AL West Division Preview

David Carey – March 24, 2021

Photo Credit: Ian D’Andrea – Flickr

From 2017 – 2019 the Houston Astros had been in charge of the American League West division winning at least 100 games each year. They’ve had some of the best pitching in the entire AL as well as a lineup capable of producing a World Series Championship in 2017. Oakland has come on very strong since the beginning of 2018 winning 97 games in each of the full seasons prior to the shortened 2020 season. Behind those two teams the Angels, Mariners and Rangers have all played near, or below .500 baseball since 2017. This year look for the Angels to take a step forward into the middle of the division with a fair chance at challenging and a good chance at the a wildcard team.

2020 Standings

Standings courtesy of MLB.com

LA Angels

2021 Win Total Projection: 83

The Angels could really surprise a lot of fans as they project to bounce back nicely from a disappointing 2020 season. Many of the struggles for LA came on the mound where they lead the division in runs against at 321. Their pitching should get better in 2021 with a deeper group of pitchers who and a good balance between LHP and RHP. Shohei Ohtani and the Angels reached a 2-yr 8.5 mil deal during the off season which I really like given the upside that he possesses. Through 10 GP in spring training Ohtani is 15/25 at the plate with 4HR. For a player of this skill level the Angels get a great value with a high ceiling. Looking to the Angels lineup in 2021 I’m drawn to the middle of the lineup starting with OF Mike Trout and 3B Anthony Rendon. Two of the best players at their respective positions throughout baseball and surely the most exciting part about the Angels order. 2020 was the first year since his rookie year in 2011 that Mike Trout didn’t lead the league in a major offensive category.

Team Transactions

  • Oct 28, 2020 Julio Teheran SP Declared Free Agency
  • Oct 28, 2020 Andrelton Simmons SS Declared Free Agency
  • Oct 30, 2020 Cam Bedrosian RP Declared Free Agency
  • Dec 2, 2020 Jose Iglesias SS Traded From Baltimore (for RHPs Garrett Stallings & Jean Pinto)
  • Dec 7, 2020 Raisel Iglesias RP Traded From Cincinnati (for RHP Noe Ramirez, three-player deal)
  • Dec 16, 2020 Alex Claudio RP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Kurt Suzuki C Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Max Stassi C Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Dylan Bundy SP Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Felix Pena RP Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Andrew Heaney SP Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Mike Mayers RP Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 22, 2021 Jose Quintana RP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Feb 2, 2021 Alex Cobb SP Traded From Baltimore (with cash for OF Jahmai Jones)
  • Feb 4, 2021 Dexter Fowler RF Traded From St. Louis (for future considerations)
  • Feb 8, 2021 Shohei Ohtani DH Signed ( 2021-2022)(two-year contract, avoids arbitration)

Projected Lineup

  1. David Fletcher, 2B
  2. Jared Walsh, 1B
  3. Mike Trout, CF
  4. Anthony Rendon, 3B
  5. Justin Upton, LF
  6. Shohei Ohtani, DH
  7. Dexter Fowler, RF
  8. José Iglesias, SS
  9. Max Stassi, C

Rotation

  1. Dylan Bundy, RHP
  2. Andrew Heaney, LHP
  3. Griffin Canning, RHP
  4. José Quintana, LHP
  5. Alex Cobb, RHP
  6. Shohei Ohtani, RHP

Closer: Raisel Iglesias, RHP

Oakland Athletics

2021 Win Total Projection: 86.5

Oakland took off in 2020 and finished at the top of the division. Much of this comes from the success that their pitching group maintained through the year. The Athletics finished the season 5th best in the MLB with a 3.87 RA/G average and a 3.77 ERA. Their starting pitching was anchored by Chris Bassitt who finished the season 5-2 with a 2.29 ERA and 1.159 WHIP. The Bullpen was highlighted by Liam Hendriks, now the closer for the White Sox who earner himself praise as one of the MLB’s top closers. The Athletics batting lineup wasn’t very dynamic in 2020. They finished 25th in the MLB with a .225 Avg and 24th in the MLB with 430 Hits. The Coliseum isn’t an ideal environment with one of the MLB’s largest in play foul territory but it does go to support an area where they have room to improve. In early February Oakland completed a 5-player trade with the Rangers which brought Elvis Andrus in to play SS and hit leadoff for the A’s. The deal fits a need for Oakland after Marcus Semien signed with the Blue Jays in the off season. Oakland will have to battle it out with Houston this year to maintain the division title.

Team Transactions

  • Oct 28, 2020 Tommy La Stella 2B Declared Free Agency
  • Oct 28, 2020 Marcus Semien SS Declared Free Agency
  • Oct 28, 2020 Mike Minor SP Declared Free Agency
  • Oct 28, 2020 Jake Lamb 3B Declared Free Agency
  • Oct 28, 2020 Liam Hendriks RP Declared Free Agency
  • Dec 1, 2020 Tony Kemp 2B Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Dec 2, 2020 Matt Olson 1B Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Sean Manaea SP Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Frankie Montas SP Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Mark Canha DH Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Lou Trivino RP Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Chris Bassitt SP Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Matt Chapman 3B Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Feb 6, 2021 Elvis Andrus SS Traded From Texas (for OF/DH Khris Davis, five-player deal)
  • Feb 6, 2021 Aramis Garcia C Traded From Texas (for OF/DH Khris Davis, five-player deal)
  • Feb 16, 2021 Mike Fiers SP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Feb 18, 2021 Sergio Romo RP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Feb 21, 2021 Yusmeiro Petit RP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Feb 23, 2021 Mitch Moreland 1B Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)

Projected Lineup

  1. Elvis Andrus, SS
  2. Jed Lowrie, 2B
  3. Matt Chapman, 3B
  4. Matt Olson, 1B
  5. Mark Canha, DH
  6. Ramón Laureano, CF
  7. Sean Murphy, C
  8. Stephen Piscotty, RF
  9. Seth Brown, LF

Rotation

  1. Frankie Montas, RHP
  2. Jesús Luzardo, LHP
  3. Chris Bassitt, RHP
  4. Sean Manaea, LHP
  5. A.J. Puk, LHP

Closer: Jake Diekman, LHP

Houston Astros

2021 Win Total Projection: 87

The Astros project to edge the Athletics in 2020 by 0.5 wins and take the division back from Oakland. In the off season George Springer signed with the Toronto Blue Jays, leaving Houston to play for his favorite childhood team. From the looks of things, Myles Straw will take over in CF and the batting order will shift around ever so slightly with Jose Altuve currently expected to hit leadoff. 24 y/o OF Kyle Tucker is projected to make up for the departure of Springer. On the mound Justin Verlander will obviously be missed after undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2020. Houston still features Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers Jr at the top of their roster while LHP Framber Valdez stands out a great 3rd SP in the rotation and is coming off a 2020 season which he had a 4.75K/BB ratio. Overall Houston stacks up very well in the division and will have every opportunity to win it with a balanced team from start to finish.

Team Transactions

  • Sep 29, 2020 Yuli Gurriel 1B Signed ( 2021; Opt 2022)(one-year extension)
  • Oct 28, 2020 Josh Reddick RF Declared Free Agency
  • Oct 28, 2020 Brad Peacock SP Declared Free Agency
  • Oct 28, 2020 Michael Brantley DH Declared Free Agency
  • Oct 28, 2020 George Springer CF Declared Free Agency
  • Oct 30, 2020 Roberto Osuna RP Declared Free Agency
  • Dec 2, 2020 Austin Pruitt RP Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 8, 2021 Ryne Stanek RP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Aledmys Diaz 2B Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Pedro Baez RP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021-2022)(two-year contract)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Lance McCullers SP Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Feb 6, 2021 Carlos Correa SS Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)

Projected Lineup

  1. Jose Altuve, 2B
  2. Alex Bregman, 3B
  3. Michael Brantley, LF
  4. Carlos Correa, SS
  5. Kyle Tucker, RF
  6. Yordan Alvarez, DH
  7. Yuli Gurriel, 1B
  8. Martín Maldonado, C
  9. Myles Straw, CF

Rotation

  1. Zack Greinke, RHP
  2. Lance McCullers Jr., RHP
  3. Framber Valdez, LHP
  4. Jose Urquidy, RHP
  5. Cristian Javier, RHP

Closer: Ryan Pressly, RHP

Seattle Mariners

2021 Win Total Projection: 71.5

The Mariners finished right in the middle of the AL West in 2020 but posted a -49 run differential. This isn’t an inspiring point to support the team contending in 2021. I see the Mariners likely falling behind the top 3 teams in the AL West early and never gaining much ground. Over the off season James Paxton returned to the starting rotation on a 1-yr deal. This signing effectively overloads the Mariners rotation with 4 LHP which you’re going to have difficulty taking out of the starting rotation. Looking to the batting lineup a lot of youth is going to be featured this year for Seattle. Ty France 3B/DH sticks out to me as a pretty unique play in Fantasy formats given that he owns a career 1.094 OPS and has been tearing up the Cactus League in spring training posting a .417 Avg with 5HR and 10 RBI. Look for France to potentially provide a great value as a deep sleeper in 2021 who should be available on most Free Agent lists well into the start of the MLB season.

Team Transactions

  • Oct 14, 2020 Bryan Shaw RP Declared Free Agency
  • Oct 28, 2020 Dee Gordon LF Declared Free Agency (team option declined)
  • Oct 28, 2020 Yoshihisa Hirano RP Declared Free Agency
  • Oct 29, 2020 Kendall Graveman RP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Nov 2, 2020 Seth Frankoff RP Declared Free Agency
  • Nov 2, 2020 Gerson Bautista RP Declared Free Agency
  • Dec 5, 2020 Mitch Haniger RF Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbtration)
  • Dec 15, 2020 Rafael Montero RP Traded From Texas (for RHP Jose Corniell, three-player deal)
  • Dec 16, 2020 Keynan Middleton RP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Dec 18, 2020 Chris Flexen RP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021-2022)(two-year contract)
  • Feb 18, 2021 James Paxton SP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Feb 19, 2021 Ken Giles RP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021-2022; Opt 2023)(two-year contract)

Projected Lineup

  1. J.P. Crawford, SS
  2. Mitch Haniger, RF
  3. Kyle Lewis, CF
  4. Kyle Seager, 3B
  5. Tom Murphy, C
  6. Ty France, DH
  7. Dylan Moore, 2B
  8. Evan White, 1B
  9. Jake Fraley, LF

Rotation

  1. Marco Gonzales, LHP
  2. James Paxton, LHP
  3. Chris Flexen, RHP
  4. Justus Sheffield. LHP
  5. Yusei Kikuchi, LHP
  6. Justin Dunn, RHP

Closer: Rafael Montero, RHP

Texas Rangers

2021 Win Total Projections: 67.5

The Rangers are stuck in a spot somewhere between a rebuild and a re-tool right now. I think this is a tough spot knowing that players like 1B Ronald Guzman haven’t panned out very well giving the Rangers pause, enough to bring 1B Nate Lowe from Tampa Bay during the off season. In a busy off-season Corey Kluber signed with the Yankees, Elvis Andrus was traded to Oakland, Mike Foltynewicz was signed and former Silver Slugger Khris Davis came back in the Elvis Andrus trade. Without a doubt this will be a different looking team in 2021 but its hard to think that the Rangers can bounce up the standings after finishing 2nd worst in the MLB in 2020.

Team Transactions

  • Oct 28, 2020 Shin-Soo Choo LF Declared Free Agency
  • Oct 28, 2020 Derek Dietrich DH Declared Free Agency
  • Oct 28, 2020 Juan Nicasio SP Declared Free Agency
  • Oct 28, 2020 Edinson Volquez RP Declared Free Agency
  • Oct 28, 2020 Jeff Mathis C Declared Free Agency
  • Oct 28, 2020 Andrew Romine SS Declared Free Agency
  • Oct 30, 2020 Corey Kluber SP Declared Free Agency (team option declined)
  • Nov 2, 2020 Tim Dillard RP Declared Free Agency
  • Nov 2, 2020 Tim Federowicz C Declared Free Agency
  • Nov 2, 2020 Yohander Mendez RP Declared Free Agency
  • Nov 2, 2020 Jerad Eickhoff SP Declared Free Agency
  • Dec 3, 2020 Joe Gatto RP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Dec 3, 2020 Scott Heineman CF Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Dec 8, 2020 Dane Dunning SP Traded From Chi. White Sox (for RHP Lance Lynn, three-player deal)
  • Dec 10, 2020 Nate Lowe 1B Traded From Tampa Bay (for C Heriberto Hernandez, 6-player deal)
  • Dec 11, 2020 Jimmy Herget RP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Dec 15, 2020 David Dahl CF Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Dec 25, 2020 Kohei Arihara SP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021-2022)(two-year contract)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Isiah Kiner-Falefa 3B Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Joey Gallo RF Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Feb 6, 2021 Jonah Heim C Traded From Oakland (for SS Elvis Andrus, five-player deal)
  • Feb 6, 2021 Khris Davis DH Traded From Oakland (for SS Elvis Andrus, five-player deal)
  • Feb 10, 2021 Mike Foltynewicz SP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Feb 16, 2021 Josh Sborz RP Traded From Los Angeles (for RHP Jhan Zambrano)

Projected Lineup

  1. Leody Taveras, CF
  2. Nick Solak, 2B
  3. Isiah Kiner-Falefa, SS
  4. Joey Gallo, RF
  5. Willie Calhoun, DH
  6. David Dahl, LF
  7. Rougned Odor, 3B
  8. Nate Lowe, 1B
  9. Jose Trevino, C

Rotation

  1. Kyle Gibson, RHP
  2. Mike Foltynewicz, RHP
  3. Kohei Arihara, RHP
  4. Dane Dunning, RHP
  5. Jordan Lyles, RHP

Closer: TBD

The AL West could very well finish as close as the AL Central did just one year ago. The Astros, Athletics and Angels all project to be within striking distance of the division lead and hopefully provide some excitement come fall. I’m confident that Seattle and Texas have their fates relatively in hand for 2021 as they project into the 4th and 5th positions in the divison. My pick is that Houston and Oakland go down to the wire and that Houston wins the divsion by less that 3 games. Looking to the playoffs its hard for me to think that any of the teams from the AL West stack up well vs the Yankees and White Sox. The post season may very well end promptly for whoever prevails in 2021.

Thanks for checking in with us for this divisional breakdown which wraps up the American League. I hope you’ve enjoyed our content and will check back with us later this week as we shift into the National League and start with the NL West and the World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

David Carey – March 24, 2021

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