Last season: 86-76 (2nd)
Last World Series: 2005 (As NL representative; lost to White Sox)
Postseason potential: The young and talented Astros were a year (or two) ahead of schedule by earning a playoff berth in ’15. With shortstop Carlos Correa in the lineup from the start, a rotation headed by Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel and a playoff race and postseason under its belt, Houston should battle for a division title, if not the best record in the league. Right-hander Ken Giles was acquired from the Phillies to take over as closer with Luke Gregerson returning to a setup role. Correa, who led all shortstops with 22 homers (in 99 games), leads an offense that hit 230 homers, second-most in the majors.
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Last season: 88-74 (1st)
Last World Series: 2011
(Lost to Cardinals)
Postseason potential: There’s no reason to think, despite plenty of media predictions to the contrary, that the Rangers will move backwards in ’16. How could that be with Yu Darvish set to return in mid-May, Cole Hamels at the top of the rotation from Opening Day and Martin Perez, two years removed from Tommy John surgery, poised to return to his April 2014 form? Plus, the Rangers’ bullpen is arguably the best in the American League, if not the majors, with off-season additions Tom Wilhelmsen and Tony Barnette joining Jake Diekman, Sam Dyson, Keone Kela and closer Shawn Tolleson. The lineup figures to produce more with Mitch Moreland in a free agent season, Prince Fielder two years removed from neck surgery and Rougned Odor at the precipice of stardom. Expect the West to go down to the final week again.
Los Angeles Angels
Last season: 85-77 (3rd)
Last World Series: 2002 (Beat Giants)
Postseason potential: Center fielder Mike Trout is still the best player in the game and Albert Pujols hit 40 homers and drove in 95, but it’s not going to be enough to make up for a rotation in disarray. C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver are no longer the reliable pitchers they were a few years ago. Garrett Richards is a solid No. 1 and Huston Street is a proven closer but the rotation needs lefties Andrew Heaney and Hector Santiago to step up and have decent seasons to remain in the hunt with the Astros and Rangers. Lineup additions such as shortstop Andrelton Simmons and third baseman Yunel Escobar should give Trout, Pujols and Kole Calhoun some much-needed help.
Last season: 76-86 (4th)
Last World Series: Never
Postseason potential: First-year manager Scott Servais has an older lineup with a trio of established sluggers in Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Adam Lind. They combined for 85 homers in 2015, including 44 from Cruz. Third baseman Kyle Seager had a career-high 26 homers but the rest of the lineup doesn’t scare opposing pitchers. Former Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin, who has one of the best arms in the game, could finally blossom into the player the Rangers thought he would be if he finds some discipline at the plate. Felix Hernandez is the obvious ace of the staff with Hisashi Iwakuma an excellent No. 2 if healthy.
Last season: 68-94 (5th)
Last World Series: 1990 (Lost to Reds)
Postseason potential: Sonny Gray, one of the best pitchers in the league, is about the only sure thing in the A’s rotation after multiple puzzling moves the past few seasons left their staff thin. Shortstop Marcus Semien and second baseman Jed Lowrie need to produce for more than their combined 75 RBIs in ’15 if the A’s hope to sniff .500. The A’s have made a habit of stocking their roster with serviceable role players but unless they catch lightning in a bottle (at the same time) there’s no chance of this team competing for the postseason.