George Springer, Marcus Semien, Liam Hendriks, Lance Lynn….it seemed that for much of the offseason, the news out of the AL West focused on what stars were leaving the division, rather than joining. It has made for an intriguing divisional race as we approach Opening Day, so let’s run down the contenders as per Fangraphs’ projected standings.
The Astros are judged to be the best of the bunch, projected for an 89-73 record despite losing Springer, potentially losing other still-unsigned free agents (i.e. Josh Reddick, Roberto Osuna), and losing Justin Verlander last season to Tommy John surgery. On the plus side, the Astros brought a couple of key offensive players back into the mix by re-signing Michael Brantley and Yuli Gurriel, and they added Jake Odorizzi to a bolster an injury-hampered rotation. There are certainly some question marks on Houston’s roster, but the core group of talent might be enough to capture the division.
Clocking in with an 84-78 projection, matching this record would give the Angels their fourth-highest win total since 2012 — Mike Trout’s first full season in the big leagues. The Halos’ inability to build a winner around their superstar has been a sore point for both Orange County fans and perhaps the baseball world at large, but comparatively speaking, the Angels also didn’t suffer as many major personnel losses this winter as their division rivals did. While the Angels didn’t make any blockbuster acquisitions, they did aim to get better, adding such second-tier veterans as Raisel Iglesias, Jose Quintana, Alex Cobb, Jose Iglesias, Dexter Fowler, and Kurt Suzuki. With Trout and Anthony Rendon anchoring the lineup and Shohei Ohtani perhaps healthy again, do the Angels have enough to finally get back to the postseason?
The reigning AL West champion Athletics are projected for a modest 83-79 mark, as Oakland lost some significant veteran talent in Semien, Hendriks, Robbie Grossman, Joakim Soria, and Tommy La Stella. Of course, the A’s have made a habit of overachieving in the Billy Beane era, and they do have a lot of promising young arms. If the pitching staff can healthy and even a couple of hurlers make the proverbial leap, the A’s might have one of the sport’s better rotations. On the offensive side, Oakland is hoping Elvis Andrus thrives with a change of scenery, and that Matt Chapman and Matt Olson hit a bit more like their usual selves.
If the three front-runners all have their weak spots, is there an opportunity for an underdog to emerge? Fangraphs doesn’t thinks so, as both the Mariners (74-88) and Rangers (72-90) are projected to fall well back of the pack, yet it isn’t as if either team is bereft of talent. Seattle has a lot of promising young players that could possibly break out early and help Marco Gonzales, Kyle Seager, and bounce-back candidate James Paxton steal some wins. The Rangers made some interesting additions in Dane Dunning, Nate Lowe, and David Dahl, plus you figure Texas is due for some better offensive luck considering virtually the entire team (even star Joey Gallo) had down years at the plate in 2020.
So, the question remains, who will end up as AL West champions? (Poll link for app users)