We’re almost done with our exclusive preview of the 2015 MLB season… And now we’re ready to head out West. Here’s a look at what I’m expecting from the American League West this season… And what you should expect too.
- Seattle Mariners
- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
- Oakland Athletics
- Texas Rangers
- Houston Astros
The battle for this division is going to come down to the wire. You can bet on that.
To start the season, the Mariners have the edge here. Just look at the depth and talent in their starting rotation. They have Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, and Taijuan Walker anchoring a staff that might be the best 1-4 in the league.
With their offseason addition of right fielder Nelson Cruz, they finally got the big power right-handed bat in the lineup to fit right between Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. This significantly lengthens a lineup that has major firepower potential.
They will likely have the final edge over the Los Angeles Angels, who have some questions to answer with their rotation.
Jered Weaver ultimately performed well last season. But he went through stretches where he looked very hittable…and the dip in velocity over the years sometimes makes him look like he’s throwing batting practice. The lineup should be serviceable with the clout of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols leading the way. But they will face challenges in the pitching department.
If their starting pitching performs well…they should be able to hold off the Red Sox and Blue Jays for the second Wild Card berth in the American League.
The Oakland Athletics are coming off one of the strangest seasons in recent memory. After a first half in 2014 in which they looked to be nearly unbeatable, Billy Beane’s roster tinkering paved the way for the ultimate letdown in the second half. The A’s squandered their division lead to a hot Angels team down the stretch.
The big bat in their lineup, Cuban sensation Yoenis Cespedes, didn’t fit the mold of Beane’s offensive criteria. He’s a free swinger who rarely walked, but offered tremendous power potential.
Beane stunned the baseball world by trading away his biggest bat for a starting pitcher, Jon Lester. He was destined to become a free agent one month after trading for two starting pitchers, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, from the Cubs. This was in return for their top offensive prospect, shortstop Addison Russell.
These moves gave the Athletics one of the best rotations in baseball. But it left them with only one good offensive player in Josh Donaldson. The team struggled in the second half. They ended up losing in the Wild Card game to the Cinderella Royals.
Lester and Hammel became free agents in the offseason, and Beane again shocked all of baseball by making the decision to blow up the team and trade away Samardzija and Donaldson. He cited a lack of confidence that the current team would have been able to contend anyway. This sent the Athletics into yet another rebuilding phase.
The team is still talented enough to approach a .500 record. But their hopes of contention are out of the question.
Rounding out the West, we have the two Texans… The Rangers and Astros are teams with little direction in the coming years.
On the field, the Rangers have the advantage with big bats in Shin-Soo Choo, Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre, and Mitch Moreland. But with the loss of Yu Darvish for the season to Tommy John surgery, their immediate future is bleak. They have enough talent to be competitive. But a glaring lack of starting pitching will keep them from contention.
The Astros, on the other hand, have a young staff with some talent. And they have an offense that is going through their own growing pains. You have to believe they’re trending upward. But they do not have what it takes to stay afloat in such a competitive division.
The offense is the best looking part of this team. You can thank big bats like George Springer, Jose Altuve, and Chris Carter for that. They’re maturing as a team. But their success will depend on the development of their pitching prospects in the coming years.
There you have it… The A.L. West. We only have one more division to dissect for this season—and it’s a doozy. Join us next time when I pick apart the N.L. West…and reveal everything you need to know for the season ahead.