MLB.com continues to take a position-by-position look at the teams in the American League West. This week, it's outfielders.
The best: Astros
This was a two-team debate between the Astros and Angels, the latter of which have the best outfielder in the game in Mike Trout and a four-time All-Star in Justin Upton. But Upton is coming off an injury-plagued season and registered a negative 0.9 bWAR last year, while Houston’s outfield is anchored by a pair of 2019 All-Stars in center fielder George Springer and left fielder Michael Brantley, who rank among the very best in MLB at their positions.
While lacking the AL Most Valuable Player status of Trout, the Astros have better balance and significant star power of their own. Springer would have been in the thick of the MVP Award race himself had he not been limited to 122 games last year, having still posted 6.2 WAR. Springer was named to his third consecutive All-Star team and hit .292 with 39 homers and 96 RBIs, finishing eighth in the Majors in OPS (.974).
Brantley led the Astros with a .311 average and hit a career-high 22 homers with 90 RBIs while earning his fourth All-Star nod.
Josh Reddick is the returning right fielder, but he will be pushed by Kyle Tucker, a former top prospect the team feels is ready to be an everyday player. Reddick slumped in the second half but remains a valuable defensive player. Still, Tucker (.269, four homers, 11 RBIs in 22 games) figures to push for his job. The club traded speedy backup outfielder Jake Marisnick, one of the best defensive outfielders in the game, to the Mets to open an opportunity for youngster Myles Straw, who is the fastest man on the team.
One item worth noting: All three starters -- Brantley, Springer and Reddick -- are in the final years of their contracts.
The rest (in alphabetical order)
The Halos clearly have baseball's best outfielder in Trout, the three-time AL MVP Award winner who posted an 8.3 WAR with 45 homers and 185 OPS+ even while missing the last month with a foot injury. The club knows what it'll get from the eight-time All-Star but is also hoping for a bounce-back season from Upton, who was limited to just 63 games by a turf toe and right knee surgery.
In right field, the Angels have top prospect Jo Adell on the way, but Brian Goodwin is the favorite to be the Opening Day starter. Goodwin, 29, is coming off the best season of his career after hitting .262 with 17 homers and 2.1 WAR, while Adell ranks as the No. 6 overall prospect by MLB Pipeline and could join the active roster by mid-April or early May. Once Adell is ready, Goodwin will serve as the fourth outfielder, giving the Halos some quality depth.
Outfield is one of the strongest areas of depth for the A’s as well. Ramón Laureano is likely to slot back into center field after a shin injury led the club to ease him back by playing right field to end last season. Stephen Piscotty should also be healthy and get regular time in right. Mark Canha’s breakout 2019, which included 26 home runs and a .913 OPS, likely earned him the bulk of playing time in left, though there is no shortage of options there with Gold Glove Award finalist Robbie Grossman and super utility man Chad Pinder in the mix.
An outfield already in transition took a big hit with recent news that right fielder Mitch Haniger will need surgery to repair a sports hernia and likely miss at least the first month of the season. Haniger is Seattle’s top returning position player and was an All-Star in 2018, but he missed the final four months of '19 following surgery on a ruptured testicle and lingering back issues.
That leaves center fielder Mallex Smith as the lone experienced starter, and while the speedster led MLB with 46 stolen bases last year, he posted just a .227/.300/.335 line and is looking for a bounce-back season at the plate. Rookies Kyle Lewis and Jake Fraley are the early favorites to start in the corners as Seattle goes full bore into its youth movement. Lewis hit six homers in his first 10 games as a September callup, but he and Fraley have just 111 MLB at-bats between them. Defensive standout Braden Bishop is also in the mix, and the Mariners have two elite young prospects -- Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez -- rising quickly in the Minors.
Texas made major changes to its outfield this winter after trading Nomar Mazara to the White Sox and Delino DeShields to the Indians. That leaves the Rangers with 25-year-old Willie Calhoun in left, versatile Danny Santana in center and slugger Joey Gallo in right, plus veteran Shin-Soo Choo as the designated hitter. Gallo hit 81 homers from 2017-18 and another 22 in just 70 games last year before being sidelined by a broken right wrist. But he is back to full health and earmarked for regular duty in right field after playing first and third base as well as all three outfield spots in recent years.
Santana has the center field job going into Spring Training and hit .283/.324/.534 with 28 homers in a breakout 2019, but the Rangers also like the idea of using him as a utility player at multiple infield/outfield positions. The problem is they are running out of center field options unless they sign free agent Kevin Pillar or Billy Hamilton. Scott Heineman, Nick Solak and Adolis García are unproven, but they will get looks this spring.