An Underage Sports Journal For Students of the Game

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AL West Preview

Here is the 3rd part of my MLB Divisional Previews, with the AL West. This will be a brief overview of their off season and what expectations to have for teams as well as what tier I see them in. I have 5 tiers; Favorites, Contenders, Playoff Teams, In the Hunt, Mediocre, and Bottom Feeders.


Houston Astros – Favorites


In an off season where you lose the reigning ALCY award winner in Justin Verlander, it’s typically harder to try and retain the same level of skill on the roster, unless you are the Astros. Losing Justin Verlander is a significant loss, however they will still boast one of the best rotations in baseball, led by their 3 headed monster in Framber Valdez, Christian Javier, and Luis Garcia. Hunter Brown is the Astros #1 prospect who should slot in as the team’s #5 starter until the eventual return of Lance McCullers. Being down Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley will hurt the lineup for a bit until they return, but with the addition of Jose Abreu at first should help calm the storm. The lone spot of worry for me lies at the catching position where they failed to retain Christian Vasquez in the off season after making a move for him at last year’s trade deadline, which leaves them with Martin Maldonado at 36, and Korey Lee who has just 25 AB’s to his name. This is a team that will run away with the division and likely boast the top spot in the AL come playoff time.


Los Angeles Angels – In the Hunt


Look at the Angels going out in the off season and trying to improve their roster, more importantly the pitching. Tyler Anderson was brought in after his breakout all star campaign last season with the Dodgers, as well as bringing in former top prospect Matt Moore for the bullpen, where he was lights out last year with a sub 2 ERA in over 70 innings. They made some moves for the lineup including bringing in utility man Brandon Drury who won a silver slugger last year as well as setting career highs in GP HR RBI WRC+ WAR and SLG. Hunter Renfroe and Gio Urshela were both also brought in via the trade market ; Renfroe will slot into a corner outfield spot along with Trout and Ward forming one of the best trios in the league, and Urshela will be a utility guy and could see some time at short if Fletcher struggles or is slid over to 2nd. I’m picking the Angels to finish 3rd in the division provided the team stays as is, with a move for pitching at the deadline I could see this team in the WC.


Oakland Athletics – Bottom Feeders


Coming into 2023 with the lowest payroll in baseball, the Oakland Athletics are getting ready for another year of being the worst team in baseball. This off season the team moved on from Sean Murphy and Cole Irvin, both of whom were probably the best hitter and pitcher on the team last season. Their off season was quiet, however they dipped into the international free agency pool and brought in SP Shintaro Fujinami from Japan who went 7-6 with a 2.77 ERA with over 100 innings pitched last season in Japan. There are some guys that could potentially play themselves out of Oakland by the deadline like Tony Kemp, Seth Brown, Jesus Aguliar, and Ramon Laureano. The rotation consists of some new and young arms with 4 of their 5 projected starters via Fangraphs having less than a year of MLB service time. This team will be genuinely lucky to win 60 games, and I see them finishing dead last in the AL.


Seattle Mariners – Playoff Team


Seattle broke their playoff drought this past season with a big thanks to AL rookie of the year, silver slugger winner, and the 1 time all star Julio Rodriguez. Along with JRod, a breakout campaign from Cal Raleigh helped push the Mariners over the edge. A deadline move for Luis Castillo proved to be pivotal as he took the mound against the Blue Jays in the WCS and ended up with a win in a series the Mariners ultimately won. The bullpen was one of the best in the league with several guys going over the 50 IP mark with a sub 3 ERA. However, they had to lose one of those arms in Erik Swanson to bring in Teoscar Hernandez to slot right into RF and be a guy that will drive in a ton of runs for Seattle. The lone notable FA signing was for AJ Pollock to be a DH for the team as well as a potential spot starter in the OF. As well as Teoscar, the Mariners made another trade in order to acquire Kolten Wong, a 2x GG award winner that may very well end up being the leadoff hitter for the team. The pitching staff should be one of the better groups in the AL being headlined by Luis Castillo and Robbie Ray along with young arms Logan Gilbert and George Kirby, to round it out with veteran Marco Gonzales. This is a team with a ton of upside and that would win the AL Central if they played in it, unfortunately for them they don’t and have to get through the Astros in order to win the division, which is why I see them finishing 2nd in the division and locking up a WC spot. 


Texas Rangers – In the Hunt


Another offseason with big spending for the Rangers entailed bringing in the best pitcher in all of baseball *when healthy* Jacob DeGrom. Unfortunately, DeGrom has already been dealing with injury during Spring Training but threw in a game on Sunday going 3 IP surrendering just 2 hits with 4 strikeouts. Along with DeGrom came former Red Sox stud Nathan Eovaldi and left handed pitcher Andrew Heaney to add to a very poor starting rotation. Martin Perez had the best season of his career and was also brought back to be a part of the rotation. They also brought in Will Smith for the bullpen, which has also been an area of concern for the team, especially since they lost Matt Moore in the off season. Josh Jung looks to be the teams full time starter at third base in his first full season at the Major League level. The 2 big time guys last off season in Marcus Seimen and Corey Seager both had good but not great seasons. I’d say the best hitter on the team from last season was silver slugger winner Nathaniel Lowe. Lowe broke out and led the team in AVG OBP SLG OPS OPS+ WRC+. I’m not so much worried about the lineup – I’m expecting some progression from Seiman and Seager getting better in the 2nd year of their contracts, but I’m still not sold on the pitching. I still have some questions about Perez, Heaney, and Gray as well as just about every reliever they have, which keeps them out of the playoffs for me, but I think the offense will perform well and lead them to a 4th place finish, in a much more competitive division than people think.


That will wrap up the AL Divisional Previews, next up will be the NL East. Feel free to comment at the end and let me know your own thoughts about any of the teams in the AL West!