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Strengths and Weaknesses: What to expect from each American League West team this season

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Photo credit:© Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Veronica Chung
20 days ago
The American League (AL) West division hasn’t been the most dominant in the past couple of years, but they are easily the most competitive when it comes to postseason prowess even if only two teams manage to make it consistently to the party. While the AL East has been recognized as the resident powerhouse of the American League, the AL West has more proven and successful experience in making deeper playoff runs. Heading into the 2024 season, the AL West is certainly going to be more competitive, even with teams like the Oakland Athletics taking a backseat once again. 
Below are some of the key strengths and weaknesses of each AL West team and the teams are in alphabetical order. 

Houston Astros (PECOTA Projection: 95.0 – 67.0)

Strength: Experience
If there is anything the Houston Astros have the upper hand, it’s their seasoned experience in winning the division, Wild Card and playoffs overall. Houston has appeared in the World Series five times, in 2005, 2017, 2019, 2021 and 2022 and has barely missed the playoffs in the recent past. Most of the core players have experienced the playoffs and understand what it takes to get there, and they’ve always managed to succeed in having a sustainable winning record, even if the team only won the World Series once in 2017, albeit amid controversy. In any case, having that experience under the belt has proven to make a difference for Houston. That will remain true, barring any significant changes or injuries to veteran players.
Weakness: Conservative approach to player extensions
Houston has been oddly conservative when it comes to signing its core players to long-term contracts/extensions. While the Astros extended star second baseman José Altuve this offseason, the team has yet to sign right fielder Kyle Tucker and designated hitter Yordan Álvarez to any type of extension despite both players’ contributions to the team. It’s puzzling from the outside to witness Houston’s reluctance in extensions but such has been how owner Jim Crane has operated thus far. He will commit to extensions but it’s a long game that players will also have to commit to also whether they like it or not. With that comes the uncertainty of the playoff core and that could change Houston’s fortune down the road.

Los Angeles Angels (PECOTA Projection: 73.5 – 88.5)

Strength: Ron Washington
There’s no denying that the Los Angeles Angels will never be the same after losing superstar Shohei Ohtani. He is an irreplaceable talent and the team just doesn’t look as competitive and appealing in this post-Ohtani era. If there’s any hope, it comes from the team’s hiring of Ron Washington as the Angels’ new manager. Washington has always been popular among players and has been hailed as someone who can speak to players’ hearts. Even if the roster may not look as strong as before, there is a world where a manager like Washington can turn things around and help the team become unexpectedly peskier and more fun. Washington deserves another go at being a skipper and he could be the wild card for the languishing Angels.
Weakness: Arte Moreno
What more is there to say? Arte Moreno has been all over the place when it comes to setting a direction for the Angels. Moreno almost sold the team one offseason and didn’t commit to bringing in talents that would complement the roster that consisted of superstars like centre fielder Mike Trout and two-way player Shohei Ohtani. Or he did but the free-agent signings and trades never made sense for the team to compete for the playoffs. Remember when the Angels traded for starting pitcher Lucas Giloito, relief pitchers Reynaldo Lopez and Matt Moore, outfielders Randal Grichuk and Hunter Renfroe and first baseman C.J. Cron? Those trades didn’t end well as the Angels put these players on the waiver wire. With Moreno, there never was a clear or sustainable approach to the team’s growth and even when the team committed to becoming a contender, it was always a step too late. Due to those bad judgment calls, the Angels have taken an enormous step back as their farm system got depleted. If the Angels want to transform positively then Moreno probably needs to do a more serious soul-searching that will require him to let everything go. Just sell the team, Arte. 

Mar 23, 2024; Mesa, Arizona, USA; Oakland Athletics shortstop Darell Hernaiz (48) warms up before a game against the Los Angeles Angels at Hohokam Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland Athletics (PECOTA Standing: 64.8 – 97.2)

Strength: Opportunities and playing time for all players
The Oakland Athletics have had a rough go ever since the team decided to tear things down during the 2021 offseason. They traded their star players and let all players with expiring contracts test the free agency. Since then, the team has turned into something completely unrecognizable. Now that the team doesn’t have any cornerstone players they need to give playing times to necessarily, Oakland has provided chances for young players or veteran players to show off their skills. As the team rebuilds, there’s more playing time for every player. This naturally means that more young players will be discovered and many existing players will be able to aim for their comeback to reignite their careers.
Weakness: Unclear future in general
Oakland has been suffering from its ownership for a long time. The team committed to drastically shrinking its payroll and is now searching for a new stadium. The team is supposed to move to Las Vegas but even that push isn’t going all that smoothly. The future is blurry at best for the Athletics and the team will have to find a place to play after their contract is up in Oakland’s Coliseum. It’s really the most unideal situation for a team to be in and it’s hard to develop and build any kind of team in an environment with so much unpredictability and volatility. Oakland fans and players deserve better than this. 

Seattle Mariners (PECOTA Projection: 83.9 – 78.1)

Strength: Pitching from top to bottom
The Seattle Mariners have always developed elite starting and relief pitchers. The team hasn’t run out of young and seasoned pitchers and the team produced talented pitchers like George Kirby, Logan Gilbert, Bryan Woo, Andres Munoz and Matt Brash. Even when Seattle traded players away to cut down on the payroll, the team has never had to worry about its pitching depth given its reliable pitcher development process throughout its farm system. Seattle has always found ways to replace its pitching productions effectively and the younger pitchers will most likely take a step forward as they grow and mature. Given that context, it’s a good idea to pay attention to Seattle’s young pitchers from top to bottom and what they are capable of.
Weakness: Offensive production
As the Mariners got the order to reduce their payroll, the team’s offensive core took a hit when the team engaged in multiple trades. As it stands, Seattle’s roster is filled with utility players except for core players like Julio Rodriguez, Jorge Polanco, J.P. Crawford and Ty France. The team managed to cut down on strikeout rates on paper with this roster construction but the current offensive core isn’t exactly the most intimidating lineup that will score millions of runs. Some position players are expected to bring the necessary power to the lineup, but it’s undeniable that the roster construction is a bit enigmatic. Whether the offence will take a step forward or not remains to be seen, but Seattle’s offence will most likely control the trajectory of the team’s path to the playoffs in the 2024 season. 

Texas Rangers (PECOTA Projection: 85.9 – 76.1)

Strength: Offensive core and up-and-coming talent
The Texas Rangers have the most fearsome offensive lineup in the AL West and there’s no question about that. It rivals the Astros’ lineup at its best and that’s what made the American League Championship series more compelling last year. While the offence took time to find its true identity, the cornerstones of the offence took a big leap forward last season and propelled the team to the World Series successfully. With shortstop Corey Seager, second baseman Marcus Semien, and outfielders Adolis Garcia and Evan Carter, the team’s offensive identity won’t change much this season. Additionally, Texas is also bringing up younger players like Wyatt Langford to an already potent lineup. The Rangers will give its rivals a headache with its explosive offensive performances and even if they do take a bit of a step back, it will be a spectacular core to watch. 
Weakness: Uncertain broadcasting future and revenue stream
There was much discussion around how Texas could be the powerhouse of the 2023 offseason after the team won the World Series. However, the team barely signed any players as the future of its broadcasting revenue became unclear in light of Diamond Sports’ bankruptcy. Texas did add starting pitchers Michael Lorenzen and Tyler Mahle to round out its rotation but that’s far from perfection. The Rangers’ roster still needs reinforcements, especially in its relief pitching but the investment in that or any other parts of the roster will be challenging if the team isn’t able to spend aggressively any longer. Texas was known for its lavish spending for the past couple of years and the investments did pay off. But if the team is unable to return to that strategy, it will need to pivot and find creative ways to complement its roster and fix its flaws during the 2024 season.

ARTICLE PRESENTED BY BETANO

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