2016 American League West Preview

Potentially one of baseball's best divisions, the A.L. West. It will be tough to finish on top, even tougher to predict. But we did anyway…
Potentially one of baseball’s best divisions, the AL West. It will be tough to finish on top, even tougher to predict. But we did anyway…

By Alex Al-Kazzaz

You know, I really have have to be honest about the AL West. It’s a really tough predict on who will win it. I mean, who would have predicted the Texas Rangers winning it last season? The entire world of baseball was shocked by that. Quite frankly, any team in the AL West can surprise Major League Baseball and win it.

Here is the break down of the division.

Texas Rangers: Coming off of a roller coaster 2015 season, the Rangers have a lot of momentum. With key players Colby Lewis, Mitch Moreland, and Yu Darvish (eventually) returning, and an offense with Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre, Shin-Soo Choo, Rougned Odor, and Delino DeShields, the Rangers can expect a great season. In order to have a great season, the Rangers will need to stay healthy. Staying healthy was a key to success for the Rangers last season.

And, of course, Jeff Banister being the manager has proven to be a great move made the Rangers’ front office. Banister’s relationship with the players has also played a huge part of the turnaround last season. The Rangers no longer have Mike Maddux as their pitching coach, so that’s going to be a tough pill to swallow.

With a very talented pitching rotation and bullpen, I can see the Rangers being one of the top-five best teams in the league. But as I’ve said before, they need to stay healthy. Injuries can halt the momentum and change the course of the season.

Starting Rotation: Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland and A. J. Griffin.

Bullpen: What is said to be the biggest reason for the Rangers’ turnaround. Jake Diekman, who came to Texas along with Cole Hamels had an amazing impact on the bullpen, and proved to be a most-needed reliever. The Rangers bullpen is Jake Diekman, Sam Dyson, Shawn Tolleson, Keone Kela, and Tom Wilhelmsen, who was acquired this off-season.

Houston Astros: Dominated the AL West for a while last season. They were being chased by the Texas Rangers for first place until the very end. Once they the fell into second place, they couldn’t get back up. This season I expect the Astros and the Rangers to chase each other for first place.

The Astros’ success is due to the successful and very talented offense. I can almost say that the Astros’ offense is as good or even better than the Texas Rangers offense. The Astros have their weapons just as the Rangers have theirs. The Astros line up has great talents like Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Colby Rasmus, Carlos Gomez, George Springer, Evan Gattis, and Luis Valbuena. Just like the Rangers, the Astros may have a top-five talented batting lineup.

Houston’s pitching rotation is interesting. Though it’s a shame that one of their young and very talented pitchers, Lance McCullers, Jr. will begin the season on the disabled list due to shoulder issues he’s experienced during Spring Training. Last season, he struck out 9.24 batters per nine innings in 22 starts. He even had a 3.22 ERA, so losing him is a big blow to the Astros rotation, but the Astros are doing the right thing by not rushing him. They had acquired Scott Kazmir during the season, but he’s now with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kazmir went 2-6 in an Astros uniform so it didn’t turn out to be a good transaction for Houston.

Rotation: Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Doug Fister, Mike Fiers and Scott Feldman.

Bullpen: The Astros are equipped with a solid bullpen. Astros relief pitcher Ken Giles is set to close out games. Last season he finished with 15 saves, 87 strikeouts with a 1.80 ERA. Here’s the bullpen: Ken Giles, Tony Sipp, Pat Neshek, Will Harris, Josh Fields, and Luke Gregerson.

Oakland Athletics:A team with a lot of question marks. Last season, they were never much of a threat. They won games here and there, but never threatened as they finished 68-94 and in fifth place in the A.L. West Standings.

It’s not known who will excel the most on offense. Josh Reddick was the team’s best player last year, hitting 20 homeruns, and earning 77 RBIs. Billy Burns led the team in hits with 153. Khris Davis was acquired from Milwaukee, and he’s coming off a 27-homerun season, so his talent is providing an upgrade to the A’s batting lineup.

Last year, the A’s had the third-best ERA among starting pitchers in the American League. Of course, they had Sonny Gray, who without a doubt, is one of the best pitchers in the league. Jesse Hahn, Kendall Graveman, and Chris Bassitt didn’t do so great last season, so the A’s hope that 2016 will be better, though it doesn’t look like it will. Jesse Chavez is now in Toronto, and he’s been replaced with Rich Hill, which according to critics, will not help.

Pitching Rotation: Sonny Gray, Rich Hill, Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt and Kendall Graveman.

Bullpen: John Axford, Ryan Madson, Fernando Rodriguez, Marc Rzepczynski, Felix Doubront, and Sean Doolittle as the closer.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: The Angels came very close to making the playoffs last season. Seems like for the fast four years, it’s been going like that. They did win the AL West in 2014 only to be swept by the Royals in the first round of the playoffs. In the 2012 off-season, they signed Albert Pujos, C.J. Wilson, and Josh Hamilton to lengthy and expensive contracts hoping to begin a dynasty. And where has that gotten them? Nowhere. Yes, of course, they have Mike Trout, whose definitely one of the best young players. Trout is 24, and he’s blasted nearly 140 homeruns, and he’s a heck of a hitter. Albert Pujols has been playing great since signing, and he’s coming off a 40-homerun season, but he can’t lead the team to the playoffs on his own. And they’ve got decent talents like Kole Calhoun and C.J. Cron, but is it enough? Well, I am not sure.

Garrett Richards is the Angels’ pitching ace. I see him performing well this year. As far as Jared Weaver and C.J. Wilson go, well, I think they’re losing their touch. C.J. Wilson has done okay for the Angels, but it isn’t enough. Wilson is currently out with a shoulder injury, and it’s been reported that he may be out until May. Weaver went 7-12 last year. He’s trying real hard to be the pitcher he was once, but is just throwing junk out there. Angels Manager Mike Scioscia has stated that the Angels are not going to be rush him, and that he’s making progress.

Pitching rotation: Garrett Richards, Jared Weaver, Andrew Heaney, Matt Shoemaker and Hector Santiago.

Bullpen: Joe Smith, Fernando Salas, Al Alburquerque, Cory Rasmus, Jose Alvarez, and Huston Street as the closer.

Seattle Mariners: ESPN predictions picked Seattle to win the AL West in 2015. Instead, they went 76-86. Robinson Cano had his worse season performance since 2008, hitting 21 homeruns, and recording 79 RBIs. Nelson Cruz had a bit of an edgy season, despite hitting a career-high of 44 homeruns, he struck out a career-high 164 times. Felix Hernandez also had a slight setback as he finished with the highest ERA of his career. Hernandez did go 18-9 after he started out 8-1 with a 1.91 ERA, but he only had 191 strikeouts, his lowest since 2008. His ERA ended at 3.53. Seattle shouldn’t be too worried about him. He just had a slightly problematic season, and that happens.

Pitching rotation: Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, Wade Miley, and James Paxton.

Bullpen: Joaquin Benoit, Joel Peralta, Mayckol Guaipe, Tony Zych, Mike Montgomery, and Steve Cishek as the closer.

How the A.L. West will finish in 2016

  1. Texas Rangers 94-68
  2. Houston Astros 86-76
  3. Los Angeles Angels 88-74
  4. Seattle Mariners 80-82
  5. Oakland Athletics 75-87

Check out our other Divisional Previews
AL Central here
NL West here