It is not often that the Los Angeles Angels and the Houston Astros get mentioned in the same sentence. The large market free spending Angels choose to spend top dollar on the big name free agents in an attempt to bring home a championship to Southern California. While the smaller market, cash strapped Astros continue to stock pile high draft picks and last place finishes. But which team is really closer to being a contender within the Western Division?
Obviously anyone who has watched baseball over the last five years would say that a team with future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols, former MVP Josh Hamilton and young phenom Mike Trout is by far the better team. But how much better? The Astros lost 111 games last season while finishing 45 games out of first place. But they only finished 27 games behind the third place Angels.
Breaking down the offseason moves within the AL West will show that the Texas Rangers are the big winners with the additions of power hitting first baseman Prince Fielder and leadoff specialist Shin-Soo Choo making them the odds on favorite to win the West. The Seattle Mariners are a much improved team with new arrivals, All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano and outfielders Cory Hart and Logan Morrison.
The young Oakland A’s continue to sit tight and hope to find that diamond in the rough, leaving the Angels and Astros in offseason hell. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Angels’ moves this offseason acquiring the young arms of Tyler Skaggs, Hector Santiago and Fernando Salas, along with the signing of Joe Smith. But with their stars beyond their prime and questions marks at the back end of the rotation, I do not think that the Angels did enough this offseason.
The Astros made a few moves of their own signing starting pitcher Scott Feldman and acquiring outfielder Dexter Fowler from the Colorado Rockies, both in their prime years.
The difference between the Angels and the Astros is the Angels are getting older. Last season Angels fans saw Pujols struggle with injuries while Hamilton just struggled. Ace Jared Weaver has seen a loss in velocity and the back end of the rotation is a question mark.
The additions of Smith and Salas are key as the bullpen was in shambles last season. The Astros have nowhere to go but up. They enter 2014 with the top minor league system in all of MLB. The Astros have seven of the top 100 prospects in all of baseball and the troops are on their way.
With the Astros having the first overall pick in the 2014 draft, top collegiate pitcher Carlos Rodon is expected to be their choice. If that is the case it would give the Astros the top pitching duo in all of minor league baseball with Rodon and last season’s first round pick Mark Appel. The team is young and manager Bo Porter has his boys playing hard.
The Angels are still the better major league baseball team this season, but the window of opportunity is closing on the Halos. The Astros could surpass the Angels as the better team as early as 2015.