2022 MLB Division Preview: American League West
The division that has been dominated by the Astros should be as competitive as ever in 2022, with big acquisitions by the Angels, Mariners, and Rangers this past offseason. While the A’s sink into rebuild, the four other teams should provide a ton of competitive, entertaining baseball in one of the most star-studded divisions in the MLB. In this 2022 MLB Preview I have reviewed each of the five teams in the order I predict they will finish in 2022.
1st Place: Houston Astros (last year: 1st place)
Although I see the AL West as incredibly competitive this year, I still see the Astros as having the slight edge over the other teams in the division. The Astros have won the division in four of the past five years, and although they lost some talent, they have just enough to keep the trend going.
The Team: The loss of Carlos Correa will certainly sting and leaves a hole at shortstop, but the six other All-Star caliber hitters in this lineup can do their best to make up for it. The hitting talent on this team is often overlooked, with Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Yuli Gurriel, and Kyle Tucker make up a stretch of six hitters that’s as solid as any other team out there. Losing Zack Greinke shouldn’t impact the team’s rotation too significantly, as Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers Jr., Luis Garcia, and Framber Valdez look like a very strong first four men in the rotation. Free agent signings Hector Neris will provide bullpen depth and Niko Goodrum provides switch-hitting and positional versatility for the team.
FanGraphs projects the Astros to finish in first place in the division with a 89-73 record, while my record projection sits at 92-70.
2nd Place: Seattle Mariners (last year: 2nd place)
The Mariners are a team on the rise, making big moves this offseason after greatly exceeding expectations last year with one of the youngest MLB rosters. Fans in Seattle should be excited for what the Mariners are building, and I’d expect a second-place finish from this club in 2022.
The Team: The losses for the Mariners is very minimal, with starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi joining the Blue Jays and longtime third baseman Kyle Seager choosing to retire after 11 productive seasons with the club. Where the team will truly be different (and a whole lot better) comes from the acquisitions of Robbie Ray, Adam Frazier, Jesse Winker, and Eugenio Suarez. Winker and Frazier (who I believe is slightly overrated, but talented) were first-time All-Stars in 2021, and will look to build on extremely productive seasons. Suarez is known for his incredible power, with the most home runs in baseball since the 2018 season. Ray broke out in 2021 as the AL Cy Young Award winner, and provides much needed help to the Mariners rotation. These new players will join a young and talented club lead by Mitch Haniger, Ty France, and Marco Gonzales.
FanGraphs has the Mariners finishing with a 80-82 record, good enough for third in the division. I see them finishing in second place with a 90-72 record.
3rd Place: Los Angeles Angels (last year: 4th place)
I fully expect the Angels to eclipse both the Athletics and Rangers in 2022, and potentially even the Mariners depending on the team’s health. There are many question marks surrounding this team, but the thought of their potential combined with the expanded playoff format should give Angels fans a lot of hope.
The Team: The lineup should look pretty much the same as last year, although the addition of Tyler Wade is certainly underrated and will help the team off the bench. On the pitching side, Noah Syndergaard is a tossup, with the potential to produce a Cy Young-caliber season for the team. Aaron Loup and Michael Lorenzen are two more solid additions to the team that will help with pitching depth. At the end of the day, the success of this team will depend on the health of its stars, and there’s no other way around it. Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Anthony Rendon, Jared Walsh, and the rest of the crew performing at their best for 150+ games is ultimately the formula that will allow the Angels to reach their potential for the 2022 MLB season.
FanGraphs sees the Angels finishing with an 82-80 record for second place in the AL West, whereas I see them finishing in third place at 89-73.
4th Place: Texas Rangers (last year: 5th place)
Texas has made big improvements this offseason, with additions I will go into soon, but the team simply has many holes that haven’t been filled by quality players. The team is on the right path, but they don’t have quite enough to compete in 2022.
The Team: While losing Isiah Kiner-Falefa could hurt and adding Mitch Garver and Jon Gray will help the team improve, it would be wrong to not spend this section discussing the two superstars who have joined the team this offseason: Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. Two of baseball’s brightest stars, the Rangers shocked everyone this past offseason by picking up both players to be their new middle-infield. Seager is a 2x All-Star, 2x Silver Slugger, and was the 2020 World Series MVP. He is the definition of a consistent star player who always seems to come through when it matters most. Semien, the new second baseman, has finished third in American League MVP voting two of the past three years and is in the heart of his prime.
FanGraphs has the Rangers finishing with a 74-88 record for fourth in the division, and I agree with both of those predictions due to the team’s lack of pitching depth.
5th Place: Oakland Athletics (last year: 3rd place)
The A’s had a fire sale this offseason, trading away almost the entire team’s core from the past few seasons. Many fans are upset at this strategy, as the team was close to competing, but instead will go into a rebuild for the foreseeable future.
The Team: The staples of the team that have found a new home include Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, and Chris Bassitt. Mark Canha also left as a free agent. The team received prospects in the three major trades they made, signaling that they will go into a full rebuild. Rumors surrounding trades of Ramon Laureano, Sean Manaea, and Frankie Montas have been circulating social media, and they could be gone any day now. Former top prospect Christian Pache came over from the Braves in the Olson trade, and should be a starting outfielder on Opening Day. This team is now full of prospects, and will work to develop their next wave of stars during the 2022 MLB season.
FanGraphs predicts Oakland to finish with a 72-90 record in fifth place. I agree with the placement, but see the A’s finishing 67-95 once the remaining stars get traded.