- Associated Press - Thursday, March 24, 2016

Capsules of American League West teams, listed in order of finish last year:

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Texas Rangers

2015: 88-74, first place, lost to Toronto in Division Series.

Manager: Jeff Banister (second season).

He’s Here: RHP Tony Barnette, RHP Tom Wilhelmsen, OF Justin Ruggiano.

He’s Outta Here: OF Leonys Martin, 1B Mike Napoli, RHP Yovani Gallardo.

Projected Lineup: CF Delino DeShields (.261, 2 HRs, 37 RBIs, 25 SBs), RF Shin-Soo Choo (.276, 22, 82, .375 OBP), DH Prince Fielder (.305, 23, 98), 3B Adrian Beltre (.287, 18, 83), 1B Mitch Moreland (.278, 23, 85), LF Ian Desmond (.233, 19, 62 with Nationals), SS Elvis Andrus (.258, 7, 62, 25 SBs), 2B Rougned Odor (.261, 16, 61), C Robinson Chirinos (.232, 10, 34).

Rotation: LH Cole Hamels (7-1, 3.66 in 12 starts with Rangers; 6-7, 3.64 in 20 starts with Phillies), RH Colby Lewis (17-9, 4.66 in 33 starts), LH Derek Holland (4-3, 4.91), LH Martin Perez (3-6, 4.46), RH Nick Martinez (7-7, 3.96 in 24 games, 21 starts).

Key Relievers: RH Shawn Tolleson (6-4, 2.99, 35/37 saves), LH Jake Diekman (0-0, 2.08 in 26 games with Rangers; 2-1, 5.15 in 41 games with Phillies), RH Sam Dyson (2-1, 1.15 in 31 games with Rangers; 3-3, 3.68 in 44 games with Marlins), RH Keone Kela (7-5, 2.39 in 68 games), RH Tom Wilhelmsen (2-2, 3.19, 13 saves in 53 games with Mariners), RH Tony Barnette (3-1, 1.29, 41 saves in Japan), LH Andrew Faulkner (0-0, 2.79 in 11 games).

Hot Spot: Left field. Desmond joined the Rangers as a free agent after spring training started when the former All-Star shortstop agreed to become an everyday left fielder. He’s athletic and has a strong arm, but appeared in only two major league games in the outfield during seven seasons with the Nationals - the last time for just one out in a 2010 game. Five-time All-Star slugger and 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton is dealing with a troublesome left knee and will start the season on the disabled list for the second year in a row, his 11th trip to the DL. With the Rangers possibly opening up with only four outfielders, they might even need Desmond to play center on occasion.

Outlook: The Rangers won the AL West in Banister’s first season, even without ace pitcher Yu Darvish and after losing 95 games in 2014. Darvish is more than a year removed from Tommy John surgery and is expected back by late May. Hamels will be in the rotation from the start of this season and has already been tabbed to start on opening day.The Rangers also added Diekman and Dyson in trades last summer, and bolstered their bullpen even more over the winter with the addition of two more pitchers with closing experience: Barnette (from Japan) and Wilhelmsen (trade from Seattle). Tolleson had all 35 of his saves after taking over as the closer in late May. With the exception of Desmond, the everyday lineup is very familiar to Texas fans.

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Houston Astros

2015: 86-76, second place, wild card, lost to Kansas City in Division Series.

Manager: A.J. Hinch (second season).

He’s Here: RHP Ken Giles, RHP Doug Fister.

He’s Outta Here: 1B Chris Carter, INF Jed Lowrie, LHP Brett Oberholtzer.

Projected Lineup: 2B Jose Altuve (.313, 15, 66, 40 2Bs, 38 SBs), RF George Springer (.276, 16, 41, 16 SBs), SS Carlos Correa (.279, 22, 68; AL Rookie of Year), CF Carlos Gomez (.255, 12, 56, 17 SBs with Milwaukee and Houston), DH Evan Gattis (.246, 27, 88), 3B Luis Valbuena (.224, 25, 56), LF Colby Rasmus (.238, 25, 61), 1B Jon Singleton (.191, 1, 6 in 19 games) or Tyler White (.362, 7, 59 in 57 games at Triple-A Fresno), C Jason Castro (.211, 11, 31).

Rotation: LH Dallas Keuchel (20-8, 2.48, 216 Ks, 232 IP; AL Cy Young Award), RH Collin McHugh (19-7, 3.89), RH Mike Fiers (7-10, 3.69, no-hitter), RH Scott Feldman (9-13, 3.57), RH Doug Fister (5-7, 4.19 in 25 games, 15 starts with Washington).

Key Relievers: RH Ken Giles (6-3, 1.80, 15/20 saves with Philadelphia), RH Luke Gregerson (7-3, 3.10, 31/36 saves), LH Tony Sipp (3-4, 1.99), RH Will Harris (5-5, 1.90), RH Pat Neshek (3-6, 3.62), RH Josh Fields (4-1, 3.55).

Hot Spot: First Base. After letting Carter go in the offseason, Houston’s biggest question is who will replace him? The Astros hoped Singleton would step up this spring and grab the job after struggling in parts of two seasons in the majors after signing a $10 million, five-year contract. But instead he’s scuffled most of camp, forcing the team to explore other options. The front-runner among them looks to be White, a 25-year-old who was a 33rd-round draft pick in 2013. He put up big numbers in about half a season at Fresno last year before getting off to an excellent start this spring. If the Astros don’t think he’s ready for the majors they could go with Matt Duffy, who spent eight games with the team last season, or start the year with utility man Marwin Gonzalez manning the position and hope Singleton figures things out and takes over later.

Outlook: Expectations are high for the Astros following last year’s surprising return to the playoffs after a 10-year absence. The question will be if they can build on the success of 2015 and outdo in-state rival Texas in for the AL West crown. If they hope to repeat or eclipse last year’s success, they’ll need another strong season from Keuchel, and more growth from Correa. They know they can count on Altuve to get the offense going, but they’ll have to get production from their corner infielders if they hope to take another step. Houston boosted its bullpen with the addition of Giles, a young closer who throws hard. But there are questions about the back of the rotation behind Keuchel and McHugh. Promising youngster Lance McCullers (6-7, 3.22 in 22 starts) will begin the season on the DL with a sore right shoulder. Gattis also is expected to start the year on the DL as he recovers from sports hernia surgery. But the bottom line is these Astros aren’t going to sneak up on anyone the way they did last year, and they’ll need to improve across the board to win that first World Series title as Sports Illustrated predicted.

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Los Angeles Angels

2015: 85-77, third place.

Manager: Mike Scioscia (17th season).

He’s Here: 3B Yunel Escobar, SS Andrelton Simmons, RHP Al Alburquerque, OF Craig Gentry, C Geovany Soto, OF Daniel Nava, INF Gregorio Petit, INF Cliff Pennington.

He’s Outta Here: SS Erick Aybar, 3B David Freese, OF David Murphy, C Chris Iannetta, RHP Trevor Gott, INF Grant Green, OF Matt Joyce.

Projected Lineup: 3B Yunel Escobar (.314, 9, 56 with Nationals), LF Daniel Nava (.194, 1, 10, 36 Ks in 139 ABs for Red Sox and Rays), CF Mike Trout (.299, 41, 90, 11 SBs), DH Albert Pujols (.244, 40, 95), RF Kole Calhoun (.256, 26, 83), 1B C.J. Cron (.262, 16, 51), SS Andrelton Simmons (.265, 4, 44 with Braves), C Carlos Perez (.250, 4, 21), 2B Johnny Giavotella (.272, 4, 49).

Rotation: RH Garrett Richards (15-12, 3.65, 176 Ks), RH Jered Weaver (7-12, 4.64), LH Andrew Heaney (6-4, 3.49), LH Hector Santiago (9-9, 3.59), LH C.J. Wilson (8-8, 3.89).

Key Relievers: RH Huston Street (3-3, 3.18, 40 saves), RH Joe Smith (5-5, 3.58, 32 holds), RH Fernando Salas (5-2, 4.24), RH Al Alburquerque (4-1, 4.21 with Tigers), RH Mike Morin (4-2, 6.37), LH Jose Alvarez (4-3, 3.49).

Hot Spots: Left Field and Third Base. The Angels declined to sign a marquee name to fill their obvious gaps at these two key offense-producing positions, yet their relatively cautious moves have looked great so far. Nava and Gentry are both hitting well above .300 in spring training, suggesting their likely regular-season platoon could improve left field, where Los Angeles had the worst offensive production in the majors last season. The Angels also didn’t re-sign Freese, instead giving up promising reliever Gott in a trade for the well-traveled Escobar to play the hot corner. The veteran also is having a strong spring, and he’s likely to get the first chance to be Scioscia’s leadoff hitter.

Outlook: Many prognosticators believe the big-budget Angels will come up just short of a playoff spot out of the competitive AL West after a season of taking on defending champ Texas, up-and-coming Houston and improved Seattle. The Angels’ rotation is capable (if healthy) but not spectacular, while their lineup around Trout doesn’t appear to be seriously improved on paper. Yet any team with Trout is a daily threat, and he still has talent around him. Pujols’ recovery from offseason surgery has been promising so far, and the Angels are hoping for another step forward from Calhoun, their slugging Gold Glove winner. Plenty of eyes will be on Simmons, whose arrival to replace longtime shortstop Aybar could turn the Angels into an outstanding defensive team. They’re also hoping for one more solid season out of veteran starters Weaver and Wilson, who are both due to be lavishly compensated in the final years of their contracts. If everything comes together, the Angels could be in position to get Trout’s first playoff victory.

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Seattle Mariners

2015: 76-86, fourth place.

Manager: Scott Servais (first season).

He’s Here: C Chris Iannetta, C Steve Clevenger, 1B Adam Lind, 1B Dae-Ho Lee, OF Nori Aoki, OF Leonys Martin, RHP Joaquin Benoit, RHP Steve Cishek, RHP Ryan Cook, RHP Justin De Fratus, RHP Nathan Karns, LHP Wade Miley, RHP Evan Scribner, RHP Joe Wieland.

He’s Outta Here: 1B Logan Morrison, SS Brad Miller, OF Austin Jackson, DH Mark Trumbo, OF Dustin Ackley, RHP Carson Smith, LHP Roenis Elias, LHP Joe Beimel.

Projected Lineup: LF Nori Aoki (.287, 5, 26 in 93 games for San Francisco), RF Seth Smith (.248, 12, 42), 2B Robinson Cano (.287, 21, 79), DH Nelson Cruz (.302, 44, 93), 3B Kyle Seager (.266, 26, 74), 1B Adam Lind (.277, 20, 87 with Milwaukee), CF Leonys Martin (.219, 5, 25 in 95 games with Texas), C Chris Iannetta (.188, 10, 34 in 92 games with Angels), SS Ketel Marte (.283, 2, 17, 14 doubles in 57 games).

Rotation: RH Felix Hernandez (18-9, 3.53, 191 Ks), RH Hisashi Iwakuma (9-5, 3.54), LH Wade Miley (11-11, 4.46 in 32 games with Boston), RH Taijuan Walker (11-8, 4.56, 157 Ks in 169 2-3 IP), LH James Paxton (3-4, 4.90 in 13 starts), RH Nathan Karns (7-5. 3.67, 145 Ks in 157 IP with Tampa Bay).

Key Relievers: RH Steve Cishek (2-6, 3.58, 4/9 saves with Miami and St. Louis), RH Joaquin Benoit (6-5, 2.34 in 67 games with San Diego), RH Tony Zych (0-0, 2.45 in 13 games), LH Vidal Nuno (1-4, 4.10 in 32 games with Seattle).

Hot Spot: Bullpen. New general manager Jerry Dipoto dismantled Seattle’s bullpen in the offseason, but the new unit hasn’t pieced together the way the Mariners were hoping. Left-handed specialist Charlie Furbush likely won’t be ready for opening day. Right-hander Justin De Fratus was released and re-signed to a minor league deal. The eighth and ninth innings appear set with Benoit setting up Cishek, but how Seattle bridges from its starters to those two at the back end remains a huge question.

Outlook: The Mariners own the longest playoff drought in baseball, with their last appearance coming in 2001, and there’s plenty of reason to doubt it will end in 2016. Seattle should be better than a year ago, though. Cano is healthy, the starting rotation could be a plus and on defense the Mariners are constructed to succeed in their home ballpark. But the offseason makeover relied heavily on players coming off poor 2015 seasons, and the question remains whether those players are on a downward spiral or if they can rebound to be as productive as in the past. If the latter is the case, then maybe Seattle will find itself in contention.

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Oakland Athletics

2015: 68-94, fifth place.

Manager: Bob Melvin (sixth season).

He’s Here: OF Khris Davis, INF Jed Lowrie, LHP Rich Hill, RHP Ryan Madson, LHP Marc Rzepczynski, RHP John Axford, RHP Liam Hendriks, 1B Yonder Alonso, RHP Henderson Alvarez.

He’s Outta Here: 3B Brett Lawrie, RHP Jesse Chavez, LHP Fernando Abad, LHP Drew Pomeranz, LHP/RHP Pat Venditte, RHP Evan Scribner, 1B Ike Davis, 1B Nate Freiman, OF Craig Gentry, LHP Barry Zito.

Projected Lineup: CF Billy Burns (.294, 5, 42, 26 SBs), 2B Jed Lowrie (.222, 9, 30 with Houston), RF Josh Reddick (.272, 20, 77), LF Khris Davis (.247, 27, 66 with Milwaukee), C Stephen Vogt (.261, 18, 71), 3B Danny Valencia (.290, 18, 66 with Oakland and Toronto), DH Billy Butler (.251, 15, 65, 28 2Bs) or Coco Crisp (.175, 0, 6 in 44 games), 1B Yonder Alonso (.282, 5, 31 with San Diego) or Mark Canha (.254, 16, 70), SS Marcus Semien (.257, 15, 45, 35 errors).

Rotation: RH Sonny Gray (14-7, 2.73, .217 BA against), RH Jesse Hahn (6-6, 3.35), RH Kendall Graveman (6-9, 4.05), LH Rich Hill (2-1, 0.66 in 4 starts with Boston), RH Chris Bassitt (1-8, 3.56).

Key Relievers: LH Sean Doolittle (1-0, 3.95, 4/5 saves in 12 games), RH Ryan Madson (1-2, 2.13 with Kansas City), RH John Axford (4-5, 4.20, 25/31 saves with Colorado), LH Marc Rzepczynski (2-4, 5.66 with Cleveland and San Diego), RH Fernando Rodriguez (4-2, 3.84), RH Liam Hendriks (5-0, 2.92 with Toronto).

Hot Spot: Shortstop. Semien’s 35 errors last season were the most by a big league shortstop since Jose Valentin had 36 in 2000 for the White Sox. Those miscues helped lead to Oakland’s AL-worst 65 unearned runs allowed. Semien made more than half his errors (18) in the first two months before the addition of infield guru Ron Washington to the coaching staff helped him improve a bit during the second half. With a full spring to work with Washington, the A’s hope Semien can add a dependable glove to a bat that provided good power.

Outlook: After three straight playoff berths, the A’s fell all the way to last place in 2015 when Billy Beane’s bold moves to trade Yoenis Cespedes midway through 2014 and future MVP Josh Donaldson last offseason backfired. Oakland spent this offseason overhauling an ineffective bullpen and adding a few pieces to a lineup that needed help. Last year’s 4.56 ERA for the relievers was the worst in the AL, and the team’s 25 blown saves were second-worst. That led to a 19-35 record in one-run games, the most one-run losses in the majors. A healthy Doolittle and the additions of Axford, Madson, Rzepczynski and Hendriks should fortify the bullpen. Getting the ball there remains a question because Gray is the only proven starter. Hill went from independent ball to the majors and used a 1.55 ERA in four September starts to get a deal with Oakland and a spot in the rotation. Hahn and Graveman are coming off injuries, and Bassitt had one win in 13 starts. The return of Lowrie should help shore up the defense after the A’s led the majors with 126 errors. Davis adds a needed power bat in the outfield. The A’s have been surprise contenders before after making under-the-radar offseason additions, but it might be tough to pull that off this season.

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