The American League West has some of the most intriguing storylines heading into the 2018 regular season. The Los Angeles Angels added Shohei Ohtani, but he has struggled throughout spring training. The Astros attempt to repeat as World Series champions. The Rangers and Mariners both appear to be not quite good enough to contend, but they both have too much money tied up in talent on the field to tank. Then the Athletics are in a prime position to sit in the cellar of the AL West for the next few years. So, there are no shortages of problems for nearly all of the teams in the AL West, but here is one problem for each team heading into the 2018 regular season.
The Houston Astros are similar to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and that seems completely reasonable to compare the two teams. The Dodgers and Astros were the two teams in the World Series for a reason, and the seven game series last October was fantastic. The Astros reloaded in the offseason by adding another piece to an already stacked rotation in Gerrit Cole. Their young core will be in Houston for a few more years and the only piece that may impact the Astros would be their bullpen. The Astros bullpen had a small question mark in the 2017 postseason and have lost Luke Gregerson and Francisco Liriano to free agency. Relying on Ken Giles and Chris Devenski is not ideal, but they are both established relievers that could be great pieces for the Astros bullpen if they repeat in 2018.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels bullpen has been a major hole in Anaheim for a number of years. At the end of 2017, the hole for the Angels would have been either second or third base. However, they fixed both holes with the additions of Zack Cozart and Ian Kinsler. The Angels did not address the bullpen, though, and that is critical for teams contending for postseason berths. The Angels need to fix the bullpen before they are ready to be a powerful threat in the American League. If they do not address this problem, the Angels could waste another year with the best player in baseball on their team, Mike Trout.
The Athletics have a large mountain to climb in the AL West. There are a number of holes around the diamond in Oakland, but the infield has the great question mark. Franklin Barreto is a great young talent, but the rest of the infield is hovering around major league average or worse. If the Athletics work on developing their young talent, this year would be perfect to see how much talent in waiting in the minor leagues.
The Mariners are one of the few teams in the MLB that are not poised for contention, but they are not tanking either. The Mariners lack starting pitching. Felix Hernandez and James Paxton sit at the top of the rotation, but the rest of the rotation is lackluster. If Chase De Jong and Erasmo Ramirez can pan out in 2018 after an inconsistent and unhealthy 2017 campaign, then the Mariners could be better than expected. Do not have high expectations in Seattle, though. This team should hover around .500.
The Texas Rangers are in the same boat as the Seattle Mariners, and their problem is also the rotation. Matt Bush is being given the opportunity to become a starter after spending 2017 in the bullpen. Cole Hamels is still a leader in the clubhouse, but he does not appear to be the ace that he had been in Philadelphia or the early portion of his time in Arlington, Texas. Jesse Chavez and Doug Fister are looking to bounce back after disappointing 2017 campaigns, but the Rangers seem to be relying too much on veterans in the rotation. Matt Moore and Mike Minor could potentially provide a lift to the rotation, but the Rangers rotation will probably not allow them to have a season above .500 unless the rotation is addressed in a major way.