Most everyone in the Al West finished under .500 in the 60 game sprint that was the 2020 season. But with a possibly full season up ahead and teams traveling and playing other teams as normal, will we see a turnaround? Let’s dive in:
1. Houston Astros
How firm the Astros lead will be over the rest of the Al West will be determined on whether Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Alex Bregman can come back from their subpar 2020 campaigns (This may also help us determine how much those trashcans really helped in 2017). That said, the Astros still have a pretty good team. Michael Brantley has had a very good late career renaissance, and his return should help bolster the team’s offense. Pitching wise, Jake Odorizzi was a good addition to a rotation featuring Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers Jr. (and Framber Valdez, if he ends up pitching this year). Honestly, how good this team is will be based on how well youngsters Kyle Tucker, Myles Straw, and Yordan Alvarez preform over a full 162-game season.
2. Los Angeles Angels
Every year, the Angels are expected to preform well yet somehow end up out of the playoff picture. This year, I think they do have a legitimate shot. While the Astros and A’s are still expected to be good, they are not much better on paper than the Angels, so I think there will be a strong competition among the three. Anthony Rendon should have a stronger impact on the team over a full season. Mike Trout is Mike Trout. And Shohei Ohtani should bounce back this year, both on the mound and at DH. The team is still carrying the aging Albert Pujols and his albatross contract, but he’s not expected to be an every day player this year, with Jared Walsh playing 1st instead. He’ll likely play on Walsh’s off days or at DH when Ohtani is pitching. This might sound controversial, but I think picking up Jose Iglesias in place of Andeltron Simmons is overall a lateral move.
3. Oakland Athletics
Matt Chapman is back baby! They were able to win the division with him playing 37 games last year, but I don’t think a full season will see the same result, even with him back for the full season. They traded Khris Davis and lost Marcus Semien, and I don’t think they’re replacements make up for the combined production lost. I think the same can be said of the overall gains and losses in the bullpen, and they really benefitted from a great year from Chris Bassitt last year. I don’t think he can repeat it. That said, these top three teams should all be pretty close in wins.
4. Seattle Mariners
This is a young team with some potential, but I don’t see anyone hitting that potential as of yet. I’m hoping Mitch Haniger can bounce back after not playing last year and not being very good at all in his 63 games in 2019, because he and Kyle Seager are about all the team has in terms of established players. Fangraphs has the highest WAR projected to go to J.P. Crawford, which says a lot about their winning prospects. We’ll see if Kyle Lewis can continue on the track he was on last year, and conversely if Shed Long Jr. can recover from a bad 2020. As it comes to pitching, everyone seems pretty middle of the road, but Marco Gonzalez has potential to be pretty good. There’s not much else to say. They won’t contend in this year’s AL West, but might be a factor in 2024.
5. Texas Rangers
This team is going to be bad. They have no pitching you can depend on, and I don’t see much MLB talent in their projected lineup either. Khris Davis is a bounce-back candidate. Joey Gallo is very good, but he’s also a trade candidate, as this team looks pretty set on tanking this year. Isiah Kiner-Falefa is an intriguing player to me, but I don’t think he’s any more than an average MLB player. We’ll see if he’s even that.
And that’s the AL West! Honestly, this has been the hardest division to rank so far. The top three teams all have holes, and I don’t see any one of them truly standing out from the rest at this point. Perhaps some young players step up and put their team over the top, but this is how I see it right now. Tell me what you think, and make sure to check out Tom Cadmus’ NL Central and AL East predictions as well!
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