Houston Astros - They seem confused about whether they’re still in full rebuild/tank mode or whether they’re in some kind of hybrid tank mode. Confusion wouldn’t be too surprising given well-documented off-season turmoil. Trading Dexter Fowler brought back a potentially viable starter in Dan Straily but also blocked young Matt Dominguez from getting more experience at third base by bringing in Luis Valbuena. The baffling signing of Colby Rasmus clogs an outfield full of seemingly comparable guys. Looking forward to watching another year of the young starting trio of Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh and Brett Oberholtzer. Can they field two All-Stars this year? Jose Altuve and Keuchel?
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - The Angels wear red, which is the devil’s hue. So that’s weird. They used to have Brad Fullmer. That’s super weird. They exist in a quantum netherworld in which they purport to represent two cities at once. Just really weird here. They don’t talk about the left fielder and the thing. They talk about the center fielder who is a fresh-faced guy and hasn’t begun to sulk yet. And they talk about that even fresher-faced guy in right field to boot. And they talk about that other guy who is a great, great ballplayer over at first base who by all reports is ready to continue his assault on the 3,000-hit club. They also got pitchers. And they made good trades for infielders and don’t have to worry about losing the guy with the cop moustache who signed with the L.A. Dodgers. Will C.J. Wilson stink again?
Oakland Athletics - They had trouble with their late-inning relief last year. So, after a series of interlocking deals worthy of a Chapter 11 case, they seem to have slotted Tyler Clippard in behind putative closer Sean Doolittle. But Doolittle is hurt – among other spring gimps – so we’ll see. Meanwhile they also traded for a promising starter named Jesse Hahn, traded away All-Star first baseman Brandon Moss and gave fan-favorite outfielder Sam Fuld a job. Since this is Oakland, ground zero for self-aggrandizing baseball stat onanism, Blog will ask: Is Sonny Gray going to regress? BONUS QUESTION: Is Ike Davis going to clog the sensitive stadium plumbing?
Seattle Mariners - Last year’s 87-win vintage is bringing back a strong pitching staff and last year’s deadline acquisition Austin Jackson. And it massively upgraded its putrid DH situation with premier AL batsman Nellie Cruz. Some of their lesser-known guys, your Kyle Seagers and your Dustin Ackleys and your Logan Morrisons, are poised to make big contributions. Can starter James Paxton stay healthy? They’re going to be good. Blog is thinking they and the Angels will drive each other toward high win totals as they both seek to stave off a wild-card berth.
Texas Rangers - They’re better off with a healthy Derek Holland and a healthy Prince Fielder. Baseball is better off too. Those guys are fun. The Rangers were ravaged by an historic tide of injury last year and already have suffered the loss of Yu Darvish this spring. Even so maybe there’s enough here for them to hang around if nobody else gets hurt and if guys like Colby Lewis and Yovani Gallardo outperform their track records. Blog sees ‘em as pack middle. Can young Texas draftee Ryan Rua win and hold the left field gig?
Predicted order of finish:
* wild card