5 players with game-changing skills in AL West

August 15th, 2018

Given the collection of stars that play in the American League West, it's no surprise that the division is also home to an array of elite tools.
From cannon arms to wipeout pitches, here's a look at the most game-changing tools for each team:
Angels: 's power
Why it matters: Ohtani is one of the few left-handed hitters in the Angels' lineup, so his power bat has become a dangerous weapon against opposing right-handed pitchers. All 12 of Ohtani's home runs this season have come against righties, and most of them have traveled quite far. The 24-year-old rookie has crushed four homers with a projected distance of 440-plus feet this season, tied for fourth-most among MLB hitters this year. Only Joey Gallo (six),  (five) and (five) have more.
Signature moment this season: Ohtani's impressive power gives him the ability to change the outcome of a game with one swing of the bat, as he showed against the Dodgers on July 8. Nursing a sore right knee, Ohtani came off the bench in the seventh inning and crushed a tiebreaking pinch-hit home run off Dodgers reliever JT Chargois to lift the Angels to a 4-3 win at Angel Stadium. Ohtani's first career pinch-hit home run traveled an estimated 443 feet, according to Statcast™.

Astros: 's bat-to-ball skills
Why it matters: No player in baseball has a better ability to put the bat on the ball than Altuve, a three-time AL batting champion and six-time All-Star whose streak of four consecutive seasons of at least 200 hits is in jeopardy because of a right knee injury that's put him out of action for two weeks. Still, Altuve's uncanny ability to hit any pitch in any part of the zone makes him virtually slump-proof and makes it difficult for opposing teams to shift against him. He's hard to strike out, which means he's almost always putting the ball in play and making something happen.
Signature moment this season: After the reigning AL Most Valuable Player Award winner went hitless in 12 straight plate appearances, Altuve collected hits in 10 consecutive at-bats in May, a club record.

Athletics: 's throwing arm
Why it matters: Chapman's elite arm is perhaps the best in baseball, and the A's benefit from this weapon on a nightly basis. The third baseman's eye-popping plays may be routine these days, but they cannot be overstated, for they're saving a heck of a lot of runs. The strength of his arm allows Chapman to play deeper than any other third baseman in the Majors, which helps him get to more balls than any other player at the hot corner. The end result never disappoints.
Signature moment this season: There are too many to count, but among them a "video game-ish" throw, as A's manager Bob Melvin deemed it the night of July 31. Chapman, positioned where a shortstop plays in the shift, ranged to his normal position and backhanded a ground ball off the bat of Toronto's , throwing him out at first -- easily.

Mariners: 's wipeout slider
Why it matters: The 24-year-old right-hander has an electric arm and one of the top fastballs in the Majors, but it's been the development of his putaway pitch, the nasty slider, that has elevated him into one of the elite closers in the game this season and the runaway leader in saves in the AL. The Mariners have the most one-run wins in MLB thanks in large part to Diaz's 24 one-run saves, the single-season Major League record.
Diaz typically sets hitters up with his upper-90s fastball, then closes them out with a wicked slider that has racked up a 55.3 percent whiff rate, the fourth-highest percentage among the 152 relievers who've generated at least 100 swings from the pitch this year. Opposing batters are hitting just .107 with a .184 slugging percentage against his slider, and his 64 strikeouts are the most in the Majors among relievers with that pitch.
Signature moment this season: Diaz has been the master of the one-run save, and none was bigger than when he nailed down a 1-0 victory over the Red Sox at Fenway Park on June 16 by striking out the side in the ninth, fanning pinch-hitter with fastballs, then getting and with the slider after setting them up with high heat. He finished the game by setting down Betts on a full-count slider after Boston's standout had fouled off a 99-mph fastball.

Rangers: Joey Gallo's power
Why it matters: The Rangers are looking to the future, and their strength is their young offensive talent. Gallo is foremost among them and his power can be awe-inspiring. Gallo is not only among the league leaders in home runs, but he also leads the Majors -- going into this week -- with 16 home runs of 110-plus mph exit velocity and 13 that traveled with a projected distance of 420 feet or greater. The Rangers are hoping Gallo can be a force with that power for the next several seasons.
Signature moment this season: The Rangers lost to the Indians, 9-8, in 11 innings on July 20, but Gallo still put on a spectacular show. He had a two-run home run in the seventh inning to pull Texas within one, and then hit a game-tying home run with two out in the bottom of the ninth off reliever . That one had a projected distance of 472 feet, Gallo's longest of the season.