With Opening Day kicking off the 2021 Major League Baseball season on Thursday, here is a preview of the American League West.
Houston finished (29-31) second in the AL West, allowing them to make a playoff spot barely. However, once the postseason came around, they shifted gears. The Astros won a couple of postseason series, falling one game short of another World Series appearance. Houston needs to have more regular-season success if they want to make the postseason now that it is five playoff spots once again. It won’t be easy considering Houston lost George Springer to free agency, but this roster still has plenty of talent.
The Astros roster is mostly the same from the previous season, and the expectations remain the same. Houston has made it to the ALCS for four straight seasons, and they are looking to extend the streak to five.
Los Angeles Angels
Last year, the Halos failed to make the postseason. A poor performance from Shohei Ohtani, the continued decline of Justin Upton, and a disappointing debut from rookie Jo Adell all contributed to their 2020 woes.
As it seems every season for the Angels, success will depend on the starting pitcher’s reliability. If Bundy and Ohtani can stay healthy and perform, Canning, Cobb, and Quintana should be able to generate enough innings pitched to prevent overstretching the bullpen.
Coming off their first division title since 2013, Oakland will once again be in the mix in a competitive AL West. However, the lack of offseason improvement diminishes the likelihood that Bob Melvin’s squad will advance past the divisional round for the first time in this recent playoff run.
The main concern for Oakland should be depth, specifically on the offensive side. If one of their top hitters goes down with injury or takes a step back this year, the A’s may find themselves struggling to score runs.
The Rangers traded longtime shortstop Elvis Andrus to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for outfielder Khris Davis. Also missing from the roster is fellow outfielder Delino DeShields, who was informed earlier this week that he would begin the year in the minor leagues. The Rangers needed room for outfielders Eli White and Leody Taveras, and someone had to be sent down, and in this case, it was DeShields.
Texas Rangers right-hander Kyle Gibson went 2-6 for the Rangers in 2020 with an earned run average of 5.35 while striking out 58 over 67 1/3 innings of work. Other starting rotation members include righties Kohei Arihara, Mike Foltynewicz, Dane Dunning, and lefty Taylor Hearn. Also, making the team is right-hander Demarcus Evans. More changes may, and probably will, be in store.
Seattle was MLB’s youngest team last year (weighted by player value), and it could claim that title again in 2021 — though it did add a couple of veterans like starter James Paxton, who’s looking to reclaim the form of his first stint with the Mariners after a rough 2020 with the Yankees.
Ultimately, the Mariners have many exciting pieces, even if front office problems are overshadowing it at the moment. They won’t compete for a playoff spot in ‘21. Still, with a more than competent starting rotation, a decent cast of position players, and some premium talent waiting in the wings, this iteration of the Mariners may at the very least provide a window into what looks to be a bright future for the organization.