Baseball

Creating the All-AL West Lineup

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Ranking players at each position can be entertaining, but making an ultimate lineup for each division might just be better. If the five American League West teams combined, this might be the unit they roll out.

Catcher: Max Stassi, Los Angeles Angels

Stassi has had an up and down Major League career. However, he has never played more than 90 games in a season, so his statistical variety makes sense. In the last two seasons, Stassi has played 118 games and raked to the tune of a 112 OPS+. He has 34 extra-base hits, and an above-average walk rate. He might not be a Gold Glover in the field, but he is a solid defender.

Stassi recently netted a multi-year contract extension, so perhaps the Angels will be more likely to play the 31 year old more than 90 games in 2022.

First Base: Yuli Gurriel, Houston Astros

Gurriel might be entering his age-38 season, but he is coming off his best season in MLB in 2021. He won the AL batting title over Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and he tacked on a Gold Glove at first base. Gurriel had a career-high walk rate, and his strikeout rate continues to be about half of MLB’s average. He will never be confused for a power hitter, but he is a doubles machine, and he has three seasons with an OPS+ over 120.

Gurriel did not have a particularly exciting World Series, but he did some heavy lifting in getting the Astros to the World Series in the ALCS. He mashed 10 hits in 22 at-bats en route to a .455/.520/.636 slashline.

Second Base: Marcus Semien, Texas Rangers

After one season in Toronto, Semien is back in the AL West with a new team and a new position. Semien made the move to second base in 2021 after playing his six-year career with Oakland at shortstop. Now on the Rangers, Semien is a fascinating projection. In his last two full seasons, he has 82 doubles and 78 home runs. In both of those seasons, he has cracked an OPS+ of 130 while leading the Majors in games played and plate appearances.

Semien led all AL position players in bWAR in 2021. He brings a strong bat and glove to a premium defensive position, and he has a reasonable case of being MLB’s best second baseman. He has made a pair of All-MLB Teams in three seasons.

Third Base: Alex Bregman, Houston Astros

This is one of the most contentious spots on any of the six teams. Anthony Rendon is coming off a season that he only played 58 games, recording a 94 OPS+. His 2019-2020 stretch was ridiculous, but Bregman similarly had a great run. Bregman missed 71 games in 2021, but he maintained an OPS+ of 113, and he played well in the field. There are concerns for both players, but Bregman will get the nod here.

One concern moving forward is that Bregman was helped by MLB’s juiced baseballs in 2019. He had a career-best 5.9% home run rate, blasting 41 home runs. Is that an aberration, or will he be able to achieve that again?

Shortstop: Corey Seager, Texas Rangers

Seager is Texas’s second high-profile middle infield addition. While Semien is one of baseball’s Iron Men, Seager tends to miss time. He only played 95 games in 2021, and he has not played more than 140 games since 2017. Either way, when Seager does play, he’s one of the best shortstops in baseball. He posted a 131 OPS+ in seven seasons with the Dodgers. Health will be an issue, but he could be a .300/.400/.500 player in 2021.

Seager does not have the most extensive regular-season trophy cabinet, but he is a Dodger playoff legend with NLCS and World Series MVP awards from the Dodgers’ triumph in 2021. Seager has 13 home runs in 61 playoff games.

Left Field: Jesse Winker, Seattle Mariners

Winker does not have a position nailed down yet, and he will probably slot in as a designated hitter at times, but he earns the left field spot here. Winker has been one of the most reliable hitters since 2020 began. Across 164 games, Winker has 39 doubles, 36 home runs, and 81 walks. He slashed .292/.392/.552 for a 140 OPS+. He has healthy three true outcome rates, and he has been hitting more line drives in recent seasons.

Winker is not a good defensive player, but he more than offsets that with his tremendous bat. Despite missing a chunk of 2021, Winker finished sixth in the NL in win probability added. He also finished in the top 10 in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and at-bats per home run even when hitless at-bats were added.

Center Field: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

Trout has played just 89 games over the last two seasons. He has still managed to squeeze out 3.6 WAR, on pace for a 6.6 WAR full season. Trout may not play center field much longer, but he still is holding on for the time being. When Trout is on the field, he is the best player in baseball. Over the last two seasons, he has slashed .301/.419/.611, good for an OPS+ of 177. He has not had a season with an OPS+ below 167 since his debut season in 2011.

Trout’s streak of nine top-five MVP finishes ended in 2021, but he is among the favorites for AL MVP again in 2022.

Right Field: Kyle Tucker, Houston Astros

Tucker is one of the best-kept secrets in baseball. In his first full season in the Majors, Tucker launched 70 extra-base hits in 140 games. He added 14 steals, and he is a strong defensive outfielder. In 2021, he had a 147 OPS+, and he finished as a 5.7-bWAR player. He received MVP votes, finishing 20th. He snuck into the All-MLB Team 2 last year. Tucker finished in the top 10 in the AL in WAR, batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, and OPS+.

Tucker’s peripherals paint an even clearer picture of the potential star here. He had an xwOBA in the 95th percentile along with an 98th-percentile expected batting average and 96th-percentile expected slugging percentage.

Designated Hitter: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels

The AL West happens to have the two best designated hitters in baseball, but Yordan Alvarez cannot match Ohtani at this moment. Ohtani’s two-way prowess has no relevance here; he earned this spot based on his bat alone. In 2021, Ohtani hit 46 home runs and an MLB-leading eight triples. All told, he had an OPS+ of 158. He posted 4.9 oWAR and an excellent walk rate. Ohtani earned an AL-leading 20 intentional walks.

Ohtani had a 100th-percentile expected slugging percentage in 2021 to go along with a 100th-percentile barrel rate. He strikes out a lot, but he walks at an elite rate, and when he makes contact, few consistently hit the ball as hard.

Pitcher: Robbie Ray, Seattle Mariners

The reigning AL Cy Young, Ray pitched a masterful season in 2021. He led the AL in ERA, innings pitched, strikeouts, ERA+, and WHIP. He raised his career strikeouts per nine innings rate, the best in MLB history. He inexplicably did not make the All-Star team, but he cleaned up nicely during award season. He finished 15th in MVP voting, earned 29 of 30 first-place Cy Young votes, and secured a spot on the All-MLB Team.

Ray will be a big help in he Mariners quest to make the playoffs for the first time since 2001. He is a bona fide ace, and he will look to once again lead the AL in pitching WAR as he did in 2021.

Main image credit Embed from Getty Images

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Ryan Potts is an avid football and baseball fan. He covers the NFL and Major League Baseball, focusing on the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Braves.