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Talent-rich Astros are choice to shine in AL West

Talent-rich Astros are choice to shine in AL West
Astros All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve hit 24 home runs and had 96 RBIs in 2016. (Joel Auerbach / Getty Images)

A look at how the American League West is likely to play out during the 2017 MLB season. (Listed in order of predicted finish. Lineups are projections as of March 28.)

1 | HOUSTON ASTROS

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2016 | 84-78, 3rd in West

Last year in playoffs | 2015

The Astros are so deep that three projected reserves — slugger Evan Gattis, utilityman Marwin Gonzalez and speedy outfielder Jake Marisnick — could start for most teams. There is an abundance of up-the-middle offense with center fielder George Springer (29 home runs, 82 RBIs in 2016), second baseman Jose Altuve (24 HRs, 96 RBIs), shortstop Carlos Correa (20 HRs, 96 RBIs) and catcher Brian McCann (20 HRs, 58 RBIs). If Houston can bolster its rotation — a trade-deadline deal for Chicago White Sox ace Jose Quintana, perhaps? — it could reach the World Series.

Starting lineup

CF George Springer

2B Jose Altuve

SS Carlos Correa

DH Carlos Beltran

C Brian McCann

3B Alex Bregman

RF Josh Reddick

1B Yulieski Gurriel

LF Nori Aoki

Pitching rotation

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LH Dallas Keuchel

RH Lance McCullers

RH Charlie Morton

RH Joe Musgrove

RH Mike Fiers

Closer

RH Ken Giles

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2 | SEATTLE MARINERS

2016 | 86-76, 2nd in West

Last year in playoffs | 2001

The Mariners have lots of athleticism and speed, particularly in the outfield, where natural center fielders Jarrod Dyson and Mitch Haniger will play the corners. Jean Segura, who led the National League with 203 hits for Arizona in 2016, should be a significant upgrade at shortstop, and the middle of the order — Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager — packs punch. Ace Felix Hernandez is motivated to bounce back from a career-worst season (11-8 record, 3.82 ERA), but there is enough pitching depth to end a lengthy playoff drought.

Starting lineup

LF Jarrod Dyson

SS Jean Segura

2B Robinson Cano

DH Nelson Cruz

3B Kyle Seager

RF Mitch Haniger

1B Dan Vogelbach

C Mike Zunino

CF Leonys Martin

Pitching rotation

RH Felix Hernandez

LH James Paxton

RH Hisashi Iwakuma

LH Drew Smyly

RH Yovani Gallardo

Closer

RH Edwin Diaz

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3 | TEXAS RANGERS

2016 | 95-67, 1st in West

Last year in playoffs | 2016

The Rangers should score plenty of runs, especially if Shin-Soo Choo stays healthy, and a deep bullpen headed by closer Sam Dyson and hard-throwing right-handers Matt Bush, Keone Kela and Jeremy Jeffress should be a strength despite the loss of left-hander Jake Diekman, who will miss the first half after surgery to remove his colon. A top-heavy rotation thins out after Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels, but if Tyson Ross (thoracic outlet surgery) and Andrew Cashner (biceps soreness) return by May, Texas should challenge for a playoff spot.

Starting lineup

CF Carlos Gomez

DH Shin-Soo Choo

3B Adrian Beltre

1B Mike Napoli

2B Rougned Odor

C Jonathan Lucroy

RF Nomar Mazara

LF Jurickson Profar

SS Elvis Andrus

Pitching rotation

RH Yu Darvish

LH Cole Hamels

LH Martin Perez

RH A.J. Griffin

RH Dillon Gee

Closer

RH Sam Dyson

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4 | ANGELS

2016 | 74-88, 4th in West

Last year in playoffs | 2014

A lineup led by two-time AL MVP Mike Trout looks deeper, and run prevention should be a strength with strong-armed catcher Martin Maldonado, rangy second baseman Danny Espinosa and speedy left fielder Cameron Maybin added to a defense that features Gold Glove winners Andrelton Simmons at shortstop and Kole Calhoun in right field and the superb Trout in center. But the rotation, and especially the bullpen, appear too thin for the Angels to contend for a playoff spot.

Starting lineup

3B Yunel Escobar

RF Kole Calhoun

CF Mike Trout

DH Albert Pujols

1B C.J. Cron

LF Cameron Maybin

2B Danny Espinosa

C Martin Maldonado

SS Andrelton Simmons

Pitching rotation

RF Matt Shoemaker

RH Ricky Nolasco

RH Garrett Richards

LH Tyler Skaggs

RH Jesse Chavez

Closer

RH Cam Bedrosian

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5 | OAKLAND ATHLETICS

2016 | 69-93, 5th in West

Last year in playoffs | 2014

There are some promising young starting pitchers, with Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea and Jahrel Cotton making strides last season and Frankie Montas and Daniel Gossett waiting in the wings. Sonny Gray will help if he returns from a strained back by May. The bullpen looks strong, with Sean Doolittle, Santiago Cassilla, John Axford and Ryan Dull ahead of closer Ryan Madson. A lineup led by under-the-radar slugger Khris Davis (42 homers in 2016) has some pop, but the defense, especially in the outfield and at shortstop, is shaky.

Starting lineup

CF Rajai Davis

2B Jed Lowrie

RF Matt Joyce

LF Khris Davis

C Stephen Vogt

DH Ryon Healy

1B Yonder Alonso

3B Trevor Plouffe

SS Marcus Semien

Pitching rotation

RH Kendall Graveman

LH Sean Manaea

RH Jahrel Cotton

RH Andrew Triggs

RH Raul Alcantara

Closer

RH Ryan Madson

Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna

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