The AL West is the most intriguing of the American League divisions. The Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics are the cream of the division, whereas the Mariners and Angels have great promise as young rosters realize their potential. The A’s ran this division last year, but the Astros had the last laugh as they eliminated the Athletics in the second round.
The young Angels, Mariners and Rangers were rebuilding in 2020, but they look to challenge the top of the division in 2021. With a full season on the docket, this division could be closer than many may think. Here is how the season could pan out for the Wild West of the American League.
2020-21 Record: 29-31
Houston had a rough start to their season after staring down the barrel of the 2019 sign stealing allegations. That rough start was left behind as soon as the Astros hit the playoffs and were a series away from a return to the World Series. Now a season removed from the drama and returning nearly the entire team from last year, this team is looking to make a strong case to return to being a contender.
The addition of catcher Jason Castro behind starter Martin Maldonado bolsters the catching rotation, as well as adds a lefty to the batting rotation. In addition to catching depth, the Astros boast a seven man relief bullpen this season, which was a weakness last year. Houston will be a team to reckon with in 2021 and could make a push towards a championship.
Over/Under Win Total: 100 Wins
2020-21 Record: 36-24
The Oakland A’s were a healthy surprise in 2020. As one of the best pitching and defensive teams in the league, the Athletics were a force in low scoring affairs. The issue was when they had to score, they simply couldn’t due to average to poor batting.
With their pitching and bullpen depth being a strength again this year, the A’s needed to get more capable bats in their rotation. The signing of first baseman Mitch Moreland could help that, but he is just one piece of a greater puzzle. If Oakland can rely solely on the backs of their pitchers, they can make the playoffs, but they will need to make serious upgrades to the batting rotation to be contenders.
Over/Under Win Total: 90 Wins
2020-21 Record: 27-33
Youth was on Seattle’s side in 2020 but it was also their biggest flaw. The Mariners barely missed the playoffs last year with a good young roster, and manger Jerry Dipoto wants some experience to balance it out. The Mariners brass heard that and answered the call.
The additions of pitchers Kendall Graveman, Rafael Montero, James Paxton and Ken Gules adds depth and experience to the bullpen. Sticking with the youth movement, they signed talented young outfielder Taylor Trammell, who will get his chance in the majors after four years in the minors. The Mariners could honestly be the best young team in the MLB and a surprise playoff team in October.
Over/Under Win Total: 80 wins
Los Angeles Angels
2020-21 Record: 26-34
The Angels were very optimistic going into the 2020 season after the hiring of new manager Joe Maddon and signing third baseman Anthony Rendon to a seven-year deal. They missed the postseason for the sixth straight year, but with changes in the front office the Angels could compete for the postseason in 2021.
The biggest hole for the Angels was their starting pitching and bullpen rotations. They have fixed that on paper with the additions of Aaron Sleger, Alex Cobb, Josè Quintana, Alex Claudio, Raisel Iglesias and Jose Alberto Rivera. They also shored up their outfield with Dexter Fowler coming over in the Cardinal trade. With the revamped pitching and some batters around incumbent superstar Mike Trout, the Angels can be a wildcard in the AL West.
Over/Under Win Total: 75 Wins
2020-21 Record: 22-38
The Rangers were the worst team in the entire American League last year, and are now in total rebuild mode in 2021. The Rangers committed to their young core of players to be the foundation of their new start. The issue is that outside of their proven young assets, the Rangers have a lot of unproven talent to sift through.
One of the biggest holes for the Rangers is their outfield and baseman positions. Former Golden Glove third baseman Isiah Kiner-Falefa is moving to shortstop, opening up a vacancy at third base. Utility man Elvis Andrus is the best option to see a full-time roll at third for the Rangers, but Roughned Odor is also an option. David Dahl, who is coming over from the Colorado Rockies, is slated to play left field which would fill that role, but he is coming off of shoulder surgery. Young players like Willie Calhoun and Eli White may have to fill in if Dahl isn’t ready to go after spring training.
The Rangers have plenty of talent but are far from complete. They will definitely need another year to flesh out the roster before they see results.
Over/Under Win Total: 65 Wins