Ohtani And The Angels Shake Up The West

Of all the divisions in baseball, the AL West is the one that pundits and fans most saw as a foregone conclusion. Clearly, the world champion Astros would sail to an easy victory. That was before the biggest story in baseball, and in American Sports emerged.

Shohei Ohtani, the wunderkind half seriously heralded as the Japanese Babe Ruth, landed with the Los Angeles Angels. Most experts believed that, with some work, he could possibly become a frontline pitcher and a slightly above average hitter. This would be an amazing accomplishment. Early on, however, Ohtani has looked like... well, Babe Ruth. An ace with a repertoire of great stuff when pitching, and crushing the ball for power and average at the plate. His MVP odds have dropped from 50-1 to 4.5-1. The Angels already have the best player in baseball, in Mike Trout, stuck for years on mediocre teams. A healthy Garrett Richards gives them another potential ace. They suddenly have a solid veteran lineup with the recent additions of Ian Kinsler and Justin Upton. They have the best defensive shortstop in the game in Andrelton Simmons, who is finally hitting a bit. Maybe the real question with this team is, why didn't we see it coming?

Another surprising team in the division is the Oakland Athletics. They have no realistic hope of winning the division. A wild card would be a small miracle. But, as in so many years past, a plucky, strategically deployed lineup is producing. The bullpen looks solid and the rotation is probably about average, with Sean Manaea looking like a star, after a year dampened by poor health. This team shouldn't be underestimated going forward.

It might be impossible to underestimate the Texas Rangers. There is a fair amount of offensive talent, with emerging star Joey Gallo and a still effective, future hall of famer in Adrian Beltre. But leadoff man Delino DeShields is injured and it just isn't enough to make up for a phantom pitching staff. Sure, it looks like the team's gamble on Mike Minor is a win but you need more than that.

The Mariners are always interesting. Perhaps MLB's boldest team when it comes to wheeling and dealing and experimenting, this season they acquired speedster Dee Gordon and moved him from 2nd to centerfield, which makes a lot of sense. But, again, the starting pitching just isn't there. Felix Hernandez is sadly a below average starter now. Marco Gonzalez doesn't seem to be panning out. James Paxton is great, but injury is a near certainty at this point.

The Astros are still the favorites, and with good reason. This team won 101 games and The World Series in 2017. This year, Carlos Beltran, statistically their worst player, retired. They get a full season with Justin Verlander as their ace... maybe. Because Garrit Cole, a brand new acquisition, looks even better so far. He was a number one overall draft pick, so the talent is not in question and his early results could be the new normal. Young stars, Bregman, Springer and Corea have another season of experience. And their seemingly bottomless well of talent is pumping up more potential stars like Derek Fisher, Kyle Tucker, Forrest Whitley and let's not write off AJ Reed just yet. Oh, by the way, they have reigning MVP Jose Altuve. The Angels are good, but this might be one of the best teams ever assembled.

Intertops has the Astros to win the AL West at -222

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