With Spring Training underway and everybody in the baseball world excited for the upcoming season, over the next week or so N2K will look at, preview and predict the six divisions in the MLB. We started with the AL East, the NL East, the AL Central and the NL Central. Today we continue with the AL West.
The American League West is made up of the Oakland Athletics, the Los Angeles Angels, the Houston Astros, the Texas Rangers and the Seattle Mariners. The 2015 AL West was quite top heavy. The Rangers, the Astros and the Angels were all capable of winning the division but both the Athletics and the Mariners never showed signs of promise. Since all of these teams made some major acquisitions in the offseason, the 2016 race should be much tighter and unpredictable. A few days back Baseball Prospectus released their full predictions for the 2016 regular season.
Now to N2K’s Preview
As for the infield, there are only two main questions all the fans are asking. Will Adrian Beltre ever slow down? And will Jurickson Profar ever pan out to the superstar potential he had a few years back? First, Adrian Beltre isn’t human, I’m convinced. At the age of 36 he is still playing as strong as ever holding down the hot corner and preventing Joey Gallo from reaching an everyday player role. Secondly, Jurickson Profar is a bust. Profar was supposed to be Ian Kinsler’s successor at second base but is having trouble holding onto the third string spot for the middle infield.
The Rangers acquired Cole Hamels late last season in a trade with Philadelphia. Hamels is now their ace, and Colby Lewis, Yu Darvish as well as Derek Holland should complement his pitching style well. Cole Hamels also has a reputation of being a lights-out October performer so if the Rangers can get back to the postseason he could take them far.
The Rangers also added ex-Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond to their outfield to play with Shin-Soo Choo, Josh Hamilton and Delino DeShields. Ian Desmond and Josh Hamilton will be the main question marks for this outfield, whether or not they can stay healthy as well as produce both offensively and defensively.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels are primed to make a postseason dent thanks to the additions of Yunel Escobar, Daniel Nava and Andrelton Simmons. Daniel Nava batted 0.303 with the Red Sox in 2013 and was a big part of their World Series triumph. Nava also hit one of, if not the most emotional homerun, during the 2013 season taking the lead in the first home game after the Boston Marathon Bombings.
Andrelton Simmons is a human highlight reel at shortstop.
And although I expect these new additions to play well, if they don’t the Angels still have a kid named Mike Trout. Mike Trout is more or less the Bugs Bunny of the MLB, he can do everything and all he does is continue to amaze the fans. Thanks to a sound bullpen and rotation led by Garrett Richards this Angels team should do just fine.
The Mariners had a relatively quiet offseason outside of the trade that gave them Wade Miley. A trade which they, frankly, lost. Mainly giving up up-and-coming reliever Carson Smith to Boston. You can definitely expect the consistent players like Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz to remain productive. Outside of the usual suspects for Seattle I anticipate strong campaigns from Norichika Aoki and Taijuan Walker, both of whom have been growing statistically season to season.
I don’t see the Mariners being as much of a factor as other baseball writers seem to think. For the Mariners to make a playoff run, both Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano will need to have career seasons.
On paper, the Athletics roster is not appealing but to be fair it is not appealing any season but somehow they manage to string together wins and be in the October conversation every season. With the addition of former Royal Ryan Madson to the Oakland bullpen accompanied by current closer Sean Doolittle. The offense will be powered by Khris Davis, Billy Butler, Yonder Alonso, Josh Reddick, Stephen Vogt and Brett Lawrie. Nobody will exceed expectations but if they all play as expected the Athletics could be very successful.
The starting rotation will have a much easier job compared to last season since the bullpen should take some stress off them and they have a more productive offense. The rotation is headlined by Sonny Gray and Jesse Hahn. I predict that Sonny Gray will finish top three in the AL Cy Young voting for the 2016 season. The Athletics record is very hit or miss this season and I wouldn’t be surprised where they finish in the standings.
The Astros made some waves this offseason acquiring a mid-rotation piece Doug Fister as well as high-end closer Ken Giles. Giles was brought into Houston via trade with Philadelphia which involved sending former number one pick RHP Mark Appel to the Phillies. The Astros bullpen will be very strong this season with Giles, Luke Gregerson, and Tony Sipp finishing off the 7th, 8th and 9th innings. On top of a premier bullpen, a young rotation with Dallas Keuchel, Collin Mchugh, and Lance McCullers will work wonders for the win column.
Enough about pitching, Houston has an explosive offense centered around phenom shortstop Carlos Correa and all-around second baseman Jose Altuve. This Astros lineup seems to have no holes with other starters including Carlos Gomez, Colby Rasmus, George Springer, Jason Castro, and Evan Gattis. And on top of all of that, you can expect AJ Reed to make a splash in the MLB this year and he’ll win AL Rookie of the Year. This team looks scary good and only getting better. The Astros and the Cubs should be atop the MLB for many seasons to come.
N2K’s AL West Prediction
Houston Astros 90-72
Texas Rangers 87-75
Los Angeles Angels 84-78
Oakland Athletics 80-82
Seattle Mariners 75-87
Cover Photo via ESPN
GIFS via MLB.com, CBS Sports and Beantown Bulletin