Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani (17) is greeted by his teammates after he scored on a double by Taylor Ward during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics, Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)

AL West Set for Contentious Finish After All-Star Break

With the 2023 MLB All-Star Break in full swing, players have an opportunity to rest and relax before the regular season grind continues. This luxury was not extended to the AL West. Nearly the entire division is on the cusp of a postseason appearance and no team seems eager to be the odd men out. Four of the five AL West teams are within striking distance of a playoff spot and face a feisty road to October ahead.

Rangers look to run away as division leader

The Texas Rangers faced treacherous waters early on following the loss of ace pitcher Jacob deGrom to Tommy John’s, but have stayed afloat atop the AL West thanks to consistent batting across the order. They currently hold a 52-39 record and hold the division lead by two games. The Rangers lead the MLB with five All-Star starters. Six players sit at 45 or more RBIs and a plus-.250 batting average. As a team, the Rangers rank first in the MLB for batting average, RBIs and on-base percentage.

Leading the Rangers’ roster is right-fielder Adolis Garcia. Garcia leads the rangers in multiple offensive categories and provides game-changing power to the roster. He’s already at the 75 mark for RBIs and has slugged 23 homers so far in 2023.

Despite holding the division lead, the Rangers stumbled into the All-Star break. They went 3-7 in the last 10 games and dropped two straight to the Washington Nationals. The skid opens up the playoff picture and gives those trailing Texas a chance to chase the division crown.

Astros in wild card, chasing more

The Houston Astros (50-41) sit two games back of the Rangers in the AL West. The ‘Stros look primed to make it an All-Texas showdown for the division.

Houston was highly-touted headed into the season ranked first by ESPN. Since then, the Astros came out to a slow start, in part thanks to small injuries across the roster. Since regaining its full strength, Houston is back to competitive status. The Astros tool six of its last 10 before the break and will look to improve further in the season.

Team slugging and home-run hitting is the name of Houston’s game. Five players sit at 10 homers or above and the trio of Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez all have 55 or more RBIs. While firmly seated in a wild card spot, the Astros will be aiming to leapfrog the Rangers for first place.

Red-hot Mariners hunt October

Although the Seattle Mariners (45-44) sit four games back from a Wild Cart spot, the young Mariners may be the hottest team in the AL West. They went 7-3 in their last 10 games and earned a 3-1 series victory over the Astros just before break.

Second-year phenom Julio Rodriguez has taken the league by storm and is the most exciting name on the Mariners’ roster. He already knocked 91 hits and 49 RBIs before the break with 13 home runs. If his historic performance at the 2023 home run derby is any indicator, Rodriguez is determined to boost Seattle’s playoff chances in electric fashion.

Angels at a crossroads

The Los Angeles Angels (45-46) have a decision to make. While sitting one-game under .500 and five games back from the wild card isn’t a death sentence, it doesn’t bold well for a franchise with its future in question.

Los Angeles (specifically Anaheim) has been unable to secure any significant success despite being home to league superstars Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout. So much so, in fact, that the two stars have been at the center of trade rumors for nearly two seasons. The Angels have been unable to build a championship roster around its franchise faces and are now left with a choice: Try to build around Trout and Ohtani and risk being burned in free agency, or blow it up now and maximize trade value while they still can. Either way, the L.A. front office must choose quickly and wisely.

Athletics can call it a season

Perhaps the only AL West team who can put a competitive second half to rest is the Oakland Athletics. At 25-67, Oakland is the worst team in baseball. The biggest story out of Oakland is whether or not baseball will continue to be played in the Bay Area, as ownership eyes a move to Las Vegas for a new stadium and more profitable audience.

With mostly every team in the preparing for a playoff sprint, the MLB season is just getting started for the AL West. Time will tell which team is atop the division, and which teams will be competing for a ring come October.

About Jackson Castellano

Jackson Castellano is a third-year Sports Media Journalism student at the University of Florida.

Check Also

Gators in the MLB: Where Are They Now?

The Florida Gators baseball program has been well-represented in Major League Baseball for decades. From …