Covering The Bases: AL West

Covering The Bases: AL West

Opening Day is quickly approaching so let’s take a quick look at what each team looks like heading into the 2021 season. I started with the AL East yesterday so let’s keep moving through the AL and head out West. 



HOUSTON ASTROS 

PROJECTION - 1ST AL WEST 


NOTABLE NEWCOMERS 

Zach Grienke 


DEPARTURES 

George Springer 


PROJECTED LINEUP 

1 Altuve 2B

2 Correa SS

3 Brantley OF

4 Bregman 3B

5 Alvarez DH

6 Tucker OF

7 Gurriel 1B

8 Maldonado C

9 Straw OF


ROTATION

Greinke

McCullers

Urquidy

Javier

Valdez

Odorizzi


CLOSER - Ryan Pressly 


OUTLOOK 

With AL West division titles in 2017, '18, and '19, the Astros have established themselves as a perennial powerhouse. Let's not forget the controversial World Series title in 2019. Not so many years ago the Houston Astros were perennial cellar dwellers but the tables have turned and the talent has arrived. Drafting players like George Springer - now with the Blue Jays, Carlos Correa, and Alex Bregman, to go along with veteran Jose Altuve has given Houston one of the most potent lineups in the league. There is not a better lineup top to bottom in the American league. Springer is gone, but Yordan Alvarez is back healthy and ready to go after making a huge impact in his rookie season just two years ago and battling injuries last year. The addition of Grienke will help offset the possible season-long absence of Ace Justin Verlander who underwent Tommy John surgery in December. Jose Urquidy could have a breakout year. At 25 years of age, and only 12 career starts, he is unproven but the hard throwing right hander picked up a win in game 4 of the 2019 world series. He gave up 2 hits, and allowed no runs in 5 innings. McCullers has shown that he can be a reliable starter. It might be up to the younger guys in the rotation to step up and deliver if the Astros want to be playing in October once again. I think they will.




OAKLAND ATHLETICS 

PROJECTION 2ND AL WEST 


NOTABLE NEWCOMERS

Trevor Rosenthal 

Elvis Andrus 

Mitch Moreland 


DEPARTURES 

Marcus Semien 


PROJECTED LINEUP 

1 Laureano OF

2 Andrus SS

3 Chapman 3B

4 Moreland DH

5 Olson 1B 

6 Cahna OF

7 Piscotty OF

8 Murphy C

9 Kemp 2B


ROTATION 

Luzardo 

Maneua 

Montas 

Fiers

Bassitt


CLOSER - Rosenthal 


OUTLOOK 

The Athletics have made the postseason the last 3 years. They have one series victory to show for it. This is a team that has somewhat surpassed expectations, but seem to be in the hunt for the post season every year. They score runs in abundance, with power hitting 1B Olson, and Chapman leading the way. Olson is a threat to hit 50 homers every year. A key piece of that run scoring offense is no longer there. Marcus Semien, the A's leadoff hitting shortstop in recent years is gone. And that might hurt this offense more than they know. Laureano will likely fill the leadoff spot, so time will tell just how much the loss of Semien affects the offense. As in recent years, pitching seems to be the issue once again. Trading the league's best closer to the White Sox in the offense surely doesn't help. Rosenthal is a proven closer but there have been injuries and down time. I think the A's would be wise to be on the hunt for a quality rotation guy to help out with what is a below average staff right now. If it is 4 trips in a row, I won't be surprised. But to get past the division series, they need more arms. 




SEATTLE MARINERS 

PROJECTION - 3RD AL WEST 


NOTABLE NEWCOMERS

James Paxton SP

Rafael Montero RP


DEPARTURES

None


PROJECTED LINEUP 

1 Jordan Crawford SS

2 Mitch Haniger RF

3 Kyle Lewis OF

4 Kyle Seager 3B

5 Ty France DH-2B

6 Dylan Moore 2B OF

7 Tom Murphy C

8 Evan White 1B

9 Taylor Trammell OF


STARTERS

Gonzalez 

Paxton 

Kikuchi 

Sheffield 

Fkexen 

Dunn


CLOSER - Montero 


OUTLOOK 

Baseball fans in Seattle have a lot to be excited about. Although the Mariners have failed to make the postseason in the last 20 seasons, it appears that things are finally heading in the right direction. The Mariners have talented prospects in their minor league system.  All eyes will be on Jared Kelenic, the future of the Mariners and a talent that makes comparisons to Christian Yelich seem not so far off. The biggest question is when will Seattle call him up. With last year's AL rookie of the year Kyle Lewis, and Mitch Haniger back from injury the Mariners have a future outfield that has the potential to be the best in baseball. They also have a 20 year old Jose Rodriguez - likely a year away from the bigs and their number 1 prospect. This season will be one of many questions. They are young, aside from a few veterans such as 3rd baseman Kyle Seager and a few others, like Paxton who comes back to Seattle after spending the last few years with the Yankees. The infield projects to be Jordan Crawford at SS, Dylan Moore at 2nd base, Seager at 3rd, and Evan White at first base. Moore is another intriguing player. Showing some good power to all fields last year and better than average speed. He should be a 20 plus home run a year guy. White hit an awful 176 in '20 and struck out way too often. White has long ball potential but needs to be more consistent putting the ball in play. Jordan Crawford is a light hitting defensive shortstop. If he can improve his hitting, the defense and speed are already there. But he has never hit for average in any of his few seasons at the big league level. Lewis and Haniger should be the most dependable bats in the lineup, both can hit for power and average. Seager can still give you gold glove caliber defense and his bat is capable, although he's never going to hit for average, he drove in a lot of runs in 2020. The pitching staff will consist of  lefties Marco Gonzalez, Paxton, and Justus Sheffield. Along with hard throwing right hander Justin Dunn. Sheffield had a breakout year with a 3.58 ERA/3.17FIP in 2020. Paxton was not good. In fact, he was downright awful at times in '20. A far cry from the sometimes dominant pitcher he had been when previously with the Mariners. Logan Gilbert is another one of the young prospects that Seattle is excited about. Just how they plan on using him, and how he responds to a bigger workload will be something to watch. Chris Fkexen is another option. The bullpen is full of questions, with no real proven closer. This might be the team's biggest weakness. The newly acquired Montero is the most proven late innings pitcher. This year's Mariners could fight for a playoff spot. They are closer to it at least. But I would bet on Seattle fans seeing a 21st season go by with no postseason appearance. 





LOS ANGELES ANGELS

PROJECTION - 4TH AL WEST 


NOTABLE NEWCOMERS 

Jose Iglesias - SS

Dexter Fowler - OF

Kurt Suzuki - C

Phil Gosselin - OF


DEPARTURES 

Andrelton Simmons - SS


PROJECTED LINEUP 

1 Fowler 

2 Fletcher 

3 Trout 

4 Rendon 

5 Walsh - Ohtani 

6 Puhols 

7 Upton 

8 Stassi 

9 Iglesias 


ROTATION 

Bundy 

Heaney 

Quintana 

Canning 

Ohtani 

Cobb


CLOSER - Raisel Iglesias 


OUTLOOK 


The Angels added a handful of players in the off season. They replaced veteran shortstop Andrelton Simmons with Jose Iglesias. Both are better than average defensive shortstops and might hit for decent average, neither is a difference maker that this team needs in their lineup every day. There is little help to be had for Mike Trout other than Anthony Rendon. Jared Walsh and David Fletcher. Those two perhaps have the most potential, with Walsh earning AL rookie of the month last September. He figures to add some power to the lineup, and Fletcher will be relied upon to get on base in front of Trout and the aforementioned Walsh. Albert Puhols is nowhere near the player he used to be. Fowler has had some decent seasons, and offers base stealing potential. Joe Adell made his unimpressive major league debut last year and figures to start the season in AAA. Overall it's one of the weaker lineups in the big leagues,which is why it is a race to see who will be at the bottom of the standings, between the Angels and the TexasRangers. The pitching staff is not much better. There is improvement with veteran former 1st round selection Dylan Bundy coming off a great year in 2020 when he finished 4th in the AL Cy Young voting. Andrew Heaney had a bounce back year, and Griffin Canning has the potential to be a good big league starter. From there, it's anyone's guess who they will decide to shuffle in and out of the rotation. Shohei Ohtani the do all two way player should be back on the mound after only using his bat last year. There's talent and potential there. The bullpen is also anyone's guess. Look for LA to struggle to score runs and give up too many. Rebuild should be a focus in the years to come. 




TEXAS RANGERS

PROJECTION - LAST AL WEST 


NOTABLE NEWCOMERS 

David Dahl - OF

Kris Davis OF/DH

Nate Lowe - 1B

Todd Frazier 3B/DH

Mike Foltynewicz - SP


DEPARTURES 

Elvis Andrus



PROJECTED LINEUP 

1Tejada 

2 Solak 

3 Tavares

4 Gallo

5 Davis

6 Kiner-Falefa 

7 Odor

8 Dahl

9 Lowe/Guzman 


OUTLOOK 

There are some interesting pieces here. Nick Solak and Anderson Tejada(.300 and .303) are promising young hitters. Solak figures to be the everyday 2nd baseman, Isaiah Kiner Filefa will move to shortstop from 3B, with the departure of Andrus. Joey Gallo is back to hit homers and strike out way too much. Although he is capable of hitting 40 plus homers. Roghned Odor will compete with Gallo in the strike out department, and is expected to be the everyday 3rd baseman, with Solak coming in from the outfield this year to take Odor's usual place at the keystone. Josh Jung is a prospect that figures to be the future at 3rd base but he'll likely not be ready for the 2021 season due to injury.  Gallo and Dahl will likely hold down everyday roles in the outfield with Tavares being the other, although he is battling with Delino Deshields in the spring.Willie Calhoun can also fill a utility role in the outfield. There are 6 starting pitchers that figure to see time. Gibson, Foltynewicz, and Kohie Arihara are locks. Jordan Lyles, Dane Dunning, and Kyle Kody should be the next 3 up. The addition of Foltynewicz will be interesting to watch, as he was a top of the rotation pitcher just a couple years back, before struggling with velocity issues and being sent down to the minors last year. It looks like Kyle Gibson could be the opening day starter. Jose Leclerc should be first in line for save opportunities. The bullpen is full of questions. As are the Rangers in 2021. One thing can be sure, they won't be a favorite to be playing in October. 



Stay tuned for the rest of the divisions and as always, stay true.

 

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