Can Trout Finally Get to the Playoffs? How Our Adjusted Team Rankings Line up the AL West
Baseball

Can Trout Finally Get to the Playoffs? How Our Adjusted Team Rankings Line up the AL West

Mike Trout has three AL MVPs, eight All-Star appearances and a track record of consistent greatness season after season, but then there’s always that ‘but’ that comes next.

Despite all the accolades and big numbers along a path that likely leads to Cooperstown, Trout has only led the Los Angeles Angels to the playoffs once in his 10 seasons, and that one appearance in 2014 is now a distant memory. It’s the one ‘but’ on Trout’s résumé that just won’t go away. 

However, with Joe Maddon taking over on the bench and star slugger Anthony Rendon taking over at third base last season, and the return of two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani to the mound in 2021, the Angels are looking to put an end to that narrative.  

The defending division champion Oakland A’s will have something to say about that after making a number of key additions late in free agency. And the team that knocked them out of the postseason, the Houston Astros, lost George Springer in free agency but still has the talent to make some noise.  

So how will things shake out in the American League West? Let’s reveal who the favorites are in 2021 according to our adjusted team rankings (ATR), which aren’t projections, but rather a single ranking system calculated using a model that combines each player’s 2020 raw value data and adjusted for 2021 rosters. 

Raw value+ (RV+) examines how a hitter performs throughout each pitch of an at-bat rather than just the end result, while raw value- (RV-) does the same from a pitcher’s perspective. Team leaders in RV+, RV-, BIP+ and command+ are from the 2020 season among qualified players.

1. Los Angeles Angels (26-34)

2020 MLB ATR2021 MLB ATRRaw Value+ BIP+Raw Value-Command+
[no-pill]12th[no-pill]5thMike Trout (173)Mike Trout (185)Jaime Barria (67)Andrew Heaney (112)

The Angels, one of the biggest surprises in our ATR, may finally have a roster that can once again showcase baseball’s best player on a postseason stage. The Angels rank fifth in all of MLB. Why? For starters, after a nearly two-year absence (he pitched just 1.2 innings in 2020), Shohei Ohtani (117 RV+) should return to the mound, where he dominated at times in 2018, compiling a 3.31 ERA and 1.16 WHIP while averaging 11 strikeouts per nine innings. He’ll likely join Dylan Bundy (70 RV-), Andrew Heaney (77 RV-) and José Quintana in a rotation that should be decent, but doesn’t compare to the best of the AL. The lineup, on the other hand, does match up well, with Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon (154 RV+) and Jared Walsh (115 RV+) leading the way for an offense that ranked seventh in MLB last year.  

2. Oakland Athletics (36-24)

2020 MLB ATR2021 MLB ATRRaw Value+ BIP+Raw Value-Command+
[no-pill]14th[no-pill]11thMark Canha (110)Matt Olson (144)Chris Bassitt (86)Jesus Luzardo (102)

Leave it to the A’s to just sit around all offseason, twiddling their thumbs, only to make moves right before spring training to position themselves for a playoff run once again. Oakland did little from November to January before, in February, trading for Elvis Andrus and Adam Kolarek (66 RV-) in separate deals, signing Jed Lowrie, Mitch Moreland (111 RV+), Sergio Romo and Trevor Rosenthal (39 RV-), and re-signing Yusmeiro Petit and Mike Fiers. Got all that? The A’s ranked third in bullpen RV- in 2020, but they’ll have to fill the gaping hole left after closer Liam Hendriks signed with the Chicago White Sox. Mark Canha, Matt Olson and Matt Chapman (132 RV+) anchor a capable offense, and the A’s young starters and a still deep bullpen have the capacity to keep them in games. Putting it all together remains the biggest question mark.

3. Houston Astros (29-31)

2020 MLB ATR2021 MLB ATRRaw Value+ BIP+Raw Value-Command+
[no-pill]17th[no-pill]14thMichael Brantley (121)Kyle Tucker (112)Cristian Javier (63)Zack Greinke (112)

No team benefitted from not having fans more than the Astros. The “shame tour” was put on hold, and despite reaching the ALCS for the fourth consecutive season before falling to the Tampa Bay Rays, Houston no longer looks like the behemoth they used to be. And yet, Dusty Baker’s squad could remind us once again, as most of the talent remains from those elite teams. Houston’s rotation is deceptively deep, with Zack Greinke (87 RV-) and Lance McCullers Jr. leading a group that finished sixth in the AL in RV-. Cristian Javier is excellent and young, and top prospect Forrest Whitley, who has not been able to crack the big league roster due to an abundance of pitching talent, might finally get his shot. Framber Valdez, however, suffered a finger injury in spring training and there’s no timetable for his return. Minus George Springer, the lineup maintains all of its mainstays and gets Yordan Alvarez, the 2019 AL Rookie of the Year, back from knee surgery. The Astros’ team rating entering 2021 is higher than it ended in 2020. They aren’t done yet. 

4. Seattle Mariners (27-33)

2020 MLB ATR2021 MLB ATRRaw Value+ BIP+Raw Value-Command+
[no-pill]24th[no-pill]22ndKyle Seager (112)Evan White (140)Yusei Kikuchi (73)Marco Gonzales (113)

It was an uneventful offseason in Seattle…until it wasn’t. After former president and CEO Kevin Mather’s disturbing comments came to light, the Mariners were back in baseball’s spotlight for all the wrong reasons. The team itself, however, has some exciting pieces with more on the way soon. Evan White and Kyle Lewis (108 RV+) both burst onto the scene in 2020, with Lewis taking home the AL Rookie of the Year award after mashing 11 home runs in 58 games and tallying a BIP+ of 131, an impressive mark that sat ahead of stars like Mookie Betts, Joey Gallo and Trevor Story. Lewis, however, could miss the start of the season due to a right knee injury. Waiting in the wings are top-10 overall prospects Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez, two outfielders set to make debuts of their own in the next two years. Things may seem grim right now, but Seattle will be competitive again soon, looking to end the longest postseason drought in major U.S. sports.

5. Texas Rangers (22-38)

2020 MLB ATR2021 MLB ATRRaw Value+ BIP+Raw Value-Command+
[no-pill]23rd[no-pill]28thNick Solak (97)Joey Gallo (124)Kolby Allard (98)Kyle Gibson (113)

Things are bleak deep in the heart of Texas. The Rangers haven’t had a winning season since 2016, and yet they currently have zero top-50 prospects in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100. Joey Gallo heads an offense that lacks consistency – only Pittsburgh and Colorado had worse offenses according to RV+ in 2020 – and the rotation, after Lance Lynn’s departure, compares best to that of the Orioles, Giants and Mariners. This is, plainly, not ideal. Manager Chris Woodward hopes to see improvement and production from guys like Willie Calhoun (45 RV+), Leody Taveras (89 RV+), Ronald Guzman (98 RV+) and newcomer David Dahl (13 RV+). Look for top prospects like Josh Jung, Sam Huff and Dane Dunning to make an impact as well. 


Taylor Bechtold contributed. Data modeling by Lucas Haupt. Depth chart animations by Paul Connors.