MLB Preview: The X-Factor for each American League East team

Sep 28, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Yankees starting pitcher Jameson Taillon (50) pitches to the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 28, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Yankees starting pitcher Jameson Taillon (50) pitches to the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Sep 17, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Nate Pearson (24) reacts after striking out Minnesota Twins left fielder Jake Cave (not pictured) in the seventh inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 17, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Nate Pearson (24) reacts after striking out Minnesota Twins left fielder Jake Cave (not pictured) in the seventh inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

Toronto Blue Jays X-Factor: Starting/Relief pitcher Nate Pearson

Cavan Biggio was a tempting X-Factor choice but, if you haven’t seen the AL West list, you’ll know that I love young starting pitching. That’s mostly because the depth and availability of the starting pitching are always thin.

The best way to solve rotation problems is not with some expensive splash, but with internal young guns who can anchor a rotation for up to a decade. If you need any evidence, look no further than the 2021 Blue Jays. Everyone talks about Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and, make no mistake, the season he had was historic, but Alek Manoah was electric and was a huge part of why the Blue Jays even stood a chance coming down the stretch.

As the old adage goes, you can never have enough starting pitching. Pearson was supposed to be ready for the show in 2021 but injury limited him to just 15.0 innings pitched. I know I’m breaking my own rule here a little bit, but Pearson really can be that good with his wipeout slider to go along with a 98-plus mph fastball.

Baltimore Orioles X-Factor: Left fielder Austin Hays

Where do you even start with this one? How do you pick an X-Factor for a team clearly with no intentions of competing next year? I mean it’s not exactly the most inspiring thing in the world to pick a player that will take the O’s from 65 to 75 wins in 2022 as they continue what seems to be their eternal rebuild.

Cedric Mullins is really good, but Austin Hays is pretty good too. No one knows quite yet because he plays for the Orioles but, in his first full season in the show, he put together a triple-slash line of .256/.308/.461 with 22 home runs across 131 games.

Milestones to watch out for during the 2022 season. dark. Next

Will Hays take a Mullins-esque leap from above average to superstar? Only time will tell but, if he does, there may be light at the end of the tunnel of the never-ending O’s mediocrity.