Let’s skip the prologue this time and get straight to the team summaries, addressed in the order in which I am guessing they will finish.
Houston Astros. They’ve won 4 of the last 6 AL pennants, including the last 2. They are the reigning WS champs. Face it, regardless of the trash can banging scandal of 2017, they are at least a mini-dynasty. Prior to last season they lost Carlos Correa to free agency. Rookie Jeremy Peña replaced him…and earned a Gold Glove. Justin Verlander left this year as a free agent, yet their pitching rotation is still deep. They added Jose Abreu at 1B. Perennial all star Jose Altuve fractured his thumb, underwent surgery, and is out until at least June; and the Astros remain prohibitive favorites to win the division.
Seattle Mariners. They ended a two decades long playoff drought last year. They have a deep pitching staff, and will now have Luis Castillo for a full season, having picked him up in a mid season trade from Cincinnati last year. They have reigning RoY Julio Rodriguez. They appear to have strengthened their roster, picking up Teoscar Hernandez, Kolten Wong, and AJ Pollock. Expect them to snag one of the three wild card spots again.
Los Angeles Angels. They’ve added all star pitcher Tyler Anderson from the Dodgers. Other additions include Gio Urshela, Brandon Drury, and Hunter Renfroe. More than them, they really need a return to health of Anthony Rendon, who has played fewer than 60 games each of the past two seasons. They have two of the best players in baseball in Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, yet have not made the playoffs since Ohtani came over from Japan and only once in Trout’s storied career. Ohtani has been clear that he wants to play for a winning team. He’s a free agent after the season. There are pundits tabbing the Angels as a playoff team. I don’t see it. Instead, especially if they get off to a slow start, I say watch for Ohtani being a subject of many trade rumors.
Texas Rangers. There were pundits predicting great things for the Rangers after they spent $500M on three free agents prior to last season, without paying attention to how bad he Rangers were in 2021. They were well over three players short of contention. This offseason they signed Jacob deGrom, arguably the best pitcher in baseball when healthy. However, he has had injuries…and the Rangers were not one player away from contention at the end of 2022 either. Expect another losing season in Arlington.
Oakland Athletics. They are this year’s AL poster children for tanking. Seriously, the only interest in following this team will be to see if they win 60 games (I say no), and whether solid plans are made for where their home field will be after this season…Howard Terminal in Oakland? Las Vegas? Purgatory? No, purgatory is where their fans are, remembering ruefully how good this team was just a few short years ago.