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1. Texas Rangers
2. Oakland Athletics*
3. Los Angeles Angels*
4. Seattle Mariners
5. Houston Astros
Baseball's best offense is flying under the radar.
After acquiring both Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, the Rangers are on the path to scoring 900 runs and dominating opposing pitchers on a nightly basis. If their pitching, led by the excellent Yu Darvish, can patch things together until Derek Holland returns from knee surgery, Ron Washington's team will be in position to capture the division in September.
Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane sent a message to baseball this winter by stockpiling bullpen arms, signing Scott Kazmir and bolstering his bench: October success or bust.
As always, the plan is fluid in Oakland. If the Athletics struggle, Beane could hit the reset button and trade away veterans. However, with an offense that scored 767 runs last year, a deep, dynamic bullpen and depth for manager Bob Melvin to work with, don't count on a letdown from this team.
Don't let a third-place prediction for the Angels fool you into thinking another disappointing year is on the way. In fact, due to upgrades in the rotation, health from Albert Pujols and another dominant year from Mike Trout, the Angels are a good bet to crash the postseason party for the first time since the 2009 season.
Seattle spent big—over $250 million to land Robinson Cano, Fernando Rodney and Corey Hart—but not wisely enough to offset a roster full of young, unproven commodities. In a different division or league, it's possible that the star power of Cano and Felix Hernandez could will the Mariners into contention. In the AL West, it's only good enough to avoid the cellar.
Last September, in the midst of a 15-game losing streak, Astros manager Bo Porter thought the experience of losing would eventually become a positive for a franchise that has experienced three consecutive 100-loss seasons, per Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle (subscription required).
"I believe that our players will be better because of what we've been through this year," Porter said. "It should equal more wins than we have this year, but I'm not going to put a number on it."
After trading for Dexter Fowler and signing veteran relievers like Chad Qualls and Matt Albers, it's clear that the Astros are interested in improvement. By midseason, top prospects like George Springer, Jonathan Singleton and Mark Appel could arrive to lift Houston to a 12-game improvement over last year's 51-111 record.
The specter of a 99-loss season would bother most teams, but it's a major improvement in Houston.
*Denotes wild-card berth
Agree? Disagree? Which prediction will be most wrong?
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