Spotlight on the Texas Rangers
For the Rangers, who were the most surprising team in the majors last year, 2016 is a boom or bust year. On one side, Texas has World Series potential, but their injury history could make that goal look silly by midseason. The return of ace Yu Darvish is the major storyline heading into the season, and until he’s back former Phillie Cole Hamels is the head of the rotation and a potent pitching staff. DH Prince Fielder (.305 AVG, 23 HR) and OF Shin-Soo Choo, both of whom were injured in their first years with Texas, were outstanding last year. Keep an eye on prospect Joey Gallo, a swing-for-the-fences hitter who saw action at 3rd while Adrian Beltre was injured. If the Rangers stay somewhat healthy, they should contend for the American League.
Best of the Rest
- Houston Astros
Houston also made an astronomical leap after finishing in the cellars of both the American League and National League the past few years. The roster was improved over the offseason and the wealth of young talent makes Houston a favorite to reach the World Series. Starter Dallas Keuchel won AL Cy Young honors after a 20-6 campaign and shortstop Carlos Correa was brilliant in his first year in the Majors, winning AL Rookie of the Year. Correa and 2nd baseman Jose Altuve (.315 AVG, 38 SB) are MVP candidates, while OF George Springer could also have a big year. The additions of closer Ken Giles and back-end starter Doug Fister solidify the pitching staff. Barring a total collapse, the Astros will be in the World Series.
- Seattle Mariners
The Mariners have a ton of potential, but a tough division and a lot of question marks will keep them on the outside looking in. Nelson Cruz lived up to expectations, hitting a league-leading 44 dingers, but he was the whole offense for the Mariners. New GM Jerry Dipoto shook the roster up, but the biggest change was the hiring of manager Scott Servais, who has no managing experience. Servais must get the most out of 2nd baseman Robinson Cano, who the Mariners paid a ton of money and hasn’t lived up to the hype. Seattle’s rotation could be scary good, with Cy Young contender Felix Hernandez (18-9) and the promising Taijuan Walker.
- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Angels are in a downward trajectory and, with a barren farm system, things will get worse before they get better. OF Mike Trout (9.4 wins above replacement) is the best player in baseball, but his supporting cast lacks the pieces to contend for a playoff berth. New shortstop Andrelton Simmons, a wizard with a glove but novice with a bat, is intriguing, and OF Kole Calhoun (26 HR) flies under the radar. Starter Garrett Richards (3.65 ERA) and closer Huston Street (58 saves) are the best pitchers, but both could be on the trade block by July. The Angels won’t have a storybook ending this summer, or for a couple more summers to come.
- Oakland Athletics
The Athletics are the only team in the American League who it can safely be said don’t have a shot at the playoffs. The rebuild is starting in Oakland as GM Billy Beane builds up the farm system. The Oakland ace, Sonny Gray (2.73 ERA), will probably finish the season elsewhere but is a major player in the AL Cy Young race. OF Josh Reddick is another quality player that could be a great fit on a playoff contender. OF Billy Burns (.293 AVG, 26 steals) had a fantastic rookie year. Oakland is moving into a Houston or Chicago-like rebuild that could last a couple years and bring a boatload of losses.