Pre-end of lockout AL West power rankings

The American League West is looking to be one of the best divisions in baseball whenever the 2022 regular season begins.

The AL West has been a cakewalk for the Houston Astros, who’ve won the division’s championship four out of the last five seasons, with the only exception being the Oakland Athletics’ win in the 2020 shortened season. Even that year the Astros made it all the way to the AL Championship, losing in seven games to the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Astros, who have been the object of the league’s ire and vitriol since their cheating scandal became public knowledge, will have some serious competition for AL West champs once the season finally begins.

Los Angeles Angels

The Angels have had a tough go of it in recent years. They’ve made the playoffs just once in the past 10 seasons, having been swept by the Kansas City Royals in 2014 after finishing with the best record in baseball that year.

However, for Angels fans, there is reason to hope again. They’ve bolstered their pitching staff by signing former Met, all-star starting pitcher, Noah Syndergaard. They also snatched relief pitcher Aaron Loup, who is coming off a career year, away from the Mets, as well as re-signing closer Raisel Iglesias.

The bolstering of their pitching depth is not even to mention the powerhouse that the Angels’ offense has the chance to be. On top of all-stars like Anthony Rendon and Jared Walsh, they now have two MVPs on their team in Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.

Trout is, with good reason, considered generally the best player in baseball since his first MVP victory in 2014. Since then, he’s won two more, the most recent coming in 2019. The Angels’ success in 2022 and beyond will depend on the 30 year old’s ability to stay on the field, as he has appeared in only 89 games over the past two seasons.

Then you have Shohei Ohtani. Perhaps the most exciting player in baseball right now, Ohtani is crafting himself as a 21st century Babe Ruth. Ohtani’s ability to pitch and hit to the degree of success he’s achieved has not been seen since the Bambino.

Ohtani is coming off the first full season of his career; in which he ran away with the AL MVP. His .257 batting average, 46 homers, 100 RBI and .372 OBP would be enough, until you remember that he also made 23 starts on the mound, going 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA.

The Angels’ success will depend on their offensive weapons staying healthy and consistent, as well as their rotation pitching up to snuff.

They’re a tentative #1 in the AL West in this ranking, but they’d be wise to pick up another piece or two once the lockout ends.

Seattle Mariners

Believe it, Mariners fans; you have a winning ballclub in your city. Seattle finished 2nd in the AL West at 90-72 in 2021 despite heartbreakingly missing a wild card berth on the final day of the regular season.

For Seattle, it’s just their 4th winning season since 2010 and their best finish since 2003. Nobody has forgotten the fact that the Mariners also have the longest playoff drought in North American pro sports, which has now reached 20 consecutive seasons after just missing out in 2021.

However, going into 2022, there is a lot more reason to hope. This offseason the Mariners have made two huge pickups.

First was trading for all-star second baseman and outfielder Adam Frazier who hit .305 over 155 games played in 2021 between the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres. Frazier had a noticeable dip in his production after being traded to San Diego, but he’s a reliable .281 career hitter who’s a strong addition to any lineup.

The Mariners need offense, as they finished with a negative run differential and were next to last in the AL West in runs scored, ahead of only the Texas Rangers. Position players like Mitch Haniger, J.P. Crawford and Ty France all had impressive 2021 seasons, however, and the addition of Frazier should only allow for more runs to be produced.

The second pickup was even bigger, as the M’s acquired reigning Cy Young winner, starting pitcher Robbie Ray to a five year, $115 million deal. Ray pitched very well in 2021, making 32 starts and going 13-7 with a 2.84 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP with the Toronto Blue Jays. This was a huge get for the Seattle Mariners as they showed their fans and the baseball world at large that they’re here to compete in 2022.

The addition of Ray is huge for Seattle as they lost their only 2021 all-star Yusei Kikuchi to free agency. Ray will be joining an already solid rotation that most notably features Marco Gonzales, Chris Flexen and Logan Gilbert.

Houston Astros

After making the playoffs for five straight seasons and generally dominating the AL West, this will finally be the year where the Astros miss the playoffs. They’ve won the pennant every other year since 2017, but it doesn’t feel like things are going to go the Astros’ way this season.

Carlos Correa is still a free agent, but it’s unlikely he re-signs with Houston after rejecting their qualifying offer back in November. Zack Greinke also declared free agency in November. On top of that they lost relief pitchers Yimi Garcia, Brooks Raley and most notably, Kendall Graveman.

Their only notable major league moves have been re-signing a 39 year old Justin Verlander who has pitched just six innings over the past two seasons and signing former Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Hector Neris.

Yes, they still have a good rotation and a great lineup with guys like Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker, but the way the rest of the division has bolstered their teams this offseason coupled with their 2nd World Series loss in 3 seasons feels like its let the air out of the tires for Houston.

There is still considerable talent on this team despite a lackluster offseason, but this is the year where the chickens come home to roost for the Houston Astros.

Texas Rangers

The Texas Rangers have surprised everyone by making three huge signings this offseason. They signed shortstop Corey Seager, second baseman Marcus Semien and starting pitcher Jon Gray.

All are great ballplayers and excellent additions to any team. However, this team has more dysfunction than those three players can fix. Sure they’ll do better than their 60-102 regular season record, but that’s not saying much.

Jon Gray is an okay pitcher, but your rotation doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence when he’s your ace. He’s coming off a lackluster 2021 and isn’t projected to pitch much better in 2022. He’ll join Taylor Hearn, Dane Dunning and Spencer Howard in a 2021 rotation that was 23rd in team ERA in 2021.

As for Seager and Semien, those are two great pickups and the Rangers will have them for a long time. Seager signed to a massive 10 year, $325 million contract and is coming off a year in which he was injured a lot, but wound up hitting .306 with a .394 OBP through 95 games.

He’s a lifetime.297 hitter, a 2 time all-star and 2020 World Series MVP, so clearly the Rangers are expecting to get their money’s worth.

For Semien, he excelled in his sole season with the Toronto Blue Jays, hitting .265 with 45 homers and 102 RBI and appearing in his first all-star game. At the end of November, the Rangers signed him to a 7 year, $175 million deal.

If he can get close to that 2021 production, Texas’ offense will be in f shape.

The Rangers offense was near the bottom in almost every standard offensive category in 2021, so if Seager and Semien can get close to their 2021 production, Texas’ offense will be in significantly better shape.

This is a Rangers team that has decent potential for the future, but will take a few years to get into postseason form.

Oakland Athletics

Ah, the pitfalls of being an A’s fan. After finishing 3rd in the AL West at 86-76, it’s hard to imagine a team having a more disappointing offseason. The A’s have lost Mark Canha and Starling Marte to the Mets, Yan Gomes to the Cubs, their longtime manager Bob Melvin to the Padres and have made no significant major league moves.

Even still, there are grumblings about a potential trade involving Oakland’s all-star first baseman Matt Olson.

They have a good rotation with guys like Frankie Montas, Chris Bassitt and Sean Manea, but the A’s are in rebuild mode for the foreseeable future, and most of their team is likely on the trading block in 2022. It’ll be a few seasons before Oakland sees winning baseball again.