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2023 AL West Preview: Astros Still Gold Standard

2023 AL West

Brett Coomer/Texas Sports Nation

2023 AL West Preview: Astros Still Gold Standard

The MLB season is nearly upon us. We have reached the sixth and final week of 2023 MLB division previews here at Vendetta Sports Media. Finally, we have the 2023 AL West, one of the more intriguing divisions in the league.

The World Series champion emerged from this division in 2022. Obviously, the Houston Astros have run the division, and the American League, for the past few seasons. Houston has been MLB’s gold standard. (aside from the whole cheating thing, of course). If it weren’t for the shortened 2020 season, we might be looking at six straight AL West titles for the Astros. Because Oakland won the division in 2020, Houston will have to settle for five out of the last six years.

For the first time since 2020, a team that didn’t win the division made the playoffs from the AL West. That was the 2022 Seattle Mariners, a team who crushed the organization’s long playoff drought. Seattle even managed to win a playoff series.

This division contains possibly the two best players in the sport on one team, a team that hasn’t finished better than third with those two stars. Man, baseball is weird.

Let’s get to predicting!

5th Place: Oakland Athletics

The Oakland Athletics have one foot out the door on the way to Las Vegas, so it would be surprising to see management go out and spend money. Or, even do anything to make their current club better. All Oakland needs to do is build for the future, which they did this off-season.

The headliner move was shipping catcher Sean Murphy to Atlanta. Esteury Ruiz was a good return in that trade. Two free-agent bats that Oakland acquired are looking for fresh starts, in the form of Jesús Aguilar and Jace Peterson. Shea Langeliers and Nick Allen are two prospects that will be Opening Day starters.

Shipping off Cole Irvin hurt the rotation for the current squad, but again, having a good team is not the A’s goal. The rotation should have a tough time in 2023, with Paul Blackburn being the likely Opening Day starter. Don’t sleep on first-year Japanese pitcher Shintaro Fujinami, as he’ll look to make noise for the club.

Trevor May is back in Oakland. Maybe he’ll pitch well enough for the A’s to trade him at the deadline. Their bullpen is actually respectable in places, which came as a shock to me. Four pitchers sported a sub-4.00 ERA in 2022. Nice!

I don’t like to dog on teams that are clearly out of the picture before the season starts. So I’m not going to dog on the A’s. You won’t win the AL West. All I ask is you field a respectable product and start spending money when you touch down in Vegas in a few seasons.

Projected record: (64-98)

4th Place: Los Angeles Angels

It’s do-or-die time for the Angels. Shohei Ohtani is set to be a free agent this offseason, and won’t re-sign with the Halos if they’re not competitive.

It pains me to put the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the fourth spot. Mike Trout and Ohtani should be enough to carry a team to the places it wants to go, but the league simply doesn’t work out that way.

The bats aren’t the problem. Aside from Ohtani and Trout, Jared Walsh has been underrated for the past few seasons. Taylor Ward broke out before getting injured last season. Hunter Renfroe and Brandon Drury are solid additions. The offseason lineup build continued with bench bats Brett Phillips and Gio Urshela. Wouldn’t it be awesome if Anthony Rendon returned to MVP form? That would boost this lineup.

The problem lies in the pitching staff. They were all bad last season besides Ohtani and Patrick Sandoval. Those two will be their rotation’s headliners again. Hey, Tyler Anderson is a legitimate three-starter.

The bullpen remains mediocre until proven otherwise. Signing free agent Matt Moore from Texas was big, as he was very solid for the Rangers last year. Aaron Loup was disappointing in his first year with the club, as did Ryan Tepera. They’ll have four guys competing for the starting closer job.

MLB casuals look at this team and say, “how the hell are they not amazing?” Well, actually all baseball fans say that.

I want to put the Angels as the division winners and act like everything will be better in 2023 and all their problems will go away. But I’m a baseball fan, and every season I’ve hyped up the Angels, and every season they’ve disappointed everyone. I’m not falling into the trap again. I hope, for the Angels’ sake, that they keep it competitive and have a chance to sign Ohtani this offseason. If not, put us out of our misery and trade him and gain an entire farm system. You’d get the biggest return of prospects of all time.

Projected record: (80-82)

3rd Place: Texas Rangers

I’m happy that the Texas Rangers have continued to spend money on free-agent talent. That was highlighted by getting the big fish, Jacob deGrom. They’re building a very respectable squad. It’s difficult to put the Rangers in the third spot, but I just don’t think they’re just there yet.

They added Robbie Grossman, an outfield bat to an already potent lineup. Nathaniel Lowe is one of the most underrated bats in the league and will bat in the third spot, following Marcus Semien and Corey Seager. Going down the lineup, looking at these names, throw in an Adolis García, I’d be scared to face this lineup night in and night out.

Adding starting pitching depth was a crucial box on the Rangers’ checklist for the 2022 offseason. They accomplished this goal, of course with deGrom, but also with Nate Eovaldi and Andrew Heaney. Martín Pérez will be trying to replicate his 2022 All-Star season.

The bullpen is where Texas really disappointed me. They really didn’t do much to address that part of their team, something I thought was a weakness in 2022. Adding Will Smith helps but even he struggled for parts of last season. Although their overall unit wasn’t strong in 2022, José Leclerc and Brock Burke were two bright spots that are returning for this season.

Texas will have a lot of expectations to win in 2023. Is their team there yet? If it all meshes together, Texas can be lethal. They aren’t quite complete yet. I don’t think they’re ready to win the division, but they’ll certainly compete in the AL West this season.

Projected record: (83-79)

2nd Place: Seattle Mariners

It was so satisfying to watch Cal Raleigh send the Seattle Mariners to the playoffs for the first time in a bazillion years. It wasn’t an accident, as the Mariners have built a respectable club that is going to compete for a playoff spot again in 2023.

Jesse Winker never worked out with Seattle, so he was shipped off and replaced with Teoscar Hernández. Out of the Winker trade, the Mariners picked up veteran Kolten Wong. Julio Rodríguez proved that he is a generational player last season and was paid accordingly. It was underrated how big of a bounce-back Eugenio Suárez had in 2022. This lineup is one of my favorites in the league.

Locking up Luis Castillo was massive. They needed to set the standard with a true ace in that rotation, and that’s exactly what Castillo is. George Kirby exploded onto the scene in 2022 and will remain a mainstay in their rotation. 25 starts and a 3.39 ERA is awfully impressive for any player, but especially a rookie like Kirby last season. Which Robbie Ray will Seattle get in 2023? That’ll be a deciding factor in how far this rotation can carry this team this season.

Paul Sewald revitalized his career in 2022 and will be a candidate to be the Mariners’ closer. Andrés Muñoz also broke out for the M’s. It looks like Chris Flexen will remain Seattle’s long man, and Diego Castillo will shove important innings for the Mariners again.

This young Mariners squad had a lot to prove in 2022, and they did. They accomplished their goal of winning a playoff series. Seattle could win the AL West in 2023. I firmly believe that. Houston is a tough hill to climb, however. Could the Mariners make a run at an American League title? I think so.

Projected record: (96-66) 1st AL Wild Card

1st Place: Houston Astros

The reigning champion Houston Astros only got better in the 2022 offseason. The headliner move was acquiring former MVP José Abreu to firm up what can be the best infield in the sport.

Abreu is really the only addition to the lineup for 2023. They lost Trey Mancini in free agency, so the DH spot will be entirely Yordan Alvarez‘s. Kyle Tucker is one of the best players in the sport year in and year out. Who can forget Jeremy Peña‘s 2022 postseason? Their first five hitters are the best five-hitter stretch in baseball by a long shot.

The club lost veteran Justin Verlander in free agency, so there are definitely some unproven names in that Astros rotation. They locked up Christian Javier to a big five-year deal. All five of their starters are homegrown which is wildly impressive. They’re all either drafted by the team or signed from the international player pool.

Houston managed to turn Rafael Montero into one of the best relievers in the league in 2022. That says a lot. Ryan Pressly is one of the best closers in the AL and will serve the ‘Stros in that same role this season. Héctor Neris was solid in 2022 as well.

It’s hard to find an elite team like Houston anywhere else in the league. They produce a lot of their talent in-house and thrive off of being hated. I love Houston’s chances to repeat as AL West champions in 2023.

Projected record: (104-58) 1st AL Seed

That concludes our MLB division previews! The 2023 AL West will be very strong again in 2023 like it was in 2022. I predict two teams to emerge from this division in the MLB playoffs.

Like every year, someone will surprise all of us. One of those shocking teams can be one of the Angels or Rangers. It’ll be very intriguing to see how those two squads match up this season.

The same goes for Seattle and Houston. In my opinion, those two are the two strongest teams in the 2023 AL West.

I’m very excited to see how these four squads (sorry Oakland) battle it out in 2023.


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