Although 2016 didn’t yield the results the Astros were hoping for, their 84-78 finish highlighted the many vulnerabilities still present on an incredibly talented roster. Instead of dwelling on what could have been, ‘Stros’ management went out this offseason and collected some key supplementary pieces that should contribute to a pennant challenging run.
The work done by General Manager Jeff Luhnow in the winter has made the Astros the +190 favorites at Bovada to win the AL West and when you add Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick and Brian McCann to a roster that already includes Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer and up-and-comer Alex Bregman – that’s a tough line to argue.
What the Astros have done is complete the perfect rebuild and they’ve done it in a way that’s eerily similar to the Cubs’ recent climb back into relevance. By pure talent, Houston is the second or third best team in the American League even if their lack-luster pitching rotation leaves a little to be desired. With their starters earning a team ERA of 4.37 last season, it’s tough to see them getting much worse but even if they do, the ‘Stros have one of the best bullpens in the majors that should be able to bail them out of most sticky situations.
All that said, all the other teams in the West – other than the Angels – got better in the offseason and division wins may be a little bit tougher to come by in 2017.
The Angels (+900), will still be reliant on their superstar centerfielder Mike Trout and an underwhelming lineup otherwise leads me to believe that this team could be in for another middling season and they could even regress with the Athletics on the rise. An absolutely terrible projected starting rotation of a not-healthy Garret Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Ricky Nolasco, Tyler Skaggs and Jesse Chavez makes me want to puke and not even clean it up.
So, what about Oakland? They’re being offered as +1400 longshots to win the division and although I don’t think they can come first, I do think they can improve on a 69-win (nice) season – possibly by a lot. Sonny Gray, the A’s ace, had a horrendous, injury-ridden 2016 in which he posted a record of 5-11 and an ERA over five. I expect him to get back to that Cy Young caliber he was pitching at prior to last season and help propel a team, that added a slew of free agent talent in the winter, back up the ladder in the AL West. It doesn’t take Billy Beane’s Moneyball sabermetrics to figure out that this team doesn’t have the depth to compete with Houston but if you can find a reasonable win total for the Bay Area Bombers, I’d take the OVER.
Texas and Seattle will be the main threats to the Astros’ rise but with the Rangers trending the wrong way after an ugly exit from the playoffs, I’ll be fading their +250 odds. Like Houston, Texas has some A-level prospects who have already made the jump to being everyday major leaguers. What they don’t have, is a good bullpen and superstars at almost every base pad like the Astros do.
|Los Angeles Angels||+900|
Odds as of February 28 at Bovada
The AL West has turned into a three-horse race between the Texas Rangers, the Houston Astros and the Seattle Mariners, who are 8.5 games back. The Rangers are the big favorite in this race, however, as they currently sit five and a half games up on their state rivals.
The odds on Bovada reflect the narrow race as only the three teams mentioned above have listed odds. Texas sits as the heavy favorite at -450 with Houston still in the hunt at +375. The Mariners are the longest shot available to bet on at +1400.
Texas was one of the best teams in the league prior to the all-star break and is currently tied with the Nationals for third-best winning percentage in the Majors. They have been aided by the quick development of prospects such as Nomar Mazara and Jurickson Profar and have been the beneficiaries of the revitalization of Ian Desmond, who has adapted well to his new role in the outfield.
The Astros were the division favorites before the season but stumbled out of the gate. They have been hot recently, however, and are now nipping at the heels of the AL West-leading Rangers.
Seattle has shown signs of life this year but just does not have the starting pitching to string together a good stretch of wins. Expect them to challenge for one of the two wild-card spots, but not for the division title.
Oakland and LAA are both struggling to stay afloat in the AL West and will be hard-pressed to climb back in the race at this point.
Odds as of July 12 at Bovada
The American League West was supposed to be an all-out battle between several teams that would likely come down to the last week of play. Instead, only two teams are above .500 and – though it’s incredibly early in the season – it doesn’t seem like that’s going to end any time soon.
The Texas Rangers hold a half-game lead over the Seattle Mariners as of June 2 while also being a slight +110 favorite to claim the AL West crown. The M’s are close behind the Rangers on the board, as they sit at +140.
Texas is one of the best teams in baseball at home, with the Rangers going 18-9 in Arlington at the time of posting. However, the Rangers are just .500 on the road and will likely need to rectify that to stay ahead of the Mariners.
Seattle is the opposite of Texas, with the Mariners holding a phenomenal 18-8 record while travelling compared to a lowly 12-14 mark at home.
Both the Los Angeles Angels and Houston Astros are listed at +900. Both teams have plenty of talent and the potential to win, but both have struggled thanks to poor pitching. The Halos and ‘Stros both rank in the bottom third in the MLB in combined ERA – and with their offenses middling, they have not been able to overcome their shortcomings on the mound.
And Oakland is there too.
|Los Angeles Angels||+900|
Odds as of June 2 at Bovada
After one month of play, the American League West is not close to being even remotely settled. The only team that has fallen behind a considerable number of games is the Houston Astros, who entered the season as the favorite to win the division.
The odds have pegged the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners as +200 co-favorites to close out the season as the AL West champs. The Rangers rank inside the top half in both hitting and pitching while sitting third in fielding percentage. Though the Mariners are not as well-rounded as the Rangers, Seattle has two of the best pitchers through the first month of the season with Felix Hernandez and Taijuan Walker throwing heat.
The Astros, Oakland Athletics and LA Angels are all still close behind the top two teams in the AL West. However, each team has at least one major hole in their game that has hindered them in the early portion of the year.
|Los Angeles Angels||+550|
Odds as of May 3 at Bovada
The Texas Rangers posted a 67-95 record in 2014 and improved to 88-74 last season, turning in a worst-to-first performance to win the American League West crown. They are not the faves to win the title this season, however, as their in-state rivals sit atop the division futures board.
The Houston Astros, who were in the driver’s seat for a large portion of the season before succumbing to the charging Rangers on September 15, top the AL West futures board at online book Bovada at +160. The ‘Stros boast a talented lineup that features Jose Altuve and superstar-in-waiting Carlos Correa, but also led the American League in ERA at 3.57 thanks in large part to a spectacular season from Cy Young-award winner Dallas Keuchel and great campaign from Collin McHugh.
The Rangers are sitting there at +210 to repeat as division champs; a feat they accomplished when they won the crown back-to-back in 2010 and 2011. Repeating as division champs in the West isn’t rare. The Rangers, A’s (2002, 2003) Angeles (2007, 2008, 2009) and A’s again (2012, 2013) have all repeated as champs in the last 14 years. With basically everyone back from the 2015 squad, PLUS Yu Darvish returning to the rotation at some point this season as well as a full campaign from Cole Hamels, the Rangers could very well turn the trick again.
When you’ve got the best player in baseball on your side, you’ve always got a puncher’s chance to win the division no matter how poor the rest of the squad is. Mike Trout and the Angels, who won 85 games in 2015 and finished just three games back of the Rangers, come in at +375. The Halos did add Andrelton Simmons to the roster, but this team doesn’t look too hot on paper. Yes, it’s only February and they this is why they play the games, but the Angels could very well be out of their depth in the West.
A true wildcard team here could be the Seattle Mariners. Bovada is presently offering the Mariners at +400 and while the team won just 76 games last season, this is a club that could be poised for progress. The front-end of the rotation is spectacular with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, and if Taijuan Walker keeps progressing and comes around as the No. 3 guy, this staff could be formidable.
If you’re looking at that “worst-to-first” magic again this season, why not take a look at the Oakland A’s? The A’s come in at +1200 after finishing the 2015 campaign with a 68-94 record; 20 games back of the Rangers. Ace Sonny Gray was brilliant for a poor A’s club last season, finishing ninth in the AL with 3.8 WAR. Beyond the great Sonny Gray, however, is a different story…
Who are you picking to win the division? Let us know in the comment section below.
|Los Angeles Angels||+375|
Odds as of March 28 at Bovada
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