels
The only team on this list with a record below .500, the Los Angeles Angels are a dark horse pick to go on a hot run and shoot to the top of the American League. The team has seemed just a short hot streak away from greatness this year as it has had some incredible starts to the year from Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Patrick Sandoval and surprising breakout star Taylor Ward.
The Angels play in the American League West so any threat to the Yankees would only come if the team is able to overtake the Astros, a difficult task in itself. The everyday lineup the Angels possess is one that’s capable of a march to the postseason so look for them to add to their pitching staff in an effort to become the American League’s best team.
#4 – Tampa Bay Rays
To begin the 2022 campaign, the Tampa Bay Rays entered the season as a popular pick to finish fourth in the AL East. So far, the club is keeping its head afloat and owns a 36-30 record, good for third in the division and would land them in the second AL Wild Card spot if the season ended today.
With each of Manuel Margot, Randy Arozarena, Ji-Man Choi and Yandy Díaz looking sharp on the offensive side of things this season, it’s the inexperience in other parts of the lineup that’s holding the Rays back. Taylor Walls and Vidal Bruján were thrust into starting roles thanks to Brandon Lowe and Wander Franco landing on the IL.
Should Lowe and Franco return to the lineup and should Drew Rasmussen rejoin the starting rotation soon, they could pair with the starting lineup and dominant pitching staff consisting of star-in-the-making Shane McClanahan, Jeffrey Springs and a resurgent Corey Kluber and represent a serious threat to the Bronx Bombers.
#3 – Boston Red Sox
To the Yankees dismay, there are multiple teams in the AL East that have the firepower to overtake them in the standings in the blink of an eye. The fourth-place Boston Red Sox are certainly one of those teams. The BoSox are 13.5 games out of first place in the division but they, like so many others in the AL, are one hot streak away from cutting in to that deficit in a big way.
Boston features a solid but uninspiring pitching staff that seems to be over-performing, but pair that with a lineup featuring Trevor Story, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez and Alex Verdugo and you have yourself a team that is more than capable of greatness. The Sox roster has its fair share of holes but the talent is most definitely there.
#2 – Houston Astros
By far the most difficult choice of this list is to put the Houston Astros in the No. 2 spot. The Astros top to bottom have one of the best overall rosters in the major leagues, including a dangerous lineup with the three-headed-monster that is Jose Altuve/Yordan Álvarez/Kyle Tucker and another in the rotation in Justin Verlander/Luis Garcia/Framber Valdez.
Only one detail in this Astros club keeps them out of the No. 1 spot and that is the names below the superstars on the organizational depth chart.
Behind Altuve, Álvarez, Tucker and Michael Brantley, the lineup and bench have looked really weak in the first two months of play. Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel, two important pieces of the puzzle, have struggled mightily and there are a total of eight players on the active roster that have batting averages below .240 (four of them are hitting under .200).
On the pitching side of things, José Urquidy has been the weakest link in the rotation and there’s a ton of inexperience in the bullpen. Ryan Pressly, Rafael Montero and Ryne Stanek have looked good to begin the season but Héctor Neris, Seth Martinez and Brandon Bielak represent less reliable options.
#1 – Toronto Blue Jays
Of all of the teams in the AL that could give the Yankees a run for their money, the Toronto Blue Jays are the likeliest to overtake them and defeat them in the playoffs.
The third AL East team that could top the Yankees, this is a Blue Jays team that consists of one of the best lineups in the game, a very strong starting rotation, and the bullpen to back the rotation up.
George Springer, Bo Bichette, Vlad Guerrero, Alejandro Kirk and Santiago Espinal have all been above average at the plate this year and each of José Berríos, Kevin Gausman, Ross Stripling and Alek Manoah have been great arms in the rotation.
Jordan Romano has continued to look like a bullpen ace while the (at the time) minor signings of Yimi García, Adam Cimber and David Phelps have all been paying off in a big way.
To the Yankees credit, they will not go down without a fight in their quest for dominance in the American League. The Yanks and Blue Jays have faced off in three series this season, leaning in the Yankees favor so far. The two teams split the first four-game set of the year with New York taking two out of three in the next three-game series. A week later, the Yankees swept the Blue Jays in a short two-game series and then took two out of three a month later.
If the Blue Jays are going to overtake the Yanks, they will have to improve their play against their division rivals. While the Yankees have one of the most fearsome teams in the AL, the Blue Jays represent the biggest threat to supplant them atop the standings.