BC-BBA--AL West Preview Capsules
Capsules of American League West teams, listed in order of finish last year:
2018: 103-59, first place, lost to Boston in ALCS.
Manager: AJ Hinch (fifth season).
He’s Here: OF Michael Brantley, C Robinson Chirinos, LHP Wade Miley, INF Aledmys Diaz.
He’s Outta Here: INF-OF Marwin Gonzalez, LHP Dallas Keuchel, RHP Charlie Morton, DH Evan Gattis, LHP Tony Sipp, C Brian McCann, C Martin Maldonado.
Astros: CF George Springer (.265, 22 HRs, 71 RBIs), 2B Jose Altuve (.315, 13, 61), 3B Alex Bregman (.286, 31, 103, AL-best 51 doubles, 84 walks, 82 Ks), 1B Yuli Gurriel (.291, 13, 85), LF Michael Brantley (.309, 17, 76 with Indians), RF Josh Reddick (.242, 17, 47), SS Carlos Correa (.239, 15, 65), DH Tyler White (.276, 12, 42, .888 OPS in 66 games) or Tony Kemp (.263, 6, 30 in 97 games), C Robinson Chirinos (.222, 18, 65 with Rangers).
Rotation: RH Justin Verlander (16-9, 2.52 ERA, AL-high 290 Ks and only 37 walks in 214 IP), RH Gerrit Cole (15-5, 2.88, 2nd in AL with 276 Ks in 200 1/3 IP), RH Collin McHugh (6-2, 1.99 in 58 relief appearances), LH Wade Miley (5-2, 2.57 with Brewers), RH Brad Peacock (3-5, 3.46 in 61 appearances with 1 start).
Key Relievers: RH Roberto Osuna (2-2, 2.37, 21/22 saves for Blue Jays and Astros), RH Ryan Pressly (2-1, 2.54, 2 saves for Twins and Astros), RH Hector Rondon (2-5, 3.20, 15 saves), RH Will Harris (5-3, 3.49, 61 appearances), RH Josh James (2-0, 2.35), RH Chris Devenski (2-3, 4.18, 50 appearances).
Hot Spot: Back Of The Rotation. The Astros have two of baseball’s best starters in Verlander and Cole. After that, things are less certain. Houston lost free agents Morton and Keuchel this winter, and Lance McCullers Jr. will miss the entire season after Tommy John surgery. That leaves Miley, McHugh and Peacock to step in and round out the group. McHugh and Peacock both spent last season in the bullpen. McHugh, who spent his entire career as a starter before last year, will look to build on a great 2018 in the bullpen, where he posted a career-best 1.99 ERA. Peacock had a 3.46 ERA last season, but won a career-high 13 games in 2017.
Outlook: Anything less than competing for a second World Series championship in three years will be a disappointment for this veteran team. Altuve and Correa look to bounce back after injury-plagued seasons and Bregman is poised to take another step after a breakout campaign. The addition of Brantley adds some much-needed left-handed pop in left field. If Verlander and Cole perform the way they did last season and the back of the rotation is solid, the Astros should be on track to win at least 100 games for the third straight season, just six years after losing a franchise-record 111 games during their third consecutive 100-loss season in 2013. “When you win a first championship after 56 years, you get hungry for another one. ... We want to win again, and not just twice,” general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “We want to win more than twice.”
2018: 97-65, second place, lost to Yankees in wild-card game.
Manager: Bob Melvin (ninth season).
He’s Here: INF Jurickson Profar, RHP Marco Estrada, RHP Joakim Soria, OF Robbie Grossman, C Nick Hundley, LHP Jerry Blevins, INF Cliff Pennington, C Chris Herrmann.
He’s Outta Here: INF Jed Lowrie, C Jonathan Lucroy, RHP Jeurys Familia, RHP Shawn Kelley, RHP Edwin Jackson, RHP Emilio Pagan, OF Matt Joyce, RHP Cory Gearrin, RHP Kendall Graveman.
Projected Lineup: LF Robbie Grossman (.273, 5 HRs, 48 RBIs with Twins), 3B Matt Chapman (.278, 24, 68, 42 2Bs, 100 runs), 1B Matt Olson (.247, 29, 84), DH Khris Davis (.247, MLB-best 48, 123), RF Stephen Piscotty (.267, 27, 88, 41 2Bs), 2B Jurickson Profar (.254, 20, 77 with Rangers), CF Ramon Laureano (.288, 5, 19 in 48 games), SS Marcus Semien (.255, 15, 70), C Nick Hundley (.241, 10, 31 with Giants).
Rotation: RH Mike Fiers (12-8, 3.56 ERA with Athletics and Tigers), RH Marco Estrada (7-14, 5.64 with Blue Jays), LH Brett Anderson (4-5, 4.48), RH Frankie Montas (5-4, 3.88), RH Aaron Brooks (9-4, 3.35 at Triple-A).
Key Relievers: RH Blake Treinen (9-2, 0.78 ERA, 38/43 saves, .158 BA against), RH Joakim Soria (3-4, 3.12, 16 saves with Brewers and White Sox), RH Fernando Rodney (4-3, 3.36, 25/32 saves with A’s and Twins), RH Lou Trivino (8-3, 2.92, 4 saves), RH Yusmeiro Petit (7-3, 3.00), LH Ryan Buchter (6-0, 2.75), LH Jerry Blevins (3-2, 4.85, 1 save with Mets), RH Liam Hendriks (0-1, 4.13 ERA).
Hot Spot: Starting Rotation. The A’s playoff stay proved to be brief last season when they used Hendricks as an “opener” against the Yankees and he allowed two runs in the first inning of a 7-2 loss. Oakland added Estrada but he had a 5.27 ERA over the past two seasons in Toronto and hardly seems like the answer. The best hope for the rotation seems to be if Sean Manaea (shoulder) and Jharel Cotton (elbow) are able to return from serious injuries at some point this season and heralded prospect Jesus Luzardo (10-5, 2.88 in minors) overcomes a strained left rotator cuff.
Outlook: The A’s were a surprise playoff team last year after three straight last-place finishes. Melvin got the most out of a low-cost roster filled with power hitters from Davis, who has 133 homers the past three seasons, to Chapman and Olson on the infield corners. Chapman is an emerging star who makes highlight plays with his glove on a regular basis and is a threat at the plate as well. While the rotation is filled with questions, the bullpen is deep and one of the best in the league. Treinen was nearly unhittable last season and Soria, Rodney and Trivino provide plenty of late-inning setup options. The A’s made a few significant moves this offseason, acquiring Profar from Texas and letting Lowrie leave as a free agent for a switch at second base. Lucroy provided a steadying presence behind the plate last season and could be missed. While the A’s may lack the talent of the big spenders in the AL, they have the ingredients to contend for a playoff spot again if they can get any sort of starting pitching.
2018: 89-73, third place.
Manager: Scott Servais (fourth season).
He’s Here: DH-1B Edwin Encarnacion, SS Tim Beckham, OF Mallex Smith, OF-1B Jay Bruce, OF Domingo Santana, C Omar Narvaez, SS J.P. Crawford, LHP Yusei Kikuchi, RHP Hunter Strickland, RHP Cory Gearrin, RHP Anthony Swarzak, LHP Justus Sheffield, RHP Erik Swanson.
He’s Outta Here: C Mike Zunino, 2B Robinson Cano, SS Jean Segura, DH Nelson Cruz, LHP James Paxton, RHP Edwin Diaz, OF Denard Span, OF Guillermo Heredia, RHP Alex Colome, OF Ben Gamel, INF-OF Andrew Romine, RHP Juan Nicasio.
Projected Lineup: 2B Dee Gordon (.268, 4 HRs, 36 RBIs, 30 SBs), RF-CF Mitch Haniger (.285, 26, 93, .859 OPS), 1B-OF Jay Bruce (.223, 9, 37 in 94 games with Mets), DH Edwin Encarnacion (.246, 32, 107 with Cleveland), LF-RF Domingo Santana (.265, 5, 20 in 85 games with Milwaukee), 3B-1B Ryon Healy (.235, 24, 73), C Omar Narvaez (.275, 9, 30 in 97 games with White Sox), SS Tim Beckham (.230, 12, 35 with Baltimore), CF Mallex Smith (.296, 2, 40, 10 triples, tied for AL lead, 40 SBs, .367 OBP with Tampa Bay).
Rotation: LH Marco Gonzales (13-9, 4.00 ERA, career-high 166 2/3 IP), LH Yusei Kikuchi (14-4, 3.08, 153 Ks with Seibu in Japan), RH Mike Leake (10-10, 4.36, 185 2/3 IP), LH Wade LeBlanc (9-5, 3.72, career-high 162 IP and 130 Ks), RH Felix Hernandez (8-14, 5.55, 27 HRs allowed).
Key Relievers: RH Hunter Strickland (3-5, 3.97, 14 saves with Giants), LH Roenis Elias (1-0, 2.65, 23 games, 4 starts), RH Dan Altavilla (3-2, 2.61 in 22 games), RH Chasen Bradford (5-0, 3.69, 46 games), RH Matt Festa (0-0, 2.16 in 8 games).
Hot Spot: Bullpen. Seattle’s rotation could be solid enough, although there is concern about Hernandez. Its starting lineup, when healthy, projects similarly to last year’s offensive output. The bullpen is another story, and there are big question marks throughout. The hope is that Strickland’s temper has cooled and he can be the closer, although not on the same level of Diaz. Maybe the Mariners could flirt with .500 if the bullpen performs better than expected.
Outlook: It’s a rebuild year for Seattle. By midseason, the Mariners would like to say goodbye to Encarnacion and Bruce in exchange for future prospects. There will be as much attention on what is happening in the minors as what is happening with the major league club. Seattle believes all the moves this offseason has made the club younger, landed a handful of key prospects and opened up money to spend in a couple of years. But that means the longest playoff drought in any of the four major professional sports doesn’t appear likely to end anytime soon. Patience will be needed. Seattle got off to a 2-0 start against Oakland in Japan, where 45-year-old icon Ichiro Suzuki announced his retirement after playing his final two big league games to huge cheers in his home country.
Los Angeles Angels
2018: 80-82, fourth place.
Manager: Brad Ausmus (first season).
He’s Here: RHP Cody Allen, C Jonathan Lucroy, RHP Matt Harvey, RHP Trevor Cahill, 1B Justin Bour, OF Peter Bourjos, INF Tommy La Stella, RHP Luis Garcia.
He’s Outta Here: RHP Garrett Richards, RHP Matt Shoemaker, 1B Jefry Marte, RHP Jim Johnson, LHP Jose Alvarez, RHP Blake Parker.
Projected Lineup: RF Kole Calhoun (.208, 19 HRs, 57 RBIs, .652 OPS), CF Mike Trout (.312, 39, 79, 1.088 OPS, 101 runs, 24 SBs), LF Justin Upton (.257, 30, 85), DH Albert Pujols (.245, 19, 64, .700 OPS), 1B Justin Bour (.227, 20, 59 with Marlins and Phillies), SS Andrelton Simmons (.292, 11, 75), 3B Zack Cozart (.219, 5, 18 in 58 games), C Jonathan Lucroy (.241, 4, 51 with Oakland), 2B David Fletcher (.275, 1, 25).
Rotation: RH Trevor Cahill (7-4, 3.76 ERA with Oakland), RH Matt Harvey (7-9, 4.94, 131 Ks with Mets and Reds), RH Felix Pena (3-5, 4.18), LH Tyler Skaggs (8-10, 4.02), RH Jaime Barria (10-9, 3.41).
Key Relievers: RH Cody Allen (4-6, 4.70, 27/32 saves with Indians), RH Justin Anderson (3-3, 4.07, 4 saves), RH Cam Bedrosian (5-4, 3.80), RH Noe Ramirez (7-5, 4.54), RH Luis Garcia (3-1, 6.07 with Phillies), RH Hansel Robles (2-3, 3.70 with Mets and Angels).
Hot Spot: Starting Rotation. The Angels’ starting pitchers have developed far too many injuries over the past two years, and this spring is already off to a bad start. Andrew Heaney won’t be ready for opening day because of elbow inflammation, and Skaggs has been battling arm fatigue. And don’t forget, Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch at all this season. Instead of spending to get the likes of Dallas Keuchel, Los Angeles is counting on second-tier free agent signees Cahill and Harvey to recapture their best form while hoping for more overachievement from Pena and Barria in this hodgepodge rotation.
Outlook: A winning season and a meaningful September. The Angels are coming off three straight losing records for the first time since 1992-94, and they’ve got a new manager for the first time in the 21st century. They didn’t make major free-agent improvements, and they also won’t start the season with Ohtani, although the AL Rookie of the Year should be back to serve as designated hitter at some point during the summer. Yet there is undeniable optimism around the Halos after they got Trout to stay long-term with a record $426.5 million, 12-year contract. Two years of free-agent speculation and drama vanished in an instant, and the Angels can focus on the bright future suggested by their improving farm system and Trout’s many big years ahead.
2018: 67-95, fifth place.
Manager: Chris Woodward (first season).
He’s Here: 3B Asdrubal Cabrera, RHP Lance Lynn, RHP Zach McAllister, RHP Shawn Kelley, RHP Shelby Miller, LHP Drew Smyly, C Jeff Mathis, OF Hunter Pence.
He’s Outta Here: Manager Jeff Banister, 3B Adrian Beltre, INF Jurickson Profar, C Robinson Chirinos, OF Ryan Rua, RHP Bartolo Colon, LHP Martin Perez, RHP Alex Claudio, CF Drew Robinson.
Projected Lineup: DH Shin-Soo Choo (.264, 21 HRs, 62 RBIs, 92 BBs, .377 OBP), 2B Rougned Odor (.253, 18, 63), SS Elvis Andrus (.256, 6, 33), RF Nomar Mazara (.258, 20, 77), LF Joey Gallo (.206, 40, 92, 207 Ks), 3B Asdrubal Cabrera (.262, 23, 75 with Mets and Phillies), 1B Ronald Guzman (.235, 16, 58), C Jeff Mathis (.200, 1, 20 with Diamondbacks), CF Delino DeShields (.216, 2, 22, 20 SBs).
Rotation: LH Mike Minor (12-8, 4.18 ERA), RH Edinson Volquez (4-8, 4.19 in 2017 with Marlins; missed 2018 after Tommy John surgery), RH Lance Lynn (10-10, 4.77 in 31 games with Twins and Yankees), LH Drew Smyly (7-12, 4.88 in 2016 with Devil Rays; missed 2017-18 after Tommy John surgery), RH Shelby Miller (0-4, 10.69 in 5 games with Diamondbacks).
Key Relievers: RH Jose Leclerc (2-3, 1.56, 12/16 saves in 59 games), RH Chris Martin (1-5, 4.54 in 46 games), RH Jesse Chavez (5-2, 2.55 in 62 games with Rangers and Cubs), LH Jeffrey Springs (1-1, 3.38), RH Shawn Kelley (2-0, 2.94 with Nationals and Athletics), RH Connor Sadzeck (0-0, 0.96 in 13 appearances), RH Zach McAllister (1-2, 6.20 with Indians and Tigers), RH Jason Hammel (4-14, 6.02 in 39 games, 18 starts, with Royals).
Hot Spot: Starting Rotation. While all five starters have had success in the big leagues, all have also missed significant time following surgery in the past. Opening-day starter Minor, the only rotation holdover from last season, and newcomer Lynn both have been back on the mound for two full seasons. Volquez, Smyly and Miller are all coming back from Tommy John surgery — Volquez and Smyly missed all of last season, and Miller pitched 16 innings in five appearances for Arizona after being out more than a full year. Volquez, traded by Texas to Cincinnati for Josh Hamilton in December 2007 and an NL All-Star in 2008, spent last year with the Rangers rehabbing from his surgery after returning as a free agent.
Outlook: While hoping all those starters stay healthy, the Rangers have a lineup filled with twenty-something position players — six of them 25 or younger played at least 106 games last season — after spending much of 2018 focused on development. First-time manager Woodward spent the last three seasons as third base coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who went to the World Series the past two years. Woodward has talked about building a championship mentality in Texas. The Rangers went to consecutive World Series in 2010 and 2011, and were AL West champions in 2015 and 2016 before losing records the past two seasons. But they have their work cut out for them in the AL West. The 25-year-old Leclerc took over as closer late last season, converting his final 12 save chances and finishing with a 21-inning scoreless streak. The hard-throwing right-hander led big league relievers with a .126 opponents’ batting average.
More AP baseball coverage: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports