The American League enters the 2023 season with the reigning World Series Champion in the Houston Astros and the expectation of competitive races in the three divisions. While the Astros may be taking a step back, the battle to unseat them will depend on how successful other Junior Circuit clubs were in addressing their needs over the winter.
In the first of the three division previews, we will take a look at three aspects of each team; the overall direction and outlook for the club, the most important player for them to have success, and the prospect that could bloom at the Major League level during the 2023 campaign.
American League West
Houston Astros (106 – 56, 1st place, World Series Champions)
Direction – Down
The departure of AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander via free agency and a hand injury to second baseman Jose Altuve in the World Baseball Classic will slow down the Astros, but their rotation has the depth to stay competitive and the addition of former MVP Jose Abreu should fit in nicely as a replacement for Yuli Gurriel.
Most Important Player – Yordan Alvarez
The young slugger hit 37 HRs last season and finished third in the AL Most Valuable Player race. With Altuve expected to be out for the first month, more pressure will be on Alvarez to keep up his production.
Impact Prospect – Hunter Brown
The 24-year-old righty had a monster year in AAA (9-4, 2.55 ERA, 134 K’s in 106 innings), a microscopic 0.89 ERA in two major league starts, and bullpen work in the Astros postseason run. Brown begins the season on the IL with back issues but will get a shot at replacing Verlander in the rotation.
Los Angeles Angels (73 – 89 – 3rd place)
Direction – Up
The presence of Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout should by themselves make the Angels a contender, but the issue continues to be the lack of a supporting cast and the health of key players. Ohtani is in the last year of his contract and will be motivated to put up big numbers going into his walk year, but if Los Angeles is not in the running for a playoff spot, you could see a bidding war that would dwarf last summer’s sweepstakes for Juan Soto.
Most Important Player – Anthony Rendon
The signing of Rendon after winning with Washington in 2019 has been a disaster due to various injuries limiting him to 105 games over the last two seasons. The 33-year-old was healthy and productive in Spring Training and the Angels will need him to provide support behind Ohtani and Trout to keep them in the AL playoff race.
Impact Prospect – Logan O’Hoppe
Acquired from the Phillies, the 23-year-old catcher made the jump from AA to the Majors in September and hit .286 in limited play. The Angels are clearly going to give O’Hoppe a lot of rope with only veteran backstop Max Stassi as the other option behind the plate.
Oakland Athletics (60 – 102, 5th place)
Direction – How low can you go….
The Athletics are one of MLB’s disgraces, as they have dealt off numerous players in the prime of their careers for young prospects and seem to be counting the days until they move out of Northern California to Las Vegas.
Most Important Player – J.P. Sears
Sears was acquired in a deal with the Yankees and took the rotation spot of Frankie Montas. The 26-year-old lefty has good stuff and will get an opportunity to be a front-of-the-rotation starter this season. If Oakland hopes to reconstitute over the next few seasons, the road will be less bumpy if Sears can seize the opportunity.
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by Full Press Coverage on May 27, 2023 at 7:49 pm
Impact Prospect – Shea Langeliers
The A’s dealt catcher Sean Murphy to Atlanta in another of their cost-cutting moves, in part because they think Langeliers is ready. After hitting .283 in AAA Las Vegas last season, the 25-year-old hit .218 in 142 at-bats in Oakland. Regarded as an excellent defensive backstop, it is expected that his offense will take time to develop.
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Seattle Mariners (90 – 72, 2nd place – lost in AL Division Series)
Direction – Up
The Mariners have taken advantage of being able to acquire top-end talent because of other clubs dumping salary in the trade market and cultivating one of baseball’s most promising future stars. After a heartbreaking loss to Houston in the ALDS, Seattle will give the Astros a push for the West title.
Most Important Player – Julio Rodriguez
J-Rod burst onto the scene after two years in the minors to win AL Rookie-of-the-Year by hitting.284, with 28 HRs, and 25 steals. An excellent defensive center fielder, Rodriguez will have to repeat his rookie success and remain a centerpiece of the Mariners lineup for them to challenge for a division title.
Impact Prospect – Jarred Kelenic
The main piece of the deal with the Mets that saw closer Edwin Diaz head to the Big Apple, the 23-year-old has hit well in AAA the last two seasons but that success has not translated to his two stints with Seattle. After hitting .353 this spring, the Mariners are hoping that Kelenic is ready to make the jump.
Texas Rangers (68 – 94, 4th place)
Direction – Up (like their payroll)
Texas continues to spend money like it is burning a hole in their pocket, but it has not seemed to help their win total. In spite of signing the two biggest free agents in Marcus Semien and Corey Seager prior to last season, the lack of offensive support around the two middle infielders and an average pitching staff resulted in a record 13 games under .500.
Most Important Player – Jacob deGrom
The Rangers signed the two-time Cy Young winner to a five-year, $185 million deal in spite of only making 38 starts the last three seasons with the Mets. When he is healthy, there is no one better in the game. The problem is that he never stays healthy. Texas needs deGrom to make 30+ starts to give them a chance to be competitive.
Impact Prospect – Josh Jung
After battling health issues since being selected eighth overall in the 2019 Draft, Jung split time between AAA and Texas last season. The 25-year-old righty appears to have won the third base job after hitting .314 and three home runs during the Spring.
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