MLB Season Preview: AL West

By Matt Aung (@aunger95)

  1. Texas Rangers (88-74 in 2015 AL West Champions) – The Rangers surprised many in 2015 by winning the AL West under AL Manager Of The Year, Jeff Bannister. Led by big Prince Fielder, who returned after an injury-filled season in 2015, to play in 153 games in which he cracked 23 home runs, tying him for the team lead with Mitch Moreland. Veteran 3rd baseman Adrian Beltre continued is consistent play, hitting .287 with 18 homeruns, and driving in 83 runs. On the mound, the Rangers were led by Colby Lewis, who led the team with 17 wins. 2nd in the Rangers’ rotation was Right Hander Yovani Gallardo why pitched in with the 13 wins. Prior to the July 31st trade deadline, the Rangers surprised quite a few when they traded for Left Hander Cole Hamels from the Phillies. With a September run, the Rangers passed the Astros and took the AL West, before going down to the Blue Jays in 5 very intense games in the ALDS.

The Rangers have remained fairly quiet this offseason with just a few minor deals. The Rangers’ biggest loss of the offseason was the inability to re-sign Yovani Gallardo, who waited until fairly late in the offseason to sign with the Orioles.

Expectations for the Rangers are extremely high heading into the 2016 after their somewhat surprising run to the AL West crown. The expected return of ace Right Hander Yu Darvish in mid to late April should hopefully make up for the loss of Gallardo. However, a knee injury to slugging LF Josh Hamilton leaves fans wondering if he can ever return to his MVP season of 2008.

My Prediction: 86-76. 2nd place

  1. Houston Astros (90-72 won the AL’s 2nd Wild Card)

The Astros shocked the entire baseball world with their incredible turnaround form 2014. The Astros added a whole 16 wins to their total of 70 back in 2014. The Astros were led at the plate by newly acquired C/DH Evan Gattis, who topped the team with 27 homeruns. The Astros were given a huge spark when top prospect Carlos Correa was called up mid-season. In 99 games, the 20-year-old hit 24 homeruns, drove in 68, stole 14 bases, and played staller shortstop to boot. All of those numbers led Correa to the AL Rookie of The Year Award. On the mound, the Astros were led by AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, who racked up a 20 and 8 record with a 2.48 ERA in 33 starts. The Astros received a very welcomed surprise as number two starter Collin McHugh threw in a 19 win season with 3.98 ERA. The Astros led the West for the bulk of the season, but thanks to a cold streak mixed with a hot streak from the Rangers, Texas was able to take the crown from right under the Astros’ feet. Thankfully the Astros were able to claim the AL’s 2nd wild card and then defeated the Yankees in the Bronx in the AL Wild Card game. The Astros tasted a very painful defeat in Game 4 of the ALDS versus Kansas City after, blowing a five-run lead as the 8th inning began. The Astros then lost Game 5 back in KC.

The Offseason: The Astros made a big move fairly early on in the offseason when they acquired fire-baller Righty Ken Gilles from Philly to close games for them, and hopefully put to rest those bullpen nightmares for Astros’ fans from the playoffs a season ago.

As with the Rangers, expectations for the Astros are rather high. A full 162- game season out of Carlos Correa should be something special as long as he stays healthy. The biggest question mark for Astros heading into 2016 is whether or not AL Cy Young Winner Dallas Keuchel will be able to repeat what he did in 2015. If he can even come close to what he did a year ago, and if the Astros’ young core come together as fans hope, the team is very capable of doing again what they did in 2015 again in 2016.

My Prediction: 90-72 (AL West Winners)

  1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (85-77 in 2015)– It was a very up and down season for Mike Scioscia’s Angels ball club. As usual, the Angels were paced at the plate by 2015 AL MVP Mike Trout, who batted .299, hit 41 home runs, drove in 90 runs, and stole 11 bases. The Angels finally got what they paid big bucks for in the 2013 offseason, and that was a very solid year form Albert Pujols. “King Albert” hit .244 hit 40 homeruns, and drove in a team high 95 runs, but more importly he stayed healthy playing in all but 5 games last season. On the bump, the Angels are led by 27-year-old right-hander Garrett Richards. Richards led LA with 15 wins in his 32 starts. As for the team’s projected ace headed into the 2015 season, Jarrod Weaver was battling injuries all season. Weaver only made 26 starts going 7-12 with a 4.64 ERA.

The Offseason: The Angels made two big trades and the 1st came in mid-November. The Angels acquired Gold Glove SS Andrelton Simmons from the Braves. The 2nd was a deal they with the Nats for 2nd basemen Yunel Escobar in December witch gives them a very slick double play duo up the middle.

A Look Ahead To 2016: It may be a very trying season for the Angels and their fan base. This is a team that isn’t that young anymore, and this team has a couple injury concerns too. After offseason foot surgery, LA doesn’t expect to have Pujols until mid-to-late May, and Weaver has been also battling a shoulder issue for the bulk of the spring. Mike Trout will do his thing, but a single player can only carry a team so far.

My Predication: 81-81

  1. Seattle Mariners (76-86 in 2015)– The Mariners didn’t live up to the expectations of their fans and new managerLloyd McClendon. The Mariners were led at the plate by the, “Big BOOM stick” of RF/DH Nelson Cruz. Cruz hit .302 with 41 home runs, and drove in 93. Seattle saw 27 year old 3rd baseman Kyle Seager hit .266 hit 24 homeruns and drove in 74. On the mound, Seattle was led by, “King Felix” AKA Felix Hernandez, who went 18-9 with a 3.53 ERA in 32 starts. Seattle’s number two starter Hisashi Iwakuma was played by injuries all season long he made just 20 starts all season going 9-6 with a 3.54 ERA.

The Offseason: Seattle resigned Iwakuma, who was in agreement with the Dodgers on a two-year deal around the $20 million range, but the Dodgers reportedly found something in Iwakuma’s medical records witch made them back out of the deal, so Seattle was able to bring Iwakuma back on a one-year deal worth around $10 million plus an option for the 2017 season.

2016 Predication: I think it’ll be a rather long season for the Mariners. Seattle still has Nelson Cruz, who will do his thing, but one player can only do so much. Kyle Seager is expected to have a better season than he did in 2015, so Seattle should be alright at the plate. The biggest question for Seattle is, “What do they do the 4 other days that Felix Hernandez doesn’t pitch?” If Iwakuma is able to stay healthy, then Seattle will have a very formidable one-two punch atop their rotation. Nevertheless, Seattle just has was too many questions marks heading into the season to be considered a playoff team.

My Prediction: 75-87

 

  1. The Oakland A’s (68-94 in 2016) The A’s began a full scale rebuild in 2015, but they did have a few bright spots. At the plate, C Stephen Vogt led the way for the A’s. Vogt hit .261 with 18 home runs and drove in 71. RF Josh Reddick had a very solid year in his own right. Reddick hit .272 with a team leading 20 home runs, and drove in 70. On the mound, The A’s were led by 25-year-old righthander Sonny Gray who went 14-7 with a 2.73 ERA in 32 starts. These great numbers allowed Gray to finish 4th in the AL Cy Award voting. After Gray all other A’s starters had a bellow .500 record.

The Offseason: The A’s were busy selling this offseason. They shipped former All-Star 3rd basemen Brett Lawrie to the White Sox as part of a three team deal involving the Reds.

216 Outlook: Without a doubt the 2016 season will be a very long one for the A’s and their fan base. The A’s are expected to continue to take phone calls form teams that may be interested in some of their veteran players, so they can gain young talented prospects in return, simmer to what the Chicago Cubs did form 2010-2014. The A’s’ starting rotation is built around Sonny Gray, and he could be the corner stone of the A’s rebuild. The A’s are building towards the feature, and though it make take a few years A’s fans hope it will be worth the wait.

My Prediction: 59-103

The AL West As A Whole: The AL West can be one of the most interesting divisions in baseball in 2016. The Astros and Rangers are expected to be the class of the division, but don’t count out the Angels. LA always seems to play their best when no one seems to know that they are around.When it comes to the A’s and Mariners, though they aren’t expected to compete for a playoff spot, could play spoilers for a lot of teams come September.

My AL West Division:

Rangers

Astros

Angles

Mariners

A’s

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