2016 MLB: AL West a Two-Texas Race

Fans of that big NFL joke called “parity” ought to love the American League this year. There is no clear cut front runner in any division. Because I must pick someone, I’ll go with the Houston Astros to win the West, but I do with little conviction.

Predicted Order: Astros, Rangers, Angels, Mariners, A’s

If the Rangers aren't Healthy,the 'Stros to Slide In
Health is the number one reason I favor the Houston Astros. If Doug Fister returns to form, the Astros’ staff of Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, and Fister is a formidable 1-3, and McCullers and Feldman aren’t bad as 4-5. The lineup is a bit suspect, especially when not playing in their home bandbox, but Jose Altuve has emerged as the AL’s best second baseman and Gattis, Rasmus, and Valbuena have their moments.

If Yu Darvish really is healthy—and it’s questionable—then my pick shifts to the Texas Rangers who follow with Cole Hamels, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, and Martin Perez to make up an even stronger rotation. Many think Perez is about to bust loose, so I’d not be shocked to see the Rangers repeat. They certainly have a far stronger lineup: Fielder, Beltre, Moreland, and Choo. Ian Desmond is a nice pickup, but Elvis Andrus needs to find himself. Watch out for second sacker Roughned Odor. I’m not wild about Tolleson as a closer and I’m puzzled why Josh Hamilton is still allowed on the field, but I’m sure he’ll implode.

The Los Angeles Angels have bad pitching and it got worse with the injury to Jered Weaver. Garrett Richards is good, but he’s no ace and C. J. Wilson can’t find his groove. The best hope lies in Andrew Heaney, who looks like he’s ready to impress. Daniel Nava starts in left and that’s not a good thing. Nice pick up at short with Andrelton Simmons, but I’m less sold on Yunel Escobar at third. Albert Pujols needs to rebound, or things will go south fast for the Angels. Of course, the thing we know for certain is that this team could go 1-161 and SABR pinheads would insist that Mike Trout should be MVP. He might be the best everyday player in baseball, but he doesn't make a flawed team better.

Many prognosticators pick the Seattle Mariners to leapfrog the Angels and it’s not out of the question. That still doesn’t make the Mariners a good team, though. Sure Felix Hernandez is a BMW, but he’s the pitching analog to Trout; the M’s win their division only if they figure out how King Felix can pitch every day. I like Iwakuma as a number 2, but then who? Wade Miley? Ugh! Taijuan Walker has to live up to his hype for Seattle to do much. They will, however, hit—Nelson Cruz, Adam Lind, and Kyle Seager will see to that and they’ve added speed in Aoki and Leonys Martin—if they can get on base. I don’t care what he says publicly, Robbie Cano is lost in Seattle and I think his glory years are behind him.  

I’ll just say it: Billy Beane is not a genius, Oakland is a garbage heap of a city, the ballpark is the worst in baseball, and virtually everything about the Oakland A’s not named Sonny Gray, Stephen Vogt, or Josh Reddick will stink. (Okay, maybe Khris Davis gets better.) You don’t build a pitching staff with Red Sox retreads and the A’s have two: Felix Doubront and Rich Hill. Sean Doolittle should take up veterinary science, not try to save games. In a division with less flawed front runners the A’s would lose 100 games, but you can pencil them in for 90.  {Note: Doubront went on the DL after I wrote this, so things are even worse.}

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