AL West season preview: What's in store for the Astros, Mariners, Rangers, Angels and A's in 2024?

Can Seattle or Texas stop Houston from winning yet another division title? Or will the Astros reach an eighth straight ALCS?

Just as the rest of the league got used to the Houston Astros as the gold standard of the American League, a different AL West team rocketed through the 2023 postseason en route to a World Series title, with the Texas Rangers clinching the first championship in franchise history. The first-ever all-AL-West (and all-Texas) ALCS was a seven-game classic, and it set the stage for what should be another thrilling division race in the regular season, after Seattle was also in the mix all the way until the final weekend last year.

Beyond the three talent-rich rosters at the top, the Angels and A’s each are entering fascinating campaigns as well, with the Angels adjusting to a post-Ohtani lifestyle and the A’s navigating a challenging pre-Las Vegas landscape on and off the field.

While the AL East might be more balanced from top to bottom, the AL West projects to have a similarly strong chance of producing three playoff teams. As such — and if last year’s postseason was any indication — this is not a division to take lightly.

Let’s dive into the AL West.

Other divisions: AL East. NL East. AL Central. NL Central. NL West.

[Join or create a Yahoo Fantasy Baseball league for the 2024 MLB season]


Projected record (per FanGraphs, as of March 15): 91-71

Best-case scenario: Alex Bregman signs an extension, and the Astros’ window of dominance is officially jammed back open for another few years. Yordan Alvarez plays 155 games and posts a 190 OPS+, winning AL MVP over Aaron Judge and Julio Rodriguez in the first AL MVP race in a while to not involve Ohtani. Justin Verlander returns and looks like his ace self alongside an even better version of Framber Valdez, who continues to assert himself as one of baseball’s best left-handers. Yainer Diaz delivers an unfathomable amount of offensive production after years of Houston punting on any semblance of catcher offense with Martin Maldonado. The Astros win another division title and return to the World Series — again.

Worst-case scenario: The starting pitching underwhelms to the point that the dynamite bullpen becomes less of a factor. The lineup fails to find any rhythm besides the otherworldly consistent excellence of Altuve and Alvarez, putting the Astros behind the eight-ball in a similar fashion to last summer. The Mariners and Rangers both put together a strong first few months, leaving Houston with little margin for error in the second half. Stuck in the mess that is the AL wild-card picture, the Astros barely squeak into October in the final week and fail to reach the ALCS for the first time since 2016.

Make-or-break player: Cristian Javier. A dark-horse Cy Young pick entering last season following his 2022 breakout, Javier struggled to deliver on the hype in his first full season in Houston’s rotation. After an inconsistent regular season featuring a sharp decrease in strikeouts and a few too many long balls surrendered, Javier delivered a couple of strong starts in October before getting blasted by Texas in ALCS Game 7.

We generally know what we’re going to get with Framber Valdez and Jose Urquidy as the other faces on this pitching staff, but what to expect from Javier? While his incredible four-seamer was still one of baseball’s best last season, his slider was decidedly not, which made it awfully difficult for him to rack up whiffs at a consistent rate. He’ll need to rejuvenate that slider if he wants to reestablish his upside as the strikeout machine he seemed to be developing into earlier in his career. And with Verlander on the IL to start the year, Javier’s importance in the middle of the Astros rotation cannot be overstated.

Season prediction: I’m envisioning a similar season to the one Houston had last year: They’ll win the division again, but it’s not going to be easy. That said, I also don’t think it’s going to require a last-minute surge or clinching on the final day of the season, like we saw in 2023. I think this lineup will be far more consistent from the get-go than last year, and that should make a massive difference. Along with what could be baseball’s best bullpen, I think Houston will be back in control of the AL West for the majority of the season, even if Texas and Seattle add pressure. An eighth consecutive ALCS appearance feels entirely plausible.


Projected record: 86-76

Best-case scenario: The highly touted pitching staff lives up the hype as all five starters stay healthy and form the best rotation in baseball, with three of Luis Castillo, George Kirby, Logan Gilbert, Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo making the All-Star team. Julio Rodriguez levels up even further in Year 3, becoming a full-blown MVP candidate with truly laughable power/speed numbers, while new additions Mitch Garver and Jorge Polanco both stay healthy and drive in a boatload of runs in the middle of the order. The Mariners win their first AL West title since 2001 and enter the postseason as legitimate threats to reach the first World Series in franchise history.

Worst-case scenario: Concerns about the durability of the revamped lineup come to pass, with Mitch Haniger, Polanco and Garver all missing time and leaving Seattle’s offense in a similar position as 2023, when it was entirely too reliant on Rodriguez playing at an MVP-level. While the rotation largely delivers, injuries to key relievers Matt Brash and Gregory Santos leave the bullpen in a diminished state that ends up coughing up a few too many late leads along the way. The team is good enough to stay in the mix all the way until the end, only to be eliminated on the final weekend, as they have been so many times before.

Make-or-break player: Ty France. From 2021 and ‘22, France’s 127 wRC+ ranked eighth among 24 qualified first basemen. In 2023, his 104 wRC+ ranked 18th. While his elite (yet painful) penchant for getting plunked ensured a respectable OBP, the power production France demonstrated over the previous two seasons largely vanished at a position where slugging is something of a prerequisite.

This past winter, France became the latest hitter to spend time at Driveline Baseball, conveniently located in Seattle, in search of more bat speed (teammate J.P. Crawford is one of the more resounding recent success stories). Should France rediscover his power stroke, this Mariners lineup starts to look a whole lot better. For all that has understandably been made of Seattle’s dramatic makeover of its offense over the winter, France remains a crucial constant with a lot to prove in 2024.

Season prediction: The key for Seattle will be getting off to even a decent start the first couple of months and not needing a miraculous hot streak, a la August 2023, to revive its postseason aspirations. After a flurry of activity this offseason that kept the team’s elite starting pitching fully intact, the Mariners have assembled a roster built to compete not just for a wild card but also for the division. There are still enough questions that I hesitate to pick them as the AL West winners, but I think they’ll be good enough to earn one of the top two wild-card spots and look to advance further than they did in 2022 — and maybe even win a home game.

[Read more: After MLB breakouts last season, these 4 young starters are focused on getting even better in 2024]

How far can Julio Rodriguez take the Mariners in 2024? (Henry Russell/Yahoo Sports)
How far can Julio Rodriguez take the Mariners in 2024? (Henry Russell/Yahoo Sports)


Projected record: 82-80

Best-case scenario: Top prospect Wyatt Langford slots into the middle of an already loaded lineup and mashes his way to the AL Rookie of the Year award, edging teammate Evan Carter, who maintains a .400 OBP over the course of a full season. Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Tyler Mahle all return and pitch well after the All-Star break, fueling the Rangers’ first division title since 2016. With another intimidating offense and a far more loaded pitching staff than the one they rode to the World Series, Texas arrives in October with a legitimate chance to repeat as champion.

Worst-case scenario: The already-thin pitching staff and the rash of spring training injuries in the lineup result in a troublingly slow start to the season, putting the Rangers in a hole that’s difficult to climb out of in the crowded American League postseason picture. Whereas a scorching hot start offensively propelled Texas to a comfortable place in the standings last year, a merely good lineup with major pitching questions makes the first half of this season more daunting to navigate. By the time the squad is fully operational, the Astros and/or Mariners have separated themselves in the AL West, leaving Texas to claw its way into wild-card position down the stretch — where it ultimately comes up just short.

Make-or-break player: Nathan Eovaldi. With such a deep lineup and firepower like Langford on the way, it’s hard to single out any individual hitter as particularly essential to Texas’ success. On the mound, though, there’s no shortage of arms we could identify as X-factors. It seems like Jon Gray, Andrew Heaney and Dane Dunning will be tasked with roles similar to those they occupied last year, covering as many innings as possible while the more famous pitchers (Scherzer, deGrom, Mahle) work their way back from injury.

Eovaldi was one of the frontline arms that trio covered for last year, when he missed all of August, but he’s healthy to start this season and seems primed to get the Opening Day nod. While his postseason pedigree is undeniable, his regular-season track record has been a bit spotty lately. How he looks — and how much he pitches — in the summer months could go a long way in determining Texas’ place in the standings come September.

Season prediction: Sorting through all of the injury timelines makes it especially difficult to project how this Rangers season is going to unfold, but I feel confident that even a moderately hampered version of this offense will still have Texas in the mix for a postseason spot. The Rangers’ chance at competing for the division title hinges on how well the pitching staff comes together, but I’m far less bullish on those elements falling into place as planned. As such, I expect the Rangers to be firmly in the wild-card melee for much of the season.


Projected record: 78-84

Best-case scenario: The Angels are a good baseball team. No need to get particularly greedy here; they haven’t finished above .500 since 2015, and they had Mike Trout and/or Shohei Ohtani that whole time. Let’s get back to competence before we start fantasizing about 100 wins and an October reintroduction of the Rally Monkey. A successful — and realistic — season for the Angels involves new manager Ron Washington injecting a new level of motivation and commitment to doing the little things right in all aspects of the game. The young core of Zach Neto, Logan O’Hoppe and Nolan Schanuel steps up to sufficiently support the high-profile (and healthy) veterans such as Trout and Anthony Rendon. A couple of starting pitchers (Reid Detmers? Chase Silseth?) take steps forward, while the bullpen the Angels spent heavily on this winter performs like the highly paid unit it is. If the Angels have some luck for once and a lot goes right at once, they could stay relevant into September.

Worst-case scenario: Without Ohtani, the Angels descend into a level of irrelevance along the lines of the early 2010s Padres. Trout continues to look like a slightly diminished version of himself and misses a good chunk of time along the way. The crop of young bats struggle through collective sophomore slumps, leaving the offense in an untenable state. The barren farm system fails to produce any surprise breakout candidates worth looking forward to. The Dodgers win 124 games and the World Series.

Make-or-break player: Mike Trout. Ever heard of him? None of the ancillary pieces are going to matter much if one of the greatest players we’ve ever seen can’t get back to MVP form — or at least something closer to it — in his age-32 season. Trout said recently on MLB Network that he’s feeling as healthy as he has in a few years, which is a great sign as the outfielder once again assumes top billing on this Angels roster. Trout’s .858 OPS a year ago would represent a standout season for most players, but it was so far below his generational standards that we were all left to contemplate our own mortality and the troubling possibility that Trout’s spectacular prime might be coming to a close.

But I’m not willing to close the book just yet. I’ll happily give a legend such as Trout an injury mulligan and hope to see him back at or near his best in 2024 if he is indeed fully healthy. Of course, as we’ve seen his entire career, that alone won’t ensure team-wide success, but it sure would be a good place to start if the Angels are to have any hope of contending.

Season prediction: I’m excited to see what Wash can bring to this team and optimistic he can make a positive impact on both the young guns and the established vets. It’s not a terrible pitching staff on paper, but it’s difficult to feel confident about it with so little depth behind it. Any serious injury could torpedo that unit in a hurry, and Robert Stephenson (whom the Angels just gave $33 million) already missing time this spring feels like a bad omen. Ultimately, I like enough of the middle tier of this roster (Brandon Drury, Luis Rengifo, Taylor Ward) that I can see the Angels being somewhat relevant for a good portion of the summer, but it’s tough to believe in much more than that, considering how paper-thin this roster is. The 78-win projection feels about right, if not a touch generous.

[Read more: 26-and-under power rankings: Evaluating all 30 teams by the young talent in their organizations, from the Rockies to No. 1]


Projected record: 72-90

Best-case scenario: Manager Mark Kotsay has challenged his young team to chase a .500 record coming off last year’s MLB-worst 112-loss campaign, so let’s consider what needs to happen to get there. Late-blooming mashers Ryan Noda and Brent Rooker take another step forward as middle-of-the-order threats, while Zack Gelof blossoms into a bona fide star beyond his small-ish sample of rookie success. Beyond Gelof, the next wave of bats (Tyler Soderstrom, Lawrence Butler, Darell Hernaiz) start to translate their gaudy MiLB stats into big-league production sooner than expected, while Esteury Ruiz steals 100 bases. Both Joe Boyle and Mason Miller stay healthy and dominate with triple-digit heat all summer, and vets Alex Wood and Ross Stripling raise the rotation floor just enough. Some unforeseen billionaire inexplicably makes John Fisher an offer he can’t refuse, and the A’s get a new owner who wants to keep the team in Oakland with a fancy new stadium. Wouldn’t that be nice? All right, if we can’t dream that big, we’ll have to settle for some positive on-field developments … but .500 sure feels like a long way away.

Worst-case scenario: The painfully messy transition to Las Vegas continues to drag on to the point of embarrassment and frustration for everyone involved, and the roster struggles in similar fashion to 2023. No need to overcomplicate this one; it might very well be quite ugly in Oakland both on and off the field again this season.

Make-or-break player: Shea Langeliers. One of the most important questions for any organization, regardless of where it is in its competitive window, is whether it has its franchise catcher, and Oakland’s depth chart at the catching position is especially fascinating. Langeliers has been the go-to guy since he arrived from Atlanta in the Matt Olson trade, and he has thus far demonstrated plus power and an excellent ability to control the running game. But without much else to his offensive profile and some struggles with other elements of his defense, like blocking and framing, Langeliers might lose his grip on the starting job with another middling campaign.

While 22-year-old backup Tyler Soderstrom has always been known more for his bat, he’d be far more valuable in the long haul if he stays behind the plate, instead of moving to first base or DH, positions that are already clogged on Oakland’s roster. Beyond Soderstrom, Oakland spent its first-round pick in 2022 on a catcher in Daniel Susac, who reached Double-A last year. All of which is to say: If Langeliers is indeed the catcher of the future for Oakland, he’ll need to step it up a fair bit in 2024.

Season prediction: I’ll say this: Regardless of whether they’re destined for another 100-loss, last-place finish, I’m significantly more excited to watch this team than I was last year’s. There’s substantially more up-and-coming talent on both sides of the ball that will have me far more willing to tune in to A’s games, even when they aren’t playing high-profile opponents. For all of the difficult developments related to the future of this franchise, I admire the players for doing their best under challenging circumstances and would love to see this group get rewarded for their efforts. Last place in the AL West might be a lock, but I could see this team cresting the 70-win mark with enough progress from the young core.