Houston Astros: A Snapshot of the 2017 AL West competition

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Sep 13, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Texas Rangers third baseman Jurickson Profar (19) steals second base while Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (27) is late with the tag in the ninth inning at Minute Maid Park. Texas won 3 to 2 . Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 13, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Texas Rangers third baseman Jurickson Profar (19) steals second base while Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (27) is late with the tag in the ninth inning at Minute Maid Park. Texas won 3 to 2 . Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports /
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Texas Rangers (+650 odds to win AL Pennant – via oddsshark.com)

Sep 13, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Texas Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos (61) congratulates relief pitcher Tanner Scheppers (52) after defeating the dHouston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Texas won 3 to 2 . Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 13, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Texas Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos (61) congratulates relief pitcher Tanner Scheppers (52) after defeating the dHouston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Texas won 3 to 2 . Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports /

Key additions: SP Andrew Cashner

Key departures: DH Carlos Beltran, OF Ian Desmond, 1B Mitch Moreland

What happened in 2016.

While letting Desmond go may seem foolish to some. The price tag he was commanding and received was very steep. Desmond opened the season on a tear, batting .322 in the first half of the season. He then cooled off considerably with a .237 second half average. His defense in the outfield was less than stellar resulting in -0.1 dWAR rating.

So what did the Rangers do instead? They re-signed Carlos Gomez to a one-year deal. Gomez hit considerably better with the Rangers than with Houston. He hit nearly 70 points higher after being picked up by Texas off waivers. It is not certain whether he will play LF or CF.

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It will be interesting to see how Gomez responds to expectations this year. There will definitely be more placed on him this year, as opposed to the Rangers taking a chance on him last season. The Astros put expectations on him, and well, that was a big mistake.

The rest of the Rangers lineup will feature familiar foes like Adrian Beltre, Rougned Odor, and Elvis Andrus. It will also lean upon last year’s addition Jonathan Lucroy and young talent of Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo to keep their lineup as one of the best in the league.

The Rangers starting pitching had one of the highest RA (Runs Allowed) averages of all the AL teams, trailing only Minnesota and Oakland. So how did they win the division? They had an insane amount of late inning (clutch stat) wins which also saw their bullpen account for 30 Lsv (losses saved).

What about 2017?

As of now their rotation consists of Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish, Cashner, Martin Perez, and A.J. Griffin. Hamels should provide another stellar year, though he faltered in September. Darvish, when healthy, can be one of the best in the game. But his health definitely is a question mark.  Cashner, Perez, and Griffin are an average trio in the backend of the rotation. However, beyond the top five pitchers, the organization lacks depth.

The bullpen will remain the relatively the same as last year, which was lights out at times but also had some very ugly inconsistencies. Sam Dyson looks to remain the closer, but at first signs of struggles, there will be clamoring for Matt Bush to take over that role.

If the Rangers are to continue their AL West reign, they will need to get the expected production from an offense that excelled in situational hitting last year. They must also continue to beat Houston and Seattle. The Rangers went a combined 27-11 against those two clubs in 2016.

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