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2023 Know Your Enemy: AL West Preview

Can the defending World Series champs win their division again?

Houston Astros v. Seattle Mariners Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The American League West has belonged to the Astros for years now, with the exception of the short 2020 season where the Athletics sprinted to a division title. But outside of that aberration of a season, the AL West has been the Astros’ since their first World Series title in 2017.

Houston Astros

2022: 106-56, First Place, World Series Champions

Blue Jays @ Astros - April 17-19
Astros @ Blue Jays - June 5-8

The Astros won their second World Series in six years in 2022, and bring back much of the same roster that won it all last year.

Arguably their biggest loss happened this past weekend, as Jose Altuve took a pitch off his thumb and left with a broken thumb. He is set to undergo surgery, and will miss a couple months. David Hensley figures to get the bulk of time at the keystone in Altuve’s absence.

Physically leaving the roster is defending Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, leaving a hole in the rotation that they unsurprisingly will just fill in with another top prospect, this time Hunter Brown. Brown will join an entirely homegrown rotation for the Astros, although he’s the only one to come from the draft, as the other four signed as amateur free agents.

The Astros also parted ways with Jason Castro and Christian Vázquez behind the plate, handing the bulk of the catching to Martín Maldonado while being backed up by rookie Korey Lee. Utility man Aledmys Díaz headed out, while veteran first baseman Yuli Gurriel was replaced on the roster by José Abreu, a fairly significant upgrade.

The only pitcher brought in was lefty and former Blue Jay Matt Gage, who probably will go on to have a big season with the Astros.

Projected Lineup

Jeremy Peña, SS
Kyle Tucker, RF
Alex Bregman, 3B
Yordan Alvarez, DH
José Abreu, 1B
David Hensley, 2B
Chas McCormick, LF
Jake Meyers, CF
Martín Maldonado, C

Projected Rotation

Framber Valdez
Cristian Javier
Luis Garcia
José Urquidy
Hunter Brown

Notable Bullpen Arms

Ryan Pressly
Rafael Montero
Bryan Abreu
Héctor Neris
Ryne Stanek
Phil Maton
Matt Gage

The top 5 of their lineup is arguably the best in baseball, but the rest of the lineup feels a lot weaker than the overall dominating lineup from last season. The loss of Verlander hurts too, but in all, the Astros are still projected to the top of the division, with Fangraphs projecting a 90-72 record and PECOTA projecting them as the third best team in baseball with a 94.2-67.8 record and another division title.

Seattle Mariners

2022: 90-72, Second Place, Second Wild Card

Mariners @ Blue Jays - April 28-30
Blue Jays @ Mariners - July 21-23

The Mariners made the playoffs for the first time since 2001 this past season, having a completely forgettable first round before being swept in the ALDS against the Astros.

With a solid core in place, anchored by the phenomenal Julio Rodríguez, the Mariners set their sights this winter on plugging some holes and upgrading an offense that was middle of the pack last year. They went out and added former Blue Jay Teoscar Hernández for the heart of the lineup, Kolten Wong to set the table, and AJ Pollock to add some more right handed pop.

On the pitching side of things, they saw Erik Swanson head out in the trade for Teo, but they otherwise return much of the same team that was 8th in all of baseball with a 3.59 staff ERA, and that included just a half season of staff ace Luis Castillo. They’re a strong of reliably healthy starters and effective relievers, and should be near the top of the ERA rankings again this year.

Projected Lineup

Kolten Wong, 2B
Julio Rodríguez, CF
Ty France, 1B
Teoscar Hernández, RF
Eugenio Suárez, 3B
Cal Raleigh, C
Jarred Kelenic, LF
AJ Pollock, DH
J.P. Crawford, SS

Projected Rotation

Luis Castillo
Logan Gilbert
Robbie Ray
George Kirby
Marco Gonzales

Notable Bullpen Arms

Paul Sewald
Andrés Muñoz
Diego Castillo
Matt Brash
Penn Murfee
Trevor Gott

They’re set up really well to head back to the postseason again this year, with a very strong pitching staff and a balanced lineup. Fangraphs has them projected for an 85-77 record, just nabbing the third and final wild card spot. PECOTA is down on them, projecting them to miss the playoffs, finishing third in the division with an 83-79 record.

Los Angeles Angels

2022: 73-89, Third Place

Blue Jays @ Angels - April 7-9
Angels @ Blue Jays - July 28-30

The home of the two best players in baseball, who just wrapped up an incredible World Baseball Classic, was once again disappointing in 2022. Thankfully the WBC gave their superstars a taste of high stakes baseball, because the Angels have not been able to give them that. After a storybook ending to the tournament, it’ll be pretty hard to top that for them this year.

Despite a bad 2022, the Angels didn’t go out and add much to the roster. They brought in complementary pieces on offense in Hunter Renfroe, Brandon Drury, Gio Urshela and Brett Phillips. Drury and Renfroe combined for 5.5 WAR last year, although that represents a career year for both players, something that the Angels seem to keep chasing and getting burned on.

The biggest addition for the Angels’ offense could come from Anthony Rendon, who has been nothing short of a massive disappointment the last couple seasons. After signing a massive $245m contract after winning the World Series in Washington in 2019, Rendon had a really good 2020, before fighting injuries and ineffectiveness the last couple years, combining for 1.0 WAR over 105 games. But he’s reportedly healthy this spring, and could be a surprising and massive hitter if he can look anything like the guy who hit .307/.399/.550 (146 wRC+) from 2017-2020.

On the pitching side of things, they brought in Tyler Anderson to join a middling rotation headed by Ohtani. The bullpen got a good boost with Carlos Estévez coming in to start the season as the closer, and Matt Moore coming in to give them a good lefty. But Fangraphs still projects the group as the absolute worst in all of baseball with a projected WAR of just 0.9.

Projected Lineup

Taylor Ward, LF
Mike Trout, CF
Shohei Ohtani, DH
Anthony Rendon, 3B
Hunter Renfroe, RF
Brandon Drury, 2B
Jared Walsh, 1B
Logan O’Hoppe, C
David Fletcher, SS

Projected Rotation

Shohei Ohtani
Patrick Sandoval
Tyler Anderson
Reid Detmers
José Suarez

Notable Bullpen Arms

Carlos Estévez
Jimmy Herget
Ryan Tepera
Matt Moore
Aaron Loup
Andrew Wantz

Despite a horrible 2022 and an uninspiring offseason, the Angels are still poised for a solid season, at least by projections. Fangraphs projects them to an 84-78 record, a game behind the Mariners and once again on the outside looking in at the playoffs. PECOTA also has them watching the playoffs again as well, but they do have them as the second best team in the division at 85.9-76.1.

Texas Rangers

2022: 68-94, Fourth Place

Blue Jays @ Rangers - June 16-18
Rangers @ Blue Jays - September 11-14

The Rangers spent a lot of money prior to the 2022 season, bringing in Corey Seager and Marcus Semien to give them real offensive upside. Despite adding them, plus Martín Pérez and Jon Gray, they only improved to a 68-94 record.

Minimal returns on their massive investments didn’t deter them this winter though, as they have doubled down on big spending. It’s great for baseball when bad teams are spending money, and we should all be happy with what the Rangers are trying. They brought in Jacob deGrom, Nathan Eovaldi, Andrew Heaney, Will Smith, Clint Frazier and Robbie Grossman, committing over $267m more dollars.

Whether it was enough to actually become competitive after their sixth straight losing season will be answered in the coming months. If anything though, they are trending in the right direction and making very big moves. They’ve also got some big time prospects ready to contribute in 2023 in Josh Jung, Jack Leiter, Owen White and Cole Winn.

Projected Lineup

Marcus Semien, 2B
Corey Seager, SS
Nathaniel Lowe, 1B
Adolis García, RF
Josh Jung, 3B
Jonah Heim, C
Robbie Grossman, LF
Brad Miller, DH
Bubba Thompson, CF

Projected Rotation

Jacob deGrom
Martín Pérez
Jon Gray
Nathan Eovaldi
Andrew Heaney

Notable Bullpen Arms

José Leclerc
Jonathan Hernández
Brock Burke
Joe Barlow
Will Smith
Taylor Hearn

Fangraphs is buying into their moves, giving them an 83-79 projected record, right there with the Mariners and Angels. PECOTA isn’t quite as optimistic, with a 79.4-82.6 projection. Regardless of how it ends, this is the best the Rangers have been since getting swept by the Jays in the 2016 playoffs.

Oakland Athletics

2022: 60-102, Last Place, worst in the American League

Athletics @ Blue Jays - June 23-25
Blue Jays @ Athletics - September 4-6

The A’s were bad last year, and then once again traded away their best player, this time sending Sean Murphy to the Braves. Murphy was the only player on the roster to crack 2.0 WAR last year, coming in at an incredible 5.1. The rest of the team combined for just 7.7 WAR.

They’re a bad team, with minimal joy in 2023. The best things to look forward to are the progression of rookies Tyler Soderstrom, Ken Waldichuk, Luis Medina, Shea Langeliers, Conner Capel, Nick Allen, Esteury Ruiz, Shintaro Fujinami, JP Sears, Drew Rucinski and so on.

Look for them to trade away more veterans this summer, including Tony Kemp, Jesús Aguilar and Trevor May.

Projected Lineup

Tony Kemp, 2B
Ramón Laureano, RF
Seth Brown, 1B
Jesús Aguilar, DH
Jace Peterson, 3B
Shea Langeliers, C
Conner Capel, LF
Nick Allen, SS
Esteury Ruiz, CF

Projected Rotation

Shintaro Fujinami
James Kaprielian
JP Sears
Drew Rucinski
Ken Waldichuk

Notable Bullpen Arms

Trevor May
Zach Jackson
Dany Jiménez
Kirby Snead
Domingo Acevedo
Sam Moll

If you recognize more than 5 of these names when the Jays roll into Oakland in June, I’ll be impressed. They will be a bad team, with a lot of turnover, and a horrible record. Fangraphs thinks they’ll go 70-92, while PECOTA projects them for even worse at 64.7-97.3. In reality, if they don’t lose 100 games, it should be a shock.


Assuming the Astros win the division, who comes in second?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    (63 votes)
  • 17%
    (15 votes)
  • 2%
    (2 votes)
  • 9%
    Athletics (lol)
    (8 votes)
88 votes total Vote Now


Of the 25 games against the AL West, how many will the Jays win?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    16 or more
    (22 votes)
  • 63%
    (51 votes)
  • 7%
    (6 votes)
  • 1%
    9 or fewer
    (1 vote)
80 votes total Vote Now