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American League West preview: Houston Astros have sights set on another trip to World Series

UPDATED: Tue., March 26, 2019

Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve  swings and breaks his bat during an exhibition game on Tuesday  in Houston. (Yi-Chin Lee / AP)
Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve swings and breaks his bat during an exhibition game on Tuesday in Houston. (Yi-Chin Lee / AP)
Associated Press

Houston Astros

2018: 103-59, first place, lost to Boston in ALCS.

Manager: AJ Hinch (fifth season).

He’s here: OF Michael Brantley, C Robinson Chirinos, LHP Wade Miley, INF Aledmys Diaz.

He’s outta here: INF-OF Marwin Gonzalez, LHP Dallas Keuchel, RHP Charlie Morton, DH Evan Gattis, LHP Tony Sipp, C Brian McCann, C Martin Maldonado.

Outlook: Anything less than competing for a second World Series championship in three years will be a disappointment for this veteran team. Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa look to bounce back after injury-plagued seasons and Alex Bregman is poised to take another step after a breakout campaign. The addition of Brantley adds some much-needed left-handed pop in left field. If Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole perform the way they did last season and the back of the rotation is solid, the Astros should be on track to win at least 100 games for the third straight season, just six years after losing a franchise-record 111 games during their third consecutive 100-loss season in 2013.

Oakland Athletics

2018: 97-65, second place, lost to Yankees in wild-card game.

Manager: Bob Melvin (ninth season).

He’s here: INF Jurickson Profar, RHP Marco Estrada, RHP Joakim Soria, OF Robbie Grossman, C Nick Hundley, LHP Jerry Blevins, INF Cliff Pennington, C Chris Herrmann.

He’s outta here: INF Jed Lowrie, C Jonathan Lucroy, RHP Jeurys Familia, RHP Shawn Kelley, RHP Edwin Jackson, RHP Emilio Pagan, OF Matt Joyce, RHP Cory Gearrin, RHP Kendall Graveman.

Outlook: The A’s were a surprise playoff team last year after three straight last-place finishes. Melvin got the most out of a low-cost roster filled with power hitters from Khris Davis, who has 133 homers the past three seasons, to Matt Chapman and Matt Olson on the infield corners. Chapman is an emerging star who makes highlight plays with his glove on a regular basis and is a threat at the plate. While the rotation is filled with questions, the bullpen is deep and one of the best in the league. Blake Treinen was nearly unhittable last season and Soria, Fernando Rodney and Lou Trivino provide plenty of late-inning setup options.

Seattle Mariners

2018: 89-73, third place.

Manager: Scott Servais (fourth season).

He’s here: DH-1B Edwin Encarnacion, SS Tim Beckham, OF Mallex Smith, OF-1B Jay Bruce, OF Domingo Santana, C Omar Narvaez, SS J.P. Crawford, LHP Yusei Kikuchi, RHP Hunter Strickland, RHP Cory Gearrin, RHP Anthony Swarzak, LHP Justus Sheffield, RHP Erik Swanson.

He’s outta here: C Mike Zunino, 2B Robinson Cano, SS Jean Segura, DH Nelson Cruz, LHP James Paxton, RHP Edwin Diaz, OF Denard Span, OF Guillermo Heredia, RHP Alex Colome, OF Ben Gamel, INF-OF Andrew Romine, RHP Juan Nicasio.

Outlook: It’s a rebuild year for Seattle. By midseason, the Mariners would like to say goodbye to Encarnacion and Bruce in exchange for future prospects. There will be as much attention on what is happening in the minors as what is happening with the major league club. Seattle believes all the moves this offseason has made the club younger, landed a handful of key prospects and opened up money to spend in a couple of years. But that means the longest playoff drought in any of the four major professional sports doesn’t appear likely to end anytime soon.

Los Angeles Angels

2018: 80-82, fourth place.

Manager: Brad Ausmus (first season).

He’s here: RHP Cody Allen, C Jonathan Lucroy, RHP Matt Harvey, RHP Trevor Cahill, 1B Justin Bour, OF Peter Bourjos, INF Tommy La Stella, RHP Luis Garcia.

He’s outta here: RHP Garrett Richards, RHP Matt Shoemaker, 1B Jefry Marte, RHP Jim Johnson, LHP Jose Alvarez, RHP Blake Parker.

Outlook: A winning season and a meaningful September. The Angels are coming off three straight losing records for the first time since 1992-94, and they have a new manager for the first time in the 21st century. They didn’t make major free-agent improvements, and they also won’t start the season with Shohei Ohtani, although the AL Rookie of the Year should be back to serve as designated hitter at some point during the summer.

Texas Rangers

2018: 67-95, fifth place.

Manager: Chris Woodward (first season).

He’s here: 3B Asdrubal Cabrera, RHP Lance Lynn, RHP Zach McAllister, RHP Shawn Kelley, RHP Shelby Miller, LHP Drew Smyly, C Jeff Mathis, OF Hunter Pence.

He’s outta here: Manager Jeff Banister, 3B Adrian Beltre, INF Jurickson Profar, C Robinson Chirinos, OF Ryan Rua, RHP Bartolo Colon, LHP Martin Perez, RHP Alex Claudio, CF Drew Robinson.

Outlook: While hoping all those starters stay healthy, the Rangers have a lineup filled with twenty-something position players – six of them 25 or younger played at least 106 games last season – after spending much of 2018 focused on development. First-time manager Woodward spent the past three seasons as third-base coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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