March 28, 2018 by adamburt13
Written by Adam Burt
Finally! Nothing beats that time of the year where baseball fans can breathe a sigh of relief that baseball is actually back. The beautiful time of year when you can come home from whatever you may do for a living to watch some ball, check those fantasy lineups or maybe just dream of being at the ballpark smelling the aroma of fresh cut grass mixed with beer, hot dogs and some crisp fresh air. So sit back grab your brews, grab some seeds, pack a nuke if you’re into that and lets have ourselves a season! I’m going to start by breaking down the AL West.
Houston Astros: 101-61 (1st last season)
Key additions: Gerrit Cole, Hector Rondon.
Key losses: Carlos Beltran, Luke Gregerson, Mike Fiers.
The defending champion Houston Astros are looking to slide into 2018 the same way they went out last season, and that’s by playing incredible baseball and continuing the path of destruction they ended on last season. This Astros team is once again staring in the face of what should be an incredible season without question and with the addition of ex Pittsburgh Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, it gets even more fun down in Houston.
The Astros pitching staff has proven to be solidified after last season and the addition of Cole and Rendon should help this club become even more dangerous. I’d imagine Cole will be the 4th or 5th guy in the rotation but just looking at that rotation should scare the rest of the west. Just looking at it on paper is actually insane.
On top of that they still have plenty of talent to fill the field as most of the baseball world was able to witness last season. Everyone knows about the Altuve’s, Springer, Correa etc, but they also have an abundance of other talented bats that may be overlooked. But there is one guy that stands out to me the most and that is third-baseman Alex Bregman. This will be Bregman’s 3rd MLB season and he’s only been improving each year. This year I feel like a lot of baseball fans will see his production increase and maybe expand his home run numbers to 25 plus.
Team MVP: Jose Altuve
Team X-factor: Alex Bregman
2018 prediction: (105-57) 1st place
Los Angeles Angels: 80-82 (2nd last season)
Key additions: Zack Cozart, Ian Kinsler, Shohei Ohtani, Chris Young.
Key losses: Yunel Escobar, Ricky Nolasco, Brandon Phillips, Huston Street.
The Angels have added a few key pieces to this 2018 team and will be looking to make it to the playoffs if possible. Names like Zack Cozart coming in from Cincinnati and veteran infielder Ian Kinsler should make an instant impact most would think. But will these moves possibly lift the Angels past the Astros or have them contending for a wildcard? I don’t believe so simply because I don’t feel they will be consistent enough with the bats and they for sure don’t have the pitching depth to rely on.
I will say they will win a few more games than last season but the fish (Mike Trout) can’t be the only one doing it all. And speaking of superstars who can do it all, lets talk about the Angels signing the Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani. This is a guy that in Japan was a top level pitcher who could hit 100 on the radar from the mound while also being able to go yard.
Shohei Ohtani has all of the hype in the world surrounding him but will he live up to it all in the MLB? Time will tell but it’s not looking good after seeing his disaster of a MLB debut in the Grapefruit League. Ohtani had an ERA of 27.00 this spring on the mound and a batting average in the .100 range. Despite all of that Ohtani managed to make his way to the opening day roster so we will see what he has to offer at the end of this season but to me it wont be much of anything.
Team MVP: Mike Trout
Team X-Factor: Zack Cozart
2018 prediction: (83-79) 2nd place
Seattle Mariners: 78-84 (Tied for 3rd in AL West)
Key additions: Dee Gordon, Ichiro Suzuki, Juan Nicasio, Hisashi Iwakuma.
Key losses: Yonder Alonso, Jarrod Dyson, Yovani Gallardo, Danny Valencia.
The Seattle Mariners were an average team at best last season tying for third place with the Texas Rangers. But that changes this season because I believe the Mariners will beat out the Rangers for sole possession of third place in the west in 2018.
This team brought back the face of the Mariners for most of the 2000’s and that is OF Ichiro Suzuki. Ichiro will likely be a veteran clubhouse voice and insurance player this season but nonetheless the return to Seattle has happened for Ichiro. Also coming to Seattle is a great player in 2B Dee Gordon. After this team lost its speedy CF Jarrod Dyson, their plan is to start Dee Gordon at CF to replace that speed while having Robinson Cano clearly as their starting 2B. I do like this Mariners lineup overall though they have a good mix of power and speed with some veteran guys such as Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager and Ichiro.
But much like the Angels the pitching for this club really isn’t all there besides James Paxton who had a solid 2017 and “King” Felix Hernandez who is either on his game or off and lately he hasn’t been on at all these past few seasons.
Team MVP: Robinson Cano
Team X-Factor: Dee Gordon
2018 prediction: (77-85) 3rd place
Texas Rangers: 78-84 (Tied for 3rd in AL West)
Key additions: Tim Lincecum, Bartolo Colon, Edinson Volquez, Doug Fister, Mike Minor, Mike Moore.
Key losses: Andrew Cashner, Carlos Gomez, Mike Napoli.
The Texas Rangers are going to be an interesting team to watch in the west. I feel there is potential to surprise some people and sneak up further in the west but only if everything clicks. They had a good offseason mindset in acquiring 6 new faces to the pitching staff (listed above) but are any of them game changers and or have something to bring to the table?
The Rangers are going to be featuring ex San Francisco Giants star Tim Lincecum out of the bullpen which I think is a brilliant idea. When you have a guy who spent 8 years starting for a team who won 3 World Series and in that time personally won two NL Cy Young awards you have to find a way to use a guy like that. Tim Lincecum if he has his confidence could be a very dominant relief/closing pitcher if they give him some looks this season to see how it goes but he is however starting the season on the DL so fans will have to wait. Regardless of how it goes the insight he could offer other players alone is a perk and if he can close out some games for you on top of that “The Freak” Tim Lincecum could actually be back.
Team MVP: Adrian Beltre
Team X-Factor: Nomar Mazara
2018 prediction: (75-87) 4th place
Oakland Athletics: 75-87 (Last in AL West in 2017)
Key additions: Jonathan Lucroy, Stephen Piscotty, Yusmeiro Petit, Ryan Buchter
Key losses: Jesse Hahn, Ryon Healey
It’s tough to really guess how well this Athletics team could play in the 2018-19 season. The club has seen an abundance of talent come and go throughout the years and they haven’t seemed to quite figure out a plan for the future, but they may be on the right track. I really like the move of getting Stephen Piscotty. That’s without question their impact move of the offseason. Piscotty is a player I believe still has some upside being only 27 years old coming over from St.Louis.
But this team still lacks superstar talent or that big name that draws interest around the club. Without having a group of guys that know each other that well it could be tough for this A’s team to click without the talent, so that’s why I’m picking them to be last in the division yet again. They might be the least talked about team in all of baseball in recent years and that’s really all I have to say about it, they are boring and haven’t made any moves that give me confidence in this club.
Team MVP: Stephen Piscotty
Team X-Factor: Jonathan Lucroy
2018 prediction: (73-89) last place
So to wrap it all up there is a possibility that two teams in the AL west make a playoff run. It just comes down to how much the Angels want it, and if some newly added players can help this team snag a few more victories this season to sneak into a wildcard spot. But with some other strong clubs stacking up in the AL they would really need to piece together a special season. The Athletics still seem very lost to me heading into 2018 and I don’t see any excitement coming out of any of the bottom three teams in this division.