Astros: 2020 AL West preview has Houston as clear favorite

WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - MARCH 10: Houston Astros sit in the dugout during the spring training game against the New York Mets at FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches on March 10, 2020 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - MARCH 10: Houston Astros sit in the dugout during the spring training game against the New York Mets at FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches on March 10, 2020 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /
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MESA, ARIZONA – MARCH 10: Starting pitcher Mike Fiers #50 of the Oakland Athletics walks to the dugout during the second inning of the MLB spring training game against the Kansas City Royals at HoHoKam Stadium on March 10, 2020 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
MESA, ARIZONA – MARCH 10: Starting pitcher Mike Fiers #50 of the Oakland Athletics walks to the dugout during the second inning of the MLB spring training game against the Kansas City Royals at HoHoKam Stadium on March 10, 2020 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Oakland Athletics

The A’s were the toughest competition for the Astros last year as they won 97 games before losing to the Rays in the Wild Card game. Manager Bob Melvin seems a great fit for this club, and they return most of their major players as well.

The offense is led by shortstop Marcus Semien, who emerged as an MVP candidate last year. They have great power and defense at both corner infield positions with Matt Olson and Matt Chapman, but they’ll be trying out new starters at catcher and second base.

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 02: Matt Chapman #26 of the Oakland Athletics fields a ground ball during the American League Wild Card Game against the Tampa Bay Rays at RingCentral Coliseum on October 02, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 02: Matt Chapman #26 of the Oakland Athletics fields a ground ball during the American League Wild Card Game against the Tampa Bay Rays at RingCentral Coliseum on October 02, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Slugging DH Khris Davis is looking to bounce back after a rough 2019, while center fielder Ramon Laureano, a former Astros prospect, has turned into a quality player. Veteran Mark Canha is coming off a nice season and should get plenty of at-bats, and former Astros Tony Kemp and Robbie Grossman are in the mix as well.

The A’s don’t usually have a problem finding quality pitching, and they’ve got plenty of candidates for it. Their rotation is led by Houston’s public enemy number one, Mike Fiers. Veterans Brett Anderson and Homer Bailey are gone, but Chris Bassitt and Frankie Montas return after solid 2019 campaigns. Sean Manaea and Daniel Mengden look to rebound from injury-riddled seasons.

Liam Hendriks took over as closer last season and shined, while deposed closer Blake Treinen has moved on to the Dodgers. Veterans Yusmeiro Petit and Joakim Soria are back to set up Hendriks, while left-hander Jake Diekman may be relied on to get out those pesky left-handers.

This squad doesn’t have many weaknesses and may very well push the Astros again. 35 wins wouldn’t be out of the question for them at all, so the rest of the division will have to take note. These guys are going to be in the mix once again.

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