2018 MLB American League West Preview
What do you get when you cross an athletic mariner with an angelic ranger? 95-plus wins for a bunch of astronauts. Photo by Eric Drost via Flickr
1. Houston, we have liftoff…again.
This is what you have if you have a really good starting pitching staff and an above-average player at just about every position. George Springer leads things off with smarts and brawn. He hit .283 with 34 homers last year and then he found his confidence. Yikes.
Jose Altuve could have an off year and still hit .310. Then you have Verlander, Keuchel, Cole, McCullers Jr., and Morton. Morton is some team’s second-best starter.
The only problem? A.J. Hinch can’t use all of his starting pitchers to bail out the bullpen like he did in the postseason, and year-after-winning-it-all fatigue might strike. Still, this team is young enough to handle it.
Forecast: 100 wins
2. Angels Playoff Prayers Answered?
So, Los Angeles messed around a little in free agency and got Shohei Ohtani, also known as the second coming of Babe Ruth. Not bad, Angels, and certainly worth the price if he’s even 80 percent of what’s been advertised. And what would that look like? Twelve wins, 3.50 ERA with a .300 batting average and 20 homeruns. Not bad at all. There’s also a guy named Mike Trout patrolling the outfield and racking up MVP votes. Justin Upton’s a good number five hitter for somebody. And Albert Pujols will lumber around the bases for another year.
Starting pitching? Ummm. We like Garrett Richards, I guess? Hard to tell after six starts in 2017. Everybody else I’m even less crazy about. This is an Earl Weaver team (walk, bloop, three-run homer) without the pitching. They won 80 last year. Offense helps a little.
Forecast: 84 wins
3. I Smell Smoke. Did I Leave The Range On Or Is that The Pitching Staff?
For Texas, you have red-ass Rougned Odor, who you love to have on your team, but is a problem child/malcontent on somebody else’s. Adrian Beltre is 107, but still hits. Elvis Andrus I like, but I always seem to catch him when he’s having an inconsistent patch.
On the mound, you have proven talent that needs to rise again in Cole Hamels and Doug Fister. If Martin Perez can come through, you might have a chance. Speaking of 107, you also have Bartolo Colon.
Speaking of 10.7, the free agent fairy was not especailly kind to Rangers fans. Matt Moore might be okay out of the bullpen, but he has a real problem going as a starter. I feel sorry for the guy. The rest of the relievers? Ugh. Matt Bush was good. They’ll need more than just him though.
Forecast: 76 wins
4. Once A Mariner, Always A Mariner
Remember that one stretch when we could count on… No? You don’t. Well, you won’t remember half of this Seattle team either. But, the offensive half should be fun. I like Dee Gordon. He’ll steal you bases. Hopefully he doesn’t take the bat out of Robinson Cano’s hands in the process. And Nelson Cruz does what designated hitters are supposed to do. Kyle Seager’s good for 25 homers.
But who is that on the mound? After James Paxton? A shadow of Felix Hernandez and I don’t know what. They need some kids to swim to shore from AAA and bring them some wins. Otherwise:
Forecast: 75 wins
5. A’s Inflation Irritation
I read somewhere the Oakland Athletics spent $58 million this year on salaries. I remember when that got you something. Okay, here’s what we have: Marcus Semien at short with good power, Jed Lowrie at second with a .280 batting average, a good veteran in Jonathan Lucroy at catcher and some guys. Khris Davis may hit 40 homers again, but he’ll go two months and just kill you because he can’t make contact. That’s the good news.
Bad news: someone has to throw the ball to the other team. Sonny Gray is gone and Jharel Cotton got hurt. That leaves Kendall Graveman? Yikes. If the A’s grind out a bunch of games they have no business winning, then maybe they recreate Billy Ball. Otherwise,
Forecast: 73 wins