I firmly believe this is the Mariner’s year they take over. They have arguably one of the best infields in the whole league featuring star second baseman, Robinson Cano and slugger Nelson Cruz. Along with that, the Mariners made one of the best free agency moves, bringing in outfielder Jarrod Dyson to add some speed to the lineup. The Mariner’s problem hasn’t been whether or not they can get runs on the board, but if they can prevent them. With King Felix and Iwakuma leading the way, I think their starting 5 is posed for quite the year in 2017 including flamethrower James Paxton and an offseason acquisition in the talents of Yovani Gallardo. The bats in the Mariners lineup are too much for any team in the West to handle.
Competing for the second place spot are the Texas Rangers and Astros. The Rangers seem to have some C+ pitching like they always do. Cole Hamels is getting too old and I think this is the year that he implodes. Darvish is going to be above average and A.J. Griffin will be a solid 4 man. The Rangers have a nice bullpen in the works headlined by Jeremy Jeffress and Matt Bush. Texas has a solid middle infield combo with the likes of veteran Elvis Andrus and haymaker-throwing Rougned Odor. Along with the Mariners, there will be a lot of home run balls put over the fence. Bringing in the former Indian, Mike Napoli for his third stint with the team was a great move by the Rangers front office. With his postseason experience, Napoli is guaranteed to provide 20+ home runs by the end of the year. Jonathan Lucroy with his 2016 all-star talents will be continuing his success into 2017 as well.
Although the Astros had some shortcomings in 2016, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are in the mix in September. They addressed those shortcomings this offseason with the signings of Josh Reddick and veteran catcher Brian McCann. The Astros ace, Dallas Kuechel had a surprisingly rough season in 2016 after winning the AL Cy Young in 2015. I don’t expect for this to continue. I hope Kuechel returns to his ace status and proves he’s no joke. An infield led by the speedy, three-time Silver Slugger Jose Altuve still maintains its young components, including rising star shortstop Carlos Correa who put on a show for team Puerto Rico in the WBC. Along with the star-studded double play combo is the power hitting centerfielder, George Springer. In the prime of his career, Springer is ready to produce another 25+ homer season. If the Astros aren’t in the running for the division title this year, they sure as hell will be in years to come.
It will be an offensive showdown between these three teams at the top of the West.
The final two spots in the the West are a crapshoot.
The Angels don’t have the pitching depth to be in consideration of the division title. Besides Garrett Richards, the star power declines rapidly from the 2-5 spots. The lackluster bullpen isn’t doing the Angels any favors either.
However on the offensive side of the ball, the Angels can hang with the M’s and Rangers. Having the best player in Major League Baseball helps, with the talents of Mike Trout. The Angels have one of the best hitting outfields in baseball. Maybin and Revere with their speed, and Calhoun with the bat in his hands all provide sustainability. The Angel infield also can mash with their power hitting second baseman, Danny Espinosa and the .280-.300 hitters of Yunel Escobar and Andrelton Simmons.
I don’t know if the A’s have what it takes to win to 90 games or even 80 games. The front office for the A’s seemed to be sleeping this offseason. The A’s have the youngest and most inexperienced starting 5 in the division and their bullpen is lacking a large amount of talent. Their lineup is nothing special. There’s no way the A’s will be making the playoffs this year, sadly. It looks to be a competition for third place for the A’s and if they want to take something good away from 2017, I’d say shoot for a .500 record.
Here’s my end of season AL West standings:
- Mariners (98 – 64)
- Rangers (95 – 67)
- Astros (92 – 70)
- Angels (81 – 81)
- Athletics (77 – 85)
I have the Rangers clinching a wild card spot in the AL.