The American League saw a pennant race it didn’t predict last season. The surprising Oakland A’s made things interesting in the second half, while the Seattle Mariners made the first half much more interesting than many thought. Of course – in the end – the Astros won. Will it happen again? Will the A’s continue their upstart status? Read on to find out and let us know what you think in the comments!
1. Houston Astros
What more can be said about the Astros that hasn’t already been said? Houston has dominated the American League West the last two seasons and has shown no signs of slowing down. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer, and Carlos Correa lead one of the best offensive cores in baseball while their electric pitching staff led by Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole has been unstoppable as of late. Roberto Osuna and Brad Peacock led Houston’s solid bullpen and with the Astros, just two years removed from beating the Dodgers in the World Series will once again run away with the division. What else is there to say than that this team is incredible?
2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
After 19-years at the helm of the Angels, Mike Scioscia will no longer be the Angels’ manager with Brad Ausmus taking over in 2019. After missing the playoffs every year since 2015, the Angels hope that a change of leadership will lead them to the promise land. The biggest key that will make or break the Angels in 2019, is the same as it is every season, can the pitching go the distance. The Halos have one of the premier offenses in baseball led by the best player in baseball, Mike Trout, Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons, Kole Calhoun, Shohei Ohtani, Justin Bour, Zack Cozart, and Albert Pujols. The question is: Can their pitching hold up for an entire season? If this season is anything like the seasons of late, the answer will be no, and with the loss of Shohei Ohtani’s arm for a season, the Angels will fight an uphill battle to get Mike Trout to the playoffs for just the second time in his incredible career.
3. Oakland Athletics
The Oakland A’s came out of nowhere in 2108 and won an incredible 97 games en route to a second wild-card spot against the Yankees. This season, while a repeat performance is possible, it is unlikely after losing studs such as Jed Lowrie, Johnathan Lucroy, Jeurys Familia, Edwin Jackson, and Trevor Cahill. Despite their losses this offseason, Oakland still has a solid young core headed by stud Matt Chapman, Khris Davis, Matt Olsen, Marcus Semien, and Stephen Piscotty. While Blake Treinen and Lou Trivino were studs in 2018, the pitching staff is nothing to marvel over. The A’s will be solid in 2019, but will not repeat as playoff contenders.
4. Seattle Mariners
The Mariners decided that after winning 89 games in 2018 that enough was enough and a full-on rebuild was necessary. They traded away most of their talent with the best players still with Seattle being Kyle Seager, Mitch Haniger, and Dee Gordon. The bullpen is in shambles and the starting rotation is a mess. The losses of Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz, and James Paxton will hurt this team badly and Mariners fans can expect some long seasons ahead.
5. Texas Rangers
Simply by looking at the Rangers’ depth chart going into 2019, you can tell that this team is going to finish in last place. Joey Gallo, Shin-Soo Choo, and Rougned Odor led the dismal offense while the bullpen and starting pitching staff are both awful. This team is just plain bad and no number of Joey Gallo home runs can save the Rangers from a season that will end worse for Texas than the Battle of the Alamo.
1. Houston Astros: This off-season though they let go of Marwin Gonzalez in free agency, they went out and got Michael Brantley from the Indians. So the team is not exactly in decline, though the rotation might be. Despite having two potential Cy Young candidates in Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander, they will be without Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel this season(assuming here, as Keuchel is still unsigned). I see the offensive core improving on this team though with Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa, as well as continued production from Jose Altuve who has led this team for years.
2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Giuseppe must be rubbing off on me (though I’ve also likely influenced his picking of the Braves as #1 in the NL East). That said I just don’t think the A’s can bullpen their way to contention again, and I think the Angels made some nice under the radar moves. Bringing in Justin Bour is a great example, moving Albert Pujols to DH full time or at least a limited platoon role. Mike Trout. As is the case, it comes down to pitching. I’m still big on Andrew Heaney figuring things out and Tyler Skaggs when healthy can be really good. Will they get anything out of Matt Harvey? They brought in Cody Allen to close, the question remains how many times they will be able to hand him the ball.
3. Oakland Athletics: I hope they prove me wrong again. They were an amazing story of 2018…but I’m not yet sold on the 2019 version. The A’s still have a strong core with under-rated All-Star Matt Chapman at third base and Matt Olson at first base. The bullpen looks strong and of course, the A’s made it all the way last season with no money spent. Can they do it again – and will they able to keep stars like “The Matts” into the future to build around?
4. Texas Rangers: The Rangers have quietly a starting rotation stable of pitching reclamation projects. From Mike Minor to Drew Smyly(out of MLB since 2016) Lance Lynn to Shelby Miller, they too will also likely heavily rely on their bullpen. Miller was a really good young pitching prospect with the Cardinals not long ago before being traded to the Braves for Jason Heyward. Then he was traded to the D’backs as part of the Dansy Swanson/Ender Enciarte trade. Team brains Tony LaRussa and Dave Stewart thought he was the missing piece…until he couldn’t find the strike zone anymore with any velocity before succumbing to injury. He made just a handful of starts. It might seem optimistic for the Rangers, but remember I’m only betting they finish 4th place in the AL West.
5. Seattle Mariners: Last year Ichiro Suzuki did not retire. This year he really needs to, and likely will after the Mariners play in Japan in the next couple of weeks. He is dangerously close to Rickey Henderson territory, however. The Mariners still have some good players, but as they enter yet another full team rebuild they are more likely to shed ones having good years like Kyle Seager and Edwin Encarnacion who they got meant to trade anyway than keep to build around. On the mound, Marco Gonzalez had a good season last year, and curious about new import Yusei Kikuchi, keeping the Japan player connection strong in Seattle.
Make sure to tune in tomorrow for Doubleday Double Talk’s 2019 Awards Predictions.