Next up is the AL West. Without much of a contest the Astros will be taking this year’s AL West again and will be looking to repeat their World Series title. The only troublesome team for the Astros will most likely be the Angels who have been a star-studded team on the bubble waiting to break through. Other than that the rest of the west will be fighting for the scraps.
1st Place – Houston Astros
From top to bottom, the Astros are stacked. Making a case to be the best team in MLB for back to back years I’ll start with their rotation. With last year’s late addition of Justin Verlander, the rest of the rotation holds Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr., Gerrit Cole, and Charlie Morton. Verlander had a 6.5 WAR with 15 wins and a 3.36 ERA, add that to the Keuchel who had a 3.9 WAR with 14 wins and a 2.90 ERA last season, and an off season addition of Gerrit Cole. The rest of the lineup follows suit with Brian McCann and Evan Gattis behind the plate and an all star infield with Yuli Gurriel (who will be serving out a suspension after he finishes his stint on the DL) backed up by Marwin Gonzalez, AL MVP Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa who will most likely hit 25 home runs with over a .300 average, and Alex Bregman who still hasn’t reached his full potential. The outfield is also pretty impressive with Derek Fisher, Josh Reddick, and George Springer. The Astros will be a force to be reckoned with not just in the AL West but across the league. Watch last year’s kings make a run for it again.
2nd Place – Los Angeles Angels
Last year, the Angels finished second in the AL West and will most likely find themselves in the same spot this season with a chance to take a wild card spot. With mostly the same roster with a few new additions, mainly Zack Cozart, Ian Kinsler, and Shohei Ohtani. Many people believe that Ohtani is going to be the next Babe Ruth or be a total flop. I think he will be fine nothing spectacular nothing terrible, but a decent pitcher and a non-existent hitter. The infield consists of the vet Albert Pujols, Ian Kinsler, Andrelton Simmons, and Zack Cozart. Leading the outfield is the hall of famer in the making Mike Trout in center, the stellar Justin Upton in left, with Kole Calhoun to cover right. Hopefully the outfield can rake in near 100 home runs and another 250 RBIs to drive the Angels to a productive season. Their biggest concerns will be the aforementioned Ohtani making or breaking his MLB rookie year and the rest of the rotation holding its own as there is not much to say about the rest of their mediocre rotation especially with the idea of playing with a six man rotation this year, as a few teams are experimenting with. If the offense is not as productive as they have been, this will be nothing more than an average year for the halos.
3rd Place – Texas Rangers
Another middle of the pack team, the Rangers won’t be looking to make much noise this year. The Ranger’s best asset is their infield. With Joey Gallo at first, Rougned Odor at second, Elvis Andrus at short, and Adrian Beltre in his usual corner at third. The 39 year old Beltre managed to hit 17 home runs and bat .312 in just over half a season last year, so we may not have seen the last of the long time Dominican righty (if he sticks around for one more year, he will have a real case to pass the 500 mark). The real struggle for this infield will be their consistency at the plate, as Gallo and Odor hit just over the Mendoza line last year, although they posted a combined 71 home runs. Andrus on the other hand is averaging just under .300 over the last two years and may be the consistency to hold the lineup together.
The outfield isn’t anything spectacular with Delino DeSheilds, Shin-Soo Choo, Nomar Mazara, Ryan Rua, Drew Robinson and Carlos Tocci, none of whom hit close to .300 last season or are young and haven’t had a full season (if any) up in the majors to prove themselves, although Choo, DeShields, and Mazara have all had pretty good spring training numbers with over .300 averages and close to if not over .900 OPS. Their rotation and may be a stong suit with Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, Doug Fister, Matt Moore, and Bartolo Colon with Mike Minor looking to be the sixth man to start the season. The Rangers also struck a deal with Tim Lincecum who will be gracing the majors after falling off in 2016 with a 2-6 record and 9.16 ERA, although who knows, maybe in the bullpen the old Cy Young winner could make a real comeback and prove his worth, earning him more innings in the future.
4th Place – Oakland Athletics
The A’s will be placing quite a bit on their young staff this year, which I for the one am a fan of (especially because the White Sox will be so heavily reliant upon youth for the next few years). Big things can be expected out of the first full season for Matt Olson and Matt Chapman who could both be up for some hardware this year like the silver slugger for Olson and a gold glove for Chapman, assuming both stay healthy and bring on their A game that was only tasted last year. Add that to a consistent Jed Lowrie and Marcus Semien and the A’s infield could lead the team to a decent year. Khris Davis is looking to have his third consecutive 40 plus home run season batting a likely .250 or close to it, along with Stephen Piscotty and Matt Joyce, there is something to be said about a team average being a very consistent .250 or better this year. Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea look to carry the rotation as the rest of the crew are looking at their first or second years of a full season in the rotation if they can hang onto their spots. Having a young pitching staff with options in the minors isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however like my caution with the Rockies, there is not much rock to build a foundation on and it may be a high turnover year for the A’s rotation as they find their way. A fun team to watch this year, however not much should be expected.
5th Place – Seattle Mariners
The Mariners don’t have a bad team. Of course I’m saying this having put them at the bottom of their division this year, but they have some room for argument in surprising me. The infield consists of rookie Daniel Vogelbach who has been crushing the ball this spring with a 1.455 OPS and a .407 average, Robinson Cano who can be a threat at second if he stay healthy and plays to career averages, Jean Segura who had a very solid .300 average in Seattle last year, and the lesser known Seager brother (Kyle) who didn’t have a a great 2017, but may be on the brink of a breakout year if he can rally around the rest of the offense. The powerful Nelson Cruz looks to hit 40 home runs and hit possibly scrape a 1.000 OPS this year, assuming health and no suspensions await in 2018. Dee Gordon will be the star of the outfield hoping to have another .300 plus average at the plate, and may gain some wisdom as the timeless legend Ichiro returns home to Seattle to play what is most likely his last season, although a season it may not be having gone 0 for 10 this spring and looking to further hurt his otherwise amazing .312 career average. The rotation is also looking for a healthy 2018 lead by James Paxton looking to have a sub 3 ERA again. King Felix Hernandez is looking to get back to his former glory by having somewhere near career average numbers, and the rest of the rotation with Mike Leake, Erasmo Ramirez, and Marco Gonzales will be looking eat innings and pray they can maintain a full season with a winning record in the big leagues.
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