2017 MLB Season Preview – American League West

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Houston Astros

2016 Record:84-78  • 3rd AL West

O/U on Wins: 87.5 • Over

Moving In: DH Carlos Beltran • C Brian McCann • RF Josh Reddick • P Charlie Morton • OF Nori Aoki

Moving Out: C Jason Castro • 3B Luis Valbuena • OF Colby Rasmus • P Doug Fister • P Pat Neshek

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Dallas Keuchel. Saying that the 2015 AL Cy Young winner had a down year would be an understatement. Keuchel went from 20-8/2.48/1.01/216 in 232 innings to 9-12/4.55/1.29/144 in 168 innings in 2016. Yes, Keuchel did struggle with injuries throughout the season but when he was healthy, he struggled with his command and ended up surrendering more hits, walks and HR than his previous season. While the ‘stros did bolster their lineup in the offseason, they did not address a rotation that is one or two injuries away from a big problem. In order to become the clear cut favourite in the AL West, the Astros will need Keuchel to return to his 2015 form.

Potential Breakout: P Joe Musgrove. A supplemental first round pick (46) by the Blue Jays in 2011, Musgrove was acquired by the Astros in the J.A Happ trade. Since then, Musgrove has shot through the Astros minor leagues and made his MLB debut in 2016. In 10 starts last season, Musgrove went (4-4/4.06/1.21/55 in 62 innings. Musgrove will open the season in competition with Mike Fiers for the 5th spot in the rotation. If he does not claim it, look for him to either go to the bullpen or be the first call up from AAA if an injury occurs.

Top Prospect: P Frances Martes • Age: 21  • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: Jiovanni Mier (21st) over Mike Trout (25th) in 2009.

Fantasy Stud: Jose Altuve • 2016 Stats: .338/.928/24/96/7.7 WAR in 640 AB

Money’s Man Crush: In all honesty, what is not to love about the Astros? They play in one of the sexier ballparks in MLB. They have some of, if not the best throwback jerseys in the majors. And they’re loaded with an absolute embarrassing amount of young, talented players. It’s hard to pick whom to swoon over more when you have the likes of SS Carlos Correa, 2B Jose Altuve, RF George Springer, 3B Alex Bregman, P Lance McCullers, and that is just a sample smattering of the studs that the ‘stros possess.

2017 Prediction: 1st AL West.

 

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Los Angeles Angels

2016 Record: 74-88 • 4th AL West

O/U on Wins: 76.5 • Under

Moving In: 2B Danny Espinosa • OF Cameron Maybin • OF Ben Revere • P Jesse Chavez • P Andrew Bailey • 3B Luis Valbuena

Moving Out: P Jered Weaver • P CJ Wilson •P Jhoulys Chacin • P Tim Lincecum • C Jett Bandy • SS Gregario Petit

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Garrett Richards. After a breakout season in 2014 was cut short by a torn knee ligament, Richards once again had a season interrupted because of a torn ligament. In 2016, he made 6 starts before being diagnosed with a torn UCL. Although he required Tommy John surgery, Richards opted against the surgery, instead going with rehab and biometric injections similar to Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP). Although it will take a miracle short of Joseph Gordon Levitt seeing actual angels for the LA Angels to make the playoffs or even compete for them for that matter, Richards’ return and progress from injury could be a bright spot for the Angels that is not named Mike Trout.

Potential Breakout: P Tyler Skaggs. Skaggs is currently in his second stint with the Angels. He was originally drafted by them in the first round of 2009 and then traded to the Diamondbacks in a package for Dan Haren in 2010, before being reacquired in a three team trade in 2013. However his 2nd debut for the Angels was cut short by Tommy John surgery which also kept him out for all of 2015. In 2016, Skaggs made 10 starts for the Angels, he went (3-4/4.17/1.49/50 in 49.2 innings. Skaggs did average a K/9 over 9 but also had a BB/9 of 4.2 in his limited action. With the Angels lacking depth on the mound and barring any setbacks or further injuries, you can expect Skaggs to set a new career high in starts since he made 18 in 2014.

Top Prospect: OF Jahmi Jones • Age: 19 • MLB ETA: 2019

First Round Draft Miss: 3B Kaleb Cowart (18th) over OF Christian Yelich (24th), Aaron Sanchez (34th) and Noah Syndergaard (38th) in 2010.

Fantasy Stud: OF Mike Trout • 2016 Stats: .315/.991/29/100/10.6 WAR in 549 AB

Money’s Man Crush: Nothing else needs to be said besides the name, Mike Trout.

2017 Prediction: 5th AL West

 

sonny-gray

 

Oakland A’s

2016 Record: 69-93 • 5th AL West

O/U on Wins: 66.5 • Over

Moving In: OF Rajai Davis • UT Trevor Plouffe • OF Matt Joyce • 1B/OF Chris Parmalee• OF Jaff Decker

Moving Out: UT Danny Valencia • P Ross Detwiler • OF Sam Fuld

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Sonny Gray. The A’s righty went from being an All Star and finishing 3rd in AL Cy Young voting in 2015 to a minus WAR pitcher in 2016. Although Gray was limited to just 117 innings last season because of injury, his 11 losses, 5.69 ERA and 1.50 WHIP are all new career highs (or lows). Gray was also more susceptible to the long ball, with a HR/9 of 1.4 over a paltry .7 the year before. Batters were also making more frequent and better contact off Gray, as he set a new career high in H/9 with 10.4. The A’s will need Gray to have a big bounce back season if they have any aspirations of competing to even break .500. A rebound season would also be beneficial to Gray’s trade value if and when the A’s start taking calls. You know Billy Beane won’t hesitate to make a deal for Gray if the right one comes along.

Potential Breakout: P Sean Manaea. The key piece that the A’s received from the Royals in exchange for Ben Zobrist in 2015, Manaea made his MLB debut in 2016 and looked very impressive. Manaea posted a stat line of 7-9/3.86/1.19/124 in 144 innings and had a WAR of 2.7. The continuing emergence of Manaea could make the thought of trading Sonny Gray that more enticing, especially if the A’s stumble out of the gate. On the flip, if the A’s do have a surprising season, you can bank on Manaea to be a vital contributor to the cause.

Top Prospect: SS/2B Franklin Barreto • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: P James Simmons (21) over Rick Porcello (27) in 2007.

Fantasy Stud: Khris Davis  2016 Stats: .247/.831/42/102/2.8 WAR in 555 AB

Money’s Man Crush: I will tell you what it isn’t, it’s sure as hell not that archaic cesspool of a ballpark that the A’s play in. Luckily for the fans, the A’s have some of the sweetest throwback jerseys in MLB which gives them something to take their mind off the fact that the sewage system could backup at anytime. As far as which throwback is best, you can’t go wrong with any version from 1967-1976 or the late 80’s-early 90’s.

2017 Prediction: 4th AL West

 

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Seattle Mariners

2016 Record: 86-76 •2nd AL West

O/U on Wins: 85.5 • Over

Moving In: SS Jean Segura • UT Danny Valencia • P Drew Smyly • C Carlos Ruiz • P Mark Rzepcynski • P Casey Fien • P Chris Heston • P Shae Simmons

Moving Out: P Taijuan Walker • SS Ketel Marte • 1B Adam Lind • P Nate Karns • OF Nori Aoki • P Vidal Nuno • P Zack Lee

Key Player(s) in 2017: C Mike Zunino. Despite bringing in veteran backstop, Carlos Ruiz, in the offseason, the starting catching position is really Zunino’s to lose. With the dreaded word “bust” starting to float around more and more, this could be a make or break year for the former 3rd overall pick in 2012. Entering his 5th season, Zunino will need to improve his offensive production if he has any hopes of being the starting C for the entire season. Through four seasons, Zunino has produced a career stat line of .196/.632/50/133/1.8 WAR in 350 G. With the Mariners having division title and playoff ambitions, they will need production out of their C position. They will not have time to sit around and wait on Zunino.

Potential Breakout: P James Paxton. Every season it seems that Paxton is poised for a big breakout. He will rattle off a series of great starts before getting bit by the injury bug and hitting the shelves for an extended period of time. When he is healthy, Paxton shows signs of being one of the better young southpaws in the game. Unfortunately for him and the Mariners, his inability to remain on the field has prevented him from reaching his full potential. With Taijuan Walker’s departure, Paxton will be leaned on a little more this season, especially with the Mariners hopes for October baseball.

Top Prospect: OF Kyle Lewis • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2018

First Round Draft Miss: P Danny Hultzen (2nd) over everyone else (Rendon, Lindor, Baez, Springer, J. Fernandez and S. Gray) in 2011.

Fantasy Stud: 2B Robinson Cano • 2016 Stats: .298/.882/39/103/7.3 WAR in 655 AB

Money’s Man Crush: P Felix Hernandez. Even in the twilight of his career, every start by the King has a chance to be something special. It’s also hard not to love the fan section known as “the Kings Court.”

2017 Prediction: 2nd AL West

 

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Texas Rangers

2016 Record: 95-67 • 1st AL West

O/U on Wins: 86.5 • Under

Moving In: 1B Mike Napoli • P Tyson Ross • P Andrew Cashner • P Allen Webster

Moving Out: UT Ian Desmond • DH Carlos Beltran • 1B Mitch Moreland • P Derek Holland • P Colby Lewis

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Yu Darvish. In 2016, Darvish made 17 starts in his return from Tommy John surgery. He went 7-5/3.41/1.12/132 in 100.1 innings, clearly showing very little signs of rust. With both the Astros and the Mariners fortifying their rosters in the offseason, while the Rangers lost key pieces to their 2016 success, a return to dominance for Darvish will be vital for the Rangers to defend their AL West title. 2017 will also be the final one in regards to Darvish’s contract. His performance this season will dictate which kind of deal he will land and perhaps where it will be too. Personally, I doubt that the Rangers will let Darvish get away but I would not be surprised at all to see him test the free agent market and compare offers.

Potential Breakout: 3B Joey Gallo. Signing of Mike Napoli hurts his chances of landing the everyday 1B job. Has worked at making himself more versatile and can also play 3B and LF, as well as DH. Gallo has light tower power but his all or nothing approach at the plate (76 strikeouts in 133 AB for his career) has hindered his offensive progression. At 23 years of age, Gallo is still young enough for the Rangers to be patient with his free swinging ways but for his own production, Gallo will need to drastically cut down on his K’s if he has ambitions of being an everyday DH while he waits for a position to open.

Top Prospect: OF Leody Taveras • Age: OF • MLB ETA: 2020

First Round Draft Miss: OF Jake Skole (15th) over Christian Yelich (23rd) in 2010.

Fantasy Stud: P Cole Hamels • 2016 Stats: 15 W/3.32/1.30/200/4.9 WAR in 200.7 IP

Money’s Man Crush: 3B Adrian Beltre. If you’re a baseball fan and you don’t love Adrian Beltre then we can never be friends.

2017 Prediction: 3rd AL West

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2016 MLB Regular Season Predictions • American League

2016-opening-day

Happy Opening Day to all of the baseball fans out there! I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t still emotionally hungover from last years Blue Jays playoff run. Every baseball moment from the “Bat Flip Heard Around the World” has been a complete blur, as was the subsequent offseason. Yet all of that is past us. Every team has a clean slate, and anything can happen.

 

American League East

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles

2015 Record: 81-81 (3rd AL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 78 Wins • Push

X-Factor: Chris Tillman • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Dylan Bundy • RHP

Futures Report: Hunter Harvey • RHP

2016 Final Standing: 4th AL East

 

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Boston Red Sox

2015 Record: 78-84 (5th AL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 87 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Clay Buchholz • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Jackie Bradley Jr. • OF

Futures Report: Yoan Moancada • 2B

2016 Final Standing: 2nd AL East

 

AP Blue Jays Yankees Baseball

 

New York Yankees

2015 Record: 87-75 • (2nd AL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 85 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Nathan Eovaldi • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Luis Severino • SP

Futures Report: Jorge Mateo • SS

2016 Final Standing: 3rd AL East

 

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Tampa Bay Rays

2015 Record: 80-82 • (4th AL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 82 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Corey Dickerson • OF

Potential Breakout Player: Jake Odorizzi • SP

Futures Report: Blake Snell • LHP

2016 Final Standing: 4th AL East

 

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Toronto Blue Jays

2015 Record: 93-69 • (1st AL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 87 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Troy Tulowitzki • SS

Potential Breakout Player: Aaron Sanchez • SP

Futures Report: Anthony Alford • OF

2016 Final Standing: 1st AL East

 

 

American League Central

 

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Chicago White Sox

2015 Record: 76-86 • (4th AL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 82 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Todd Frazier • 3B

Potential Breakout Player: Carlos Rodon • SP

Futures Report: Carson Fullmer • RHP

2016 Final Standing: 4th AL Central

 

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Cleveland Indians

2015 Record: 81-80 • (3rd AL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 87 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Michael Brantley • OF

Potential Breakout Player: Tyler Naquin • OF

Futures Report: Bradley Zimmer • OF

2016 Final Standing: 2nd AL Central

 

Detroit Tigers batter Miguel Cabrera watches the ball as he hits a two-run, two-strike, two-out, home run to tie the game in New York

 

Detroit Tigers

2015 Record: 74-87 • (5th AL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 82.5 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Justin Verlander • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Daniel Norris • SP

Futures Report: Michael Fulmer • RHP

2016 Final Standing: 5th AL Central

 

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Kansas City Royals

2015 Record: 95-67 • (1st AL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 84.5 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Lorenzo Cain • OF

Potential Breakout Player: Danny Duffy • SP

Futures Report: Raul Adalberto Mondesi • 2B/SS

2016 Final Standing: 1st AL Central

 

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox

 

Minnesota Twins

2015 Record: 83-79 • (3rd AL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 80 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Miguel Sano • 3B

Potential Breakout Player: Byron Buxton • OF

Futures Report: Jose Berrios • RHP

2016 Final Standing: 3rd AL Central

 

 

American League West

 

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Houston Astros

2015 Record: 86-76 • (2nd AL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 87.5 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Carlos Correa • SS

Potential Breakout Player: Ken Giles • RP

Futures Report: Alex Bergman • SS

2016 Final Standing: 1st AL West

 

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Los Angeles Angels

2015 Record: 85-77 • (3rd AL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 79.5 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Albert Pujols • 1B/DH

Potential Breakout Player: Andrew Heaney • SP

Futures Report: Taylor Ward • C

2016 Final Standing: 4th AL West

 

Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros

 

Oakland A’s

2015 Record: 68-94 • (5th AL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 76 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Sonny Gray • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Kendall Graveman • SP

Futures Report: Franklin Barreto • SS

2016 Final Standing: 5th AL West

 

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners

 

Seattle Mariners

2015 Record: 76-86 • (4th AL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 82.5 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Kyle Seager • 3B

Potential Breakout Player: Taijuan Walker • SP

Futures Report: Alex Jackson • OF

2016 Final Standing: 3rd AL West

 

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Texas Rangers

2015 Record: 88-74 • (1st AL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 82.5 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Yu Darvish • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Roughned Odor • 2B

Futures Report: Joey Gallo • 3B

2016 Final Standing: 2nd AL West

 

Awards

American League MVP

  1. Troy Tulowitzki • SS • Toronto Blue Jays
  2. Carlos Correa • SS • Houston Astros
  3. Mookie Betts • OF • Boston Red Sox

 

American League Cy Young

  1. Chris Sale • LHP • Chicago White Sox
  2. Cole Hamels • LHP • Texas Rangers
  3. Chris Archer • RHP • Tampa Bay Rays

 

American League Rookie of the Year

  1. Byron Buxton • OF • Minnesota Twins
  2. Joey Gallo • 3B • Texas Rangers
  3. Blake Snell • SP • Tampa Bay Rays

 

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2015 MLB Season Preview · AL West · Texas Rangers

Rangers Ballpark in Arlington

Texas Rangers

Home Ballpark: Rangers Ballpark in Arlington

2014 Finish: 67-95 · 5th AL West

Over/Under Wins in 2015: 76.5 · Under

What We Love:

Adrian Beltre: It seems almost a lifetime ago that Beltre mashed 48 HR with the Dodgers, but that was only 11 years ago (wow). Remember when he parlayed that season into a monstrous free agent contract in Seattle, only to have people question if he had anything left in his tank after the contract expired? Remember how he silenced those same critics by putting up a (near) career year in Boston (.321/28/102) after signing a one year deal? How about how he established himself as one of the premier 3B in the game after four straight dominant seasons in Texas?

During his four year tenure in the Lone Star State, Beltre has hit .315/117/376 in 589 games, made three All Star teams, won two Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, and finished 3rd in MVP voting in 2012. Not too shabby for a guy who seemed to be in decline following his days in Seattle (2008). Besides raking at the plate and playing exceptional defense in the field, Beltre has also managed to play himself into the Hall of Fame conversation. Beltre currently sits with a .285 career average, 395 HR, 2604 hits and four Gold Gloves; those numbers alone are borderline Hall of Fame worthy. Now factor in that Beltre could feasibly play another 3-5 years and perhaps reach 450 career HR and 3000 hits. How does this guy not get into Cooperstown?

Beltre

 

Honourable Mentions:

  • Seeing Prince smash baseballs (again): The Big Man only hit 3 HR in 150 AB in his Texas debut before being shut down for the season to undergo spinal fusion surgery on a herniated disk in his neck. When healthy, Fielder is among the elite power threats in MLB and his power should play well in his home field.
  • Top of the order: RF Choo, SS Andrus, 1B Fielder and 3B Beltre.
  • Joey Gallo’s power: Rangers top prospect might have best power in the minor leagues, having hit 104 HR in three minor league seasons.
  • Watching Beltre LOSE IT when someone touches his head: Just don’t do it!

http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/6479266/v34918997/nyytex-beltres-teammates-always-mess-with-him

 

What We Hate:

Depth of Starting Rotation: Even before receiving the (disastrous) news that rotation ace, Yu Darvish, would be lost for the entire 2015 season because of Tommy John surgery, the Rangers were already being faced with a pretty thin starting rotation. Aside from the injury to Darvish, the Rangers also have starters, Matt Harrison and Martin Perez, currently sitting on the shelf with injuries. Perez will be out until mid season as he recovers from his own Tommy John surgery, while Matt Harrison, who was originally rumoured to have his career ended by injury, could potentially return by mid season as he battles back from lumbar spinal disk fusion surgery.

Heading into 2015, the Rangers will look to LHP Derek Holland to anchor the rotation, although Holland too has struggled to stay healthy and has spent time on the DL. Yovanni Gallardo was brought in from Milwaukee via trade, but with a diminishing fastball and strikeout rate who knows what to expect from the new arrival. The backend of the rotation doesn’t get much better as it will be rounded out by the trio of RHP Colby Lewis, LHP Ross Detwiler and RHP Nick Tepesch. There is also a possibility that top pitching prospect, Jake Thompson, who was acquired from Detroit for RP Joakim Soria, could make an appearance in the rotation at some point during the season.

Yu darvish

 

Honourable Mention:

  • Yu Darvish’s Torn UCL: Rotation implications aside, Tommy John surgery for the Rangers ace will prevent fans from seeing one of the best in the game until mid 2016 (at the earliest).
  • Bottom of the order: DH Mitch Moreland has the most offensive upside after the top of the order. After him, things could get bleak. The lineup should be rounded out by the likes of LF Jake Smolinski, CF Leonys Martin, 2B Rougned Odor and C Robinson Chirinos.
  • Remaining contracts of Fielder, Choo and Andrus: Fielder will get a princely sum of $24mil per year through 2020, Choo will get $20mil a season through 2020 and Andrus will make $15mil a season through 2020.
  • Jurrickson Profar’s days as a top prospect: Two years removed from being the consensus best prospect in baseball, Rangers fans will have to wait until 2016 to see their former elite prospect back on the field after suffering (another) shoulder injury.
  • On the DL: Rangers set a MLB record in 2014 when their players spent a combined 2116 days on the Disabled List.

 

Player to Watch: 1B Prince Fielder. It is really hard to get a pulse on what type of player Prince will be following his return from spinal fusion surgery. While the Rangers, and baseball fans far and wide, will hope to see the big man return to his old ball crushing ways, there will be no guarantees that he returns to his former dominance. As a batter, Fielder puts every possible ounce of energy he has into each and every swing. This, in turn, could be extremely dangerous and detrimental to the injury, and subsequent surgery, that cost him his 2014. Even more concerning, is knowing that there is a possibility that the spinal surgery could cause further regression and force Fielder from the game early; similar to what happened to his father, Cecil. Personally, even as a Blue Jays fan, I hope that the big man comes back better than ever. MLB is that more exciting when Prince is mashing.

Prince Texas

Top Pitching Prospect: Jake Thompson · RHP · MLB ETA: 2015

jake thompson

Top Positional Prospect: Joey Gallo · 3B · MLB ETA: 2015

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Top 30 Prospects (MLB.com): http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=tex

Final Prediction: 5th AL West

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