X-Oakland Athletics 90-73
In each of the last two years the Oakland Athletics were able to win 97 games, but they were unable to win the American League West as they couldn’t overcome the Houston Astros. And for the second consecutive year, the Athletics were relegated to the A.L. Wild Card Game. But unfortunately for the A’s, they were unable to take advantage of playing in front of a raucous crowd at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum as the Tampa Bay Rays were too much for them in last year’s A.L. Wild Card Game. Oakland consistently has one of the smallest payrolls in Major League Baseball which has hurt them in the postseason as they lack star power. However the A’s have a strong system of developing players which allows them compete, and as the 2020 MLB season is right around the corner, they’ll look to once again be a force to be to be reckoned with in the A.L. West.
These Athletics might not have the physical stature of “The Bash Brothers” of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, but they can still deliver the lumber. Last year Oakland belted 257 homers which was fourth in the American League, and this lineup will once again put stress on opposing pitchers.
After being an afterthought earlier in his career with the Chicago White Sox, shortstop Marcus Semien has found his spot with the Athletics. Semien is coming off of a career year with the A’s as he hit 33 home runs to go along with a .285 batting average, and an on-base percentage of .369. This resulted in Semien finishing third in the American League MVP voting, and as he is set to become a free agent at the end of this season, you can expect him to have another big impact at the plate.
Then there are the Matts as infielders Matt Olson and Matt Chapman combined to hit 72 homers last season. Both sluggers have quickly become two of the more feared power hitters in the American League. And as the walls of the Oakland Coliseum cannot contain them, don’t expect too many other ballparks around the A.L. to do so either.
But if Oakland is going to take the next step in 2020 and win the American League West, they’ll need a solid pitching staff. Last year the Athletics team earned run average of 3.97 was fourth in the A.L., and this unit should be able to improve off of that with a healthy Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas. Starting pitcher Mike Fiers led the A’s in wins last season with 15, and even at the age of 34, he will still be able to give manager Bob Melvin some quality innings in 2020.
Four of Oakland’s first five series this year will be against teams that were in the postseason last season. But with two of those series coming against the Astros, Oakland will look to set the tone as they are seeking their first American League West Title in seven years.
Houston Astros 89-74
The Houston Astros just wrapped up their best three-year stretch in franchise history which included a pair of American League Pennants and one World Series Championship. Over that stretch the Astros also won 311 games in the regular season as they became one of the most feared teams in Major League Baseball.
However this off-season has been the longest in Astros franchise history as Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred dropped hammer on them for their sign-stealing scandal which saw them have an obvious advantage at Minute Maid Park as batters knew what was coming. The fallout from this saw the Astros fire general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch, while MLB stripped the organization of multiple draft picks over the next two years.
The Astros are currently a dumpster fire as their players are constantly the butt of jokes, along with heckling from fans and opposing players as we’ve seen this narrative throughout spring training. James Click is the new Astros general manager, while the team reached out to Dusty Baker to be the team’s new skipper.
The Astros hired Baker due to his prior experience as a Major League Baseball manager as he led the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, and Washington Nationals to the postseason. And it will also be Baker’s job to help this team channel out all of all of the white noise as they look to win the American League West for the fourth consecutive year.
For players such as second baseman Jose Altuve and third baseman Alex Bregman, they will be under the microscope this season. Altuve is a former American League MVP who has become one of the poster boys for the Astros scandal. Altuve is a career .315 hitter, and the pressure will be on him to continue to produce as one of the top hitters in baseball.
The same can be said for Bregman who finished second in the American League MVP voting last season after he batted .296 to go along with 41 home runs and 112 runs batted in. Over the last few years Bregman has been emerging as one the top all-around players in baseball, but like Altuve, the pressure will be on him to maintain his status.
Houston had one of the best pitching staffs in the American League last season, but their unit took a blow when starting pitcher Gerrit Cole and his 20 wins signed with the New York Yankees. Veteran starting pitcher Justin Verlander won 21 games last season en route to winning the A.L. Cy Young Award for the second time in his career, but at the age of 37, how much will Baker be able to get out of him?
Houston also lost starting pitcher Wade Miley and his 14 wins from 2019 as he signed with the Reds, but the hope is that veteran starting pitcher Zack Greinke will be able to fill the void. Houston acquired Greinke from the Arizona Diamondbacks last season, and in 10 starts with the Astros, he went 8-1. But like Verlander, Greinke is an aging pitcher as he is 36, and Baker will have to monitor him in order to get the most out of him.
2020 will be a very trying season for the Astros as this scandal will either bring them closer together, or tear them further apart.
Los Angeles Angels 84-78
The Los Angeles Angels may have the best player in Major League Baseball on their roster, but they have failed in regards to putting a quality team around him. Outfielder Mike Trout continues to be a wizard on the baseball diamond as he batted .291 last season with a career-high 45 home runs, while also driving in 104 runs. Trout’s stellar production led to him winning the American League MVP Award for the third time in his career as it is safe to dub him this era’s version of Ken Griffey Jr. But as good as Trout is, it has not resulted in that much success for the Angels.
The Halos have only made one postseason appearance with Trout, while they have finished each of the last three years with a losing record. The Angels have also had two different managers in each of the last two years as after just one season in Los Angeles, Brad Ausmus was relieved of his duties.
Ausmus’ departure paved the way for the Angels to hire Joe Maddon as their new skipper. Maddon has become one of Major League Baseball’s most recognizable managers as he led the cash strapped Tampa Bay Rays to multiple playoff appearances, while also leading the Chicago Cubs to their first World Series Championship in 108 years. And prior to becoming a manager, Maddon spent 12 years with the Angels as a coach as the front office is hopeful that his familiarity with how things are run there will lead to this team getting back to being a contender in the American League.
You can never accuse Angels owner Arte Moreno of not being willing to spend money on his team, and he did so once more when he signed free agent third baseman Anthony Rendon to a seven-year deal for $245 million. Rendon joins the Angels fresh off of helping the Washington Nationals win their first World Series in franchise history, and he did so by batting a career-high .319, to go along with 34 homers, and 126 runs batted which were both also career best.
The Angels signed Rendon to give Trout some protection in the lineup, but they also know that they could be taking a risk due to the fact that it has been hit or miss for them in free agency in recent years.
Injuries limited both designated hitter Shohei Ohtani and outfielder Justin Upton in 2019 as their returns are vital as they will provide more depth for the Angels.
First baseman/designated hitter Albert Pujols is not the player that he was earlier in his career, but he is closing in on some historic milestones. Pujols’ next run batted in will make him fourth all-time of Major League Baseball’s all-time list in the category, while he is only 5 homers away from surpass the great Willie Mays for fourth place in that category. And as Maddon will surely limit Pujols’ at-bats this year, I would be surprised if the future Hall of Famer plays in more than 125 games.
Make no mistake about it that the Angels will hit in 2020, but where will they find the pitching to offset their offense? Last year Los Angeles posted a team earned run average of 5.12 which was 12th in the American League, while they were only able to produce 22 quality starts. No Angels pitcher made 20 or more starts last season, and their rotation took a blow in spring training as Griffin Canning will miss the entire season as he now requires Tommy John surgery as Maddon and the Halos new pitching coach Mickey Callaway will have their hands full in regards to trying to piece together a pitching staff.
Maddon’s presence will spark some interest in the Angels, but he still has his work ahead of him in regards to making this team a contender.
Texas Rangers 80-82
The last three seasons have seen mediocrity reign supreme over the Texas Rangers. The Rangers have finished no higher than third in the American League West, while two of the last three years have seen them hover around .500, but they were unable to get over the hump. And as the A.L. West is expected to be very competitive in 2020, Texas needs to find a way to stay afloat as they look to break their three-year playoff drought.
For Texas to entertain any thoughts of making the playoffs this season, their pitching has to improve as they were 11th in the American League in team earned run average last season (5.06), while opponents had an on-base percentage of .342 which was 14th. And for Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, he sought some remedy for his pitching staff as the Rangers acquired starting pitcher Corey Kluber from the Cleveland Indians this off-season.
Kluber is a two-time American League Cy Young Award winner, and the Rangers are hopeful that he will be able to bring some of that sizzle with him to North Texas. However 2019 was an injury filled season for Kluber as he only made seven starts for the Indians as fractured right arm derailed his season before it even began. However the Rangers and manager Chris Woodward are hopeful that Kluber is able to regain the form that has made him one of the top pitchers of this era.
If Kluber is healthy, the Rangers do indeed have what it takes to have one of the best starting pitching staffs in the American League. Last season starting pitchers Lance Lynn and Mike Minor combined to win 30 games for the Rangers, while they each are durable to they also combined to make 65 starts for the Rangers as this duo, along with Kluber has the potential to win at least 45 games this year.
It’s hard to believe, but the Rangers offense will not be as potent as it has in year’s past. Second baseman Rougned Odor led Texas in homers last season with 30, but his batting average is barely above the interstate. Infielder Danny Santana has pop in his bat as well, but he is also prone to striking out, while designated hitter Shin-Soo Choo is not the player that he once was, but he still has the innate ability to get on base as he has a career on-base percentage of .377
The Rangers will be a up and down this season as it is not in the cards for them to make a run to the playoffs.
Seattle Mariners 61-101
Unfortunately for the Seattle Mariners, they will enter the 2020 Major League Baseball season in possession of the longest current playoff drought in the league. You have to go back to the 2001 MLB season to find the last time that the Mariners were postseason bound. And since then the M’s have had their near brushes with getting back to October baseball, but they’ve been rebuffed each time. However last year saw Seattle start over from scratch as the Mariners waved the white flag before the start of the season as they’ve acknowledged that they are in rebuilding mode. The Mariners record reflected that as they lost 94 games to mark their worst season since 2011. But as the M’s are going young in an effort to turn things around, does this team have enough to compete in the American League West in 2020?
As Scott Servais is set to embark on his fifth year as the manager of the Mariners, his squad must find a way to overcome the fact they had the fourth worst run differential in the American League last season. Offensively the M’s were 14th in the A.L. in batting (.237), and 10th in on-base percentage (.316).
Seattle does have some pop in the lineup with designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach who led the club in homers last season with 30. But in the case of Vogelbach, it is either feast or famine with him at the plate as he is a career .205 hitter, while he is also prone to the strikeout pitch as he struck out 149 times in 2019.
Pitching was an issue for the M’s in 2019 as they were 10th in the American League in team earned run average (4.99), while their 51 quality starts were 11th. Seattle will once again have their issues on the mound this season, but one player to keep an eye on will be starting pitcher Marco Gonzales.
Last season Gonzales one a career-best 16 games, but he was also the beneficiary of a solid offense behind him that was able to offset his 3.99 earned run average. And if the Mariners bats don’t show up this year, it will be difficult for Gonzales to replicate his win total from a year ago.
An improved American League West coupled with a lack of talent for the Seattle Mariners means that there won’t be too many victory lines in the Pacific Northwest this summer.