Heading into the 2017 season, most pundits will likely either peg the Astros or Rangers as de facto "favorites" to win the American League West.
But beyond those two Texas rivals, who will once again battle it out for the Silver Boot, there's a lot to see throughout the rest of the division. In fact, considering the fun factor of all five organizations this season, it is this author's opinion that there's reason to believe the AL West will be the most entertaining of all in the upcoming year.
For reasons why, consult below, beginning with those two Lone Star State clubs ...
You already know the Astros boast one of the league's most consistently amazing hitters in Jose Altuve, coming off an AL batting title and an All-Star caliber Backstreet Boys karaoke session. His infield partner, the impossibly skilled Carlos Correa, posted a 5.9 WAR in his age-21 season in '16, too. Together, he and Altuve do things like this:
The team's gritty and bearded staff ace, Dallas Keuchel, is also plenty tech-savvy, and whenever George Springer isn't crushing stadium-clearing homers or showing up in highlight reels, he's roaming the outfield in a T-Rex costume. Most importantly, they have one of the most exuberant mascots in the game today:
Expect a lot of smiles in Houston this year.
Texas added to an already dangerous offense by calling up an old friend, Mike Napoli:
Nap (re)joins the Rangers after four seasons away, a time during which he worked hard establishing himself as the premier party expert in all of MLB. He will look to rage with fellow baseball mashers Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara (owner of the longest homer of the season in '16) and Jonathan Lucroy in the lineup.
Wily veteran Adrian Beltre is anchored over at third base -- well, at least when he isn't battling teammates attempting to douse him after a walk-off:
Add that up and you have one pretty engaging team (that's sure to threaten for the division crown).
2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the Mariners' first season as an expansion team, and this year's club could threaten some all-time great M's squads in terms of likability. Witness, for one, Robinson Cano:
Felix Hernandez will once again command the King's Corner for many starts at Safeco Field, and his appearances are so important, they're basically their own holiday:
Beyond the Cano/Hernandez/Nelson Cruz trio that has come to personify the M's over the past few seasons, some relatively new faces are in town to do what they can to add to the fun.
Enter Jarrod Dyson, who covers a lot of ground in the outfield and does backflips:
And flashy young fireballer Edwin Diaz, who impressed in his rookie year in '16, notching 18 saves and racking up 88 strikeouts in just under 52 innings on the strength of, well, absolutely ridiculous heat:
A full season of Diaz, coupled with more of all the above? Hope you're ready, M's fans.
But the '17 Angels have other top-flight defensive talent to go along with Trout and Gold Glove winner Kole Calhoun's antics.
Shortstop Andrelton Simmons is gearing up for his second season in Anaheim, and he, too, is no slouch when it comes to flashing skills. Here he is running full bore into the outfield pursuing a pop fly like a wide receiver on a route:
In terms of new additions, veterans Ben Revere and Cameron Maybin were brought in for more depth -- which means more chances for crashing, sprawling catches:
That's before even bringing up Albert Pujols, who has a chance to reach both the 3,000-hit and 500-homer milestones this season.
"The Coliseum is too big to hit a bunch of homers" is a trope you hear frequently regarding the Oakland A's home ballpark, but Khris Davis (whose first name might as well be kHRis) showed up last season and defied that thought with bomb after bomb. He hit 19 of his career-high 42 long balls there, and busted out a should-be-patented walk-off grand slam helmet jump shot before being mobbed at home plate:
Ryon Healy, meanwhile, has definite "breakout" potential for the new season thanks to his ability to hit really, really long homers and sport some fantastic reaction faces:
Speaking of "breakout" potential, Jharel Cotton dazzled in his five late-season starts for Oakland after being acquired from the Dodgers, displaying a changeup capable of making bats fly out of hitters' hands:
The A's also reunited with Rajai Davis, who left the team in 2010 and spent time with other teams like the Indians. You may remember when he hit arguably one of the most memorable homers in World Series history back in November:
Add it all together and that's a recipe for a fun team up in Oakland, as part of a very promising AL West that you will surely want to watch this season.