Sunday, April 1, 2018

My Quick A.L. West Preview

Star Struck: Astros' young stars orbit around the championship trophy.


The 'R' word is one that gets tossed around every year when a team wins the world series, so true to form, it's the Houston Astros' turn to throw around the word... 'repeat'. We used it for the Kansas City Royals after 2015, the Chicago Cubs after 2016, and now the Astros.

The difference is, the Astros may actually be able to pull off what's become a rare feat these days. Sure, no American League team has repeated since the 1998-2000 Yankees days, before that it was the 1992-1993 Blue Jays, and before that it was the 1972-1974 Athletics... now add in the extra wild card, extra games, and the chances of one team repeating seems like a tough climb.

But this is no ordinary team, last year's 2017 Astros may actually one of the best single-season teams to have ever taken the field. I'm finding this out more and more with the APBA cards alone, before even trying to dig out facts to support my opinion. Every single player played a pivotal role in their quest for their first championship, now most (almost all) of them return in 2018.

The team will have to go through the likely contenders in Cleveland and the New York, or should I say they will have to go through Houston? The Astros acquired Gerrit Cole to help solidify their rotation, while adding relief help in Jose Smith and Hector Rondon.

Many of these young studs (Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa & George Springer) may actually have bigger years coming in 2018, plus add a full-season to my A.L. Cy Young favorite in Justin Verlander to the equation and you got yourself one hell of an encore.

Back in February, Chris "The Mad Dog" Russo made remarks that the Yankees were the team to beat, Verlander quickly tweeted a response to the Mad Dog with "I can think of a reason", which sparked a little back-and-forth, check the video out below it's enjoyable....

Below is MLB Network's reaction to the addition of Cole to the rotation.

So it's safe to say that I sit very comfortable picking Astros to win the West.

The Los Angeles Angels are most likely the 2nd place team in this division, are they a playoff a team is a tough question. It's easy to assume that they will definitely be better than last season, when you improve your roster with the likes of Ian Kinsler, Zack Cozart and Japanese import Shohei Ohtani... but are they really better? Most successful ballclubs have dependable pitching, the Angels don't have dependable pitching... you can't expect any of their pitchers to roll out of bed these days, without injuring their arm. If the majority of these pitchers were to stay healthy than we can start talking, that's why I think Minnesota will win the second A.L. wildcard slot, I think they have a better shot at improving this season. 

The Angels are not dependable, simple as that... which is a damn shame considering they have the best player in all of Baseball in Mike Trout

The Seattle Mariners will be swimming around somewhere in the middle of this division, all depending if they can maintain healthy arms as well. It's a shame that James Paxton's arm is not willing to give him a full season, as he has pitched 422 innings over a five-year stretch... good when he's out there (3.28 career ERA), but that's the catch... On top of that King Felix Hernandez has hit the wall, coming off his career worst. If Mariners' rotation can find a way to stay healthy, this they can then hand over a lead to a very interesting bullpen that has many different skill types, which can be a manager's dream; Plenty of good arms, but hopefully they don't get overworked due to bad starting pitching. 

If the Mariners are in the thick of the post-season race come later July, don't be surprised to see GM Jerry Dipoto to wheel-and-deal for some starting pitching.

The Oakland Athletics may be on the verge of surprising once-again, it usually turns on like a light-switch, no one saw the 2012 Athletics happening until it was actually happening. Over the past couple seasons, Billy Beane has been working at it again... tell me if you have heard this one before, a young rotation (led by Sean Manaea & Kendall Graveman) with strong bullpen arms led by a handful of prospects (Matt Chapman, Matt Olson & Dustin Fowler), led by a couple veteran mainstays (Jed Lowrie & Matt Joyce). They need some more seasoning, but don't be completely shocked if they are sniffing the wild card picture come August.... chances are they are still a year-or-two away.

Khris Davis, one of the leaders on Oakland's roster.

The Texas Rangers will definitely be in last place this season, they have players like Nomar Mazara, Willie Calhoun & Joey Gallo on the rise... but their rotation is anchored by Cole Hamels (past his peak), leading a rag tag of once-talented arms or recently-healed arms in Doug Fister, Matt Moore, Mike Minor & Bartolo Colon.

The team's farm system has no immediate help, while the Rangers appear to be in transition. They may be preparing for the 2019 Free Agency market.

1. Houston
2. Los Angeles (A)
3. Seattle
4. Oakland
5. Texas

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