AL West capsules: Astros, Rangers vie for supremacy

By Thomson Reuters Mar 19, 2024 | 9:12 AM


Houston Astros

2023 record: 90-72 (1st place, AL West)


He gone: OF Michael Brantley, C Martin Maldonado, RHP Ryne Stanek, RHP Hector Neris

New faces: LHP Josh Hader, C Victor Caratini

Biggest question entering Opening Day: Will the Astros make one last stand, or will they continue to build on their success? Houston has appeared in seven consecutive American League Championship Series, reaching the World Series four times, including winning two titles. The Astros fell one game short of the World Series last year when they lost to the Rangers in the ALCS. But last season’s victory total was just 90 after the franchise won more than 100 games in four of the previous five full campaigns. So this season may reveal whether the Houston dynasty is about to slide downward or continue its impressive run.

Key hitters such as Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker pace a dangerous offense that can explode at any time. Jose Abreu drove in 90 runs in his first season with the team but was an overall disappointment, and the Astros expect him to bounce back. Houston’s strong rotation is led by Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier, and the Astros signed Josh Hader to be their closer, turning Ryan Pressly into the eighth-inning man.

2024 outlook: Bench coach Joe Espada replaces Dusty Baker as manager after the latter retired in the offseason. Espada has been in the dugout for the past six seasons, so he knows what makes the key players tick and is aware of how the organization works. Expect a smooth transition.

Los Angeles Angels

2023 record: 73-89 (4th place, AL West)


He gone: DH-RHP Shohei Ohtani, INF Mike Moustakas, 3B Eduardo Escobar, INF Gio Urshela, 1B C.J. Cron, OF Randal Grichuk

New faces: RHP Luis Garcia, LHP Matt Moore, OF Aaron Hicks, RHP Adam Cimber

Biggest question entering Opening Day: What are the Angels doing? They never made the playoffs in six seasons with Ohtani and Mike Trout on the same roster, and now Ohtani has departed to join the nearby Dodgers. The Angels didn’t make a big splash on the free-agent front, and a ninth straight losing season feels like a mere formality. Trout has maintained his loyalty to the organization, but could he be the next one to go? One more dreadful season could clinch that.

There is no way to replace a player like Ohtani, and his loss affects the pitching rotation as well as the offense. The Angels hope former No. 1 overall pick Mickey Moniak will have a breakout season. Anthony Rendon, who has been a major bust for the Angels, is healthy at the outset of the season, but will he be in May?

2024 outlook: The Angels hired Ron Washington as manager, and the man who will turn 72 next month is running a club for the first time since 2014. Keeping Trout healthy is crucial since his injuries have limited him to 237 games over the past three campaigns. The starting pitching will need to improve dramatically for the Angels to threaten for a wild-card berth. A trio of Reid Detmers, Griffin Canning and Patrick Sandoval at the top of the rotation won’t scare many opposing batters.

Oakland Athletics

2023 record: 50-112 (5th place, AL West)


He gone: INF Tony Kemp, RHP Trevor May

New faces: LHP Alex Wood, RHP Ross Stripling, INF Abraham Toro, INF-OF Miguel Andujar, RHP Trevor Gott, INF J.D. Davis

Biggest question entering Opening Day: Will Oakland again be the worst team in the majors? It sure looks that way, as the franchise did little to improve in the offseason. Athletics ownership is focused on making a move to Las Vegas work out, but the roster neglect assures that the expected last season in Oakland will not be filled with much winning. Even bettering last season’s 50 victories could be challenging. The Athletics added Wood and Stripling to the rotation in the offseason, but teams in need of pitching will know who to call at the trade deadline if they need an arm. Promising Mason Miller will begin the season in the bullpen and could end up being part of the late-game mix.

2024 outlook: The fact that the club’s lease in Oakland ends after this season and a new stadium in Las Vegas would open in 2028 will leave the team in limbo for the next three seasons. The Athletics’ fans who are die-hard have threatened a boycott of the club, and that would make for a quiet atmosphere at the Coliseum. It will be a circus-like season, and manager Mark Kotsay would be a miracle worker to avoid 100 losses.

Seattle Mariners

2023 record: 88-74 (3rd place, AL West)


He gone: OF Teoscar Hernandez, 3B Eugenio Suarez, LHP Robbie Ray, OF Jarred Kelenic, C Tom Murphy, LHP Marco Gonzales, INF Jose Caballero

New faces: OF Mitch Haniger, C Mitch Garver, 2B Jorge Polanco, RHP Gregory Santos, RHP Ryne Stanek, OF Luke Raley, INF Luis Urias

Biggest question entering Opening Day: Will the offense carry its weight? The Mariners were in the AL West race into the final week of the regular season in 2023 despite having holes in the lineup and a tendency to pile up strikeouts. They traded Suarez, a player with power and a low average, and hope guys such as Polanco, Garver and Haniger (in his second stint in Seattle) can help the production. Polanco is a key figure since the Mariners received little offense from the second base position last season. Basically, superstar Julio Rodriguez needs help. The Mariners have a stellar rotation led by Carlos Castillo, and they made moves in the offseason without giving up Logan Gilbert, George Kirby, Bryce Miller or Bryan Woo. The bullpen should be solid with Andres Munoz as the closer and Stanek and Santos also working in the later innings.

2024 outlook: Seattle reached the postseason in 2022 to end a 20-season drought, so falling short last season was a disappointment. The Mariners won just two fewer games last year and hope they can win 90 or more for the third time in four seasons. The pressure is on.

Texas Rangers

2023 record: 90-72 (2nd place, AL West)


He gone: LHP Jordan Montgomery, LHP Will Smith, LHP Aroldis Chapman, C Mitch Garver, OF Travis Jankowski, RHP Jake Odorizzi, OF Robbie Grossman, C Austin Hedges

New faces: RHP David Robertson, RHP Kirby Yates, RHP Tyler Mahle

Biggest question entering Opening Day: The Texas pitching staff is full of issues, with Jacob deGrom (Tommy John surgery) and Max Scherzer (back) nowhere close to being ready and postseason star Jordan Montgomery now a free agent. Then again, Texas won the World Series last season despite holes in the pitching staff. Signing Montgomery quickly would be the best solution since both sides seem to want a reunion. In the meantime, Texas hopes Nathan Eovaldi can stay healthy and will ask veterans Jon Gray and Andrew Heaney to be the No. 2 and 3 starters, respectively. The Rangers will have a strong rotation once everyone is healthy. Adding veterans such as David Robertson and Kirby Yates should bolster what was a shaky bullpen last season.

2024 outlook: The Rangers again will rely on the potent offense led by Corey Seager and Adolis Garcia. Texas led the AL with 881 runs and tied for the league lead with 233 homers and is content with trying to outscore opponents who don’t have the same level of artillery. Late-season call-up Evan Carter looks like the real deal, and top prospect Wyatt Langford is ready to provide more thunder. Skipper Bruce Bochy’s calm demeanor and overall managerial skills were a huge factor in last season’s championship.

–Field Level Media