A few weeks ago, Chad Stewart and Jim Turvey started reviewing USA Today’s 2017 MLB projected win totals and discussing over/unders for each team. Today, they tackle the American League West.

Astros (90 wins)

Jim Turvey: I’ll take the over with the ‘Stros. I absolutely love the balance their lineup has top-to-bottom. Zachary Levine touched on this in the EW Astros preview pod, and he’s spot on. There isn’t a weak spot in this lineup thanks to some savvy offseason moves. I’m 99 percent sure that Carlos Beltran and Adrian Beltre spend the offseason together with Ponce de Leon, as they just never seem to see their skills degrade. Brian McCann and Josh Reddick give the lineup some nice pop fromt he left side, a nice balance to the impressive George SpringerEvan GattisCarlos Correa trio of right-handed power they already had. Seriously, try to find a hole in that lineup.
The club’s pitching is definitely the weaker of the two sides of the ball, but there’s even some nice talent here. Dallas Keuchel likely won’t repeat 2015, but he also isn’t likely to repeat 2016. If he settles somewhere in the middle he’ll be a solid arm at the front of the rotation. The rest of the rotation is a nice balance of high-upside youngsters and low-risk veterans, and the team can always make a trade for another front-end guy if they need to. I’m irrationally high on Ken Giles heading into 2017, but I just think he’s bound for a big-time breakout in the ‘Stros closer role. If he somehow implodes early again, Houston has a perfect Giles-backup in Chris Devenski. I’d honestly take the over even if this line crept up to 92 or 93 wins.
Are you orbiting as high on the Astros as I am, Chad?

Chad Stewart: Yeah, I’m with you on the Astros. I, too, was really impressed with their offseason moves. Their offseason kind of mirrored that of the Cubs a year ago, as both teams simply supplemented their young core with a few reliable veterans to push the team over the top. Their offense is stacked, and it now has a bit more balance in terms of handedness. I could easily see both Altuve and Correa finishing in the top-5 in MVP voting this year, a la Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo last year. The core of Altuve, Correa, Springer, and Bregman is just too potent. As you noted, the pitching is certainly a weak spot, but I’d expect a bounceback season from Keuchel and assuming he stays healthy, I think Lance McCullers breaks out in a big way this year. Add those two to the steady Collin McHugh, and the rotation isn’t half bad. I also agree about their bullpen. Giles is too talented to have another forgettable season like last year, and his strikeout and walk numbers both remained about the same as they had been the previous two seasons. It was really just the home runs that hurt him, so I definitely foresee a return to form. Additionally, there’s Devenski, Luke Gregerson, Will Harris, and Tony Sipp, among others. It really is a deep group.

If it weren’t for that dreadful April, Houston probably would have been a playoff team last year. Now, they’re even better and the clear favorites in the AL West.

Rangers (89 wins)

JT: Similar to the Tigers in the AL Central, I could easily see the Rangers crashing and burning in 2017. Looking over this roster, there are simply too many holes and no true superstars to cover those holes up. The fact that James Loney is a starting first baseman in the year of our lord 2017 should be the first sign. I also see regression from Rougned Odor, whose “swing at any and everything” method of hitting is only going to be able to last him so long. I do like Nomar Mazara and Adrian Beltre is a national treasure, but Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Gomez playing next to each other is a recipe for disaster/perpetual injury.
The top two in the Rangers rotation (Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish) are certainly on par with any team in the AL, but the drop off after those two is catastrophic. I’d rather see Martin Perez, Andrew Cashner, and A.J. Griffin staring in the latest horror picture from BlumHouse Productions than anchoring the latter half of my rotation. The bullpen is pretty solid, but they’re going to get absolutely worn down throughout the season thanks to the aforementioned end-of-rotation trio, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some attrition in the pen by the end of the season.
Jeff Banister is a strong enough manager to keep this team from going into a total free fall, but somewhere closer to 83 wins seems more reasonable than 89.
CS: I’m also taking the under for the Rangers. I know they won 95 games in 2016, but 89 wins just seems really high for this team. Outside of Hamels and Darvish, there isn’t much in the rotation. If Tyson Ross comes back healthy, he could provide a big boost, but it’s impossible to know how he’ll recover. A full year of Jonathan Lucroy will help, Beltre has yet to begin aging, and Odor and Elvis Andrus are useful, but the remainder of their crop of position players is not all that inspiring. And like you said, their outfield is not pretty. Sam Dyson, Matt Bush, and Jeremy Jeffress will form a good enough trio at the back end of the bullpen, but I don’t think the Rangers have enough to successfully defend their back-to-back division titles. Their 2016 dominance was fueled by an historic record in one-run games, which, to me, was the result of a whole lot of good fortune, and it doesn’t seem realistic to expect that again this year.

Mariners (85 wins)

JT: Count me in as a believer in the tinkering of Jerry Dipoto. Dipoto didn’t quite go full “one red paperclip” with his offseason transactions, but he did manager to shore up a lot of holes in the Mariners lineup and on the bench. I love the acquisition of Danny Valencia to just eat up left-handed pitching. I love the acquisitions of Jean Segura and Jarrod Dyson to form one of the fastest 1-2 punches to any lineup in 2017. I love the insurance that Carlos Ruiz offers in the (high) probability that Mike Zunino still hasn’t figured things out in 2017. Add those pieces into a lineup with a core of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Kyle Seager, and you’ve got yourself a nice offense.
On the run prevention side of things, I could watch Edwin Diaz on repeat for 17,263 straight hours, so I’m not too worried about the Mariners losing close games. They do have Yovani Gallardo in the rotation as of now, so that means they’ll have to score double-digits once every five days if they want to win, but I like the rotation outside of Gallardo. King Felix may be on the downside of his career, but James Paxton is trending (hard) the other way, while Hisashi Iwakuma and Drew Smyly are serviceable innings eater. I really like this team in 2017 and think they’ll end up in the playoffs one way or another. I’ll take the over.

CS: Again, I agree wholeheartedly. It seemed like Dipoto made a move every day this offseason, and it was for good reason. Like you mentioned, Segura and Dyson add some much-needed speed to a team that relies heavily on the power hitting of Cano, Cruz, and Seager. I’m also intrigued by Mitch Haniger, and I’m very curious to see what he can do with regular playing time, assuming he receives it. Valencia and Dan Vogelbach should form a solid platoon at first, and while a tandem of Ruiz and Zunino does worry me a bit, I don’t think it will be a disaster by any means.Seattle’s starting staff still isn’t great, but it certainly looks better than it did at the start of the winter. I’m not really banking on much more from King Felix than what he provided last year, and the same goes for Iwakuma. But it seems to be only a matter of time before Paxton truly breaks out and puts together a complete, dominant season. Smyly appears to be a perfect fit for Safeco Field, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he bounced back, but, at the very least, he will be a respectable back-end starter. Lastly, I’m not exactly sure how Gallardo’s ERA jumped a full two runs last year as compared to 2015, but it did. Maybe he can be a decent number five starter. He certainly can’t be as bad as he was last year, right?

The Mariners don’t really have another dominant reliever outside of Diaz, but I think there’s enough depth there that their bullpen should be above average. Seattle came up just short of a Wild Card berth two of the last three years, but I think the moves they made this offseason have put them in a position to end the sport’s longest postseason drought this year. And they better hope we’re right, as their core isn’t getting any younger.

Angels (74 wins)

JT: Man this number seems low. It’s truly shocking that a team with Mike Trout can be predicted for only 74 wins, but this is baseball, a sport where top-level talent can be wasted if the surrounding talent isn’t there. This is a team that won exactly 74 games last year after all. With that said, I see 74 as the absolute bottom of the barrel for this team, not the number that should be set as a guess.
Sure they play in a tough division, but…. Oh dear lord I just actually took a look at their roster. You couldn’t surround Trout with a more aggressively pedestrian lineup if you tried. Yunel Escobar, Danny Espinosa, Martin Maldonado – these are the names that you think “oh, he’ll make for a nice bench piece,” except they’re all starting for the Angels.
Then you get to the rotation. Their ace is a guy who decided to avoid Tommy John and go for platelet-rich plasma injections, a move that may well work but could also blow up in his face. That same guy is probably their most reliable pitcher in 2017. Ricky Nolasco is their number two starter on Roster Resource right now. That’s a sick joke. I kind of like Matt Shoemaker and the changes his made in his pitch repertoire in 2017, but when “kinda like” is the best thing said about your rotation, you’ve got issues.
The closer’s role is undecided, and who knows about the back end of the rotation. This team is a disaster. It’s insanely impressive that we have a player in our presence who can be projected for 9.0 WAR, but, in a perverse way, it’s almost more impressive that I’m taking the under for 74 wins for his team in 2017. Poor, poor Mike Trout.

CS: Ah yes, finally a team we disagree on! I’m taking the over, and the truth is that Trout is so good that the Angels don’t really need a whole lot more than a bunch of average players. Second base and left field have plagued the team over the last two years and while it may not seem like much, Maybin and Espinosa are both upgrades over what they’ve had recently. They also added Ben Revere and Luis Valbuena, who will make them a much deeper team than in years past. Their defense, which was already one of the best in the game last year, will now be even better, and may even be the best in the AL. Kole Calhoun continues to be one of the game’s most undervalued players on both sides of the ball and is pretty much a lock for a 4.0 WAR season each year. There’s a lot more to this team than just Mike Trout.If they all remain healthy, Richards, Shoemaker, and Tyler Skaggs could form a very good trio at the top of the rotation, and Nolasco and Jesse Chavez can eat up some innings at the back-end. Outside of Cam Bedrosian, their bullpen is kind of a mess, however.

Still, this team is better on paper than the one that won 85 games and finished a game out of the postseason in 2015. Though their success will hinge a lot on health, this team is far from a disaster in my eyes. I don’t think they are necessarily a postseason team, but it is certainly within the realm of possibility. More likely though, they end up around .500, and the “trade Mike Trout” nonsense starts up again.

Athletics (70 wins)
JT: Well we’ve reached the AL West version of the “I have no idea what to make of this team” team. There are some names here that really intrigue me. Ryon Healy and Mark Canha both are the type of players who will almost certainly break out once they leave Oakland in an inevitable trade. Marcus Semien and Khris Davis have as much combined power as any SS/LF combo in the league (if only because who the heck looks at SS/LF combos…). Matt Joyce and Yonder Alonso have both seemed “one year away” for the last five seasons, so maybe this will be the year. And who doesn’t love Rajai Davis?
On the pitching side of things, Sonny Gray simply has to be better in 2017 than he was in 2016, right? (Unless he isn’t.) Sean Manaea seems primed for a big-time breakout. (Unless he’s primed to be everyone’s fantasy-hyped letdown.) You could say the exact same pair of contradictions for Jharel Cotton. Out in the bullpen, the A’s are pulling the old “grab every ex-closer we can find” tactic, with four notable closers on the roster as of now (Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, Santiago Casilla, and John Axford). Experiments like that seem to either blow up in your face and start a new trend, with nowhere in between.
I guess I’m going to take the over with this team, mostly because of how high I am on the Healy/Manaea/Cotton trio, but honestly, you could tell me this team will win 65 games or 80 games this season and I’d believe you either way.
Are you as confused by this roster as I am?

CS: Yeah, I don’t really know what to think about Oakland. In fact, ever since the firesale that followed their 2014 season, I haven’t really known what to think about this team. I think the additions of Joyce and Trevor Plouffe are exactly the type of deals the A’s need to make right now, and Rajai Davis will help, too. Yes, he strikes out a ton and doesn’t provide much value in the field or on the bases, but Khris Davis might be the best raw power hitter in the game. Seriously, there’s just something different about the way the ball flies off his bat. And I don’t exactly know what to think about Healy. I mean, he looked great last year, but his numbers in the majors were mostly better than they were in the minors, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hit with some major regression this year.

Canha and Semien will both be useful position players too, but there aren’t any players here who could impact the offense to a point where it’s not near the bottom of the league in runs scored.As you pointed out their pitching staff has some real potential. Assuming he’s healthy, I’m expecting Gray to bounceback this year. I doubt he’ll be in the Cy Young award conversation as he was just a couple of years ago, but he certainly won’t be as bad as he was last year. Kendall Graveman looks to be a solid middle-of-the-rotation arm, and Cotton and Manea could both be great. And if it were maybe 2011 or 2012, their bullpen might be fantastic, but it’s 2017, so I don’t think it will be all that notable.

I guess I’ll take the over here since I think they are an improved team, but I wouldn’t expect a whole lot more than 70 wins.

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