MLB – AL West Preview, Betting Picks, Predictions: Angels Can Take Competitive Division

Shohei OhtaniOur final stop of the 2022 MLB season preview tour takes us through the intriguing AL West. Dominated by the Houston Astros of recent years, the West is a division with at least two other viable candidates to take the crown in 2022.

Both the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics did their part in the offseason to make sure that Houston wasn’t running away with the division title this year. The Seattle Mariners also made some significant upgrades, though they aren’t quite on the competitive level just yet. Like most of baseball’s divisions this year, the AL West looks like it has the makings of a three-horse race. But this is why we play the games because as the San Francisco Giants showed in 2021, projections are only just numbers. Wins don’t come in the preseason or on the lineup card, they come on the field.

How Long Can the Astros Hold on to the Crown?

  • +950 to Win World Series
  • +400 to Win American League
  • -170 to Win AL West

The dominance and dynasty of the Houston Astros have not been without a wealth of controversy. The team achieved immense success, winning a World Series only a few years ago, but all of that was tainted by a scandal that involved cheating and trash cans, and a whole lot of bad blood around the league. But MLB did their part, suspended those involved, and moved on. The problem for the rest of the league was that the Astros were still good. Sure, guys weren’t tearing the cover off of the ball in a way that indicated the sign-stealing, but the team continued to ride hot bats and strong arms to a slew of AL West titles. Coming into 2022, the Astros are looking like much the same time minus one big Carlos Correa-sized hole at shortstop. But for a team that was supposed to get markedly worse once the cheating ended, that didn’t happen, and even without Correa, Houston is still a great offensive lineup. The Astros won 95 games last year and led in offensive fWAR after all, and while their projections this year are a little lower, they still find themselves at the top of the AL West.

Angels in the Outfield, Angels in the Infield, Angels on the Mound

  • +3000 to Win World Series
  • +1500 to Win American League
  • +400 to Win AL Central

While the results didn’t match the expectations, 2021 was a big year for an Angels team that has somehow found a way to underachieve oh-so often during the Mike Trout era. But while Trout was sidelined with an injury, Shohei Ohtani emerged, won the AL MVP unanimously, and suddenly the outlook for the Angels changed. Not wanting to waste the prime years of their stars anymore – Trout, Ohtani, and Anthony Rendon, the Angels are in full win-now mode. In the offseason, the team did as much as anyone, especially shoring up what had been a questionable pitching staff outside of Ohtani. The Angels brought in Noah Syndergaard, Ryan Tepera, Archie Bradley, Michael Lorenzen, and Aaron Loup – all pitchers, and many bullpen arms to help aid what was the seventh-worst pen in baseball last year. The Angels haven’t won a playoff game since 2009 and they’ve only been to the postseason once in Trout’s now 10+ year career. Something has to give as this team has wasted excellent campaigns by baseball’s best player.

2022 is a new year, however, and the Angels are at least, on paper, showing that commitment to winning. Health will be a key factor as Trout, Ohtani, and Syndergaard have all battled their share of injuries in the past. But if the Angels can stay healthy and if they can play to the level they’ve been expected to reach for years, then this is a team that won’t just compete with the Astros at the top, they’ll take over.

Can the Athletics Recover from so Many Offseason Losses?

  • +7500 to Win World Series
  • +2800 to Win American League
  • +2500 to Win AL Central

If you are in Oakland right now, take a look at a milk carton. It’s likely you’ll find the name of one of the 13 key players the Athletics lost this offseason. No team was gutted worst, but it seems to be by design. The Athletics famously, thanks to the book and movie Moneyball, are known as having one of the lowest payrolls and that means having to be creative. But that also means sometimes having to take the core of a well-rounded group and sell it off for parts. Such was the case of the Athletics offseason where they parted ways with Yan Gomes, Matt Olson, Josh Harrison, Matt Chapman, Starling Marte, and Chris Bassitt just to name a few. Youth is on the side of the Athletics but it is hard to imagine this team contending for a playoff spot as they have in recent years.

Making Moves: The Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers

Unlike baseball’s five other divisions, it is easy to look at the AL West and see the improvements made among all teams. The Mariners were already good despite an MLB-long 20-year playoff drought, but this offseason, they went for it. Seattle was active, acquiring Adam Frazier, Jesse Winker, Robbie Ray, and Sergio Romo among others. They did lose a few key pieces but overall, the team really showed a commitment to winning in the offseason.

The same can be said for the Rangers. With just 60 wins last season, the Rangers opted not to stand pat and dwell in the cellar with perpetuity like some other last-place teams. Texas acquired Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, Brad Miller, Matt Carpenter, and several pitchers to help almost retool the entire roster with upgrades throughout. No one spent more money this offseason than the Rangers and they are hoping to have something to show for it come the postseason.

Final Pick

I saved the West for last because I truly think this division is the toughest to call. There are really no awful teams all things considered. In fact, the AL West comes second to only the AL Central in terms of having all five of their teams in the top-25 of baseball according to betting odds and projections.

That all being said, the Astros and Angels are still the top teams and the ones that will have the most eyes on them. The Mariners are also getting a great deal of love and the Athletics, well, maybe they’ll be the Rays of 2021. As much as the Astros should still be favored until they prove they shouldn’t, I’m backing the Angels here. As I said earlier, something has to give. The team is too talented and their manager is too clever, for yet another season to be wasted among some of the top players in baseball.