Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2019 Record: 72-90 (4th)
The Angels have the best baseball player in the world and a two-way Japanese superstar on their roster and still managed to fall well short of playoff contention in 2019. LAA underwhelmed last season, as teams headed by Brad Ausmus tend to do.
LAA’s team batting average of .247 was 18th in the majors. The Angels 220 home runs also ranked 18th. In terms of runs scored, LAA was in the middle of the pack – 15th in the league with 769 (4.75 per game).
The Angels’ lineup was not terrifying. It was mediocre. An average-hitting lineup is okay if your pitching is stout, but LAA struggled on the mound as well.
The Angels’ team ERA of 5.12 was the 6th-worst mark in baseball. The elevated ERA resulted from the 8th-highest walk rate in baseball (over 3.5 BB allowed per game) and the 13th-highest batting average against (.254).
Angels’ Coaching Changes
Wholesale coaching changes should figure to improve the numbers all-around in 2020. Joe Madden will take over as skipper of the Angels – the team with which he began his managerial career back in 1996.
Madden is known for his unorthodox motivational and in-game management tactics. The Angels’ offense will no longer be restrained under Ausmus’ cookie-cutter, traditional approach. I see LAA scoring extra runs this season on brilliant calls from the bench by Madden.
Look at what the arrival of Joe Madden did to the Cubs franchise in 2015. The 2014 Cubbies finished 73-89 – dead last in the Central. In Madden’s first year, Chicago played to a 97-65 record and a playoff berth. One year later, the Cubs were world champions.
The Angels made a huge splash in free agency with the addition of the former Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon. Rendon joins a lineup with Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Justin Upton, Albert Pujols, and Tommy La Stella.
The Rendon signing gives LAA 4 legitimate 30/100 threats this season. I trust Joe Madden will get the most out of his players, especially in his first season.
What About Pitching?
Bad pitching was the Angels’ main concern in 2019. The hiring of new pitching coach Mickey Callaway is a good first step toward bringing LAA’s numbers back up to respectability.
Callaway was most recently the manager of the Mets. Those searching for proof that Callaway is beneficial to a pitching staff will find it in back-to-back Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom.
Callaway is blessed by a couple of new arrivals to the Angels’ rotation – veterans Julio Teheran and Dylan Bundy. Teheran has been a staple atop the Braves’ rotation for years while Bundy is a former top prospect with loads of potential.
LAA’s staff is quite young and (hopefully) still malleable. If Callaway can work his magic and help a couple of his pitchers reach the next level, the Angels should be able to compete for an AL West crown.
Bovada odds to win AL West: +600 (3rd)
Houston is still the class of the division, but I like the Angels’ chances of giving the Astros a run for the title. If the Angels’ thin pitching staff remains healthy, I see the race continuing into September.
The Angels have the upside of a 92 or 93-win team this season but could slide as low as their 72-win mark from last season if the pitching does not improve. Given the cloud of uncertainty surrounding the division-favorite Astros, +600 odds seem appropriate.
I like the Angels’ upside more than the A’s upside in 2020.
2019 Record: 97-65 (2nd)
After finishing dead last in the West in 2017, the A’s have put together back-to-back 97-win seasons – finishing behind Houston each time.
Unlike the Angels and Rangers who have acquired big names and bolstered their rosters over the offseason, the A’s are rolling out the same exact team. With no notable additions, Oakland will be a relatively easy team to forecast for 2020.
The bats remained hot all season long in the Bay last year. The A’s scored the 8th-most runs in baseball (5.22 per game) and hit the 5th-most home runs (257), all while maintaining a team batting average of .249 which ranked 16th in the league.
Bob Melvin enters his 10th season at the helm for Oakland, making him the longest-tenured manager in the MLB. The 3-time Manager of the Year has proven he knows how to get the most out of his players.
His 2020 lineup features the likes of Marcus Semien, Ramon Laureano, Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Mark Canha, and Khris Davis – all of whom have the pop to flirt with 30 homers this season.
A’s Pitching Staff
Oakland boasts a young core of starting pitching behind probable opening day starter Mike Fiers. 28-year-old Sean Manaea, 26-year-old Frankie Montas, and 22-year-old Jesus Luzardo round out a potential-packed group of 4.
Oakland is hoping to finally get a full season out of Montas who is yet to record 100 innings pitched in a season. In 2019, Montas was lights out – posting a 9-2 record and a 2.63 ERA in 16 starts.
Luzardo was on pace to make his MLB debut last season but injuries shut him down. The Peruvian lefty is the #2 pitching prospect in baseball (behind Houston’s Forrest Whitley). Having Luzardo in the rotation for an entire season is game changing.
It is easy to see why the Athletics’ front office did not feel the need to land a big free agent this winter. Montas and Luzardo beginning the season at the big league level gives Oakland plenty of depth.
In 2019, Oakland pitchers posted a 3.97 ERA – one of just 6 teams below 4.00. Making contact against the A’s is not a challenge. Oakland pitchers ranked 22nd in strikeouts last season. Getting hits is a whole different game. A .242 batting average against ranked 7th in the major leagues.
Throw a healthy Montas and a healthy Luzardo into the mix and the A’s rival the Yankees for the best pitching team (on paper) in the American League.
Bovada odds to win AL West: +300 (2nd)
The A’s are relying on some young guns this season. Luzardo and Montas need to start 25-30 games. The two Matts – Chapman and Olson – must continue to hit bombs, even if the balls are dejuiced in 2020.
Ramon Laureano is the X-factor in this offense. His job as table setter is of the utmost importance batting ahead of all-or-nothing guys like Davis, Canha, and Olson.
What holds the A’s back? The lack of a bona fide ace. 34-year-old Mike Fiers has pitched well in his 30s – maintaining an ERA of 4.18 with 13 wins per season in the past 3 years. You have to figure Fiers will begin regressing at some point. Trusting Mike Fiers in your biggest games is not a good recipe for success.
I see the A’s finishing 3rd in the West behind the Angels. I love the Angels’ upside. While I don’t see a way the A’s finish 2020 under .500 without major injuries, getting into the upper 90s in wins for the 3rd year in a row seems improbable.
2019 Record: 107-55 (1st)
Ahhhh … the Astros. Quite an impressive offseason in Houston. The Astros have achieved Patriot and Yankee-levels of universal hate in a matter of months.
There are so many unanswered questions in Houston, making the Astros the most difficult team to handicap in 2020. Will Astro hitters be good without pitch tipping? Will an increase in hit batters lead to more runs? Will anyone be willing to join the hated Astros at the trade deadline? Will the controversy rally the team together or divide them?
The Astros lost the best pitcher in the American League – Gerrit Cole – to the Yankees and had no notable additions. Most teams would be in rough shape losing a pitcher of that caliber. The Astros will be just fine, though.
Houston’s rotation still features Verlander, Greinke, and McCullers. Youngsters Jose Urquidy and Joshua James also possess big potential.
The Astros’ lineup is the deepest in baseball. Springer, Altuve, Brantley, Bregman, Gurriel, Alvarez, Correa, Reddick, Maldonado. There are no easy outs.
Bovada odds to win AL West: -230 (1st)
Houston is the most talented team in the AL West (on paper). Of course, there is no way of determining how much of the Astros’ success at the plate is from talent and how much is from cheating.
No one knows how the first month of the 2020 season will play out for Houston. Will the cheating scandal balloon even bigger or will most games be free of its impact?
Part of me thinks the Astros will struggle out of the gate while this distraction is at its peak. I could also see the Astros catching fire early due to team bonding the scandal could help foment.
April and even May will be quite unpredictable for the Astros, but the league wide hate should burn itself out by the summer months. I think that 95 wins is a good mark for Houston this year, although I could see them bouncing right around .500 if Verlander begins to regress. The Angels or A’s could challenge the Astros for AL West supremacy if their pitching remains healthy.
-230 is too much to lay for a team who just lost their ace and has more questions than answers heading into March. I’d rather put down $100 to try and win $600 on the Angels.
2019 Record: 68-94 (5th)
The Mariners’ 2020 outlook is pretty bleak. This is a team in full tank mode.
Bovada odds to win AL West: +12500
Not much to say here. Expect Seattle to finish dead last in their division by a large margin.
2019 Record: 78-84 (3rd)
The Rangers are a solid baseball team trapped in a tough division. Your final record is not going to reflect your talent when 38 of your games are against Houston and Oakland.
78 wins in the AL West is the equivalent of 87ish in the AL Central.
Corey Kluber and Kyle Gibson add much needed depth to the rotation, joining Mike Minor and Lance Lynn. Todd Frazier and Greg Bird are serviceable corner infield additions but not gamechangers.
I would say this year’s Rangers are a few games better than last year’s team. If everything goes Texas’ way, the Rangers could win 90 in 2020. 90 is their ceiling. A wild card berth is possible. I don’t see a division title happening. Houston, Oakland, and LA would all need to drastically underperform.
Bovada odds to win AL West: +1800 (4th)
I just don’t see it happening. The best value in the division is LAA at +600.
See you on top!