Not many predicted it, but the AL West was one of the most competitive divisions in baseball last season as three teams finished within three games of winning the division crown.
Each of the two teams from the Lone Star State made their way into the post season, with the Texas Rangers winning the division and the Houston Astros making a strong push in the second half of the season to surpass the LA Angels.
Houston had a chance to potentially move onto the ALCS, however, the Royals proved to be too much to handle. The Rangers played one of the more exciting series of the post season but ultimately came up on the losing end against Toronto.
As it looks right now, the AL West will once again run through the state of Texas.
But which Texas team do I have winning this division? That answer is below, along with the rest of my AL West predictions.
Houston Astros, 86-76 last season (Wild Card Birth, Lost in ALDS)
The Houston Astros didn’t make a ton of noise this offseason, but the good news is neither did any of the other teams in this division.
Houston’s Colby Rasmus made history by becoming the first player in MLB history to accept his team’s qualifying offer, locking him up for one more season with the Astros.
The other two moves Houston made was signing starting pitcher Doug Fister to a one-year, $7 million deal, and agreeing to a three-year, $18 million contract to retain relief pitcher Tony Sipp.
Fister replaces Scott Kazmir, who left the club in free agency to join the Dodgers.
Houston’s lineup will look very similar to what it did last year, with the only noticeable difference being the absence of Chris Carter.
Offensively, the Astros will be led by shortstop Carlos Correa, who had a monster debut season. Correa hit for a .279 avg. in 99 games, totaling 108 hits and 22 home runs.
Jose Altuve returns for what will likely be another 200-plus hit season.
Last year this team grew a lot, coming together during that second-half run and gaining valuable experience in the postseason. That, along with an above-average bullpen, gives reason to believe there won’t be any drop off for the ‘Stros in 2016.
Oh, and did I mention they have the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner in Dallas Kuechel?
Prediction: First place, Playoff birth
Los Angeles Angels, 85-77 last season
As good of a second half of the season that Houston had, the Los Angeles Angeles had an equally as bad one. The Halos were just 10-19 in the month of August, and ended the year losing three out of five, which knocked them out of the final playoff spot.
The winter hasn’t been any kinder.
LA was unable to re-sign any of its free agents from a year ago, and lost out on a number of bidding wars leaving young phenom Mike Trout the lone healthy star in Anaheim.
Albert Pujols is ailing a nagging foot injury that could make him miss part of April, or could limit him to just hitting.
LA’s lone notable offseason move was swapping shortstop Erick Aybar for the Braves Andrelton Simmons. The trade also forced the Angels to send two top pitching prospects and $2.5 million to Atlanta.
Simmons is one of the top defensive infielders in baseball, though hasn’t hit over .265 in a full season, which doesn’t exactly solve the Angles need for a bat to go alongside Trout and Pujols.
Los Angeles was one of the worst teams in the majors last year in terms of average and getting on base. The Halos will likely have to rely heavily on the long ball to get the job done, once again.
In order for the Angles to make the playoffs, they will have to get more quality starts from their starting rotation than they got in 2015.
I don’t see it happening though.
Prediction: Fifth place
Oakland Athletics, 68-94 last season
The Oakland Athletics were the most active team from the AL West this offseason.
Oakland made a series of trades in hopes of improving upon a lackluster 2015 season.
In November the team traded with Houston for third baseman Jed Lowrie, and just over a week later completed a trade with San Diego that sent pitcher Marc Rzepczynski and first baseman Yonder Alonso to Oakland in exchange for three lesser players.
The acquisition of Lowrie prompted the team trading Brett Lawrie to the White Sox in exchange for a pair of pitchers; the A’s cutting their losses on a trade from two years ago in which they sent 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays in exchange for Lawrie, who didn’t have an MVP season.
Billy Beane and company continued to stay busy, completing two separate trades this month to bring over a pair of outfielders in Khris Davis and Chris Coghlan.
All these moves mean the depth chart in Oakland will look vastly different in 2016 than it did in 2015, although the pitching staff hasn’t changed majorly aside from the addition of Rzepczynski.
This has the making to be an impressive team on the offensive side of the ball, but the pitching staff, led by Sonny Gray, doesn’t look potent enough to sustain the consistency all year for a postseason run.
Prediction: Fourth place
Seattle Mariners, 76-86 last season
The Seattle Mariners were one of the most disappointing teams in 2015, a team picked by many (including myself) to make the post season and possibly even go to the World Series.
It simply wasn’t in the cards for Seattle.
Nelson Cruz continued to hit at a high rate, but Robinson Cano’s numbers continued to regress from what they were in New York, and as a team Seattle was ranked towards the bottom of the league in terms of average and on base percentage.
Over the offseason, Seattle didn’t make a lot of noise, but did make few moves that can improve upon last year’s results. The team re-signed starter Hisashi Iwakuma, got outfielder Nori Aoki from San Fran, and catcher Chris Iannetta from the Angels, all for one-year deals.
The team also agreed on a two-year contract with reliever Steve Cishek.
Seattle did make a questionable trade, though, trading Mark Trumbo and a relief pitcher to the Orioles in exchange for third-string catcher Steve Clevenger.
Along with Iwakuma, Seattle has a good one-two punch at the top of the rotation, which is led by Felix Hernandez, who had another good season in 2015.
Seattle has a chance to possibly compete for a playoff spot, but I don’t think they’ll be good enough at season’s end to play in October.
Prediction: Third place
Texas Rangers, 88-74 last season (Lost in ALCS)
The Texas Rangers winning the AL West last year was surprising to many given the inconsistency of Josh Hamilton and the injury to ace Yu Darvish, who will be sidelined until the middle of May due to Tommy John surgery.
But then again, looking at the numbers it makes perfect sense why the Rangers did win the division.
Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland each had bounce-back seasons, Adrian Beltre battled through a few nagging injuries all season and remained consistent, Shin-Soo Choo’s numbers rose from his first year in Texas, and the rest of the rotation pitched well enough to get the job done more times than not in Darvish’s absence.
One member of last year’s pitching staff who won’t be in a Rangers uniform in 2016 is Yovani Gallardo, who recently signed a two-year deal with the Baltimore Orioles.
The way the lineup and positioning of players has been constructed on this team includes a good mix of youth and experience.
Up the middle of the field are three players under the age of 30 in shortstop Elvis Andrus (28), second baseman Rougned Odor (22), and centerfielder Delino DeShields (23), meanwhile, on the corners the Rangers have a number of experienced players in Beltre, Hamilton, Choo and Moreland, as well as the DH Fielder.
Likewise, the starting rotation is experienced, and the combination of Cole Hamels, Colby Lewis and Derek Holland should be able to hold down the fort until Darvish gets back.
Without Darvish for possibly the first 1 ½ months, though, and even once he comes back it will likely take him a while to get back to form, it could be tough sledding for the Rangers out of the gates.
That is what ultimately makes me think this team won’t be able to win this division. It might take too long for Texas to truly hit its stride.
Prediction: Second place, Wild Card Birth
- Houston Astros
- Texas Rangers
- Seattle Mariners
- Oakland Athletics
- Los Angeles Angels