American League West Preview Capsules

Thu, Mar 14, 2024
MLB News (AP)

American League West Preview Capsules

Capsules of American League West teams, listed in order of finish last year:

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HOUSTON ASTROS

2023: 90-72, first place, lost to Texas in AL Championship Series.

Manager: Joe Espada (first season).

Opening Day: March 28 vs. New York Yankees.

He's Here: LHP Josh Hader, RHP Dylan Coleman, RHP Oliver Ortega, C Victor Caratini.

He's Outta Here: Manager Dusty Baker, LF Michael Brantley, C Martin Maldonado, RHP Hector Neris, RHP Ryne Stanek, RHP Phil Maton.

Top Hitters: DH/LF Yordan Alvarez (.293, 31 HRs, 97 RBIs, .990 OPS), 2B Jose Altuve (.311, 28, 57), RF Kyle Tucker (.284, 29, AL-leading 112, 30 SBs, .886 OPS), 3B Alex Bregman (.262, 25, 98), 1B Jose Abreu (.234, 18, 90).

Projected Rotation: RH Justin Verlander (13-8, 3.22 ERA, 144 Ks for Mets and Astros), LH Framber Valdez (12-11, 3.45, 200 Ks, 2 CGs, including no-hitter), RH Cristian Javier (10-5, 4.56), RH Jose Urquidy (3-3, 5.29), RH J.P. France (11-6, 3.83) or RH Hunter Brown (11-13, 5.09).

Key Relievers: LH Josh Hader (2-3, 1.28 ERA, 33/38 saves for Padres), RH Ryan Pressly (4-5, 3.58, 31 saves), RH Bryan Abreu (3-2, 1.75 in 72 games), RH Rafael Montero (3-3, 5.08), RH Seth Martinez (2-3, 5.23).

READ MORE Brewers open season without All-Star closer Devin Williams because of stress fractures in his back American League East Preview Capsules American League Central Preview Capsules

Outlook: After coming within one win of reaching their third straight World Series last season, the Astros are again one of the top contenders to reach the Fall Classic in 2024. They've got the 41-year-old Verlander back after he returned in a trade with the Mets last July. The three-time Cy Young Award winner will start the season on the injured list with shoulder inflammation, but the Astros expect it to be a short stint before he's back to lead a rotation that also features Valdez and Javier. The lineup remains largely intact from last season, with Alvarez leading the group and Tucker, Altuve, Bregman and Abreu also providing power. Gone is Brantley, the veteran left fielder who was limited to 15 games because of injury in 2023 before retiring this offseason. Chas McCormick can play left when Alvarez is the DH, with Jake Meyers in center. With Maldonado gone to the White Sox, Yanier Diaz should add punch to the offense by taking over as Houston's everyday catcher after a stellar rookie season.

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TEXAS RANGERS

2023: 90-72, second place, World Series champions.

Manager: Bruce Bochy (second season).

Opening Day: March 28 vs. Chicago Cubs.

He's Here: RHP David Robertson, RHP Tyler Mahle, RHP Kirby Yates, C Andrew Knizner, INF Matt Duffy, 1B/OF Jared Walsh.

He's Outta Here: LHP Jordan Montgomery, C/DH Mitch Garver, LHP Aroldis Chapman, LHP Martin Perez, LHP Will Smith, OF Robbie Grossman.

Top Hitters: SS Corey Seager (.327, 33 HRs, 96 RBIs), RF Adolis Garcia (.245, 39, 107, 175 Ks), 2B Marcus Semien (.276, 29, 100), C Jonah Heim (.258, 18, 95), 1B Nathaniel Lowe (.262, 17, 82, 93 BBs).

Projected Rotation: RH Nathan Eovaldi (12-5, 3.63 ERA), RH Dane Dunning (12-7, 3.70), LH Andrew Heaney (10-6, 4.15), RH Jon Gray (9-8, 4.12), LH Cody Bradford (4-3, 5.30).

Key Relievers: RH Jose Leclerc (0-2, 2.68 ERA, 4 saves in 57 appearances), RH David Robertson (6-6, 3.03, 18 saves with Mets and Marlins), RH Josh Sborz (6-7, 5.50), RH Kirby Yates (7-2, 3.28, 5 saves in 61 games with Braves), LH Brock Burke (5-3, 4.37 in 53 games).

Outlook: Coming off the franchise's first World Series title, Texas didn't re-sign deadline-acquisition Montgomery and will open the season with Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer on the injured list. Those right-handers, both with multiple Cy Young Awards, could be the midseason additions this year. If the rest of the starters can stay healthy, the Rangers still have a solid rotation led by Eovaldi, an All-Star last year in his Texas debut. Veteran relievers Robertson and Yates bolster the bullpen after Leclerc and Sborz were impressive through the playoffs. The Rangers return the bulk of a lineup that hit 233 homers and scored an AL-high 5.4 runs per game last year. But World Series MVP Seager (sports hernia), Gold Glove-winning Lowe (oblique strain) and third baseman Josh Jung (calf) missed significant time in the spring. ALCS MVP Garcia avoided salary arbitration with a two-year deal. The Rangers could have two legitimate Rookie of the Year candidates in their outfield: Evan Carter and Wyatt Langford.

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SEATTLE MARINERS

2023: 88-74, third place.

Manager: Scott Servais (ninth season).

Opening Day: March 28 vs. Boston.

He's Here: 2B Jorge Polanco, 3B Luis Urias, OF/1B Luke Raley, DH Mitch Garver, RF Mitch Haniger, C Seby Zavala, RHP Gregory Santos, RHP Austin Voth, RHP Ryne Stanek.

He's Outta Here: INF Jose Caballero, 3B Eugenio Suarez, LF Jarred Kelenic, RF Teoscar Hernandez, RHP Chris Flexen, LHP Marco Gonzales, RHP Justin Topa.

Top Hitters: CF Julio Rodriguez (.275, 32 HRs, 103 RBIs, .818 OPS), SS J.P. Crawford (.266, 19, 65, .818 OPS), DH Mitch Garver (.270, 19, 50, .870 OPS in 87 games with Rangers), 2B Jorge Polanco (.255, 14, 48 with Twins), C Cal Raleigh (.232, 30, 75).

Projected Rotation: RH Luis Castillo (14-9, 3.34 ERA, 219 Ks in 197 innings), RH George Kirby (13-10, 3.35, 172 Ks, 19 walks), RH Logan Gilbert (13-7, 3.73), RH Bryce Miller (8-7, 4.32 in 25 starts), RH Bryan Woo (4-5, 4.21 in 18 starts).

Key Relievers: RH Andres Munoz (4-7, 2.94 ERA, 13 saves), RH Matt Brash (9-4, 3.06, 107 Ks, league-high 78 appearances), RH Gregory Santos (2-2, 3.39 in 60 appearances with White Sox), RH Ryne Stanek (3-1, 4.09 in 55 games with Houston), LH Gabe Speier (2-2, 3.79 in 69 games).

Outlook: Hamstrung by ownership not wanting to spend in free agency for a variety of reasons, Seattle's front office had to get creative in an attempt to improve a team that finished two games out of a playoff berth. The Mariners may be marginally better than a year ago, but that might not be enough to topple Texas and Houston in the AL West. Rodriguez seems determined not to let last year's playoff miss happen again. He'd be helped if Garver and Haniger can avoid injuries and if Ty France can rediscover his swing after a miserable 2023. Seattle has one of the best rotations in baseball - led by Castillo, Kirby and Gilbert - so a ton of runs on offense might not be needed. But the Mariners must cut down on strikeouts and be better situationally. The bullpen could be a concern with several key arms slowed during spring training, but the Mariners have shown an ability in recent years to find hard throwers to fill key spots in relief.

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LOS ANGELES ANGELS

2023: 73-89, fourth place.

Manager: Ron Washington (first season).

Opening Day: March 28 at Baltimore.

He's Here: RHP Robert Stevenson, LHP Matt Moore, RHP Luis Garcia, 1B Miguel Sano, OF Aaron Hicks.

He's Outta Here: Manager Phil Nevin, DH/RHP Shohei Ohtani, 1B Mike Moustakas, INF Gio Urshela, OF Randal Grichuk, INF Eduardo Escobar, 1B C.J. Cron, LHP Aaron Loup, C Max Stassi, SS David Fletcher.

Top Hitters: CF Mike Trout (.263, 18 HRs, 44 RBIs in 82 games), 3B Anthony Rendon (.236, 2, 22 in 43 games), 2B Brandon Drury (.262, 26, 83), OF Taylor Ward (.253, 14, 47).

Projected Rotation: LH Tyler Anderson (6-6, 5.43 ERA), LH Patrick Sandoval (7-13, 4.11), LH Reid Detmers (4-10, 4.48), RH Griffin Canning (7-8, 4.32), RH Chase Silseth (4-1, 3.96).

Key Relievers: RH Carlos Estevez (5-5, 3.90 ERA, 31 saves), RH Robert Stephenson (3-4, 3.10 with Rays and Pirates), LH Matt Moore (4-1, 2.77 with Angels, Guardians and Marlins), RH Luis Garcia (2-3, 4.07 with Padres).

Outlook: After losing Ohtani to a $700 million deal from the Dodgers, the Halos feel like they're starting over yet again. Their streaks of eight straight losing seasons and nine consecutive non-playoff seasons are the majors' longest, and now they'll be without the best hitter and best pitcher on their 73-win team in 2023. Los Angeles didn't make any major additions, only restocking its bullpen and taking low-cost flyers on Sano and Hicks. At least Trout and Rendon are healthy for now after injuries sidelined either or both sluggers for more than 60% of the Angels' games over the past three seasons. The 71-year-old Washington should bring defensive expertise, charisma and a winning mentality to a team that needs all of it. And not everything is bleak: For the first time in many years, the Angels have a crop of young talent breaking through in the majors, led by shortstop Zach Neto, catcher Logan O'Hoppe, first baseman Nolan Schanuel and outfielder Mickey Moniak.

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OAKLAND ATHLETICS

2023: 50-112, fifth place.

Manager: Mark Kotsay (third season).

Opening Day: March 28 vs. Cleveland.

He's Here: LHP Alex Wood, LHP Scott Alexander, RHP Ross Stripling, RHP Trevor Gott.

He's Outta Here: INF/OF Tony Kemp, RHP Trevor May, RHP Drew Rucinski.

Top Hitters: DH Brent Rooker (.246, 30 HRs, 69 RBIs, .817 OPS), 1B Ryan Noda (.229, 16, 54, .770 OPS), 2B Zack Gelof (.267, 14, 32, .840 OPS), C Shea Langeliers (.205, 22, 63), RF Seth Brown (.222, 14, 52).

Projected Rotation: RH Paul Blackburn (4-7, 4.43 ERA), LH JP Sears (5-14, 4.54), LH Alex Wood (5-5, 4.33 for Giants), RH Ross Stripling (0-5, 5.36 for Giants), RH Joe Boyle (2-0, 1.69 in 3 starts).

Key Relievers: RH Mason Miller (0-3, 3.78 in 10 games), RH Trevor Gott (0-5, 4.19, 1 save for Mariners and Mets), LH Scott Alexander (7-3, 4.66, 1 save for Giants), RH Dany Jimenez (0-2, 3.47, 1 save).

Outlook: The A's enter another season in limbo with little hope of competing after losing a league-high 112 games last season. The franchise has approval to move to Las Vegas in 2028 and is entering the final year of a stadium lease in Oakland, leading to uncertainty about where the team will play in the near future. The club added some pitching depth this offseason but appears to be a long way from building a winner. The A's lost at least 100 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1964-65 and are in danger of doing it three years in a row for the first time since 1919-21.

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