Breaking down the AL West, where Astros will battle Rangers for supremacy

The Houston Astros are the trendy pick to win the American League West because of their dangerous lineup.

But don't count out the Texas Rangers. They are the defending division champions, even though they didn't major moves over the winter. The always-changing Seattle Mariners could be the surprise team.

The Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels each have too many questions, although of the two teams, the Angels made the biggest improvement.

Here's a look at the AL West:

HOUSTON: The Astros, who finished third last season with an 84-78 record after going 7-17 in April, have the potential to score a bunch of runs, but do they have enough starting pitching? ... The Astros added DH Carlos Beltran, 40 in April; catcher Brian McCann, 33, who has nine seasons of 20-plus home runs; and outfielder Josh Reddick, 30, a strong defensive player who has power but hit .258 in the second half. Reddick played for the A's and Dodgers last season. Will age catch up with these guys? ... The Astros' core of young players includes Jose Altuve (.338, 24 home runs, 30 steals), Carlos Correa (.274 and 20 home runs), Alex Bregman (.264, eight home runs), Evan Gattis (32 home runs) and George Springer.(.261-29-82). ... The rotation needs a rebound from Dallas Keuchel, the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner who slipped to a 4.55 ERA last season. The rotation also has Lance McCullers, who made 14 starts last season because of injury, and Collin McHugh, Mike Fiers, Charlie Morton and prospects Brad Peacock and Joe Musgrove. ... Luke Gregerson and closer Ken Giles anchor the bullpen.

LOS ANGELES: The Angels are recovering from bad contracts as pitchers C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver are off the books and outfielder Josh Hamilton, who is playing for Texas, will be off the Angels' books at the end of the year. ... The roster's new players include a couple of former Nationals, infielder Danny Espinosa and outfielder Ben Revere. Espinosa, who hit .209 with 24 home runs in 2016 for the Nationals, is a natural shortstop who will be a strong, rangy second baseman. He'll team with shortstop Andrelton Simmons as one of the AL's best defensive up-the-middle infield combinations. ... The Angels' new left-fielder will be Cameron Maybin, 30, who will join AL MVP Mike Trout and Cole Calhoun in the outfield. That will leave Revere, who hit .217 last season, as a fourth outfielder. ... The rotation is relying on the healthy return of Tyler Skaggs, Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker, as well as a continued progress from Ricky Nolasco. Former Nationals prospect Alex Meyer, who didn't do well with the Twins, will also be given another shot in the rotation. ... Albert Pujols, 37, is nine home runs short of 600 and 175 hits short of 3,000 for his career. The Angels weren't sure if he'd be ready for the season, but he's healthy and ready to go.

OAKLAND: The NBA's Warriors left Oakland for San Francisco and the NFL's Raiders are going to Las Vegas. Does that give Oakland a better chance to build a new ballpark and keep the Athletics? ... After winning 68 and 69 games in each of the last two seasons, it's not an understatement to say that the Athletics need a winning season to generate interest in a market that has low attendance and is in need of a new ballpark. The Athletics were last in the postseason in 2014, ending a stretch where they went to the postseason eight times from 2000-2014. ... Pitcher Sonny Gray, slowed by shoulder and forearm injuries last season (5.69 ERA in 22 starts) was healthy going into spring training, but a lat injury sidelined him and will cause him to miss being the A's opening-day starter. That opens the door for Kendall Graveman. Graveman, acquired in the Josh Donaldson trade, was 10-11 with a 4.11 ERA with 108 strikeouts in 186 innings last year. After that, the rotation has talented and unproven prospects such Jharel Cotton, Daniel Mengden and Sean Manaea. ... The A's best power hitter is outfielder Khris Davis, who hit 42 home runs last season, 19 at home. ... The new center fielder is Rajai Davis, who had 43 stolen bases for Cleveland last season. ... The A's hope that DH Ryon Healy can build on the 13 home runs and .305 average he posted after coming to the big leagues in July. The Athletics see him as a young Josh Donaldson. ... Trevor Plouffe, a former Twin, is the third baseman while Yonder Alonso plays first.

SEATTLE: The Mariners' 15-year absence from the postseason is the longest drought going. ... The Mariners' new-look lineup has Jarrod Dyson (30 steals with the Royals last season) and Jean Segura (33 steals for Arizona) at the top, setting the table for Kyle Seager (.278-30-99), Robinson Cano (.298-39-103) and Nelson Cruz (.297-43-105). ... Seager is developing into one of the best all-around third basemen in the league. ... The bullpen has been rebuilt with power arms, including 22-year-old closer Edwin Diaz, who saved 18 of 21 last season with 88 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings. He has the ability to throw 100 mph and his two-pitch repertoire is filthy. ... The rotation is led by Felix Hernandez, who needs to give the Mariners 33 starts, 180 innings minimum and ERA of about 3.00. Hernandez missed six weeks last year with a calf injury. Hernandez is making the transition from a power to a location pitcher and came to camp 20 lbs. heavier with good weight. ... The rest of the rotation includes Hishashi Iwakuma (sinker), James Paxton (curve), Drew Smyly (excellent in the WBC) and Yovani Gallardo, who had a 5.42 ERA for the Orioles last season.

TEXAS: The Rangers, defending AL West champions, led the AL with 95 wins last season, and didn't spend big-time money in the offseason. ... Carlos Gomez will replace Ian Desmond, who went to Colorado for $70 million, in center field and be flanked by Nomar Mazara, an impressive 21-year-old who hit .266-20-64 and Jurickson Profar. Shin-Soo Choo is healthy and in the outfield mix after injuries limited him to 48 games last season. Gomez hit .284 with eight home runs in 33 games last season for the Rangers. Gomez will bat leadoff. ... Mitch Moreland went to Boston, so that means Mike Napoli returns to Texas to play first base and bat cleanup. Napoli, who had 101 RBI for Cleveland last season, has played in the World Series for Texas (2011), Boston (2013) and Cleveland (2016). ... The Rangers hope to solidify their rotation with bounceback seasons from Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner, but spring training injuries will put those pitchers on the sideline when the season begins. Ross and Cashner combined for a 2.91 ERA and 536 strikeouts from 2013-2014 to lead San Diego's up and coming rotation. Ross was limited for shoulder issues last season, while Cashner's ERA soared above 5.00. ... Lefty Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish lead the rotation. The Rangers want Darvish, who has one complete game since signing with the Rangers, to use his fastball more and go deeper into games. ... Catcher Jonathan Lucroy is one of the best receivers in baseball and he hit .292 last season. ... Third baseman Adrian Beltre, 37, the team leader, is approaching 3,000 career hits. Beltre is at 2,942. He's on his way to the Hall of Fame. ... Hamilton, who didn't play in 2016 and has had 653 at-bats since 2014, had knee surgery early in spring training. He'll try to come back from his 11th knee surgery. He's 35.

Gausman's next start (Mike Wright optioned)
Orioles lineup vs. Braves

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