Houston Astros

Are the Astros still the clear-cut favorites in AL West?

The Houston Astros were a dominant team in 2018, but are they still favorites in the division after rotation losses?

Houston didn’t make it back to the World Series in 2018, but there’s still a belief they can make it two out of three in 2019.

The club had the 6th best offense and were ranked 1st in pitching with a 3.11 season ERA. Houston has a lethal lineup with Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Alex Bregman as the cream of the crop. That’s not even talking about Yuli Gurriel or Josh Reddick. Also, the club added outfield slugger Michael Brantley to go along with the rest of them.

He is a guy who can hit over .300 and smash 15+ home runs every year. For example, his 2018 stats were .309 BA with 17 homers and 76 RBI. This may be one of the best signings of the offseason because he compliments the righty heavy lineup and adds more than home runs to the lineup.

On the other hand, the Astros have lost Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel to free agency. Another insult to injury is Lance McCullers Jr. having Tommy John surgery so he’s gone for 2019. Houston still has Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Colin McHugh. Although if they want to go deep in the playoffs, the smart move would to at least add another starter. The Astros are reportedly looking into New York Mets pitcher Seth Lugo at the moment.

The only threats for the Astros in the division for 2019 are the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels. The upstart A’s won 97 games in 2018 and are a young team that could upset the Houston this year. The problem with them is that they really don’t have a rotation. Ace Sean Manea is out for the season with shoulder surgery, so there only steady option in there is righty Mike Fiers. Other than him, the rotation is wide open. They most likely will go “The Opener” route, which is starting a bullpen arm and then putting in someone who can go multiple innings.

Don’t get me wrong, the A’s have an intriguing young core with Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, and Stephen Piscotty. They did make playoffs last year, but that will be hard to replicate with so much uncertainty in the pitching staff.

The Angels have done a good job in upgrading their rotation, added damaged goods in Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill. They should take it a step further and sign lefty Dallas Keuchel, since they are trying to win to during the Mike Trout window. The Angels also have no thump at the catching position, so signing Yasmani Grandal is a no brainer. They are in the same boat with the A’s because their rotation is uncertain. Even with the losses in the rotation, Houston still has better talent in the starting pitching side that separates them from the others in the AL West.

Next: Nationals hope pitching staffs helps replace Harper

Overall, the Houston Astros are still the favorites in the AL West because of their abundance of talent and experience in the postseason. Even with the losses in the rotation, they should still be able to reclaim the division title. The A’s have no rotation and the young players could regress and the Angels have a bubble wrap rotation. They both have a ways to go to dethrone the Houston Astros.

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