Over the past decade, the Houston Astros have evolved from a franchise struggling to find its way in the American League to perennial contenders to win the pennant. On their way to reaching four World Series since 2017, Houston has dominated the AL West, winning the division each year besides the shortened 2020 season. The Astros are the defending World Series champions but will have to account for the loss of ace Justin Verlander to the Mets.
Jose Altuve will miss the first eight weeks of the regular season, and we will have to see how Yordan Alvarez’ hand holds up after he missed most of the spring training. The window for other AL West teams to usurp the Astros seems more ajar than we have seen in a long time. The Seattle Mariners reached the postseason for the first time in twenty years in 2022, and there is a palpable buzz surrounding the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels heading into the 2023 season. The AL West is one of the most exciting divisions. Below is my projected order of finish.
1. Seattle Mariners
Seattle’s rotation last season was solid. It will be better with a full year of Luis Castillo, a deadline acquisition in July. The organization can also expect Robbie Ray to perform closer to his 2021 CY Young winning level. Logan Gilbert and George Kirby are two young dealers who performed great last year, gaining valuable experience pitching experience in September and October. The Mariners also return a talented bullpen featuring Paul Sewald, Andres Munoz, and Diego Castillo. Their bullpen in 2022 finished sixth of 30 teams in terms of ERA. The pitching staff is dependable and should provide the backbone of a successful team.
The organization wasted no time trying to find an outfielder who could fill the shoes of Haniger. Seattle acquired Teoscar Hernandez from the Toronto Blue Jays for reliever Erik Swanson. Hernandez averages 33 HR per 162 games in his career and will fit nicely in a corner outfield position besides Julio Rodriguez. Julio Rodriguez is one of the game’s brightest stars. The 2022 AL Rookie of the Year, Rodriguez hit 28 HR and stole 25 bases as a 21-year-old. The Mariners also added two-time Gold Glove winner Kolten Wong to their infield. I think this team benefits from their youth gaining a year of experience. The loss of Astro Jose Altuve for at least two months does not hurt their chances either.
2. Houston Astros
Photo Cred: ESPN
Despite the loss of Justin Verlander in free agency, the Astros have one of the best starting rotations in MLB. The loss of Altuve for at least two months due to his injury in the World Baseball Classic will hurt. If Altuve and Alvarez recover well from their hand issues, the Astros will probably win close to 100 games, if not surpassing that number. As always, the bullpen in Houston will be good, featuring Ryan Pressly, Bryan Abreu, and Hector Neris.
The franchise added Jose Abreu in free agency to play first base, bolstering their infield even more. I do not think that the Astros have a down year. I have them making the playoffs and contending for a title. There are more questions surrounding them than the Mariners. The Astros are the odds-on favorite to win the division right now, according to BetMGM. It will be a fun race to follow at the top of the AL West.
3. Los Angeles Angels
Photo Cred: BR
Shohei Ohtani will become a free agent after the 2023 season. This could be the last year we watch the two best players in the world on the same team. The Angels have infamously done little over the decade with Mike Trout. Trout and Anthony Rendon must stay healthy this year and spearhead the lineup. The Angels have also finally built themselves a valid starting rotation. The team added Tyler Anderson, who had a sensational year with the Dodgers a season ago.
Patrick Sandoval is coming off a wonderful year and performed well for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. If the lineup stays healthy and the rotation performs, the Angels will be in contention for a Wild Card spot this year. The Angels need their bullpen to have a good year to contend for a division title. They will rely on Jaime Barria, Aaron Loup, Jose Quijada, and Ryan Tepera to win close games. The Angels have their best roster in quite some time and predict they will win around 85 games and secure a playoff berth, Shohei Ohtani’s first in America.
4. Texas Rangers
Photo Cred: ESPN
The Rangers were abysmal a year ago, winning just 68 games. Oddsmakers around the country have the team winning around 82-83 games in 2023. While they made improvements, I would still take the under in this scenario. Before last season, the Rangers invested a lot of money into their infield, signing Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. Both slightly underperformed in their first seasons in Arlington. This offseason, the team decided to invest in their rotation. The Rangers signed the best pitcher in baseball, Jacob deGrom. They also signed Nathan Eovaldi and Andrew Heaney.
I question DeGrom’s ability to stay on the field for a whole season. Eovaldi will likely provide the team with a quality season, but Heaney could have just benefitted last year from being on the Dodgers, who seem to get the absolute best out of all their starting pitching. I can see why many people are excited about this Ranger’s bunch, but I am not a believer yet. I think they will win around 77 games and miss the playoffs.
5. Oakland Athletics
Photo Cred: BR
We have seen Athletics do more with less to have success prior, but this will not be one of those years. The biggest problem for this team is the starting rotation. Kyle Muller will get the ball on opening day against Shohei Ohtani. Muller has made just 11 starts at the league level. The lineup is not as bad as it was last year. It is experienced enough that the Athletics will win just over 60 games this season. The Athletics are a long way from when they won the division in the shortened 2020 season. 2023 will be another year in the rebuilding phase as questions loom on the organization.