By Zack Odell
Spring Training is starting again which can only mean one thing: baseball season is right around the corner. This article is the second part of one that was posted yesterday recapping and previewing the AL West. That being said, lets talk baseball.
HOUSTON ASTROSEmbed from Getty Images
2014 Record 70-92
OUTLOOK: The Houston Astros found an emerging star in second basemen Jose Altuve. Following a solid 2013, Altuve flourished last season hitting .341, swiping 56 bases, and a wins above replacement (WAR) of 6.00 which was second among second basemen (ESPN). Slugger Chris Carter provided some pop hitting 37 homeruns while driving in 88 runners, and prospect George Springer was called up and made a positive impact. Although the Astros still need to improve, they eclipsed 70 wins for the first time since 2010(ESPN), if Jason Castro and Matt Dominguez can return to 2013 form, and with a solid young nucleus of Altuve , Carter, and Springer they could push towards .500. However, the Astros seem to be eerily average at best, and the rotation needs a to make some strides before they can make a playoff run.
BEST ADDITION: SS Jed Lowrie
After getting marginal production from the shortstop position last season, the Astros upgraded this offseason bringing in veteran Jed Lowrie. Lowrie is a strong defensive infielder that can help sure up the middle of the defense. There is discussion as to whether Lowrie will play up to the potential he showed glimpses of with the A’s, but regardless Lowrie is a defensive upgrade. In addition, Lowrie brings playoff experience to a team that hasn’t sniffed the playoffs since most of their players were teenagers.
WORST LOSS: OF Dexter Fowler
Fowler’s loss is something that most teams could rebound from. He was solid at the plate but only scored 61 times and drove in 35 runs. The loss isn’t a huge loss for the Astros who have an influx of young talent, but the Astros could use some hitters. In the long run his loss isn’t going to be a huge scar on the Astros’ resume.
Prediction: finishes 4th; 71-91
LOS ANGELES ANGELSEmbed from Getty Images
2014 Record 98-64 reached playoffs—eliminated in the ALDS
OUTLOOK: Bringing back the unanimous AL MVP selection sure doesn’t hurt your chances. Outfielder Mike Trout continues to prove that he is among the best players in the MLB, and the Angels are among the top teams in the American League. The Angels are the defending champions in the AL West, and most signs point to a repeat effort. A lineup including Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton returns after leading the league in runs. In the rotation, Jered Weaver had a strong season winning 18 games, along with youngster Garrett Richards. If C.J. Wilson can return to his previous form, the Angels looked primed for another postseason appearance.
BEST ADDITION: DH Matt Joyce
The 2011 All-Star will add to the already stellar lineup. Joyce leaves the Tampa Bay Rays to journey to Los Angeles, where he will most likely be utilized as a DH. Joyce certainly will not supplant anyone in the middle of the order, but he could be placed in the 2 spot before all of the sluggers, or somewhere behind them, likely at either six or seven. Either way I expect Joyce to see his numbers improve, mostly due to the people around him.
WORST LOSS: 2B Howie Kendrick
The Angels replaced Kendrick with 2B Josh Rutledge, but the loss of Kendrick should still be felt. He is a career .292 hitter, and he has proven that he is an above average 2B who really added to the lineup. The loss shouldn’t hurt quite as badly because of the Rutledge move, but Kendrick leaving does have an impact.
PREDICTION: Finishes 1st; 96-66