AL West final report card grades
College Contributor Network
Following the East and Central divisions, let's round out the American League by tackling the West division that was at the center of so much baseball drama this year.
With help from the injury-plagued Rangers, the Astros get a passing grade for not finishing last in the toughest regular season division in 2014.
Houston was one of the many surprises of the year and had plenty of things to smile about. The 'Stros improved by 19 wins compared to last year and Jose Altuve won a batting title for the first time ever for an Astro.
The young prospects finally have seemed to pan out for Houston, and the pieces are there for at least a Wild Card spot in 2015. Bo Porter got the boot with the season winding down, so it will be up to A.J. Hinch to lead the bright-eyed and talented youngsters out of the grave of the league's cemetery.
Los Angeles Angels
The Halos finally strung something together and exploded out to the best record in baseball. The Angels were an offensive juggernaut with a combination of power, speed, and experience. It was nice to see Albert Pujols have a good, somewhat healthy year, and LA will go into the 2015 season with its sights set on the Commissioner's trophy.
The expectation bar for the A's has been raised in the past few years, and the team was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for the ages. Through the All-Star break, Oakland was the clear team to beat and it seemed that the A's were going to roll right through to their 10th World Series title.
But, in July, Billy Beane made the 2014 version of the Curse of the Bambino trade when he sent Yoenis Cespedes to Boston, and it all fell apart from there. The A's gave it a good shot in the Wild Card playoff game, but the season's blame fell on Beane and that one fateful trade.
Seattle played 161 and five-ninths of a season with a possible playoff spot, which is something that fans haven't enjoyed since the Ken Griffey Jr. days. The M's were spending like crazy in the 2014 offseason and they were lucky to snag Robinson Cano.
The former Yankee and King Felix led the team to a fantastic year, tempered by the AL West juggernauts ahead of them. The true bright spot of the team was in the defensive and pitching categories. Seattle gave up the fewest runs in the pros, and Hernandez will most likely win the Cy Young while leading a young, filthy staff into next year.
Besides Cano and the emergence of Kyle Seager, the front office will need to fill major offensive gaps for a team that didn't have much of a scary lineup top-to-bottom.
Yu Darvish was injured before the season even took off for the Rangers, and it was an ominous sign. This may have been the worst injury-riddled team in recent memory, it seemed every time Texas got a stud back on the field, another one opposite him got hurt. By the end of the year, Texas resembled a Triple-A affiliate, winning only 67 games, and the offseason will be chaos after Ron Washington decided to exit.
If the Rangers can find solid pitching to surround Yu, and the big bats of Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder, and Alex Rios can be productive to help out the young stars, then there's no reason the club can't contend for a division pennant. But that's a big if.
Andrew Morris is a sophomore at Syracuse University. People refer to him in the third person and he has an everlasting love for Orange, Major League Baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland A's, Golden State Warriors, and Indianapolis Colts. Follow him on Twitter: @Andrewmo123