Preview MLB 2022 American League West
At this time, just over a month ago, it didn’t look like we were going to get to an early April start to the season. Fresh out of the latest round of failed labor contract negotiations, commissioner Rob Manfred announced that MLB was canceling the first two series of the season and pushing back Opening Day by a week.
The more days passed without the league and the MLB Players Association reaching an agreement, the more games would be canceled. Over the course of a few long days, there seemed to be no question of when we would have baseball in 2022, but if.
Then somehow, on the 99th day of lockdown, they figured things out. The season – all 162 games no less – was saved. And we couldn’t be happier.
With two days to go before opening day, here’s a team-by-team look at the American League West Division, which is going to be radically different this season. The Houston Astros and Oakland A’s have won the last five AL West titles, but is it time for a new contender to finally break through?
Record 2021: 95-67
Key Additions: INF Niko GoodrumOF Lewis BrisonP Hector Neris
Key Losses: SS Carlos CorreaINF/OF Marwin GonzalezP Zack GreinkeP Yimi GarciaP Kendall Graveman
The Astros were supposed to take a step back from the sign-stealing scandal. And it looked like they were going to do it in the 2020 season, but after squeezing into the playoffs under the expanded format, Houston rallied for series-decisive wins over the Minnesota Twins and Oakland Athletics before miss a game against the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALCS.
The following season, they won 95 games for their fourth division title in five years, qualifying for the World Series before falling to the Dodgers. Like it or not, the Astros have been as good as anyone in the league over the past half-decade. Despite the loss of Carlos Correait wouldn’t be a shock if they were in the thick of it again.
The case for: The Astros led baseball at least the year in offensive fWAR (33.9) and wRC+ (116) while finishing in the top five in slugging, batting average and on-base percentage. They can be hit by any metric you use.
The case against: Two seasons in a row, the Houston Astros have left a franchise icon they drafted and developed walking as a free agent with little effort to retain them. At least publicly, anyway. Two winters ago it was George Springer. Now it’s Correa who’s off to greener pastures. At some point, you have to decide to keep your best players.
Los Angeles Angels
Record 2021: 77-85
Key Additions: INF Matt DufyP Noah Syndergaard P Ryan TeperaP Archie BradleyP Michael LorenzenP Aaron Wolf
Key losses: DE Juan LagaresOF Dexter FowlerP Dylan BundyP Alex CobbP Steve CishekP Packy Naughton
Since Mike Trout entered the league in 2011, he has a Rookie of the Year award, nine All-Star appearances, three MVPs, eight Silver Sluggers and an RBI title. And the angels have practically nothing to show for it.
They have one playoff appearance — an ALDS sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Royals — and eight of those 11 seasons have been below .500. While Trout missed most of last year with a calf injury, Shohei Ohtani turned in one of the most memorable individual seasons and was the unanimous winner of the AL MVP. Still, the Angels spat, finishing second to last for the fourth straight year.
Surely, one of these years, all this talent will translate into more victories. Could this finally be the year they win their first playoff game since 2009?
The case for: The Angels were seventh in the ERA in the bullpen last season, but added a few key things. Both Archie Bradley and Ryan Tepera were solid last season and should fit in well Raisel Iglesias, who was one of the club’s highlights in 2021, leading the league with 59 games completed and converting 34 of 39 save attempts. We know all about this team’s star talent, it’s the other parts of the roster that have always been the question.
The case against: Starting to pitch has been a big deal for the Angels in recent years and the addition of Noah Syndergaard should help. Although he is capable of great things, he has only played two games since 2019 and is yet to reach the 200 innings mark in his career. It’s even a little hard to rely on Ohtani too much on the mound considering some of the injuries he’s had since entering MLB in 2018. If one or both of those two go down, there’s no There isn’t much else in the Angel Rotation that Joe Maddon can rely on.
Record 2021: 86-76
Key additions: C Stephane VogtINF Kevin Smith, DE Cristian Pache, P Brent Honeywell
Key losses: C Yan Gomes1B Matt Olson1B Mitch Moreland2B Josh Harrison3B Matt ChapmanOF Marc CanhaOF Starling MarteOF Chris DavisP Sean ManeeP Sergio RomoP Yusmeiro SmallP Andre ChafinP Chris Bassit
The better question with Athletics 2022 is who they kept last season rather than who they lost. Because no team has had more key player departures over the winter than the A’s. Oakland has had winning records in each of the past four seasons, but has no playoff wins in to prove. Never a stranger to a rummage sale, the A’s decided it was time to start over.
Billy Beane’s search for a winner continues, and it looks like he’s gotten deeper than ever.
The case for: Well, at least Frankie Montas is still there ! For now, anyway. He is arguably coming off his best seasons at the majors and should get a meaningful return in a potential deal.
The case against: MLB.com ranked the A’s as the 22nd best farming system before trading Sean Manee over the weekend, so it doesn’t exactly look like this rebuild will be particularly quick. Not to mention that fan attendance was the second worst in 2021 and the future of the team playing in the Bay Area continues to look cloudy. There’s a lot of work to do in Oakland.
Record 2021: 90-72
Key Additions: 2B/OF Adam Frazier3B Eugenio SuarezOF jesse winkerP Robbie RayP Sergio Romo
Key losses: 3B Kyle SeagerP Yusei Kikuchi, P James PaxtonP Tyler AndersonP Hector SantiagoP Joe SmithP Sean Doolittle
The Mariners won 90 games a season ago and remained in the thick of the playoff race until the last weekend of the season. Still, they own the longest postseason drought in the majors at 20. It’s no good anyway you rationalize it. But it’s not for lack of inaction.
According to Cespedes Family BBQ on TwitterGeneral Manager Jerry Dipoto’s recent deal with the Cincinnati Reds which saw the M’s outfielder jesse winker and third baseman Eugenio Suarez was the 121st trade Dipoto has made since becoming Mariners general manager in September 2015. Cespedes Family BBQ points out that it was the first trade he made with the Reds, meaning he traded with all but three teams – the Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Angels.
The case for: The Mariners were one of the off-season winners. Through a mix of trades and free agency, they signed four players with All-Star potential, headlined by a five-year contract with AL winner Cy Young. Robbie Ray. Winker has also improved in each of his five major league seasons and could be the perfect left-handed stick to replace the retired. Kyle Seager. And hey, Julio Rodriguez on opening day should be fun.
The case against: The reigning Cy Young winner is always a good way to start a rotation, but what follows is a bit of a question mark. Chris Flexon came out of nowhere with 14 wins and a 3.61 ERA in 31 starts last season, but he didn’t strike out many batters. Or Marco Gonzaleswhose 3.96 ERA significantly outperformed his 5.28 FIP, indicating possible regression on an additional season sample.
Record 2021: 60-102
Key additions: C Mitch Garver2B Marcus SemienSS Corey SeagerINF Brad Miller3B/1B Matt CharpentierDE Kola Calhoun, DE Jake MarisnickP Jon GrayP Martin PerezP Garrett RichardsP Brandon Worker
Key losses: INF Isiah Kiner-Falefa, INF/OF Brock Holt
Who spent the most money as a free agent this offseason? Los Angeles Dodgers? The New York Mets? No, it was the Rangers, by over $300 million no less. When the dust settled, the Rangers had given away over half a billion dollars in free agent money. Talk about things being bigger in Texas.
The Rangers gave Marcus Semien seven years and $175 million and Jon Gray four years and $56 million on the same day. Less than 24 hours later, they delivered Corey Seager $325 million over 10 years. The Rangers are much better than last year’s 60-win team. But are they significantly better?
The case for: Texas scored the fewest runs in the AL last season and third in all of baseball. Semien and Seager will instantly increase this range, as will the catcher Mitch Garver, who was acquired from the Minnesota Twins and is just two seasons away from hitting 31 homers. There is nowhere to go but for this range and for half a billion, production better increase.
The case against: Gray has had seven up and down seasons with the Rockies and should like the move away from Coors Field. But is he an ace? Probably not on most teams, let alone one looking to fight. Well under 30, Dane Dunning and Taylor Hearn showed flashes last season and will need to continue their development for this rotation to avoid being a liability.