AL Western Division Picks



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American League – Western Division predictions

 

  1. Houston
  2. L.A.
  3. Oakland
  4. Seattle
  5. Texas    

 

The Houston Astros lost a few key players but then gained a few. But like any Major League Baseball team health is always a key issue.

Led by ace pitcher Justin Verlander the Astros ride the arm of the flame-throwing veteran who is now in his mid-30s and still dominating the game. It seems every era has a strong armed pitcher like Verlander. Early in the 2000s it was Randy Johnson and before that Nolan Ryan. They are rare but do exist.

Relief pitching has always been a weakness for Houston but not to the degree that it kept them from winning 100 games in the past two seasons. Expect them to do the same this year.

Oakland was a surprise to everyone last year but don’t expect them to repeat. Sure they still have the big boppers in Khris Davis, Matt Chapman and Stephen Piscotty. But who is going to pitch with Brett Anderson, Edwin Jackson, Jeurys Familia and Trevor Cahill leaving the team?

Speaking of Cahill the veteran pitcher switched to the L.A. Angels along with catcher Jonathan Lucroy. The Angels also picked up an infielder and another pitcher and could pick up ground on the Astros this year.

Seattle lost its star pitcher to the Yankees and closer to the Mets. But they did gain Japanese pitching ace Yusei Kikuchi and he can pitch. If he stays healthy look for him to keep the team in contention. Otherwise, Seattle lost a lot and will lose ground this year in the race for the division.

Texas is another story. Without its guiding light Adrian Beltre, the Rangers will be even worse this year than last year. They have a lot of hitting but what good is that when you have very little pitching. It’s going to be a very bad year and their new manager Chris Woodard will need a lot of patience. The past few years Woodard spent coaching third base for the Los Angeles Dodger organization and has not been accustomed to losing. Well, welcome to the other end of the spectrum.   

 

Houston Astros

After winning back-to-back titles in the AL Western Division it might seem the Astros could be ripe for a letdown especially losing pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton. But the rest of the division has lost a lot too except for the Angels and they can’t compete just yet.

Few teams can boast as many clutch hitters as the Astros who have Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and George Springer. Those three represent the heart and soul of the team that has grabbed 100 wins in consecutive years. That’s a lot of winning.

Defensively they are very tight in almost every position. This year they picked up Michael Brantley through free agency and that gives the Astros one of the best outfields in the AL. He’s also another clutch hitter and that’s not good for the opposition.

Pitching will be the concern for the Astros especially with Verlander approaching 36 years old. If Gerrit Cole can continue dominating and with the added boost in their bull pen, look for them to win 100 or more games this year too. The signing of Hector Rondon and last year’s addition of Roberto Osuna has beefed up their relief pitching considerably.

One other concern might be at catcher. But if that’s the Astros only weakness it’s not a bad one to have. Health is their biggest concern.

 

Los Angeles Angels

Signing Mike Trout to a $430 million contract must have felt like Christmas came early for the entire team. Playing alongside the best player in the baseball probably increases everyone’s game. Knowing he’s an Angel for life means the organization plans to make a move soon to usurp the Astros from the top position.

Pitching has been a sore spot for the Angels for the past four years especially health-wise. Their starting rotation has been a patchwork of pitchers and despite the lack of a consistent rotation the Angels have never fallen below 74 wins. The past two seasons saw them win 80 games each year. Imagine if they had a pitching staff they could count on?

This year the Angels have hurlers Trevor Cahill, Matt Harvey and Cody Allen on their staff and if they stay healthy the team will make up serious ground. Last year two young Angel pitchers emerged Jaime Barria and Felix Pena. Of course they also have Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skraggs but don’t count on them, they tend to break down every year.

Defensively the Angels have good gloves especially up the middle with Andrelton Simmons at short. They also have Kole Calhoun in right field and his cannon arm. Offensively the team got even better by signing Tommy LaStella and Jonathan Lucroy. And new first baseman Justin Bour is exactly what is needed from the left side of the batter’s box and as a first baseman to spell Albert Pujols whose body can’t handle playing defense.

New manager Brad Ausmus also has Shohei Otani to insert in the game when needed. Last year’s A.L. Rookie of the Year is a powerful weapon to have at his disposal even if its’ primarily as a hitter and not as a pitcher. Wait till next year.

 

Oakland

Last year’s team lost eight pitchers to trades or free agency and three position players. That’s too much to overcome even though the Athletics boast a strong relief corps and some good starting pitching. They won’t win 97 games in 2019.

Home run hitting has become a primary source for the team from Oakland and last year they smacked plenty of them and surprised the American League. This year will be different.

Pitching will be a problem especially starting pitching. They lost some good ones and though they have talent coming up from the minor leagues, you can’t count on them to replace what was lost through trades and free agency. As far as relief pitching they will remain very strong. It’s the starting pitching that remains the team’s Achilles Heel.

Defensively the A’s lost two players who made a difference. First losing Jed Lowrie at second base will be felt immediately. The other loss will be at catcher with Jonathan Lucroy now catching for the Angels. Calling a game behind the plate is important and not easy to replace. Plus, Lucroy was very effective at throwing out base stealers.

Look for Oakland to lose a lot of ground this year. They may not crack 85 wins this year.

 

Seattle

Most of last year’s team is gone. It was a flea market and all the fleas have departed for other parts of the country. Star pitchers James Paxton and Edwin Diaz were traded to different New York organizations and many of their star hitters were exported as well. This is not the same team that won 89 games last year.

Seattle’s pitching staff has been deflated like an old tire leaking air through a hole. Two of the tires are gone but two remain. A big pickup for the Mariners was signing Japan’s Yosei Kikuchi to its starting staff. He can truly pitch and makes up for losing Paxton. But how can they replace Diaz who saved 57 games for them last year?

Defensively the Mariners are not as good as last year. They have fielders more known for hitting than defense. That’s not a good thing when your star pitchers are gone.

Hitting will remain the same despite losing all of their top three hitters last year in Robinson Cano, Jean Segura and Nelson Cruz. Usually losing hitters like that would cripple a team. But those three will be replaced by Jay Bruce, Edwin Encarnacion and Domingo Santana. Those three are pretty good at smacking the ball. Expect Seattle to lose some ground but not as much as expected.

 

Texas

Unless the Rangers expect the next coming of Mike Schmidt the team will remain at a standstill considering that Adrien Beltre has retired. He was the center of their team and excelled both offensively and defensively. He’s gone for good.

Pitching is their worst asset and when pitching lacks so do wins. The Rangers do not have much outside of Lance Lynn who is handy around the pitching mound. They also picked up Jesse Chavez another smart hurler who can either start or relief. One thing about Texas has been their farm. They always seem to have somebody coming up.

Hitting is the strength of the Rangers and especially hitting with power. It gets hot in Arlington, Texas and the hotter the temperature the more homers are hit. It’s a launching pad and the Rangers have the guns to launch them. Scoring runs is not a problem for Texas, it’s keeping the other team from scoring.

Defensively the team field as good as anybody but losing Beltre will create a big hole in the hot corner.

Don’t expect Texas to escape the cellar this year. But they will launch some homers especially Joey Gallo who’s a human highlight reel with his prodigious shots. He cracked 40 last year.

 

 

 

   

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