MLB Betting: American League West Preview

Steve Merril - Steve@prosportsinfo.com

Sunday, March 23, 2014 3:06 PM GMT

The AL West is an arms race involving excellent pitching from the three main contenders:  Angels, Rangers and Athletics.  Seattle might also get in the mix after their off-season spending spree, while the Astros are destined for last place once again.

MLB Betting Trends for the Upcoming Season

Houston Astros
It is hard to find a reason to back the worst team in baseball, however you will get a nice underdog price with them in most games. Jose Altuve is an up and coming star in this league. They also got solid pitching from Jarred Cosart, Paul Clemens, Brett Oberholtzer and Brad Peacock in the second half of last season as those four pitchers combined for a 2.73 ERA after the All-Star break.

Houston's bullpen is a mess. They have Chad Qualls, Matt Albers, Jesse Crain and several inexperienced youngsters. The three veterans of the group haven't exactly been stellar with their previous teams, so it is doubtful they will fix Houston's problems. The offensive lineup is unproven and may get overwhelmed by the incredibly strong pitching in this division.

Season wins prediction:  Under 62.5

Los Angeles Angels
Mike Trout and Albert Pujols form an incredible duo in the lineup. Josh Hamilton is also capable of having a big season after struggling last year. Raul Ibanez and David Freese are solid additions that further strengthen this offensive lineup. Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson are a great 1-2 punch in the pitching rotation, while Ernesto Frieri was a pleasant surprise at closer last season.

However, Josh Hamilton might not rebound after struggling last year. Despite strength at the top of the rotation, the Angels' starting pitchers have still posted a mediocre 4.12 ERA the past two years and there is question about the bottom part of the rotation. Raul Ibanez is old and will turn 42 in June, so Father Time might eventually catch up to him. This team also lacks depth on the bench, so injuries could become a factor.

Season wins prediction:  Under 87

Oakland Athletics
Pitching is once again a strength with Sonny Gray and Jarrod Parker leading the way. AJ Griffin and Dan Straily showed promise last year. Jim Johnson has been a stabilizing force as the closer and the bullpen is extremely deep with Luke Gregorson, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook. The offensive lineup had nice balance last year with four different players hitting at least 22 home runs or more.

Oakland's pitching doesn't have a pedigree. Most of the starters have not been in the league long and may find it hard to match previous success once the opposing hitters get a book on them. The offensive lineup lacks consistency and could find trouble scoring runs at times.  The bench is thin as pinch hitters batted only .145 last year which was the worst mark in the American League.

Season wins prediction:  Under 88.5

Seattle Mariners
Felix Hernandez is one of the best pitchers in baseball and has posted a 3.06 ERA or better in four of the past five years. Hisashi Iwakuma showed promise and finished the season in excellent form, allowing only three earned runs in his final five starts. Seattle added Robinson Cano, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison to the offensive lineup which should be improved this season.

The rest of the lineup is still weak and Cano might regress after getting his big payday. The Mariners are relying on youth in Dustin Ackley, Brad Miller and Mike Zunino. Injuries have hurt the rotation with Danny Hultzen out for the year and Taijuan Walker already hurting. The bullpen has some hard throwing talent, but it is still unproven. The team needs to find a consistent closer.

Season wins prediction:  Under 81.5

Texas Rangers
This team has the best combination of hitting and pitching in the division. The addition of Prince Fielder helps go along with Adrian Beltre in the middle of the lineup. Jurickson Profar will finally get regular playing time which will help him produce consistent results. Yu Darvish was the runner up last year for the Cy Young award and he has a great group of pitchers backing him up. Neftali Feliz is back as a reliever where he belongs. Joakim Soria, Tanner Scheppers and Neal Cotts are viable arms in the bullpen as well.

Overall, this looks like one of the best teams in the league. There are some minor concerns such as the offensive lineup relying heavily on home runs which can lead to scoring slumps at times. Derek Holland has been inconsistent in his career and might regress after a solid season last year. Holland is also currently on the 60-day disabled list with a knee injury. Matt Harrison is coming off three surgeries, and pitched only two games last year, so his durability is a concern.

Season wins prediction:  Over 87