Mar. 12, 2017
American League West Preview
Alright baseball fans! It’s almost time for opening day, and leading up until then we will have a bunch of baseball posts coming up for you. We will be previewing each division for you over the next few weeks. Opening day is Sunday April 2, so it will be here before you know it! Today we start with the American League West. We have a schedule of posts set up so you can follow:
AL West: Friday March 10
NL West: Sunday March 12
AL Central: Friday March 17
NL Central: Sunday March 19
AL East: Friday March 24
NL East: Sunday March 26
Preseason Award Favorites: Friday March 31
Way Too Early Postseason Predictions: Sunday April 2
For each team, there will be a quick review of last year, key additions and subtractions, possible impact in 2017 by prospects, and an outlook and prediction for 2017. For the additions and subtractions, we will simply be naming the guys who can make an impact. The guys who are last on the bench or last in the bullpen may be left out. The additions and subtractions will also be limited to guys added or lost in the offseason. Guys who came or went at the trade deadline last year were an addition or subtraction for last year, not so much for this year coming up (Example, Andrew Miller will not be a subtraction for the Yankees. Aroldis Chapman will be a subtraction for the Cubs). That said, let’s dig in to the AL West:
Texas Rangers: Last Year 95-67 (1st in AL West)
2016 Review: The Rangers came out easily on top of the AL West last season, but were they really that good? They had a total run differential for the season of +8 runs, which translates to a team more likely to have 80-84 wins rather than 95.
Key Additions: 1B/DH Mike Napoli, P Andrew Cashner, P Tyson Ross
Key Losses: OF Ian Desmond, OF/DH Carlos Beltran, 1B Mitch Moreland
Possible Rookies to Watch: Yohander Mendez
2017 Outlook: The Rangers lose a lot of firepower to their offense with the losses of Desmond and Beltran, and Moreland was a gold glove 1st baseman. Adding Napoli helps replace some of that, but they will likely be looking for bigger roles out of Jurickson Profar and Joey Gallo to help boost the offense. Profar and Gallo were at the top of everyone’s prospect radar a few years ago, but have yet to live up to the potential. Adding Cashner and Ross could help solidify the rotation, but neither is likely to be the difference maker in making a World Series run.
The Rangers don’t have much coming up the pipeline as far as prospects expected to make an impact other than possibly Mendez, who may crack the rotation in the 2nd half of the season, or be added to the bullpen.
The strength of this team will be the rotation provided Hamels, Darvish, Cashner, and Ross can all stay healthy. That may be asking a lot, especially with the injury history of some of those players. We’re looking at a team here who is pretty mediocre as a whole, but won a lot of close games last year. Can they duplicate that success this year? There’s likely to be some regression from last year.
2017 Prediction: 85-77
Seattle Mariners: Last year 86-76 (2nd in AL West)
2016 review: The Mariners featured one of the most fearsome lineups in the league, with Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Kyle Seager forming as formidable of a 3-4-5 as there was in the league. One terrible month in June let them down for the entire season, and a hot finish wasn’t enough to get into the playoffs. They were mostly let down by their pitching, and simply tried to outpower opponents.
Key Additions: Jean Segura, Yovani Gallardo, Jarrod Dyson, Drew Smyly, Danny Valencia, Marc Rzepczynski, Carlos Ruiz
Key Subtractions: Seth Smith, Taijuan Walker, Ketel Marte, Vidal Nuno
Possible Rookies to Watch: Ben Gamel, Dan Altavilla, Mitch Haniger
2017 Outlook: Perhaps nobody did more turning over of their roster than the Mariners, which usually is more of a sign of a rebuild than a build to contention. This feels different. They let go of some players who played a decent size role in 2016, but did more to address their needs to make a playoff run. Segura fills a huge need as a high average leadoff type hitter to set the table ahead of the big three. Gallardo and Smyly will fill the void left by Walker in the rotation. Dyson adds some much-needed outfield defense and will provide exceptional speed on the bases. Ruiz will likely only be a part time player, but will do wonders for a rotation who has been lacking a real catcher for years.
As for rookies, Gamel provides more defense in the outfield. Haniger is another outfielder who adds even more pop to an already powerful lineup. Altavilla will likely have a role in the bullpen this year. None of these guys are likely to make as much of an impact as a rookie as a Kris Bryant, but they definitely shore up some weaknesses on the roster.
The Mariners seemed like a team on the brink that underachieved some last season. With some key additions to address big needs, look for the Mariners to take the next step this season.
2017 Prediction: 92-70
Houston Astros: Last year 84-78 (3rd in AL West)
2016 Review: The Astros were a bit of a disappointment last season. They were expected to take another step forward in being a true contender, but actually regressed some. The team is still young and loaded with talent, so this may just be a blip in the climb to the top.
Key Additions: Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick, Charlie Morton, Brian McCann, Nori Aoki
Key Subtractions: Colby Rasmus, Luis Valbuena, Pat Neshak, Doug Fister?
Possible Rookies to Watch: David Paulino, Teoscar Hernandez
2017 Outlook: The Astros made some curious moves over the offseason, adding a lot of age to a young roster in Beltran and McCann. The reason for the ? on Doug Fister is that he curiously still remains a free agent. Reddick, Beltran, and McCann will add more pop to the starting lineup, but where they all fit is a question. McCann is a part time catcher part time DH, Beltran is a part time outfielder part time DH, and they already have a full time DH in Evan Gattis. The success of the team will largely rely on a rebound season from ace Dallas Keuchel, who had a massively disappointing 2016 after a Cy Young award winning 2015. Youngsters Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman should continue to grow, and along with the new additions and the presence of Jose Altuve in the lineup, they will definitely score some runs.
As for rookies, Paulino will likely find himself in the Astros on the big league roster and could potentially crack the rotation but is more likely to be in the bullpen. Teoscar is an interesting outfield who as a lot of good not great tools, but can contribute at least in a part time role this season.
The Astros are a team that should continue to be on the upswing, rather than having any more regression. Look for a little bit of a bounce back in 2017.
2017 Prediction: 88-74
Los Angeles Angels: Last year 74-88 (4th in AL West)
2016 review: 2016 was much of the same for the Angels in the sense that they consisted of Mike Trout and not a ton of support. Trout is off to one of the greatest starts to a career that we have ever seen, but he can’t win alone in baseball. The lineup wasn’t terrible, but they need a lot of help on the pitching staff.
Key Additions: Luis Valbuena, Cameron Maybin
Key Subtractions: Johnny Giavotella, Deolis Guerra, Jared Weaver
Possible Rookies to Watch: Nate Smith, Alex Meyer, Vicente Campos
2017 Outlook: Valbeuna and Maybin are two player who can contribute to this team, but neither is a real difference maker in the lineup with Trout. The Angels lineup still consists of Trout with not much help. Yunel Escobar, Andrelton Simmons, CJ Cron, and Kole Calhoun are all solid players to have, but you aren’t going to the playoffs built around them. Albert Pujols is still a shell of his former self and that isn’t likely to change.
The good news for the rookies is that all 3 listed will have a shot at competing for a spot in the Angels rotation. Anyone who doesn’t make the rotation is likely to be in the big-league bullpen this year. Smith may start the year in AAA but should be up before long.
The Angels didn’t do much to help themselves this offseason. They’ll largely be counting on rookies to be any better than last year. Expect much of the same in 2017.
2017 Prediction: 75-87
Oakland A's: Last Year 69-93 (Last in AL West)
2016 Outlook: The A’s in classic A’s fashion have completely dismantled following a short run of being pretty good. The casual baseball fan watching an A’s game probably only heard of a handful of players. There was very little talent on the team which led to a very poor record, and the one gem they have in Sonny Gray was injured for a portion of the season.
Key Additions: Rajai Davis, Matt Joyce
Key Subtractions: Danny Valencia
Possible Rookies to Watch: Jharel Cotton, Frankie Montas, Daniel Gossett
2017 Outlook: As you can see, the A’s weren’t too active this offseason. Their additions aren’t pushing to needle any more than their one subtraction in Valencia. The A’s will stink once again this year, and to make matters worse, Sonny Gray is hurt again and out indefinitely.
As for the rookies, Cotton should be in their rotation right out of camp, while Gossett should be there at some point this year. Montas will likely be in the bullpen this season.
There’s really not much to say about the A’s. There’s no talent on the roster, and they didn’t do anything to try to improve. This year is all about the development of the youngsters.
2017 Prediction: 64-98
In Summary, the predicted standings for the AL West this season are as follows:
That’s a wrap on the AL West. What do you think? Who is going to win the division? Who is the one addition or subtraction that will make the biggest difference? Who is the top rookie to watch in the division? Comment and let us know! Stay tuned for more current sports stories. Don't forget to follow us on social media. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram @beyondthemetrics, and Twitter @byondthemetrics