MLB preview: AL West position battles to watch

Every team in the MLB's American League West are chasing the Houston Astros.

While Houston are likely to lose three-fifths of the team's starting rotation from a year ago, the Astros still return All-Star caliber players at five positions and two Cy Young candidates in the starting rotation.

The Astros are good, so every other team will have to make the most of their rosters to compete with Houston. For some, that will be a tougher task than others.

And while the Seattle Mariners are likely to be one of the teams it will be tough for, they still have quite a bit of talent despite a lot of turnover.

So, Seattle are where we start our position battles to watch in the AL West.


Mariners — Left field, shortstop

We could not just pick one position here because these two spots are just too intriguing. After acquiring both Jay Bruce and Domingo Santana this offseason, left field looks packed in Seattle. Both players present interesting skill sets as Bruce used to be an MVP candidate and Santana showed himself to be one of the best pinch-hitters in all of MLB last season.

But this is the AL, there is not much need for pinch-hitters and Jerry Dipoto did not pick up Santana to sit on the bench. This could turn into a platoon situation, as they line up well for that possibility.

At shortstop it gets a little weird. Three years ago, having J.P. Crawford on your team was a huge asset. Now, he has been traded to the Mariners after he has not shown he can hit at the MLB level and even has had struggles at Triple-A. But Tim Beckham, who will compete for the spot, has not been much better in his career.

Both players are former first-round picks who have not shown they can be much more than utility players in MLB. That alone should motivate someone to step his game up.


Angels — Opening day starter

The Los Angeles Angels are pretty well set in the field, but their rotation is anything but decided. Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney have both shown flashes of greatness, but each player has had bouts with injuries as well.

Again, both of these guys are former first rounders who have not quite lived up to the billing yet. Maybe a battle for this spot could spur one or the other into a big season.


Athletics — Second base

This one could be a bit of a stretch. The Oakland Athletics traded for Jurickson Profar because they want him to be their second baseman. However, they also moved Franklin Barreto to second base because Marcus Semien was too good at short.

They clearly value both of these players and yet, Barreto does not have a proven MLB track record and Profar has had one season where he has shown he can hit consistently. Either man could win this job but Profar clearly has the leg up.


Astros — Fifth starter

This battle got a lot more interesting on Wednesday as rookie fireballer Josh James suffered an injury and is no longer in the running to compete for the spot. That leaves Framber Valdez, Cionel Perez and Brad Peacock as possible candidates for the spot.

All three players have shown good things in both the bullpen and the rotation (whether that be in MLB, or the minors in the case of Perez) and will be valuable at either spot. And in all honesty, they may just be holding a spot for Forrest Whitley, the game's number one pitching prospect. Still, it will be a fun battle for about a month.


Rangers — Left field

The Texas Rangers are odd because they seem to be pretty set at every position on the field and yet they will probably still lose more than 85 games. But if Texas want to improve, they have to start moving away from the three-true-outcomes guys across the board.

Texas did that to an extent by giving Ronald Guzman the starting job at third base last year, and maybe it is time to do it in left field as well. Willie Calhoun has not proven he can hit in the majors yet, however, he has proven to have good knowledge of the strike zone and ability to get on base in the minors. The Rangers need a man like that in the line-up and if he hits he could force Joey Gallo out of the position.

Not out of the line-up. Do not get us wrong there. But maybe Gallo has to move to third base and then Asdrubal Cabrera will be relegated to a bench spot. If Texas want to get better, they should at least entertain this possibility.

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