American League West Preview Capsules
Capsules of American League West teams, listed in order of finish last year:
2021: 95-67, first place, lost to Atlanta in World Series.
Manager: Dusty Baker (third season).
Opening Day: April 7 at Los Angeles Angels.
He’s Here: SS Jeremy Peña, INF Niko Goodrum, 2B Franklin Barreto, OF Lewis Brinson, RHP Hector Neris, LHP Adam Morgan, LHP Zach Rosscup.
He’s Outta Here: Pitching coach Brent Strom, SS Carlos Correa, RHP Zack Greinke, RHP Yimi Garcia, LHP Brooks Raley, RHP Kendall Graveman.
Top Hitters: 1B Yuli Gurriel (AL-best .319, 15 HRs, 81 RBIs, .846 OPS), LF Michael Brantley (.311, 8, 47, .799 OPS), DH Yordan Alvarez (.277, 33, 104, .877 OPS), 2B Jose Altuve (.277, 31, 83, .838 OPS, 117 runs), 3B Alex Bregman (.270, 12, 55, .777 OPS in 91 games).
Projected Rotation: RH Justin Verlander (missed 2021 and pitched just one game in 2020 due to Tommy John surgery; 21-6, 2.58 ERA in 2019), LH Framber Valdez (11-6, 3.14), RH Luis Garcia (11-8, 3.30, 167 Ks), RH Jake Odorizzi (6-7, 4.21), RH José Urquidy (8-3, 3.62) or RH Lance McCullers Jr. (13-5, 3.16, 185 Ks).
Key Relievers: RH Ryan Pressly (5-3, 2.25, 26/29 saves, 81 Ks), RH Ryne Stanek (3-5, 3.42, 83 Ks), RH Pedro Báez (2.08 in 4 games), RH Phil Maton (4-0, 4.97).
Outlook: After reaching the World Series for the third time in five seasons, the Astros expect to contend for a title again this year. They lost Correa in free agency but return most of their other key players from a team that won 95 games before losing the World Series to the Braves in six games. Houston’s rotation should get a big boost from Verlander’s return. The two-time Cy Young Award winner has pitched just one game in the last two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery. If the 39-year-old Verlander can return to his 2019 form when he won his last Cy Young, he can lead a rotation featuring several young pitchers who made strides last season. Even if the rotation is improved, the strength of this team will likely remain the powerful offense, which led the majors last season with a .267 batting average. The Astros return Gurriel, who hit .319 to win the AL batting title, and Brantley, who was tied for second at .311. Also back is Alvarez, who led the team with 33 homers and 104 RBIs in his first full season after struggling with injuries his first two years. Altuve and Bregman also return and will be counted on to help rookie Peña as he attempts to fill Correa’s huge shoes.
2021: 90-72, second place.
Manager: Scott Servais (seventh season).
Opening Day: April 7 at Minnesota.
He’s Here: LHP Robbie Ray, OF Jesse Winker, 3B Eugenio Suárez, 2B/OF Adam Frazier, RHP Sergio Romo.
He’s Outta Here: 3B Kyle Seager, LHP Yusei Kikuchi, LHP Tyler Anderson, OF Jake Fraley, OF Jake Bauers, RHP Justin Dunn.
Top Hitters: SS J.P. Crawford (.273, 9 HRs, 54 RBIs), LF Jesse Winker (.305, 24, 71, .949 OPS with Cincinnati), RF Mitch Haniger (.253, 39, 100, .804 OPS), 1B Ty France (.291, 18, 73, .813 OPS), 2B Adam Frazier (.305, 5, 43, .368 OBP with Pirates and Padres).
Projected Rotation: LH Robbie Ray (13-7, 2.84 ERA, 248 Ks, AL Cy Young Award winner with Toronto), LH Marco Gonzales (10-6, 3.96, 143 1/3 IP), RH Chris Flexen (14-6, 3.61, 179 2/3 IP), RH Logan Gilbert (6-5, 4.68 in 24 starts), RH Matt Brash (6-4, 2.31, 142 Ks in 97 1/3 IP at High-A and Double-A).
Key Relievers: RH Ken Giles (2-3, 1.87 ERA, 23 saves in 2019 with Toronto), RH Andrés Muñoz (1-1, 3.91 in 22 games in 2019 with Padres), RH Paul Sewald (10-3, 3.06, 11 saves), RH Drew Steckenrider (5-2, 2.00, 14 saves), LH Anthony Misiewicz (5-5, 4.61 in 66 games).
Outlook: The rebuild that’s taken several seasons appears to finally be complete. After a surprising 90 wins last season, Seattle begins this year with expectations of contending for the playoffs and ending its two-decade drought without a postseason appearance. The moves Seattle made addressed major needs, bringing in Ray as the No. 1 starter and adding two key bats in Winker and Suárez in a trade with Cincinnati. Haniger and France will be tasked with trying to match their output at the plate from last season. The jump Seattle’s offense needs could depend largely on the development of young outfielder Jarred Kelenic, the expected arrival of prized prospect Julio Rodríguez and the health of 2020 AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis. Seattle’s bullpen was exceptional last season, and if it matches that performance and the team gets an offensive bump, the Mariners may finally find themselves back in the postseason.
2021: 86-76, third place.
Manager: Mark Kotsay (first season).
Opening Day: April 8 at Philadelphia.
He’s Here: 1B Eric Thames, 1B Billy McKinney, RHP Adam Oller, RHP Brent Honeywell, 3B Kevin Smith, 3B Sheldon Neuse, C Stephen Vogt, OF Cristian Pache, LHP Sam Selman.
He’s Outta Here: Manager Bob Melvin, 1B Matt Olson, 3B Matt Chapman, RHP Chris Bassitt, LHP Jake Diekman, OF Starling Marte, OF Mark Canha, RHP Yusmeiro Petit, RHP Sergio Romo, RHP Mike Fiers, 1B Mitch Moreland, C Yan Gomes, OF Khris Davis, LHP Andrew Chafin, 2B Josh Harrison.
Top Hitters: OF Seth Brown (.214, 20 HRs, 48 RBIs), C Sean Murphy (.216, 17, 59), 2B Tony Kemp (.279, 8, 37), SS Elvis Andrus (.243, 3, 37).
Projected Rotation: LH Sean Manaea (11-10, 3.91 ERA), RH Frankie Montas (13-9, 3.37, 207 Ks), LH Cole Irvin (10-15, 4.24), RH Daulton Jefferies (1-0, 3.60), RH Adam Oller (9-4, 3.45 in minors with Mets).
Key Relievers: RH Lou Trivino (7-8, 3.18, 22/26 saves), RH Deolis Guerra (4-1, 4.11), RH Domingo Acevedo (0-0, 3.27).
Outlook: The offseason exodus from Oakland started early when the A’s allowed Melvin, their longtime manager, to leave for San Diego after leading the club to six playoff berths in 11 seasons. Then soon after the lockout ended, the A’s traded away stars Olson, Chapman and Bassitt, signaling another shift to rebuilding mode. The low-budget A’s have followed this pattern for years, contending for stretches and then sending away stars to re-tool before the roster gets too expensive. While it has worked in the past, it doesn’t make it any easier on a frustrated fan base that’s also dealing about questions surrounding the team’s future in the Bay Area, with ownership threatening to leave for Las Vegas without money for a new stadium. This figures to be a trying year in Oakland, where the hope will be the development of prospects like Pache and Oller acquired in the offseason trades.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
2021: 77-85, fourth place.
Manager: Joe Maddon (third season).
Opening Day: April 7 vs. Houston.
He’s Here: RHP Noah Syndergaard, RHP Michael Lorenzen, LHP Aaron Loup, RHP Ryan Tepera, RHP Archie Bradley, INF Tyler Wade, INF Andrew Velazquez, INF Matt Duffy.
He’s Outta Here: RHP Alex Cobb, RHP Dylan Bundy, RHP Steve Cishek, INF Phil Gosselin, OF Juan Lagares.
Top Hitters: CF Mike Trout (.333, 8 HRs, 18 RBIs, 1.090 OPS in 36 games), DH/RHP Shohei Ohtani (.257, 46, 100, .965 OPS, 26 SBs, AL MVP), 3B Anthony Rendon (.240, 6, 34 in 58 games), 1B Jared Walsh (.277, 29, 98, .850 OPS).
Projected Rotation: RH Shohei Ohtani (9-2, 3.18 ERA, 156 Ks), RH Noah Syndergaard (2 appearances in last 2 seasons with Mets due to Tommy John surgery), RH Michael Lorenzen (1-2, 5.59 as reliever with Reds), LH José Suárez (8-8, 3.75), LH Patrick Sandoval (3-6, 3.62), RH Jaime Barria (2-4, 4.61).
Key Relievers: RH Raisel Iglesias (7-5, 2.57 ERA, 34 saves), LH Aaron Loup (6-0, 0.95 with Mets), RH Archie Bradley (7-3, 3.71 with Phillies), RH Ryan Tepera (0-2, 2.79 with Cubs and White Sox), RH Mike Mayers (5-5, 3.84).
Outlook: The big-budget, star-studded Angels take another shot at ending their embarrassing skids of six straight losing seasons and seven in a row out of the playoffs. General manager Perry Minasian made several efforts to repair the pitching staff that has perpetually been the Halos’ undoing. He signed the long-injured Syndergaard and longtime reliever Lorenzen in relatively risky moves to shore up the LA rotation. Minasian’s bullpen transactions were more surefire in adding Loup, Bradley and Tepera while paying top dollar to retain Iglesias. Los Angeles’ lineup is healthy and theoretically potent after injury woes sidelined Trout, Rendon and Justin Upton for large chunks of 2021. Trout and Rendon appear highly motivated to reclaim their status in the game, while the Angels just want more of the same from Ohtani after his historic MVP season. Maddon is hoping improvement in his rotation also comes from within, including continued growth from Suárez and Sandoval along with the arrival of rookie Reid Detmers. If everything goes well on the mound, the Angels could at least contend for their first playoff berth since 2014. Trouble is, 2014 is also the last time everything went well for the Halos’ pitching staff.
2021: 60-102, fifth place.
Manager: Chris Woodward (fourth season).
Opening Day: April 8 at Toronto.
He’s Here: SS Corey Seager, 2B Marcus Semien, C Mitch Garver, RHP Jon Gray, LHP Martín Pérez, RHP Garrett Richards, INF/OF Brad Miller, OF Kole Calhoun, RHP Greg Holland.
He’s Outta Here: SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa, 3B Brock Holt, RHP Jordan Lyles, RHP Mike Foltynewicz.
Top Hitters: SS Corey Seager (.306, 16 HRs, 57 RBIs in 95 games with Dodgers), 2B Marcus Semien (.265, 45, 102, 15 SBs, .873 OPS with Toronto), RF Adolis Garcia (.243, 31, 90), C Mitch Garver (.256, 13, 34, .875 OPS with Minnesota), 1B Nathaniel Lowe (.264, 18, 72).
Projected Rotation: RH Jon Gray (8-12, 4.59 ERA, 157 Ks in 149 IP with Colorado), LH Martín Pérez (7-8, 4.74 with Boston), RH Dane Dunning (5-10, 4.51), LH Taylor Hearn (6-6, 4.66 in 42 games, 11 starts), RHP Spencer Howard (0-5, 7.43 with Philadelphia and Texas) or LH Kolby Allard (3-12, 5.41).
Key Relievers: LH Brett Martin (4-4, 3.18 ERA in 66 games), RH Garrett Richards (7-8, 4.87 in 40 games, 22 starts, with Boston), RH Greg Holland (3-5, 4.85 with Royals), RH Joe Barlow (0-2, 1.55 in 33 games), RH Josh Sborz (4-3, 3.97, 69 Ks in 59 IP), LH John King (7-5, 3.52 in 27 appearances).
Outlook: The Rangers followed 102 losses last year with a record offseason spending spree of more than a half-billion dollars. Most of that money went to its new All-Star middle infield of Seager ($325 million/10 seasons) and Semien ($175 million/seven seasons). Gray became the No. 1 starter when he signed a $56 million, four-year deal, and Garver is a catcher with some pop at the plate. He was acquired from Minnesota when Texas traded Kiner-Falefa at the start of spring training. While the Rangers should be markedly improved, ending their streak of five consecutive losing seasons is a much more viable goal than making the playoffs. That is the longest streak for the team since moving to Texas 50 years ago. There are still too many unproven young pitchers in the rotation and bullpen, along with uncertainty at third base.
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