We’re but a few short months away from spring training, and while there still are a great many free agents still available and a few big trades away from wrapping up the winter, we generally know where every team stands for the upcoming season. With that, we’ll make predictions on the best and worst case scenario for every AL West team.
The Astros' front office once again proves itself to be one of the most shrewd front offices in the game. With similar production from their well-established core of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and George Springer, along with a full season from Alex Bregman, coupled with the additions of Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Josh Reddick, the Astros have by far the best offense in baseball. With adequate production from their starting core, the Astros cruise to their first AL West division title.
The pitching staff dooms the teams’ hopes. Dallas Kuechel pitches another year like 2016, while Mike Fiers, Collin McHugh and Lance McCullers follow suit. The Astros look to the trade market to improve their rotation, but the only thing they have to offer is top tier starting pitchers. They offer up some of their prospect arms in order to obtain a short term starter, but that fails to live up to the hype. The Astros end 2017 with less pitching than they started with.
Los Angeles Angels
The front office takes a good long hard look at the organization and decides to be realistic about their future. They skillfully find trade partners throughout the season and get good returns on guys like Garrett Richards, Kole Calhoun, and C.J. Cron. Even with that, the Angels will still have one of the ten worst farm systems in the league. They’ll finish with a top-five draft pick. But that’s the point. It’s better to do that now, than to wait until Mike Trout can bolt from his contract and open the Angels up to a decade of losing.
The Angels' farm system continues to stay in some form of limbo on whether they can compete or not. They fail to make the small moves throughout the rest of the offseason that would boost their equity for the 2017 season. Even worse, the Angels stay around the .500 mark through June. The Angels thin out their system even further, and make one last heave at the division that falls flat on its face.
There’s not much reason to believe that the success of the Athletics' season will be determined on the field. What would make a successful season for the Athletics is a big year at the minor league level. The A’s see big years out of Franklin Barretto, and they see big steps taken from Frankie Montas and Grant Holmes. Then Billy Beane and company turn Sonny Gray around for a Chris Sale-like return, and suddenly, the A’s have one of the best farm systems in the league again.
Sonny Gray has another poor, injury ridden season, and the idea of him as a frontline starter and perinial All-Star fades from memory. They once again fail to trade him for an adequate return. Grant Holmes and Frankie Montas suffer injuries, and the A’s are back to square one, hoping that Franklin Barretto can save their franchise.
The Mariners add one more slugger to the mix and make themselves the best offense in the league, behind the core of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. King Felix returns to Cy Young level, whilst they get adequate pitching from their back end staters. Jerry DiPoto makes some smart moves at the deadline to add a starter and a reliever, and the Mariners have a shot to go for it and end their playoff drought.
Injuries take down the Mariners' hopes once again in 2017. Felix Hernandez misses significant time, and our memory of King Felix begins to wither. Anything less than stellar play from Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz or Kyle Seager dooms the Seattle offense, and suddenly, Jean Segura appears as the best player for the Mariners. The Mariners finish with 81 wins, and spend another year in the middle of the league.
The Rangers get a big lead out of the gate in the division, and they show an ability to hold it. Full seasons from Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish make the Rangers' pitching staff a force to be reckoned with. Between Rougned Odor, Nomar Mazara, Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus, we wonder who their best player was at the end of the season. The Rangers take their third straight division crown, and this time, make some noise in the AL postseason.
Sophmore slumps hit Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara, and Jonathan Lucroy plays in his second year in Texas like Carlos Gomez did in Houston. Even with all that, the Rangers would still be in contention for the West. The worst case scenario is that the Astros sneak up and take the division from the Rangers and the team sees an early exit, either in a wild card game, or in the last few games of the season.
Do you think that any of the AL West teams will manage their best or worst case scenarios next season? Let us know in the comments section below.