Texans celebrated their first World Series last year when the Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers, but there may be another Texas vs. California battle in the AL playoffs if the other Los Angeles team gets healthy. Especially, if Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani, can pick up where he left off.
Ohtani was activated on Tuesday night to hit, but not to pitch.
Since his injury, the Angels dropped from 4.57 to 4.09 runs scored per game and went 8-14.
The in-depth review of each team’s potential assuming they get healthy results in a 17.5 of 20 rating for the Astros down to a 6.4 for the Texas Rangers, who already lost the Silver Boot Award to the Astros this season with a 4-10 mark and five games match-ups maintaining.
Explanation of Ratings: We start by rating each AL West team on a base 20 scale, with a 10-point scale for batting, 5-point scale for starting pitching, 3-point scale for relief pitching and 2-point scale for fielding. This was done by reviewing personnel and results to date and playing simulated games through Statis-Pro baseball (free version here), weighing pitching and batting stats by the team’s home ballpark, reviewing which fielders on each team were nominated for a gold glove either of the past two seasons, and evaluating all new players. We then assess the new players acquired and present the weaknesses that might be addressed by the July trade deadline.
Houston 17.5 – The World Series champions improved with a great pitcher and catcher, but they did not improve as much as the Yankees or Red Sox, so they still may need a big reliever to repeat.
Batting 9.5 of 10 – C Max Strassi the one big addition to platoon and kill lefthanded pitching and let lefty Brian McCann rest against lefties. Best lineup in 2018, therefore, gets a little better in what has been the toughest pitchers ballpark – but the question is are they still a better lineup than the vastly improved Yankees.
Starters 5.0 of 5 – The addition of Pirate Gerrit Cole did not look like a big deal, but he formed a rotation that put up the best ERA through a quarter of the season since the mound was lowered in 1968.
Relievers 2.2 of 3 – Hector Rondon of the Cubs gave the Astros another good arm – but while the overall stats look good they are pitching in a pitchers park and they have struggled against the top clubs – making the Orioles star closer Zach Britton and enticing trade possibility to hold off the Marines and win in the playoffs again.
Fielding 0.8 of 2 – George Springer is the only position player to be nominated for a Gold Glove, though pitchers and Cy Young Award winners Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel give the Astros one on the mound in almost half their starts.
Los Angeles Angels 14.9 – The great moves last year and this made the Angels the most improved team across-the-board, and if they can overcome all the key injuries then the best new player in baseball (Shohei Ohtani) can still catch the Mariners and make the playoffs.
Batting 8.0 of 10 – The big acquisitions are on DL, but if superstar Shoehi Ohtani – the best rookie in the game – 2B Zack Cozart from the Reds and C Rene Rivera all return to join RF Justin Upton (acquired last year) then the line-up surrounding the player having one of the best seasons in history (Mike Trout) has an elite offense that can catch Seattle and be a wildcard.
Starters 4.0 of 5 – Likewise, if Ohtani and fellow starter Garrett Richards return to the rotation from the DL then this becomes an excellent rotation.
Relievers 1.3 out of 3 – If the Angels get healthy, then the only weakness is the bullpen. Someone like Orioles reliever Brad Brach might be the final piece to a serious threat to make the playoffs and threaten anyone.
Fielding 1.6 of 2 – The Justin Upton acquisition last year meant the entire outfield EXCEPT Mike Trout has been nominated for a gold glove award, as has catcher Martin Maldonado and shortstop Andrelton Simmons to give the Angels possibly the best fielding team in baseball.
Seattle 12.8 of 20. Despite the incredible start and the eventual return of Robinson Cano, the Mariners need to fear being overtaken by the Los Angeles Angels who we rank as the superior team if healthy.
Batting 7.0 of 10 – Line-up actually very average so far, but when superstar Robinson Cano returns they will be well above average.
Starting 2.0 of 5 – This is a very suspect starting rotation and the Mariners truly need to grab other starters like JA Happ from Toronto or Pat Corbin from Arizona to stay elite and prove they are not a fluke.
Relieving 2.6 of 3 – The addition of Alex Colome should further strengthen a good pen, and the preseason pickup of Juan Nicasio should help as well even though he is off to a slow start.
Fielding 1.8 of 2 – The addition of Centerfielder Dee Gordon from Miami to go along with fellow gold glove nominees Kyle Seager (3b), Jean Segura (ss) and eventually Robinson Cano (2b) give the Mariners arguably the best fielding team in baseball. (Note: Thanks Blizzard for catching my earlier mistake in listing Segura in Arizona, where he was nominated for the Gold Glove in 2016.)
Oakland 10.2 of 20. The A’s put together a nice team that is competitive across-the-board, but with little hope of the playoffs this year they will be tempted to trade away some nice players.
Batting 4.8 of 10 – additions of Dustin Fowler, Jonathan Lucroy and the injured Boog Powell added three pieces to make this about an average line-up, but unfortunately .500 record leaves them 10 games behind the Mariners and Astros, so it will be tempting to trade Lucroy and 2b Jed Lowrie away for the future, which would likely lead to a weaker line-up and losing season.
Starters 2.7 of 5 – Solid rotation.
Relieving 2.5 of 3 – Three pick-ups including Yusmeiro Petit from the Angels as well as Ryan Buchter and closer Blake Treinen make this a potentially elite bullpen.
Fielding 0.4 of 2 fielding – The addition of catcher Lucroy gave the A’s their only gold glove dominated player, so the fielding is already weak and would plunge further if he is traded.
Texas 6.4 of 20. The Rangers appear to be on of the weaker teams in three of four categories – only being above average in the fielding department – so it will be tempting to deal Cole Hamels.
Batting 2.5 of 10 – Some solid play from new 1b Ronald Guzman and Isiah Kiner-Falefa on the right side of the infield, but still overall a weak line-up even when healthy.
Starters 2.0 of 5 – Considering the hitter-friendly park and no run support the additions of the ageless Bartolo Colon and Doug Fister actually worked out better than the record indicates – but assuming Cole Hamels is traded to a contender the rotation would become a weakness.
Relievers 0.7 of 3 – Even allowing for the tough ballpark, the bullpen is a true weakness that has not been addressed.
Fielding 1.2 of 2 – Left side of the infield in SS Elvin Andrus and 3b Adrian Beltre are the gold glove nominees, and with Carlos Perez at catcher, they have solid fielding.