This year, many prognosticators are jumping on the Astros’ bandwagon, with all their young talent I can clearly see why. They won 84 games last season and have a core of stars like Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, George Springer, and Dallas Keuchel. Let’s take a quick look at the five teams vying for the AL West crown, overall I think the division will be down.
- Houston Astros: The stars mentioned above are plenty enough firepower to contend in the AL West and dethrone the Rangers. The rotation has a potential to be good enough, but also has a potential to derail the season completely, especially if Keuchel doesn’t return to form. The bullpen has an up and coming closer in Ken Giles. Veteran sluggers McCann and Beltran makes the potent lineup possibly the most formidable in baseball. At times, Houston will have hitters like Evan Gattis, Beltran, or McCann sitting on the bench! The strong farm system should help this year since it’s loaded with top right handed pitching prospects. Vegas Insider has them 6/1 odds to win the AL pennant (Westgate puts the over/under at 91.5). Prediction: 93 wins 69 losses (Division winner).
- Texas Rangers: One of the most consistently dominant teams in baseball this decade has the potential to win the West yet again. What’s alarming is the farm system is bereft of top end talent and there are huge question marks in the rotation after Darvish and Hamels. The lineup will continue to feature mashers Jonathan Lucroy, Adrian Beltre, Rougned Odor, and Mike Napoli. They, literally could power their way to wins with the long ball and consistent arms coming out of the bullpen. Vegas Insider has them at 12/1. Prediction: 91 wins 71 losses (Wildcard)
- Oakland Athletics: With a strong bullpen, this could be an intriguing team this season (Vegas Insider has them at 60/1 odds for the pennant). Mr. Moneyball has turned over the roster in recent seasons and he’s added some top prospects like 2B/SS Franklin Barreto and LHP Jharel Cotton, who could be helping the team this season. The lineup will feature Khris Davis and Marcus Semien, but the bullpen will surprise with capable veterans Santiago Casilla, Rich Doolittle, John Axford, and Ryan Madson. Don’t expect Sonny Gray back until early May, if he’s back to form, Beane will be looking to move him to the highest bidder. Prediction: 72 wins 90 losses.
- Seattle Mariners: Vegas Insider has them 12/1 to win the pennant. I think this team has bust written all over it. The starting rotation (with a core of King Felix, Hisashi Iwakuma, Drew Smyly, James Paxton) at best will be average and more likely mediocre/injury plagued. The lineup will feature Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, but does an outfield featuring Jarrod Dyson, Leonys Martin, Mitch Haniger impress you? The Mariners top minor league prospect Tyler O’Neill should end up in the outfield sooner than later. Prediction: 71 wins 91 losses.
- Los Angeles Angels: If you’re thinking it’s Trout and Pujols and that’s about it, then you may be on to something. Aside from the worst stable of prospects in baseball, I do think the Angels improved their everyday lineup and defense overall. An infield featuring Andrelton Simmons, Danny Espinosa, and Yunel Escobar will be better than what we’ve seen in Anaheim the last couple years. The pitching staff, which literally seems like it was randomly put together, will need all the quality defense they can get to get out of jams all season. Vegas Insider has them at 20/1. Prediction: 68 wins 94 losses.