Major League Predictions - AL West

Most of the top free agents have been signed. Some teams are still looking to upgrade while others are looking to tank. Now that spring training has started it is time to make the predictions. We start first with the AL West - the good, the bad and the ugly.

1. Oakland Athletics

Good - The rotation would look pretty solid if Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk prove they belong. Seth Manaea will have to stay healthy. He was pretty dominant in his five starts last year. They have Chris Bassitt as their ace in the hole in case one of the rookies is not ready or Seth can not get healthy. The potential is there for five above average starters. Not too many teams have corner infielders who combined for 70 plus homeruns last year and provide some help with the glove as well. It would also be nice to get Kris Davis on track with his normal 40 homerun seasons. Marcus Semien had a breakout year last year with 33 homeruns. That gives the infield 100 plus homeruns without including second base.

Bad - Second base is currently a hole but there are top prospects ready to fill it. Franklin Barreto and Jorge Mateo are former shortstops who will be competing for the position. Barreto has not had a lot of success in his three trials in the major leagues. Mateo has been in the minor leagues since 2012 with his prospect status fading each year he has failed to be called up. They lack an established closer. Liam Hendriks stitched together 25 saves last year, but in his nine year major league career he has 26 saves.

Ugly - Injuries to the starting rotation or failures of the two rookies could create some issues for the Athletics. They would have to hope the offense bludgeon teams to death with their 200 plus homerun season while they patch up the rotation.

Possible Rookies - Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk are the favorites. Both are expected to fit in the rotation. Jorge Mateo could be used in a utility role if he does not win the second base job.

Expected Finish - First in the AL West. Too much offensive talent here to go with pitching potential.

Houston Astros

Good - The Astros have two veterans in their rotation in Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke that will be ace 1 and 1a. After that are question marks. The infield is probably one of the best in baseball. Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel are two more corners who combined for 70 plus homeruns. The big question is whether Gurriel can replicate the numbers he produced last year or if he falls closer to his first year numbers. If Carlos Correa can stay healthy they will get a lot of production out of shortstop. He has had trouble showing that. Jose Altuve puts up numbers close to MVP caliber. He does not seem to be as dominant as in previous hears, but expectations can make players fall short. Altuve also needs to stay healthy, limited to a career low 124 games because of injuries last year. George Springer is another player that did not escape injury last year. He still hit a career high 39 homeruns while playing in a career low 122 games. It will be interesting to see what kind of sophomore year Yordan Alvarez will have. Last year he got a late callup, limiting him to just 87 games, but he still slugged 27 homeruns. His defense is so bad he might as well leave his glove in his locker. The DH position was made for him.

Bad - Robert Osuna was a good pick up from the Toronto Blue Jays mid-season. In his five major league seasons he has not had less than 20 saves. He comes with a little baggage after his domestic violence issues. That baggage may be hidden after the cheating scandal. The corner outfield is not filled with super stars with Josh Reddick and Mickey Brantley putting up decent numbers. Some teams would like to have their numbers put up in the bad category. If one of the two should falter Kyle Tucker waits in the wings.

Ugly - The cheating scandal will make things difficult for the Astros on the road. There also appears to be a lot of hate from major league players on opposing teams. This will put a target on the Astros back making it more difficult to pick up victories.

Possible Rookies - This is a veteran team so starting spots are slim. Jose Urquidy appears to have a mid-rotation spot sealed up based on his performance at the end of the year last year.

Expected Finish - Second place but a Wild Card spot will put them in the playoffs. There is just too much talent on this team not to win, despite the gambling issues that will follow them throughout the season.

Los Angeles Angels

Good - They may have the top two offensive players in baseball in Anthony Rendon and Mike Trout. The two of them could combine for 80 plus homeruns and MVP votes if they hang around for the playoffs. The problem with the Angels is those are their two big bats. Shohei Ohtani can provide some offense in the DH spot, but his production may be limited once he is ready to be fit in the starting rotation. Staying healthy has been as issue for Ohtani.

Bad - The starting pitching lacks an ace. They are also hoping for good years from two pitchers, Dylan Bundy and Julio Tehran whose best years are in the rear view mirror. There is not a lot of depth in the minor leagues to fill in should the starters fail or fall to injury. Albert Pujols is a below average first baseman for both his offense and defensive production. The main reason he is on the roster is because of his veteran leadership and large salary. Andrelton Simmons is a great defensive player but will not provide much offense. The corner outfields are lacking starter material with Justin Upton seeing his best years behind him. This could be an opportunity for Jo Adell, one of the top prospects in baseball, to make an impact. Behind the plate will provide below average production. Starter Jason Castro has been released by a number of clubs.

Ugly - Pitching will be the death of them. The lack of aces in the starting rotation and an uncertain bullpen will give away what Anthony Rendon and Mike Trout can produce. They also have two aging large contracts in Pujols and Upton that will be an anchor on the team. It is nice to have two superstars on the team, but the surrounding cast is not playoff caliber.

Possible Rookies - They appear to have a hole in right field. This could provide an opportunity for Jo Adell, who is considered one of the top five prospects in baseball. A good spring could win him a spot.

Expected Finish - Third place and short of the playoffs no matter what Rendon and Trout can do.

Texas Rangers

Good - The corner outfield could provide some impressive power. It would be hard to find a player with more muscle than Joey Gallo. He had trouble staying healthy last year, but his two previous seasons he hit 40 plus homeruns. Willie Calhoun could also break out for some pop. He hit 21 homeruns in just 83 games and his minor league career shows he has 40 homerun power despite his 5′8″ inch height. His defense is rather limited so he could see a lot of time in the DH slot. Can Corey Kluber return to his Cy Young years. He had five years of 200 innings or more and in four of those years he had 18 wins or more. Last year was a dud.

Bad - The rotation does not have any ace if Corey Kluber does not return to his Cy Young form. They need Mike Minor and Lance Lynn to replicate their 2019 season when history says that may be difficult. Rougned Odor has hit below .210 in two of his last three years. In both those years he did hit 30 homeruns, but the Rangers need more consistency from him. If not Nick Solak could take the job from him. Willie Calhoun would see most of his time at the DH spot if the Rangers did not also have the aging Shin-Soo Choo fill the position. Choo has put up decent offensive numbers but they fall short of what playoff teams get from their DH spot. This will hurt the defense in the outfield.

Ugly - The bullpen lacks a closer. They have a group of arms that once were closers but that was back in the day. Keeping leads in the seventh inning on will be difficult.

Possible Rookies - Nick Solak could win the second base job if Odor continues to struggle with consistency. If he fails to win the second base job he could be used in a utility role in the outfield and at third base. The Rangers could call up Leodys Taveras by mid-season to plug the hole defensively in centerfield. He is a gold glove caliber defender but his bat is lacking.

Expected Finish - Fourth place.

Seattle Mariners

Good - Mariners fans will see a lot of rookie prospects filling a number of positions. The best one may be Evan White who they signed to a six year contract. His defense is gold glove at first base but the Mariners are not sure if his bat is ready yet.

Bad - The hope is that talented rookies will fill positions adequately and not make them bad. Second base has the light hitting Dee Gordon whose stolen base production has fallen now that he has turned north of 30. The starting staff was hoped to be led by Japanese star Yusei Kikuchi, but he bombed last year in his major league debut. They hope for better in 2020. Dan Vogelbach is a big guy at 250 pounds. Last year he slugged 30 homeruns but his career major league average is .205 in 205 games. That needs to improve.

Ugly - When you have a bad team you don’t need a bullpen and the Mariners do not have one. Their closer Matt Magill has been released by a couple teams. If he fails it could be a bullpen by committee.

Possible Rookies - The Mariners lineup will be filled with rookies in this rebuilding year. Evan White may be the most talented player. He should win the first base job. Justus Sheffield is a talented pitcher who should find himself in the middle of the rotation. If his spotty control makes the starting rotation a struggle the Mariners could try him in the bullpen, perhaps as their closer. The outfield is thin which could provide an opportunity for talented Kyle Lewis. Jake Fraley is another player who could win a starting spot or a fourth outfielder position.

Expected Finish - Talented rookies will not prevent the Mariners from finishing at the bottom of the division.

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