The Houston Astros enter the 2019 season as the overwhelming favorites to win a third straight American League West title. The rest of the division, meanwhile, doesn't appear much of a threat to dethrone one of MLB's powerhouses.
The AL West has sent two representatives to the playoffs in three of the last five seasons but has just one World Series winner since 2003. Both the Astros and Oakland Athletics represented the division last season, and everyone other than Seattle has reached the postseason at least once since 2014. At 17 seasons, the Mariners own MLB's longest active playoff drought.
As we march toward Opening Day, here's all you need to know about the AL West:
2018 record: 103-59 (1st in AL West)
O/U win total: 99
World Series odds: 6-1
3-year trend: 2016 (3rd); 2017 (1st); 2018 (1st)
Highest projected WAR: Alex Bregman (5.4)
X-factor: Carlos Correa
Prospect to watch: Forrest Whitley (MLB.com: No. 7)
Winter report card: A
|5||Michael Brantley (L)||LF||2.2|
|8||Josh Reddick (L)||RF||1.4|
|Tony Kemp (L)||OF/2B||0.6|
The Astros lost the versatile Marwin Gonzalez along with power bats in Brian McCann and Evan Gattis, but the offense remains elite with Carlos Correa back to full health and Michael Brantley added to the mix. Houston ranked sixth in the majors in runs scored and seventh in OPS last season despite Correa, Jose Altuve, and George Springer combining to miss 99 games.
Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole both finished in the top five in AL MVP voting in 2018 and the Astros will have to rely more heavily on their two aces this season. The departures of Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton, along with season-ending elbow surgery for Lance McCullers Jr., created spots for Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock to rejoin the rotation, though that removes two strong arms from the bullpen. Houston will hope a full season of Roberto Osuna and Ryan Pressly can help alleviate any concerns in relief.
2018 record: 80-82 (4th in AL West)
O/U win total: 81
World Series odds: 50-1
3-year trend: 2016 (4th); 2017 (2nd); 2018 (4th)
Highest projected WAR: Mike Trout (8.4)
X-factor: Shohei Ohtani
Prospect to watch: Jo Adell (MLB.com: No. 14)
Winter report card: D+
|1||Kole Calhoun (L)||RF||1.9|
|4||Justin Bour (L)||1B||0.7|
|Tommy La Stella||IF||0.2|
Mike Trout is projected to put up more WAR than teammates Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons, and Kole Calhoun combined. That's a problem for the Angels, who ranked 21st in the majors in runs scored last year and did little to improve the offense this winter. A healthy Zack Cozart should help, but Los Angeles will be without Shohei Ohtani until at least May and Albert Pujols looks to be a $28-million platoon bat.
The Angels ranked 19th in ERA last season and will not return Garrett Richards or Matt Shoemaker. To make matters worse, Ohtani won't pitch following Tommy John surgery and Andrew Heaney is currently sidelined with an elbow injury. Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill are both coming off solid but unspectacular seasons, leaving the rotation without a real No. 1 or even No. 2 starter. Things don't get much better in the bullpen, as the club will hope Cody Allen can rediscover his form following the worst season of his career.
2018 record: 97-65 (2nd in AL West)
O/U win total: 79
World Series odds: 27-1
3-year trend: 2016 (5th); 2017 (5th); 2018 (2nd)
Highest projected WAR: Matt Chapman (4.9)
X-factor: Marco Estrada
Prospect to watch: Jesus Luzardo (MLB.com: No. 12)
Winter report card: C+
|1||Robbie Grossman (S)||LF||0.3|
|6||Jurickson Profar (S)||2B||3.1|
After scoring the fourth-most runs in MLB last season, the A's return almost the same lineup with the exceptions of Jed Lowrie and Jonathan Lucroy. The loss of Lowrie is significant but should be mitigated by the acquisition of Jurickson Profar. With Matt Chapman expected to take another step into becoming a star and Khris Davis featuring as one of the best power hitters in the majors, the offense looks to be in good shape.
Oakland will once again hope its rotation overachieves and try to win games with a strong bullpen. Blake Treinen was arguably the best closer in baseball last season, while Lou Trivino, Joakim Soria, Ryan Buchter, and Fernando Rodney help form the division's best bullpen.
With Sean Manaea set to miss the season and Daniel Mengden somewhat surprisingly opening the year in the minors, the A's are putting a lot of hope in strong starts from veterans Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, and Brett Anderson. If they falter, it may not be long until top prospect Jesus Luzardo makes the jump to the majors.
2018 record: 89-73 (3rd in AL West)
O/U win total: 75
World Series odds: 60-1
3-year trend: 2016 (2nd); 2017 (3rd); 2018 (3rd)
Highest projected WAR: Mitch Haniger (3.0)
X-factor: Yusei Kikuchi
Prospect to watch: Justus Sheffield (MLB.com: No. 43)
Winter report card: D+
|1||Mallex Smith (L)||RF||2.2|
|3||Jay Bruce (L)||DH||0.6|
|7||Omar Narvaez (L)||C||1.5|
|9||Dee Gordon (L)||2B||1.5|
*Kyle Seager out until late May
The Mariners' offense features plenty of new faces after an offseason makeover brought Jay Bruce, Edwin Encarnacion, Domingo Santana, Omar Narvaez, Tim Beckham, and Mallex Smith into the starting lineup. Despite moving out a number of stars including Robinson Cano and Jean Segura, the offense should still be dynamic as it features a nice blend of speed and power - though depth is a major issue. Smith and Dee Gordon combined to swipe 70 bases last season and Mitch Haniger, Bruce, Encarnacion, and Ryon Healy each offer 20-plus homer potential.
The pitching suffered a major loss when James Paxton was traded to the Yankees, and even the addition of Yusei Kikuchi isn't enough to save a bad rotation. Felix Hernandez is far from the ace he once was and may not even last the entire season with the club; a miserable spring training has done little to inspire confidence that he can rebound from a career-worst season.
Seattle's bullpen also projects to be a major weakness following the loss of superstar closer Edwin Diaz. New closer Hunter Strickland saved 14 games for San Francisco last season but also posted a 3.97 ERA while striking out less than a batter per inning.
2018 record: 67-95 (5th in AL West)
O/U win total: 69
World Series odds: 200-1
3-year trend: 2016 (1st); 2017 (3rd); 2018 (5th)
Highest projected WAR: Joey Gallo (3.1)
X-factor: Elvis Andrus
Prospect to watch: Hans Crouse (MLB.com: No. 85)
Winter report card: B-
|1||Shin-Soo Choo (L)||DH||1.1|
|2||Rougned Odor (L)||2B||2.1|
|4||Nomar Mazara (L)||RF||2.0|
|5||Joey Gallo (L)||LF||3.1|
|6||Asdrubal Cabrera (S)||3B||1.8|
|7||Ronald Guzman (L)||1B||0.6|
|9||Delino DeShields Jr.||CF||0.7|
The Rangers return virtually the same lineup that boasted the fourth-most strikeouts in the majors last season and finished in the bottom half of the league in OPS. Adding Asdrubal Cabrera helps cover the loss of Adrian Beltre and a healthy Elvis Andrus should help improve the offense, but Texas will easily be the worst team in the division for a second straight year.
The Rangers' rotation is loaded with veterans who have shown an inability to stay healthy. Neither Edinson Volquez nor Drew Smyly pitched at all last season and Shelby Miller has thrown just 38 innings over the last two years. It's safe to say Texas' pitching depth will be tested as none of the starters have thrown at least 200 innings since 2015. There's a little more reason for optimism in the bullpen with closer Jose Leclerc taking a major step in 2018 to emerge as one of the league's best back-end arms.