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2018 MLB Season Preview: AL West

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Fresh off a World Series title, the Astros have taken the reigns in the West. This year, Houston will look to defend its crown, as the rest of the division vies for playoff baseball.

Oakland A’s

AL West

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2017 Season: 75-87, 5th Place AL West

Notable Additions: C Jonathan Lucroy, OF Stephen Piscotty, RP Emilio Pagan, RP Yusmeiro Petit, RP Ryan Buchter
Notable Subtractions: 1B Ryon Healy

Since 3 straight playoff appearances from 2012-2014, the A’s have managed to finish in the cellar every year since. This year is shaping up to be no different.

The A’s feature the one of the worst defensive units in the league, having committed the most errors (121) in 2017. The offense features lots of power throughout the lineup with Khris Davis and company, but lacks a true table-setter or pure hitter, as almost all regulars in the lineup are 3 true outcome batters.

The rotation depth took a hit with the injuries to Blackburn and Cotton. Kendall Graveman will head the rotation, but it’s just not the same without Sonny Gray atop the list.

While the Athletics are in the midst of a rebuild, Billy Beane has assembled some quality young talent across the diamond with 1B Matt Olson, 3B Matt Chapman, 2B Franklin Barreto, IF Jorge Mateo, OF Dustin Fowler, P Sean Manaea, and P AJ Puk.

These guys should headline the next competitive A’s squad in the coming seasons, as the organization continues to stockpile young talent. Bob Melvin is a solid manager, and he should be able have his team tread water, and stay respectable for most of the season.

1. Kendall Graveman
2. Sean Manaea
3. Daniel Gossett
4. Daniel Mendgen
5. Andrew Triggs

CL: Blake Treinen
SU: Liam Hendricks
RP: Ryan Buchter

C: Jonathan Lucroy
1B: Matt Olson
2B: Jed Lowrie
3B: Matt Chapman
SS: Marcus Semien
OF: Stephen Piscotty
OF: Boog Powell
OF: Matt Joyce
DH: Khris Davis

Prediction: 76-86, 5th Place AL West

Texas Rangers

AL West

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2017 Season: 78-84, 3rd Place AL West

Notable Additions: P Jesse Chavez, SP Mike Minor, SP Matt Moore, SP Doug Fister, RP Kevin Jepsen, RP Chris Martin
Notable Subtractions: 1B Mike Napoli, OF Carlos Gomez, SP Andrew Cashner, SP Miguel Gonzalez

Pitching let the Rangers down in 2017. The team allowed over 5 runs a game, and had the lowest K/9 in the AL, coming in at 6.9 K/9. The team’s WHIP was nearly 1.40, and had the 2nd worst SO/BB ratio behind the White Sox.

Cole Hamels missed some time, and when he was healthy, he wasn’t the Cole Hamels we’ve been accustomed to knowing. The only pitcher to make more than 30 starts was Martín Pérez and, given his production, you’d wish he hadn’t.

Perez let up a whopping 10.8H/9IP, sported a 1.54 WHIP, and a 4.82 ERA. The bright side? He ate up 185 innings for the team. They let their most consistent arm walk out the door in Andrew Cashner, and made some very curious moves on the pitching front.

Matt Moore, Doug Fister, and Mike Minor were all acquired to fill out the rotation. All of whom have major question marks associated with them. It is very possible this group can put up worse numbers collectively than the 2017 staff.

The bullpen remains a mess, with no effort to improve from last season’s unit. The offense is going to score runs with the power that is in the lineup. But with that power comes strikeouts, as they whiffed 2nd most in the AL with 1,493 K’s.

It appears the Rangers are simply in a transitional phase. They’ve shed nearly $30MM from last season’s payroll. They also made no major acquisitions this offseason, instead opting to add marginal/replacement-level talent to fill holes. They have Cole Hamels and Adrian Beltre’s contracts expiring at season’s end.

In reality for Rangers fans, this could be the beginning of a rebuild for Jon Daniels and Co.

1. Cole Hamels
2. Martín Pérez
3. Mike Minor
4. Doug Fister
5. Matt Moore

CL: Keone Kela
SU: Matt Bush
RP: Alex Claudio

C: Robinson Chirinos
1B: Joey Gallo
2B: Rougned Odor
3B: Adrian Beltre
SS: Elvis Andrus
OF: Ryan Rua
OF: Delino DeShields/Drew Robinson
OF: Nomar Mazara
DH: Shin Soo-Choo

Prediction: 77-85, 4th Place AL West

Seattle Mariners

AL West

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2017 Season: 78-84, 3rd Place AL West

Notable Additions: 1B Ryon Healy, OF Dee Gordon, OF Ichiro, RP Juan Nicasio
Notable Subtractions: 1B Yonder Alonso, 3B Danny Valencia, OF Jarrod Dyson, SP Yovani Gallardo

Jerry Dipoto leads all GM’s in transactions since his arrival in Seattle. So far, he’s reshaped his team to no success. First, this team will not compete with the Astros by any stretch of the imagination. However, they do have a shot to grab a wild card, but a lot will need to go in their favor.

First and foremost, King Felix and James Paxton will have to pitch like the frontline starters they are, and stay healthy for an entire season. The Mariners don’t stand a chance if this doesn’t happen. They have no starting pitching depth behind them, and no prospects on the verge of the big leagues.

The offense is much better than previous Mariners teams, led by aging veterans Nelson Cruz (37), Robinson Cano (35), and Kyle Seager (30). The window of opportunity could be closing on the Mariners faster than you think.

High-energy players in Jean Segura and Dee Gordon help add some speed and athleticism to a lineup where it lacks. Any injuries to this club and it’s all she wrote. There truly is a lack of depth in the entire organization.

Any missed time for a regular will prove to be devastating, especially on the pitching front.

1. Félix Hernández
2. James Paxton
3. Mike Leake
4. Marco Gonzales
5. Erasmo Ramírez

CL: Edwin Díaz
SU: Juan Nicasio
RP: Nick Vincent

C: Mike Zunino
1B: Ryon Healy
2B: Robinson Cano
3B: Kyle Seager
SS: Jean Segura
OF: Mitch Haniger
OF: Dee Gordon
OF: Ichiro
DH: Nelson Cruz

Prediction: 83-79, 3rd Place AL West

Los Angeles Angels

AL West

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2017 Season: 80-82, 2nd Place AL West

Notable Additions: C René Rivera, 2B Ian Kinsler, 3B Zack Cozart, OF Justin Upton (Re-Signing), OF Chris Young, P/DH Shohei Ohtani, RP Jim Johnson
Notable Subtractions: 2B Brandon Phillips, IF Cliff Pennington, 3B Yunel Escobar, OF Ben Revere, P Jesse Chavez, P Bud Norris, P Ricky Nolasco, P Yusmeiro Petit

The Angels have wasted enough of Mike Trout’s prime. Finally, they’ve made some significant upgrades. They revamped a terrible 2017 infield, bringing in Zack Cozart to man 3B, and Ian Kinsler to take over at 2B.

Trout will be flanked by Justin Upton and Kole Calhoun, as they should make up one of the better hitting OF’s in the game. If Ohtani is what everyone believes he will be, then they’ve also added a frontline starter to pair with Garrett Richards in the rotation.

Beyond those two arms, the Angels have Tyler Skaggs, JC Ramírez, Matt Shoemaker, and Parker Bridwell, as they flirt with the idea of a 6-man rotation. Many elite relief arms were available on the free agent market this offseason, and it’s quite mind boggling as to why Billy Eppler didn’t come away with at least one, perhaps even two arms for the ‘pen.

They lost their best reliever in Petit, and also saw Bud Norris leave to free agency. Jim Johnson was the sole addition. If the bullpen falters, we’ll look back on Eppler’s decision to not address this area of need.

The Angels know Mike Trout is going to put up his numbers. The pitching will need to perform, and the new additions will have to step up for the Angels to see October baseball.

It’s hard to believe the best player in the game has never won a playoff game in his career. But it shows the utter dearth of talent this team has had around him in previous seasons.

1. Garrett Richards
2. Shohei Ohtani
3. Matt Shoemaker
4. JC Ramírez
5. Tyler Skaggs
6. Parker Bridwell

CL: Blake Parker
SU: Cam Bedrosian
RP: Jim Johnson

C: Martín Maldonaldo
1B: CJ Cron
2B: Ian Kinsler
3B: Zack Cozart
SS: Andrelton Simmons
OF: Justin Upton
OF: Mike Trout
OF: Kole Calhoun
DH: Albert Pujols/Shohei Ohtani

Prediction: 85-77, 2nd Place AL West

Houston Astros

AL West

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2017 Season: 101-61, 1st Place AL West

Notable Additions: SP Gerrit Cole, RP Joe Smith, RP Héctor Rondón
Notable Subtractions: OF Cameron Maybin, DH Carlos Beltrán, SP Mike Fiers, SP Francisco Liriano, RP Luke Gregerson, RP Tyler Clippard

Top to bottom, this is the best team in baseball. They showed that in 2017 with a World Series Championship. There is no reason this team can’t pull off a repeat. Every meaningful contributor from the 2017 team, is returning in 2018.

They’ve added Gerrit Cole to an already talented and deep starting rotation. Colin McHugh and Brad Peacock are relegated to ‘pen duties to start the season, which is a testament to the quality of arms that occupy rotation spots 1-5.

The bullpen is held down on the back end by Ken Giles and multi-inning specialist Chris Devenski. If there’s a weakness on the team, it’s the lack of a quality left-handed relief arm. Tony Sipp has struggled in recent seasons.

Offensively, the lineup features AL MVP José Altuve, who has a realistic chance at 3000 career hits. He and Carlos Correa form the best double-play duo in the league. Alex Bregman could be perhaps another breakout star, if you don’t consider him one already.

Oh, and guess what? There are more coming! Forrest Whitley and Kyle Tucker are both consensus top-20 prospects in the league, and already have played at the double-A level. It’s borderline unfair with the amount of talent that’s been assembled by GM Jeff Lunhow in Houston.

1. Justin Verlander
2. Dallas Kuechel
3. Gerrit Cole
4. Lance McCullers
5. Charlie Morton

CL: Ken Giles
SU: Chris Devenski
RP: Joe Smith

C: Brian McCann
1B: Yuli Gurriel/Marwin González
2B: José Altuve
3B: Alex Bregman
SS: Carlos Correa
OF: Josh Reddick
OF: George Springer
OF: Derek Fisher/Jake Marisnick
DH: Evan Gattis

Prediction: 102-60, 1st Place AL West

Written By

Maryland Native and McDaniel College alum. Former Division 3 baseball player. Current Vice President of his family-owned business in the waste industry.



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