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Weekly AL East Recap: Draft and Derby Highlight End of First Half

Marcelo Mayer AL East Boston Red Sox

Each team in the AL East boosts their farm system, Trey Mancini does his best in the Home Run Derby, and there were also a week of games.

The AL East tightened at the top after last week, but the main storylines happened outside of game action.

First Place: Boston Red Sox (55-36)

The Red Sox had a poor 1-4 week behind bad pitching and less potent offense than usual, hence their AL East lead has shrunk.  But current player performances are not of interest this week; future ones are.  Picking fourth overall, the Red Sox got the best player in the draft in high school shortstop Marcelo Mayer.  No one else they took in the first ten rounds is so exciting, but getting the top guy at four is a total steal.

Just a few hours before the first rounded started was the MLB Futures Game, where many of the top prospects in the minors showcase their talents.  Jeter Downs, the main return in the Mookie Betts trade, struck out in his only at-bat but worked it to nine pitches.  He could be called up later this season or early next season.

Second Place: Tampa Bay Rays (53-37, 1.5 games back)

To counter the Red Sox, the Rays went 4-1 this week, including a doubleheader sweep of Cleveland.  The second game was a combined seven-inning no-hitter, which is the least impressive notable feat.  After a week where the pitching really struggled, they rebounded this week with no opponent scoring three runs in a game.

As the reigning AL champions, the Rays had the lowest draft pick of any AL East.  They took Carson Williams 29th overall and then Cooper Kinney in the Competitive Balance round, both high schoolers.  More impressive was the performance of Rays prospects in Denver.  Shane Baz, the last piece in the fateful Chris Archer trade, pitched a 1-2-3 inning.  Xavier Edwards started the game at second base but went 0-1.  Tampa also has some additional All-Stars, as Joey Wendle and Andrew Kittredge were named replacements.

Third Place: Toronto Blue Jays (45-42, 8 games back)

The Blue Jays went 2-3 to limp into the All-Break, still a little over .500.  A split with the Orioles does not look good, but the rubber match was rained out and will be played in September.  George Springer is struggling right now, but he will heat up soon enough.

Toronto made a solid first round pick in Ole Miss righty Gunnar Hoglund, who would have gone in the top ten if not for a Tommy John surgery.  They did not have a second rounder this year for signing Springer.  Austin Martin, their first rounder from last year, drew a walk and then hit an RBI single, one of the few productive performances from the AL Futures squad.

Fourth Place: New York Yankees (46-43, 8 games back)

The Yankees went 4-2 this week to finally cut into the AL East division lead a little bit. Despite the strong week, they failed to finish off sweeps in both series. Rookie Logan Gilbert shut them down in Seattle, and Jose Altuve hit a walk-off home run in Houston.  The day before, Gerrit Cole pitched a clutch complete game shutout against his former team.  He threw 129 pitches, so he will not be in the All-Star Game.

GM Brian Cashman made a couple of fine but uninspiring picks at the top, as the Yankees Took Eastern Illinois SS Trey Sweeney and Stanford starter Brendan Beck.  Both have a good track record, but neither have any particularly exciting tools.  Sweeney has a 60 hit tool but a long swing that will need an adjustment.  The prospect that Yankee fans care the most about is Jasson Dominguez, the highest rank teenager in pro ball.  He hit a BP home run at the Futures Game and then lined out on a hard-hit ball.

Fifth Place: Baltimore Orioles (28-61, 26 games back)

The Orioles had another 1-4 week after a sweep at the hands of the Chicago White Sox.  They found a new way to lose as Trey Mancini hit a pinch-hit home run to tie the finale in the ninth, but then the other Sox won in the tenth.  Trey took his power momentum to Colorado, where he performed admirably at the Home Run Derby.  Pete Alonso may have won the event, but Mancini won the hearts of America.  Coming back from cancer treatment, it is truly amazing to see him launch ball after ball into the seats as a heavy underdog.  Cedric Mullins can keep it up as he is now starting the All-Star Game.

The biggest event on the rebuilding Orioles’ calendar was Sunday night, as the O’s added an impact player to their great farm system.  They took Colton Cowser fifth overall, a centerfielder from Sam Houston St.  He will be an underslot signing, but bafflingly, the front office did not make an overslot selection later in the draft.  I love drafting East Carolina 2B Connor Norby, who led the NCAA in hits, but the following picks are average college players.  Either another team took the high schooler they wanted, or Cowser will cost more than fans think, because the strategy seems to not be working.  At least Adley Rutschman hit a BP ball to the upper deck.

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