Spring Training Wrap: Where do Astros Fit in A.L. West?


With only eight days remaining before Opening Day and Spring Training coming to a close, it’s time now to finish the evaluations and begin making some predictions. Coming off my Cactus League trip where I watched the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, and Seattle Mariners play ball. Unfortunately, the only Astros A.L. West rival that I was unable to scout was the Texas Rangers. So, in this piece I will include a section about the Rangers and give my prediction on how the Astros will finish in the A.L. West at the end of the 2015 season.

Here’s my prediction:

1.) Seattle Mariners (92-70)

2.) Los Angeles Angels (90-72)

3.) Houston Astros (83-79)

4.) Oakland Athletics (79-83)

5.) Texas Rangers (72-90)

Why the Astros finish 3rd

Giving the Astros an 83-79 record in 2015 might seem a little ambitious to some, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable. The Sports Illustrated MLB Preview that I recently read had the Astros finishing at 72-90, which I could see happening, but I also think it’s an underestimation of the quality of players the Astros brought in during the offseason. Before Spring Training, I had Houston finishing at 80-82, but players like Luis Valbuena, Robbie Grossman, Asher Wojciechowski, and Roberto Hernandez have given me a few more reasons for optimism in the last few weeks. I love that there’s competition for the fifth starter in the rotation, and I’m really surprised that Dan Straily‘s name isn’t even in that competition.

I also love that although the Astros are stacked in the outfield, Robbie Grossman refuses to start the season in the minors and has absolutely been tearing it up this spring, with 15 hits and 11 runs scored in 16 games. With all of those guys coming on strong in addition to the core of Jose Altuve, Dallas Keuchel, George Springer, and Evan Gattis, the Astros should be reaching higher than just a .500 record.

Why the Angels and Mariners will compete for the A.L. West Pennant

When I watched the Angels and Mariners last weekend, I was really impressed by both of their lineups. Seattle’s middle of the order with Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Kyle Seager is definitely one of the most formidable combinations in the American League this season. When you combine those three guys with Austin Jackson at the top of the lineup and quality hitters like Logan Morrison, Seth Smith, and Dustin Ackley, the Mariners are really stacked from the top all the way down.

However, the Angels are right there with them as far as hitting goes. The Albert Pujols and Mike Trout combo is still unmatched, and an improved Kole Calhoun at the top of the lineup will give those two guys more RBI chances. Also, C.J. Cron has been ripping the ball this Spring Training and David Freese is always a steady contributor from the hot corner.

I think the pitching is what separates these two teams by just a little bit. The Angels, although they have a solid starting rotation, don’t have an ace like the Mariners do. If Felix Hernandez continues to be himself, Seattle has a guaranteed win every five nights. Then, Hisashi Iwakuma is a great complement to Hernandez, and LHP James Paxton is having a nice Spring Training as well.

Los Angeles’ 1-3 is Jered Weaver, Garrett Richards, and C.J. Wilson, which sounds pretty good, but the three haven’t been able to remain healthy through a whole season, which has led to some pitching troubles the past couple of seasons. Weaver and Wilson have declined a little bit in recent years, and Richards had a solid 2014 season, but he will miss the first couple of weeks of this season. Although I do believe the Angels’ pitching has a lot of potential, I haven’t seen it all come together yet and that is what gives the slight nod to the Mariners.

Why the A’s and Rangers will disappoint in 2015.

While I’m pretty confident that the Rangers will finish last in the A.L. West this season, the A’s finishing fourth was a tough pick for me. I like to say that you really can’t count Billy Beane out because you never know what move he’ll make or what his new acquisitions will do, but this season I don’t think he has the same level of talent that he has had in past seasons. The A’s seem to always pitch well, but there’s a huge drop in talent from where they finished in 2014, and there are still questions as to whether Scott Kazmir will be traded or not.

I still like the Astros’ lineup better than Oakland’s, as I have question marks about Billy Butler‘s power improving and Ben Zobrist being more of the main factor in a lineup. Marcus Semien still hasn’t proven himself, and we’ll see if Stephen Vogt can keep improving. Something about this Oakland team has me thinking disappointment, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them prove me wrong and be in competition for a Wild Card spot in September.

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In Arlington, there’s definitely a rebuild taking place. Losing Yu Darvish for the season really decimated a starting rotation that depended on him, and missing top prospect Jurickson Profar after having right labrum surgery will hurt a lineup that lacks speed and youth in general. Prince Fielder will have to prove himself again after missing most of 2014, Adrian Beltre isn’t getting any younger, and Shin Soo Choo will have to improve on a .242 average. Also, Rougned Odor and Elvis Andrus will need to get on base a little bit more to create a few more RBI opportunities for Prince Fielder, which will help him get back to his usual form faster.

I’m really worried about how the starting rotation will fare without Darvish, as Yovani Gallardo, Colby Lewis, and Ross Detwiler have all struggled during Spring Training so far. Out of the five teams whose record I predicted, I’m feeling most confident about the Texas Rangers.

Next: ESPN Ranks Jose Altuve Number Two Among Second Basemen

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