MLB American League West preview: preseason grades, odds and analysis


The American League West is the home of the defending World Series champion Texas Rangers, a team that will once again be formidable. They will have company. The Houston Astros remain a strong contender to win the division, just as they have been for the last decade, while the Seattle Mariners lurk within striking distance.

Who will emerge on top?

As part of the leadup to Opening Day this week, The Athletic is publishing MLB division previews. We looked at the National League West last week just before the Korea Series. Now it’s time for the AL West.

To break down the division, we’ve leaned on our team of experts. In addition to analysis from our team of writers, we’ve also tapped our expertise from the fantasy realm. Austin Mock provided expected win totals and various postseason odds for each team. Jake Ciely added his projections for the top hitters and pitchers. Our resident ex-general manager, Jim Bowden, handed out preseason grades for every team’s lineup, rotation, bullpen, defense and organizational depth. Then he topped it off with an overall grade.

The teams are ranked by their odds of winning the division.


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Pennants have become birthrights for the Astros. They’ve won four and played for three more during this dynastic run through the American League. An eighth consecutive trip to the ALCS is a benchmark of success, not some far-fetched hope. Eight of their nine everyday players return, as do all five of their starting pitchers. Adding Josh Hader to an already dominant back end of the bullpen should again make the Astros the American League favorite and a legitimate World Series contender. Last year, it took until the season’s final day to capture a third consecutive American League West title over the Texas Rangers, who wound up denying Houston a third straight pennant. Full seasons from Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez may create separation the Astros never enjoyed last year. — Chandler Rome

Photo:

Manager Joe Espada, 1st season (Getty Images)

🎟️ Make postseason

73.8%

🏆 Win World Series

7.1%

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Manager Joe Espada, 1st season (Getty Images)

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No team has repeated as World Series champions since the Yankees dynasty of 1998-2000. Could the Rangers have a shot?

First they will have to fend off the Astros and Mariners in the AL West. Texas returns one of the game’s most dangerous lineups, led by Corey Seager, Adolis García and Marcus Semien. The Rangers also have the benefit of two potent rookies in Evan Carter and potentially Wyatt Langford adding even more punch to the order.

The big question, again, is pitching. Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom and Tyler Mahle are all starting the year on the injured list. Nathan Eovaldi should be the staff ace after his postseason heroics, but the Rangers have yet to reunite with Jordan Montgomery and failed to trade for Dylan Cease. A Texas bullpen that blew more saves than it converted last year is banking on veteran acquisitions David Robertson and Kirby Yates having resurgent years.— Cody Stavenhagen

Photo:

Manager Bruce Bochy, 2nd season (USA Today)

🎟️ Make postseason

73.5%

🏆 Win World Series

7.1%

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Manager Bruce Bochy, 2nd season (USA Today)

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Seattle took a small step backward in 2023, collecting 88 victories after back-to-back 90-win campaigns in 2021 and 2022. The franchise’s new postseason drought is entering its first year. In order to return to October baseball, the Mariners will rely upon their top-flight starting rotation, which could emerge as the best in the sport. The trio of Luis Castillo, George Kirby and Logan Gilbert inspires envy, while the back-end duo of Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo both showed promise last season.

The offense will still revolve around 23-year-old outfielder Julio Rodriguez, who overcame a slow start in 2023 to finish with 32 homers and an .818 OPS. Jerry Dipoto added a trio of hitters who can boost the lineup: Mitch Garver, the catcher and designated hitter who aided Texas’s World Series run last season; second baseman Jorge Polanco; and old friend Mitch Haniger, who arrived in a complicated trade that sent Robbie Ray to San Francisco. Seattle came close to dethroning Houston in the American League West last season. The club has a chance to break through in 2024, but the improvement needs to come from within. — Andy McCullough

Photo:

Manager Scott Servais, 9th season (Getty Images)

🎟️ Make postseason

56.8%

🏆 Win World Series

4.2%

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Manager Scott Servais, 9th season (Getty Images)

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The Angels were tied to basically every free agent this offseason. Mike Trout openly campaigned for ownership to pull the trigger. The team also lost a nine-WAR player in Shohei Ohtani, who walked to the Dodgers.

In terms of the actual roster, the only area that’s been improved is the bullpen. The Angels are banking on improvement from their core of young starting pitchers. They’re hoping the coaching staff changes the culture. And they’re praying for better health. This is what the Angels do every year. Hope hope hope, with almost no direction or spending behind it. Maybe one of these years it’ll work. But for now, it’s hard to see how the Angels will stack up in a division with three other teams that will be contending.

This team needs Anthony Rendon and Trout to stay on the field. They need Logan O’Hoppe and Zach Neto to develop into the stars they’ve shown signs of becoming. And they’ll need that starting rotation to simply be better. Possible, yes. But it’s a lot to ask. — Sam Blum

Photo:

Manager Ron Washington, 1st season (USA Today)

🎟️ Make postseason

15.3%

🏆 Win World Series

0.6%

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Manager Ron Washington, 1st season (USA Today)

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Have team, will travel‘ may be the slogan of the 2025 (insert your favorite city name) Athletics, but for 2024 at least, the A’s will still be in Oakland and still ostensibly be fielding a major-league team. Little attention has been paid to the actual players on the current roster with the relocation saga taking up most of the oxygen around the team, but the team has quietly improved from the group they opened with last year, which managed just 12 wins through May 31.

Rookie Zack Gelof looks poised to build off a strong MLB debut and the rotation has more stability with the additions of veterans Ross Stripling and Alex Wood pairing with the underrated J.P. Sears and Paul Blackburn. The bullpen didn’t come in with much veteran depth and what they had was lost to injuries in the spring, but hard-throwing rookie Mason Miller could emerge as a top closer if he can stay healthy. The A’s won’t challenge for the postseason, but they should be more regular bad than bad bad. At the very least, they should have more wins than stadium renderings. — Melissa Lockard

Photo:

Manager Mark Kotsay, 3rd season (Getty Images)

🎟️ Make postseason

0.4%

🏆 Win World Series

0.0%

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Manager Mark Kotsay, 3rd season (Getty Images)

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(Illustration by Dan Goldfarb / The Athletic; Photos of Kyle Tucker, Marcus Semien and Julio Rodriguez: Ron Jenkins/MLB Photos, Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos, Steph Chambers; Getty Images)





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