The 2020 Texas Rangers season was disappointing. Their 22-38 was good enough for a dead last finish in the AL West; a division that didn’t much strike fear into opponent’s hearts. So, it’s understandable expectations are not high for this squad entering the 2021 MLB season.
But I’m here to tell you, a division title may actually be possible. Let’s start by looking back to 2015…
The 2014 Texas Rangers were massively disappointing. After bringing in new additions Prince Fielder and Shin-Shoo Choo, the team was ravaged by injuries and failed to live up to their offseason hype. That 2014 squad went 67-95 and finished last in the AL West.
Expectations were understandably low in 2015. But instead of playing down to those low expectations, the Texas Rangers took a huge leap in 2015. So much so, they improved by 21 games and captured the AL West crown.
The Texas Rangers may be able to shock the baseball world and win the AL West in 2021
After that down year in 2014, the team rebounded and capitalized on a weak division. A similar opportunity may present itself this year. If you remember, the 2015 Rangers captured the AL West crown with just 86 wins. At the moment, it seems it will take a similar number in 2021.
Sizing up the Texas Rangers competition
The AL West was won by the Oakland A’s in 2020 with a record of 35-25. Second place? The team from Houston. They finished below .500, by the way. It seems like every team in the division is trending the wrong direction or completing rebuilding. This leaves things wide open. Let’s take a look at how each team sizes up as we inch close to Opening Day.
*team record predictions are assuming a 162 season.
- Oakland A’s
Let’s start with the reigning champs. It seems like this offseason has gotten away from the low-budget A’s. They have lost huge contributors from last year’s team including shortstop Marcus Semien, second baseman Tommy La Stella, and All-MLB 1st Team closer Liam Hendricks. They still boast some young talent in the pitching staff and a potential superstar in Matt Chapman. This team is certainly capable of ripping off a bunch of wins.
The A’s haven’t won back-to-back division titles since ’02-’03. This front office may believe they still have a contender despite the heavy loss in free agency. I don’t think many others in baseball do. Luckily for them, as we’ll see more of moving through this list, it may just take a mere winning record to repeat.
- Houston Astros
The bad guys. We Texas Rangers fans nearly experienced an insufferable situation last October when the villains of baseball almost pulled off a 3-0 comeback against Tampa Bay in the ALCS and return to the World Series. Thank you, Randy Arozarena!
One of the biggest pieces to the Astros division-winning teams of ’17, ’18, and ’19, was George Springer. He’s now playing north of the border.
We saw the Astros take a step back last year, while benefitting from the expanded playoff format. But Jose Altuve struggled. As did Alex Bregman. Gerrit Cole put on pinstripes. Justin Verlander missed the season.
It will be interesting to see how the Astros fare this year. The pitching staff is young, but promising. Altuve, Bregman, and Carlos Correa are good. They did resign Michael Brantley after some drama. Maybe they win the division. Maybe they completely unravel. Your guess is as good as mine.
- Los Angeles Angels
Like I stated earlier, every team in the AL West is trending down or rebuilding. Then there’s the Angels.
The Angels are weird. They are also maddening. Or maybe one would say Maddon-ing. Like Joe, get it?
It’s no secret that the Angels have, so far, wasted an all-time talent Mike Trout by not surrounding him with enough talent, namely pitching. They did add Anthony Rendon last year, who played like a top 10 player in baseball. But, what else do they have?
They were heavily involved in Trevor Bauer-talks for a while, but those have faded. They remain Trout, Rendon, an old Albert Pujols, and a very underwhelming pitching staff and roster top-to-bottom.
I’m going to continue to predict the Angels to be bad until they prove me wrong. This is a team with a lot of likable players. If they weren’t in the Rangers division, I may root for their success. Alas, I hope (and expect) them to remain in mediocrity.
- Seattle Mariners
The Mariners are trending up. They won 27 games in 2020 – much more than most expected. They boast the reigning AL Rookie of the Year, Kyle Lewis, and 6 of the top 100 prospects right now are theirs (second most in baseball).
Seattle is actually my pick to win the AL West in 2021. My confidence level? About 1.2%.
The M’s are really young. To be honest, the plethora of young talent frightens me for the future. However, to expecting them to leap from a team with a .450 winning percentage to serious contenders is a bit outlandish. But, hey, you never know.
The Mariners are sort of fun. They didn’t add anything huge this offseason. But again, an “okay” team might win this thing.
So you’re saying there’s a chance?
A small one, but, yeah. The AL West could look something like a bunch of toddlers fighting over a Hot Wheel in 2020 (you know, like the NFC East).
The Rangers have some talent. Perhaps, much like 2015, they can surprise us all. Let’s keep expectations low though for our heart’s sake.
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What do you think? Do the Texas Rangers have a shot at this?