Jake Devin Previews the AL West
First: Houston Astros
The Astros disappointed in 2016, but don’t count on a repeat performance. Houston already had an enviable core of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Alex Bregman, before adding reinforcements in the form of Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Josh Reddick. On the pitching side, a lot is riding on Dallas Keuchel bouncing back from a down year, but the Astros are too deep with talent to be considered anything other than AL West favorites.
Ready for work. ? pic.twitter.com/D2yJUugMRs
— Houston Astros (@astros) February 23, 2017
Second: Texas Rangers
Coming off a dreadful 2014, the Rangers surprised with playoff appearances in 2015 and 2016, and they have an opportunity to make another run in 2017. Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels form one of the best rotation duos in baseball (though the rest of the staff leaves something to be desired), and the Rangers stand to benefit from a full year of Jonathan Lucroy. They should have every chance to secure a third consecutive playoff spot.
Yu Darvish allowed a .138 AVG on offspeed pitches (second-best among starters in 2016).
— #Statcast (@statcast) February 23, 2017
Third: Seattle Mariners
GM Jerry Dipoto kept baseball analysts busy this winter, making what felt like a move a day at times. The end result wasn’t a brand-new Mariners team, but rather a modestly improved one that should compete for a Wild Card. Drew Smyly adds depth and upside to a rotation that needs it, while Jarrod Dyson adds to what should be an elite outfield defense. Any team that employs Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Kyle Seager has an excellent foundation to build upon, and Seattle could contend if a couple bounces go their way.
— Mariners (@Mariners) February 25, 2017
Fourth: Los Angeles Angels
The Angels probably have more upside than a fourth-place AL West ranking would indicate, as pitchers like Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs, and Garret Richards possess plenty of potential. They also have lengthy injury histories, and those question marks are enough to make it less than likely that Mike Trout wins his first playoff game with the Angels. The presence of Trout is always an enormous boost, and in guys like Andrelton Simmons and Kole Calhoun there is at least some talent around him, but maybe not enough to break through.
This is a snippet of Garrett Richards throwing a bullpen session. pic.twitter.com/ExwAniTVFf
— Pedro Moura (@pedromoura) February 20, 2017
Fifth: Oakland Athletics
After a stellar run between 2012 to 2014 for the Athletics, Oakland has fallen on hard times. Billy Beane made a crucial misstep in trading superstar Josh Donaldson two years ago for 50 cents on the dollar, and the A’s have been aimless ever since. They made some nice rebuilding moves at last year’s deadline, shipping out Rich Hill and Josh Reddick, but outside of Sonny Gray there isn’t much impact talent at the major league level, and the farm system isn’t ready to provide a big boost yet. It will be another trying year in Oakland.
— Jon Root (@JonnyRoot_) February 25, 2017