What to say about this division? It seems like every year, one of the five AL West teams shocks baseball fans everywhere and rolls to the playoffs. I truly believe the West is wide open this season–every team has a truly formidable weapon that could make life difficult for the opposition. With that, this was the hardest division to predict, but I do hope that you’ll find some meaning in how I think the West will be won in 2017.
1/ Houston Astros (Projected Record: 90-72)
The Astros were right on the cusp of the postseason last year, and in 2015, they took the eventual champion Royals to five games in the ALDS. I don’t know if there’s a team in baseball with more young talent. Jose Altuve continues to be perhaps the best hitting infielder in the American League, and he’s surrounded by a legion of pop and power that can change a game. On the mound, Houston’s got a solid starting rotation, anchored by ace Dallas Kuechel, who fans might remember from his dynamic 2015 season. All in all, the only thing keeping this Astros team from the World Series might be themselves–they’re young, and somewhat inexperienced, so leaning on veterans and maintaining team chemistry might be just what the ‘Stros need to get back to the playoffs.
2/ Texas Rangers (Projected Record: 90-72)
I don’t see any sort of drop-off coming for Texas in 2017. I mean, just look at what this team was able to accomplish last season, before an ugly three-game ALDS sweep at the hands of the Blue Jays. Offensively, this team is packed with proven veterans from first to ninth, which was probably the biggest reason why the Rangers cruised into the playoffs a year ago. On the hill, however, Texas is no pushover. Cole Hamels can eat up innings, and Yu Darvish might surprise us all and have the Cy Young season we were all expecting all along. Either way, I see the Rangers emerging again as a contender, while keeping the AL West title chase a hot one.
3/ Seattle Mariners (Projected Record: 88-74)
Who said the division title had to be a two-way race? The Mariners might finally have what it takes to seriously enter contention. Felix Hernandez hasn’t experienced any real drop-off as the M’s ace, and he’s even got some help behind him in the shape of some veteran arms (Drew Smyly, Yovani Gallardo, etc.). At the dish, Seattle looks pretty damn set around the center of the lineup, with Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz providing the spark. The Mariners have been building for a season like this for what seems like forever, but the pieces might finally be in place.
4/ Los Angeles Angels (Projected Record: 76-86)
The Halos are going to have another quizzical season in 2017; that’s the reality in Orange County right now. Even with a weapon as formidable as Mike Trout, the Angels simply don’t have enough help in any other department. The only area where I see an improvement coming is at the plate, where the Angels added Cameron Maybin to help provide an extra spark in a lineup that was listless a year ago. Albert Pujols is also a viable candidate to step up and be the guy that he was for so many years in St. Louis. As I said, though, there are other concerns for this team, and the biggest one is the rotation. It just doesn’t look like a group that’s going to win you very many games.
5/ Oakland Athletics (Projected Record: 69-93)
We all know that Billy Beane is capable of producing random turnarounds, but it doesn’t like he’ll be able to accomplish that this season. Oakland is keen on underspending, but that might bite them this season. The lineup is scattered with veterans that are, frankly, past their prime. Pitching-wise, the A’s are led by Sonny Gray, who has shown glimpses of real excellence. Otherwise, Oakland is pretty bare-bones on the mound. Hopefully the weather is warm this season at the Oakland Coliseum, because I don’t think this team will be providing very much fire this season.