In a top-heavy division, the Houston Astros have been the dominating team in a five-team race that has left the likes of the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners in the dust, needing a big rebuild to climb back into contention.
After pushing the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series, the Astros eventually fell to the World Series champions, ending what was a dominating season that even saw them be involved in trade talks for Bryce Harper.
The Astros need to retool a bit this offseason after losing a few integral pieces, but with the slow free agency market the options are still sitting out there for the picking.
Here are the projected standings for the American League West for the 2019 season.
Texas Rangers – 5th, American League West
Boasting a starting lineup that has Joey Gallo hitting cleanup and Asdrubal Cabrera inserted into the lineup to help fill longtime fan favorite Adrian Beltre after his retirement, this team is undergoing a longer-term rebuild with no real end in sight. Their farm system is not full of headlining prospects, so pieces will need to be sold off yet again this year in an act to improve its future.
The team’s starting rotation is full of retread veterans who still have something left in the tank but are past their prime, as Lance Lynn, Drew Smyly, Mike Minor, Edinson Volquez, Jason Hammel and Shelby Miller are all vying for five spots.
Gallo will only take this team so far if his monstrous strikeout numbers persist, and losing Beltre’s on-field production will hurt a team looking for a steady veteran focus. Winning 70 games or more will be a struggle for this squad.
Projected record: 68-94
Seattle Mariners – 4th, American League West
A busy offseason that resulted in shedding money in order to take on top-tier prospects, the Mariners are looking like a much different team after shipping out Robinson Cano and All-Star closer Edwin Diaz. In a look to the future, this team is not set up to compete anytime soon.
Acquiring J.P Crawford from the Philadelphia Phillies in the Jean Segura trade was a great move, as he will slide into starting for Seattle in 2019. Combining him with All-Star outfielder Mitch Haniger is a great, young one-two punch.
Signing Yusei Kikuchi finally gives this team another strong option to pair with Felix Hernandez, who has been counted on for too long to be the best pitcher in the rotation with no support. By also plugging in Justus Sheffield, they now have three trusty options that can turn this rotation around.
While not being as bad as the Rangers in 2019, this team will struggle mightily and may ship off a few bigger pieces at the deadline.
Projected record: 74-88
Oakland Athletics – 3rd, American League West
A team that has been fighting to gain notoriety as a small-market franchise for much too long, the A’s need starting pitching to push them over the hump, but they don’t have a bonafide ace on the staff at this moment, which makes it tough to ride their staff.
The epitome of what being a designated hitter is, Khris Davis is an absolute masher at the plate who either hits home runs or strikes out. While his average has been scarily consistent the past few seasons, like scary consistent, Davis is very much defensively limited, so hiding him at DH is a great way for Oakland to get the most out of him.
Brett Anderson and Mike Fiers are the two best arms in the rotation, which is not a sentence that should truly be said. While both are solid options, neither are proven enough to be able to carry a staff throughout the course of a season.
This team will fight and claw to compete for a Wild Card berth but to no avail. There are too many weapons in the AL that will keep this franchise down. To any Athletics fans out there, sorry.
Projected record: 83-79
Los Angeles Angels – 2nd, American League West
Wasting away the prime years of Mike Trout is an abomination for this franchise, but yet here we sit. Not surrounding Trout with the necessary pieces to compete, much less make the playoffs, will eventually push him out of town.
The Angels are the biggest threat to the Astros repeating as divisional champs, but with the unfortunate injury that AL Rookie of the Year Shohei Ohtani faced last season, this team will need to regroup and overcome.
Albert Pujols needs to have a career year to help balance out the lineup, and with Trout garnering the most attention from the opposing pitching staff, both Pujols and Kole Calhoun, among others, need to break out and become key role players for this team.
Rotation-wise, bringing in Trevor Cahill and Matt Harvey are solid additions but nothing to push this team over the edge. They will surely miss Ohtani’s pitching this season unless they go out and acquire a big arm.
Projected record: 85-77
Houston Astros – 1st, American League West
With the preseason favorite to compete with the Red Sox and New York Yankees in representing the AL in the World Series, Houston has holes that need to be filled. Badly.
Losing Keuchel is a big deal, as he was a solid lefty who helped bring some levity to the rotation during the playoffs. But a bigger piece who is assuredly out the door is Marwin Gonzalez, the Swiss army knife that produced big-time in clutch moments at the plate for this team in 2018.
Bringing in Michael Brantley to play center field and maybe even log some innings at first base is a good step to replacing offensive production, but Brantley has had health issues that have limited his production recently. A good move nonetheless, Brantley will be under the spotlight from the getgo to help return this team back to where it finished last season and help this squad get back to the World Series.
Yuli Gurriel, George Springer and Alex Bregman, as well as Jose Altuve, will all need to produce at higher levels than last season if they want to have as much of a successful year this season as in 2018. Maybe not a darkhorse, but an under-the-radar pick for the World Series champion in 2019.
Projected record: 92-70