Can anyone in the AL West catch the Astros? Houston has dominated the division recently, winning six titles in the last seven years. The only year in that stretch when they didn’t was the 60-game 2020 season when they were reeling from scandal.
The Astros lost more than they gained this offseason, though, while the Mariners, Angels, and Rangers added several pieces. Seattle, which was a wild-card squad last season, looks particularly dangerous. Will Houston’s reign of dominance come to an end in 2023? Or will the Mariners or another team steal the crown from their heads?
Below we’ll review what’s changed in the AL West this off-season and offer key storylines for each team. If you missed any of our other division previews, click the links below:
We’ll review the teams alphabetically, starting with the reigning World Champions.
2022 Record: 106-56 (.654 W%)
Notable Roster Changes
The Astros’ offense could ultimately be better in 2023, thanks to the addition of José Abreu, who they essentially swapped for Yuli Gurriel. Abreu’s power diminished last season, but he still hit over .300 and drove in 75 runs on a broken White Sox offense. The veteran’s RBI opportunities should be abundant in the middle of Houston’s lineup. He doesn’t have to do much to be better than Gurriel, who struggled in 2022 after winning the batting title in 2021. Gurriel slashed .242/.288/.360 last season and was replaced down the stretch after the Astros acquired Trey Mancini, who has also departed.
The rest of Houston’s key offensive pieces are back; however, their depth will be tested early as spark plug Jose Altuve fractured his thumb in the WBC. He’s likely out until mid-May, so David Hensley and Mauricio Dubón will be counted on to fill the void. Michael Brantley, who hasn’t played since June of last year, will also start the year on the IL as he continues to heal from shoulder surgery. Jake Meyers will take his place in the outfield most games, though we could see more of Yordan Alvarez in the field.
If they can weather the injuries, the Astros’ offense should once again be among the best in the division, and all of the AL, for that matter. A core of Alvarez, Altuve, Tucker, and Bregman is one of the best foundations in baseball.
Projected Starting Rotation
The Astros should have one of the best rotations in baseball again this year, but losing Justin Verlander, fresh off a Cy Young-winning season, may drop them down a notch. They didn’t bring in anyone of note to replace him and, thus, will have to hope Lance McCullers Jr. can give them more than the 47 innings he threw last season. He’s not off to a great start, already dealing with a strained forearm that will likely sideline him through April. Young Hunter Brown will have to step into the rotation in his absence, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Brown was terrific in 20 innings last season and is arguably Houston’s top prospect.
The remainder of the Astros’ rotation is excellent. Framber Valdez seems ready to assume the mantle of team ace, and Javier, Garcia, and Urquidy are all capable of giving the club 150+ quality innings. Their depth isn’t what it was last year, though, so they could find themselves shopping for another starter come July.