MLB 2017: The West
The AL West looks to be a two-team race between the Rangers and the Astros, with the Mariners the dark horse.
If Darvish stays healthy and Perez bounces back, the Rangers should win on the strength of pitching (Hamels, Griffin, Ross) and a fearsome lineup: Lucroy, Andrus, Beltre, Gallo (who will arrive soon), Profar, Carlos Gomez, Choo, Odor…. Not many easy outs here. But the staff isn't deep and that could be the Achilles' heel.
If the Rangers falter, the Astros are poised as they have a deeper staff: Keuchel, McCullers, Morton, McHugh, Musgrove…. The hitters beyond Altuve, Beltran, Springer, and Reddick are more serviceable than fearsome and they are putting a lot of faith in a McCann bounce-back, which I find unlikely. Let's see if Correa is the real deal, or a flash in the pan. Ditto a full year of Yuli Gurriel. MiLB pitchers Martes and Paulino are on the cusp.
The Mariners have been "promising" for so long they're a "Cry wolf!" team. King Felix heads the staff and Iwakuma is a wonderful #2, but they need Gallardo and Paxton to pitch to their promise, and for Smyly either to figure it out or take a hike. Tony Zych is a name to watch. Do they have a closer? As for hitters, there is Cano, Seager, Cruz, Valenica, and pray for walks.
The Angels have a Mike Trout problem. He's the best player in baseball, but he's only the Angels' MVP if they trade him. The rest of the lineup is a declining Pujols and Carlos Perez, the overrated Revere and Maybin, and guys who need career years for the Angels to dream of third place (Calhoun, Escobar, Espinosa, Cron). It's moot, though, as the Angels pitching is two wings and a lot of prayers: Nolasco, Richards, Skaggs, Shoemaker. Name to watch: RHP Kenyan Middleton, but the Angels have the worst prospects in MLB. Trading Trout would change that.
Not much hope for the Athletics. The pitching is Damaged Goods Sonny Gray, Graveman, and guys you've never heard of and probably won't by mid-season. The lineup is cast-offs such as Ploufee, Lowry, Joyce, and Rajal Davis, plus a few legitimate MLB players, Vogt and new pick-up Khris Davis. Looks like a 100-loss team to me unless there is lightening in a minor league system rated so-so.
Kershaw, Maeda, Ryu, Kazmir, Hill, and a rehabbed McCarthy. A lineup of Grandal, Corey Seager, Adrian Gonzalez, Turner, Puig, Pederson, and a deep minor league roster that threatens to displace several of these guys. Let's put it this way: The Dodgers could lose the NL West, but it's hard to see anyone would can beat them.
The Giants, as usual, can pitch: Bumgarner is the best in MLB if Kershaw isn't, plus there's Cueto, Samardzija, Cain, and Matt Moore to round out a staff that rivals the Dodgers. Alas, as usual, the Giants lineup underwhelms once one gets past Posey, Belt, Crawford, and Pence. This team could really use a bat or two.
The Rockies are a perpetual mystery team. Their ace out of spring training is Tyler Chatwood. Ever hear of him? He won 12 games last year and that should tell you a lot. The Rocks will hit homers at high altitude, especially guys like Desmond, Reynolds, Blackmon, Arenado, Story, and Carlos Gonzalez. It's hard to know what this team will do. The Rockies have the 6th best MiLB system in baseball and I expect to see a busy shuttle between Albuquerque and Denver.
If the Rockies' young players stumble, the Diamondbacks could sneak into third, though they are the Mariners of the NL in terms of unfulfilled promise. On paper they are a good team, if Corbin, Greinke, Miller, and Walker pitch like they can. The hitters include the magnificent Goldschmidt, plus Owings and Lamb. The problem is there are too many holes in between.
Patience is in order in San Diego as the Padres are rebuilding after their foolish attempt to rely on guys who never lived up to their hype. Picking up Jared Weaver was a step backward, but Cahill, Richard, and Chacin are decent arms, if healthy. Who will hit? Count me among the Wil Myers Unbelievers. Poaching Solarte from the Yankees was one of their better moves. Luis Torrens could be another. Three rookies will start and expect to see lots of kids shuttle in and out; the Pads have the third best farm system in baseball. Hard to know what to make of the Padres; last or third is equally plausible, but I think they are 2-3 years away.
AL West: Rangers, Astros, Mariners, Angels, A's
NL West: Dodgers, Giants, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Padres.