2015 MLB Preview: AL West
The AL West used to be one of the most dominant divisions that existed in Major League Baseball, but has taken a step back in the last 10-15 years. With the addition of the Houston Astros prior to the 2014 season, it looked as if the AL West was headed down a path of mediocrity. Fast-forward to the 2015 offseason, and the rosters of teams in the AL West look very different–in a good way. What will 2015 bring for the teams in the AL West? A changing of the guard, of sorts.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Their name is just as long as their reign in the AL West. Sure, the Oakland A’s have won the AL West title recently, but the Angels are the class of the division. They finished 2014 with the best record in all of baseball (98-64), but were anything but spectacular in the playoffs. Finishing with the best record is pointless if they have another showing like they did when they were swept by the Kansas City Royals in the first round last year, but I think that it will be fresh in their minds this season, and I look for Mike Trout and Co. to have another solid season in 2015.
Burning Question: Will the Josh Hamilton relapse and possible suspension be too big of a distraction for the Angels?
Prediction: 1st place
The Mariners fell just one game short of making the playoffs in 2014; which would have ended a playoff drought that hasn’t seen Seattle in the postseason since 2001. The Mariners have added OF Nelson Cruz to bring some much-needed power to the lineup, and this will also provide 2B Robinson Cano more pitches to hit in 2015. Pair that with excellent starting pitching and the No. 1 bullpen in baseball, and the Mariners might have a recipe for success in 2015. Look for the Mariners to threaten the Angels for AL West supremacy, but fall just short of that ever-elusive title.
Burning Question: Will the addition of Cruz and other free agents help provide more run support for the M’s pitching staff?
Prediction: 2nd place
The A’s have a very different looking roster from 2014. They have added Ike Davis, Billy Butler, Ben Zobrist, Brett Lawrie, and Tyler Clippard, but have lost Josh Donaldson, Yunel Escobar (traded for him, then traded away), and Brandon Moss. This A’s lineup is nowhere near as scary as it was in 2014, and AL West pitching staffs have noticed. The strength of the A’s was a balanced pitching staff, but even that won’t be enough in 2015.
Burning Question: Why did the A’s trade away so much from a team that was solid in 2014, and will it cost them in 2015?
Prediction: 3rd place
The Rangers fell apart last season, and injuries played a major factor in that. They finished with a 67-95 record, and did not have 1B Prince Fielder or SP Yu Darvish down the stretch. Adrian Beltre did not have any protection in the lineup, but still managed to produce (.324 AVG, 19 HR, 77 RBI). Shin Soo-Choo did not have that great of a year, but the power that is in the Rangers lineup has the ability to send the ball into orbit, even against better-than-average pitching that is on the other rosters in the AL West.
Burning Question: How much will the loss of SP Yu Darvish (elbow injury) affect the Rangers in 2015?
Prediction: 4th place
The Houston Astros have struggled so much as a team, and joined the AL West in 2014. If it wasn’t for the Texas Rangers, they would have been cellar-dwellers once again. But, they did improve slightly with a 70-92 record last season. They have added a few pieces in the offseason in OF Colby Rasmus, SS Jed Lowrie, and OF Evan Gattis, and this should help the rest of this young Astros team. If you are a fan of the Houston Astros, chances are you are getting very excited to see what progress this team can make in 2015. Unfortunately, it is probably not enough to threaten the top teams in the AL West this coming season.
Prediction: 5th place
The AL West should see more combined wins in 2015, and an Astros lineup that is young and hungry. If all of these lineups are able to produce outside of division play, there is a chance that three teams could earn a playoff spot in 2015. The Angels are hoping for better postseason play. The Mariners are hoping to have a power surge. The A’s are hoping that they can make a Moneyball sequel. The Rangers are hoping that the injury bug doesn’t bite anyone else. The Astros are hoping that their youth gives them an advantage when paired with some veteran acquisitions. They all are hoping to win the AL West crown in 2015, so prepare for a fireworks show.
Dustin Brown covers MLB for MFST, you can follow him on Twitter @SprtsWritingMan.