The Los Angeles Angels didn’t have nearly as big of expectations last year as they did in 2013. After a 78-84 disaster in ’13, the Angels finally lived up to their potential last year and won the AL West with a 98-64 record. The Oakland A’s were one of the two wild card teams from the division as well. The A’s lost their wild card game to the Royals, and the Angels were then swept by Kansas City in a poor showing for the division.

The Angels will be among the favorites to win the AL West once again in 2015. The Mariners got even better this offseason and should give them a run as well. Even though it appears the A’s have lost a lot, you just can never count out Billy Beane and the job he does. The Houston Astros are steadily improving and could be ready for a breakthrough. The Texas Rangers cannot possibly be as bad as they were a year ago. Let’s take a look at how I have this division playing out in 2015.

2015 AL West Predictions

1. Seattle Mariners

  • Odds to Win AL West: 9/5
  • 2015 Season Win Total: 86.5
  • My Projected Record: 90-72

The Mariners haven’t been to the postseason since 2001. They failed to make the playoffs last year despite going 87-75 and having the best ERA in the American League. The culprit was an offense that ranked 14th, 15th and 12th, respectively, among AL clubs in average, OBP and slugging. The solution to their offensive woes this offseason was signing Nelson Cruz, who led the majors with 40 homers last year. They also added outfielders Seth Smith (lefty) and Justin Ruggiano (righty), who they plan to platoon accordingly. The offense figures to be one of the most improved in baseball, and there’s no reason to believe the rotation will take a step back. Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma are as good a 1-2 punch as there is in baseball, while James Pazton and Taijuan Walker are two of the up-and-coming stars. I believe this is the year the Mariners win the AL West and put an end to their postseason drought.

2. Los Angeles Angels

  • Odds to Win AL West: 8/5
  • 2015 Season Win Total: 88.5
  • My Projected Record: 88-74

The investments the Angels made two years ago took longer than expected to deliver. But, they did win 98 games last year and figure to be one of the best teams in baseball again. Now the concern is whether declining stars Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols can continue to carry the offense alongside Mike Trout. They did lose second baseman Howie Kendrick this offseason, who is one of the more underrated players at his position. Jered Weaver is still the ace, but he’s on the downside of his career. C.J. Wilson’s decline the past two years is very troubling. Garrett Richards (13-4, 2.61 ERA last year) and Matt Shoemaker (16-4, 3.04 ERA) were two of the biggest surprises in baseball. They need to pick up where they left off, while top prospect Andrew Heaney needs to show he belongs in the big leagues this season. I believe the Angels have what it takes to earn a wild card spot, but I look for them to win 10 less games than they did a year ago.

3. Texas Rangers

  • Odds to Win AL West: 6/1
  • 2015 Season Win Total: 77.5
  • My Projected Record: 81-81

The Rangers had big expectations coming into 2014 as their win total was actually set at 88, and they were among the favorites to win the AL West. They would go just 67-95 after a rash of injuries decimated the team. The team essentially became a tryout camp as early as June. Prince Fielder missed 120 games last year, Shin-Soo Choo was hampered by ankle and elbow injuries, and Derek Holland’s season was all but lost until a strong September to close. With a healthy Fielder and Choo in the lineup, the Rangers figure to rebound offensively. They should also get more production from their starting staff with Holland coming in healthy. He’ll combine with Yu Darvish and Yovani Gallardo for a solid 1-2-3 punch at the top. After having everything go wrong for them last year, the Rangers are one of the biggest bounce-back candidates in baseball. I have them getting back to .500 with an 81-81 record in 2015.

4. Oakland Athletics

  • Odds to Win AL West: 4/1
  • 2015 Season Win Total: 80.5
  • My Projected Record: 78-84

On August 9 last year, the A’s were a majors-best 28 games above .500 and had a four-game lead in the AL West and an 11-game lead over the third-place team in the wild card race. They went 16-30 the rest of the way, finishing 10 games behind the first-place Angels, and only one ahead of Seattle for the final wild card. I believe that collapse will be more of a sign of things to come because of all the A’s lost this offseason. Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija, Jed Lowrie, Jason Hammel and Derrick Norris are all gone. Don’t forget that they traded Yoenis Cespedes in the Lester deal last year, and that’s when everything really imploded. The A’s are taking a chance on guys like Brett Lawrie and Ike Davis, hoping that they can resurrect their careers in Oakland like many before them have. But the fact of the matter is that this is one of the least-talented teams in baseball. I don’t even think Billy Beane can save this squad.

5. Houston Astros

  • Odds to Win AL West: 16/1
  • 2015 Season Win Total: 74.5
  • My Projected Record: 77-85

After three straight 100-loss seasons from 2011-13, the Houston Astros’ rebuilding project finally started to show some progress last year. They improved by 19 wins with a 70-92 campaign following a franchise-worst 51-111 season in 2013. Houston is loaded with talented youngsters, led by high-flying outfielder George Springer, do-everything second baseman Jose Altuve, and slugging first-baseman John Singleton. It added DH Evan Gattis from Atlanta, 3B Luis Valbuena from Chicago, CF Colby Rasmus from Toronto and SS Jed Lowrie from Oakland this offseason. The rotation is one of the most underrated in baseball with Dallas Keuchel (12-9, 2.93 ERA last year) and Collin McHugh (11-9, 2.73 ERA) coming off huge years, while veteran Scott Feldman (8-12, 3.74 ERA) still gets it done at a high level. The Astros even addressed their biggest need this offseason in landing veteran relievers Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson to bolster the back end of the bullpen. This is still the least-talented team in the AL West, but it’s one that could easily sneak into third place when it’s all said and done. I have the Astros pegged for 5th just barely behind Oakland and Texas.

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