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The Wood Word

The news site of Marywood University

The Wood Word

MLB Division Previews: AL West

Photo credit/ Sabrina Resuta, Vincent Goldschmidt

Houston Astros
The Astros have been a dynasty since 2017, taking home six AL West titles, four American League pennants and two World Series. Last year, they fell just one game short of their fifth World Series appearance in six years. Still, Houston’s core has remained relatively intact throughout the dynasty.

Despite missing nearly half of last season, 2017 AL MVP José Altuve remained among baseball’s best hitters and is expected to continue his elite play for the whole season and beyond, as Houston locked up their longtime second baseman for the next five years this offseason. Third baseman Alex Bregman quietly remains one of baseball’s best third baseman and one of the most durable players in the game. Slugger Yordan Álvarez is still one of the most feared hitters in the game after producing his third straight 30-plus home run, 95-plus RBI season. Right fielder Kyle Tucker has continued to improve each year, winning his first Silver Slugger award and finishing fifth in AL MVP voting.

As for the pitching staff, they remain dominant as ever, with the addition of elite closer Josh Hader, who returned to his elite form after a rough 2022 season. Right-handed starter Justin Verlander returned to Houston after signing with the New York Mets in the offseason and was polarizing as per usual. Framber Valdez produced another great season atop the Astros’ rotation, making an argument to be the best left handed pitcher in the game.

Houston is looking for three key players to return to elite form from years prior: first baseman José Abreu, shortstop Jeremy Peña and starter Cristian Javier. Abreu signed a three year deal in the 2023 offseason, but failed to produce the elite contact and gap-to-gap power he showed throughout his tenure in Chicago. Peña suffered a sophomore slump, seeing his power numbers drop after his electric rookie campaign, which saw him win World Series MVP. Lastly, Javier saw his ERA balloon up over two runs higher than his in 2022, while seeing a decrease in his strikeouts.

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Houston is one of the favorites to win the World Series and with the team they are rolling out for the 2024 season, it’s hard to argue against them.

Texas Rangers
The Rangers finished just behind the Astros last season, finishing as a Wild Card team. Texas was able to get the last laugh, knocking Houston out of the postseason before taking home their first World Series title, just a year after only notching 68 wins.

Returning to the lineup is reigning World Series MVP Corey Seager, who despite missing over 50 games, finished second in AL MVP voting while popping six home runs in the postseason. His double play partner Marcus Semien looks to take home a MVP award that has eluded him throughout his career, as he’s finished third in voting on three separate occasions, including last season, which saw him lead the American League in runs and hits. Right fielder Adolis García produced his best power year, launching 39 home runs and totaling 107 RBIs, while also earning his first Gold Glove award. Corner infielders Josh Jung and Nathaniel Lowe provided everything Texas needed, both offensively and defensively. 2020 second round pick Evan Carter was a key piece in the World Series run and still has his rookie eligibility and will be a favorite alongside Rangers’ prospect Wyatt Langford to win AL Rookie of the Year.

Despite Texas being unlikely to retain lefty Jordan Montgomery, the rotation still looks scary as ever. Nathan Eovaldi, in his first year in Texas, continued the consistency that he’s provided the recent part of his career. Dane Dunning succeeded with every challenge thrown his way, whether he was used as a starter or out of the bullpen. Closer José Leclerc will get some help in the back end of the bullpen, with the addition of David Robertson and Kirby Yates. Though they aren’t expected to return until midseason, if not later, Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer are raring to go back to work for the Rangers.

The last time a team repeated as World Series champions was the Yankees World Series streak from 1998-2000. Though they have a target on their back, this Texas team has only just begun their reign of dominance.

Seattle Mariners
The Mariners missed out on the postseason by just one game, a year after breaking their 21 year postseason drought. Despite coming up short in 2023, Seattle doesn’t plan to start another postseason drought.

Seattle’s lineup will be led by budding superstar Julio Rodríguez, who in two years in the MLB has been nominated to two All-Star games, won two Silver Sluggers and AL Rookie of the Year. Power hitting catcher Cal Raleigh will continue to be a threat in the middle of the Mariners’ lineup. Seattle signed Mitch Garver and traded for Jorge Polanco, and will look for both of them to provide a punch in the lineup. Seattle will look for a repeat from shortstop J.P. Crawford’s career best year, one which saw him rip 35 doubles and earn 94 walks. Though he wasn’t as successful as prior years with Seattle, Ty France is expected to serve as a key contributor to the lineup.

As for the pitching staff, it remains relatively the same as last year. The rotation will be headed by Luis Castillo, who has been a borderline top 10 pitcher over the last five seasons. Following Castillo is Logan Gilbert and George Kirby, both of whom have been consistent rotation arms since debuting. The final two spots in the rotation will be fought for by Bryce Miller, Bryan Woo and Emerson Hancock, three promising young arms.

Because of Houston and Texas, Seattle is going to be overlooked this season, but it wouldn’t be surprising come October, that the Mariners are playing in the postseason.

Los Angeles Angels
The Angels have been disappointing for the entirety of Mike Trout’s career. Last year, knowing that Shohei Ohtani was set to hit free agency, Los Angeles decided to try to make a playoff push, making a flurry of trades at the deadline, to no prevail. Ohtani has since departed to the crosstown Dodgers and many expect the Angels to remain as underachievers.

Despite missing nearly half of last year, Trout remained one of baseball’s elite, earning his 11th All-Star nomination. Los Angeles is looking to see the development of catcher Logan O’Hoppe and first baseman Nolan Shanueul, who showed flashes of excellence in their first professional seasons. Brandon Drury will look to continue to be a quality middle-of-the-lineup bat, after his second straight 30-plus double, 30-plus home run, 80-plus RBI season. The Angels look to get something out of third baseman Anthony Rendon, who has failed to play in more than 58 games in any season with Los Angeles, though his recent comments didn’t really create reassurance for fans and other members of the Angels organization.

The rotation looks for the resurgence of lefties Reid Detmers, Patrick Sandoval and Tyler Anderson, all of whom had solid-to-elite 2022 seasons. Carlos Estévez and Matt Moore to be the lone bright spots in a rag-tag bullpen comprised of underachieving veterans or unproven up-and-comers.

Los Angeles’ expectations over the last decade-plus have wavered, but the outcome has always remained the same, and that will be the truth for this year.

Oakland A’s
Over the last two seasons, the A’s have won just 110 games, a number the Atlanta Braves nearly eclipsed this season alone. The only exciting news that Oakland’s offseason provided was the announcement of Jenny Cavnar becoming the first female primary play-by-play announcer in MLB history.

Cavnar won’t have much of a lineup to get excited about, though there are a couple of quality bats for Oakland. Brent Rooker broke out last year, launching 30 home runs and earning his first All-Star appearance. Center fielder Esteury Ruiz will keep pitchers on their toes with his blazing speed, which helped him swipe an American League leading 67 stolen bases. Ryan Noda and Zach Gelof look to build off productive first seasons. Oakland is looking for catcher Shea Langeliers to live up to the hype he provided as a prospect.

The pitching staff is primarily built of arms looking to bounce back from inefficient years, such as JP Sears, Paul Blackburn, Alex Wood and Ross Stripling. Rookie righty Joey Estes looks to break Spring Training camp with the big club after a solid 2023 season, which saw him make his MLB debut.

Oakland is due to have another disappointing season, but if they see their young players find consistency, they’ll at least have a consolation prize for an otherwise terrible year.

All stats are from Baseball Reference as of Feb. 22

Contact the writer: [email protected]

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About the Contributor
Vincent Goldschmidt
Vincent Goldschmidt, Sports Editor
Vincent Goldschmidt is a sophomore Multimedia Communications Major, on the track of Sports Media, and is the Sports Editor for the Wood Word. Along with his Wood Word work, he hosts a sports talk show, He Knows Ball, on VMFM 91.7, serves as the Sports Director and a Sports Anchor for TV-Marywood, and commentates for Marywood Athletics.
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