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What are the biggest strengths for each AL West Team in 2023?

AL West strengths
(David Berding/Getty Images)

What are the biggest strengths for each AL West Team in 2023?

Another day before the 2023 MLB season begins, another analysis of each MLB team’s biggest strength. With four days remaining, we’ve hit our final American League division: The AL West.

I wrote an in-depth analysis of every division in MLB, including the AL West. It’s expected that the West will be very strong in 2023, as it was in 2022. Let’s not forget that the World Series champion came from this division last season.

What are some of the biggest strengths of every AL West team in 2023? Let’s talk about it.

Oakland Athletics: Trade Bait

Let’s all be honest with ourselves: The Oakland Athletics aren’t going to do anything of real noteworthiness in 2023 unless they decide that this is the year that they officially announce the move to Las Vegas. Oakland’s offseason wasn’t as bad as others, and what they have now are some pieces that they can ship off during the trade deadline.

One way you can get traded at the trade deadline is to play well on a really bad team, and the A’s might have some candidates for that. A couple of bats jump out to me right away, like Ramón Laureano, Seth Brown and Jace Peterson. Oakland would likely trade these guys because it’s hard to see these three developing with the young core that they have right now, and if any of them play well enough they can get a good return since they aren’t in win-now mode.

Some members of the pitching staff could be candidates for this as well. We saw it already earlier this offseason with Cole Irvin. I could see Trevor May or James Kaprielian fitting into this category.

Oakland is not trying to compete this year, we all know that. And when teams aren’t trying to compete, they can sell all their assets at the trade deadline. I think that’s what happens for the 2023 Oakland A’s.

Los Angeles Angels: Ohtani and Trout For One Last Time?

It’s been well documented that the Los Angeles Angels have two transcendent baseball talents in Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout This may be the final season the two are together, and that may play to the Angels’ advantage.

Ohtani could garner the biggest contract in MLB history when he becomes a free agent this upcoming offseason. If the Angels aren’t competitive again in 2023, don’t expect Ohtani to be too eager to re-sign in Anaheim long-term. How could this play to the Angels’ advantage?

Well, it might motivate the team to put their best foot forward this season to try and retain Ohtani. The players won’t be the only ones that are motivated: Management is going to do everything they can to keep Othani in Halo red and white. That means investing at the trade deadline, beefing up holes in the roster and making critical decisions. Frankly, LA doesn’t have any other choice but to go all in this season.

But let’s say it doesn’t work out, and the Angels’ season is over before it begins. In that scenario, Ohtani could be traded at the deadline and would be by far the most expensive rental of all time. One team would pay an unbelievable sum to add Ohtani for half a season. Not to mention they’d get a head-start on potentially drawing up a long-term extension with the superstar.

The Angels’ biggest strength is their two generational talents. Either way, the Angels have a good scenario on their hands with Ohtani. They need to play their cards right in what is a franchise-shifting season.

Texas Rangers: Purchased Rotation

It’s no doubt that the Texas Rangers went out and spent a ton of money these past two seasons, and a lot of that money is being poured into their rotation, especially this past offseason.

They got the big fish in Jacob deGrom. After deGrom, I was most impressed at the depth of pieces that Texas was able to acquire. Nate Eovaldi, Andrew Heaney and Jake Odorizzi are some new names in town that will very much help this team improve from what they were last season. This rotation is all acquired through free agency or trade within the past three years.

This is how Texas operates. Spend a lot of money and piece together the strengths that you haven’t been able to manufacture. It’s a bold strategy that can backfire, but if these 5-6 guys stay healthy enough, Texas has a scary rotation that no one will want to face.

Other parts of this Rangers team have some of these same qualities, but the rotation sticks out the most. If Texas is truly going to be competitive in 2023, it’s going to be on the backs of these arms more than anything else.

Seattle Mariners: Youth In All Three Phases

The Seattle Mariners’ biggest strength comes from their youth. Luckily for Seattle, they have young stars in every phase of the game: the lineup, rotation, and bullpen.

Starting with the golden goose, Julio Rodríguez will be a Seattle Mariner for a long time. The AL rookie of the year is still only 22. Cal Raleigh was a reliable bat as a catcher last year and fits in with the young mold. Seattle is still waiting on Jarred Kelenic to break through but he has time as he’s only 23.

The pitching staff is where you’ll really find the elite youth in this group, starting with rotation pieces George Kirby and Logan Gilbert. Seattle drafted both of these stars in back-to-back seasons, and those types of moves have really worked out well for them. Gilbert is slightly ahead of Kirby in experience and in counting stats like ERA and innings pitched, but Kirby very well may pass Gilbert this season. What Gilbert has in counting stats, Kirby makes up for in walk and strikeout percentage.

The bullpen has young guns as well, most notably with reliever Andrés Muñoz. He was dominant for Seattle last season and is still only 24-years-old. The same goes for Matt Brash.

Seattle’s youth is dangerous. Watch out for these guys in 2023.

Houston Astros: Winning Pedigree

The reigning World Series champion Houston Astros have proven to everyone these past few seasons that when all else fails, they’re going to find a way to win. It’s simply what they do.

The lineup is lethal, even without one of their best players in Jose Altuve for a period of time. They’ll still have the tandem of Alex Bregman,  Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, amongst many others. Not only will another season in the same environment help these stars, but they are all now proven winners. They can wear a chip on their shoulder and a ring on their finger.

The same goes for the pitchers. They have been there before and know what it’s like to pitch well on the biggest stages. Just ask Cristian Javier if he’s afraid of the big moment.

The Astros know how to win, and their manager finally knows what it feels like to win a championship. They’re going to be hungry for the same fate again in 2023.

I’ve talked about the AL West ad nauseam over the last month or so, and I still have no idea how this division is going to shake out. Several times I’ve given Houston the most praise, but World Series hangover is a real phenomenon. Texas, LA, Seattle and Houston could all win this division. Each team in the AL West will rely on its strength in 2023.

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