Early NL West Predictions can be found here. Next up is the AL West.
American League West Division
Division Winner: Houston Astros
This is a team I like a lot even before the off-season moves they’ve made this far. Jose Altuve is one of the most exciting players in the game to watch. Carlos Correa is one of the best shortstops in baseball at only 22, and Alex Bregman is another youngster that could be an elite player in baseball.
Add in Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick, and Brian McCann this off-season to solidify the roster and they become an even tougher West contender. They didn’t have a set closer in 2016. 5 different guys combined for 44 saves out of the bullpen.
Hopefully Dallas Keuchel has a better year. He followed up his 2015 Cy Young season with a 4.55 ERA. We know what he can do. In 2016, the Astros had 4 starters throw 168 innings or more. That’s insane to have that many guys eat those kind of innings. Collin McHugh, Doug Fister, Mike Fiers, and Dallas Keuchel all reach that mark. Fister is a free agent, but the Astros have been talking to the White Sox about a trade for Jose Quintana. If that happens, watch out.
2nd Place: Texas Rangers
This is a tough team to predict to finish 2nd. They won 95 games in 2016. Cole Hamels had big year as usual and Yu Darvish looked solid in his 100.1 innings after Tommy John surgery. Texas will be happy to get a full year out of those two together. After those two though comes the question marks. Can they provide reliable #3 through #5 starters? Martin Perez had a great year but can the young arm duplicate? I think he can. Sam Dyson and Matt Bush are great in the back end of the bullpen which shouldn’t be an issue.
Adrian Beltre doesn’t seem to age at all and Elvis Andrus pairs great with Roughned Odor up the middle. I think I’m most excited to see a full year of Jonathan Lucroy with this Texas team. Catcher was always a hole for them and they made sure to fill it at the 2016 trade deadline. I still want to see if anything ever comes from Jurickson Profar. He was once so highly touted by many. There are new young guns around now in Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo. They should in Wild Card contention if they don’t finish on top.
3rd Place: Seattle Mariners
The Mariners are an interesting team. They always seem to be on the right track and fall a little bit short. If the two Texas teams weren’t so good, I would have them finishing 2nd again in 2017 with a chance at a Wild Card. They have a nice core. Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager, and they added Jean Segura who is coming off a great 2016 in Arizona. The outfield is the weak link for them. With Seth Smith sent to Baltimore, they’ll probably have Mitcher Haniger, Leonys Martin, and Guillermo Heredia from left to right.
They still have King Felix and we all know what he can do. Add Hisashi Iwakuma, newly acquired Drew Smyly (which is a move I love), James Paxton, and Yovani Gallardo and you have a nice rotation. The bullpen still has Steve Cishek and up-and-coming closer Edwin Diaz. I like this team a lot. I hope they prove me wrong and make a splash in the West. Even if they finish 3rd, they should be a team above .500.
4th Place: Los Angeles Angels
Dear Los Angeles Angels, please stop wasting Mike Trout’s talent. You have the best player baseball has seen in years. Give him everything. Thanks.
Sadly, it’s not that simple. I wish it were, because Mike Trout isn’t human. They aren’t a bad team offensively. Albert Pujols, Kole Calhoun, Yunel Escobar, Andrelton Simmons, and Danny Espinosa was just acquired from the Nationals. Ben Revere is in the outfield mix as well. That’s not their problem.
Pitching is where it gets rough. Garrett Richards is their “ace” but missed most of last year with an elbow injury. He will be nice to have back, but that still won’t fix it all. Ricky Nolasco, Tyler Skaggs, Nick Tropeano, Andrew Heaney and Matt Shoemaker should be the arms to round out the rotation. I like Skaggs. I want to see a full year where he is healthy. Same with Heaney. He’s a kid with potential. I was never big on Ricky Nolasco or Matt Shoemaker. On the plus side, no more Jered Weaver. Was not a fan at all. As a team, the Angels combined for only 29 saves in 2016. Not good.
5th Place: Oakland Athletics
Oakland hasn’t been able to regain the ground under their feet since their solid 2012-2014 years. As a Pirates fan, I understand how they have to operate in a small market with a small budget. Offensively, they have Khris Davis who posted baseball’s quietest 42 home run performance ever. You never heard of it happening. I mean I knew he did, but no one ever seemed to cover it or mention him. Outfield aside from Davis was a problem. They signed Rajai Davis and Matt Joyce this off-season to help those gaps. Joyce had a great resurgence in Pittsburgh and old-man Davis stunned baseball with his massive World Series Game 7 home run off Chapman. Much better options than Jake Smolinski and Brett Eibner playing daily.
Sonny Gray wasn’t himself in 2016, but Kendall Graveman did lead the rotation. Sean Manaea and Daniel Mengden are two young guys that could turn into solid starters and really boost this rotation. Both showed good signs in 2016 that I really want to see them build on. If Gray returns to his form and the young guys are solid, the rotation will surprise some people. Sean Doolittle should be healthy in the back end with Ryan Madson.
AL East predictions will be next.