What players can move the needle for their respective teams in the 2020 Major League Baseball season? Here are X factors for every team in the American League West.
Houston Astros: Lance McCullers Jr.
The Astros need pitchers to step up in 2020, and Lance McCullers Jr. is the foremost candidate to do as such.
McCullers missed the 2019 season due to an elbow injury. Beforehand he was one of the best young starters in the sport. He was logging strikeouts at a high rate, getting considerable movement on his curveball, and showcasing the potential to be an ace. With Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley now elsewhere, as well as Justin Verlander nursing a back injury, the Astros are going to be nowhere near as potent on the hill as they were last season.
However, if McCullers can be the pitcher he was prior to his elbow injury it’ll provide an enormous boost to Houston’s rotation and give manager Dusty Baker some comfortability. Still 26, there’s no reason why McCullers can’t take the next step.
Oakland Athletics: Khris Davis
The A’s had a deep, electric offense in 2019, and one would’ve expected Khris Davis to be at the impetus of that unit; he wasn’t. But a bounce-back season from the power-hitting right-handed hitter would make Oakland’s offense a well-oiled machine.
Prior to posting a .220/.293/.387 slash line last season, Davis was one of the game’s most dangerous power hitters. From 2016-18 he compiled 133 home runs and 335 RBIs while posting an OPS over .830 and an OPS+ over 120 in all three seasons. He blasts pitches to all fields and is an identity player for the organization.
Marcus Semien, Matt Chapman, and Matt Olson are the preeminent hitters in Oakland’s offense, but Davis has been held in similar regard in years past. With one of the sport’s deepest pitching staffs at their disposal, a revitalized Davis would be an essential free agent signing for the A’s and may propel them to the top of the AL West.
Texas Rangers: Ronald Guzman
The Rangers beefed up their starting rotation this offseason and have several compelling hitters, but their offense still needs another big swinger; a breakout season from Guzman would be that much-needed enhancer.
Guzman has shown some glimpses of being a formidable power hitter. He has a long, towering swing that allows him to make impactful contact outside the zone. In 2018, his rookie season, Guzman totaled 16 home runs and 58 RBIs across 123 games and has held his own at first base in his two years at the big-level level. In August 2018 the big left-handed hitter blasted three home runs at Yankee Stadium.
Now it’s about putting together a complete season. Guzman has the offensive makeup to be a force to be reckoned with. If the Rangers are going to make a playoff push they need some of their youngsters to have big seasons at the plate; Guzman can turn the tide for Texas.
Los Angeles Angels: Dylan Bundy
Anthony Rendon joining forces with Mike Trout is exciting, but it’s not enough for the Angels to breakthrough; they need more pitching. One of their offseason acquisitions, Dylan Bundy, is a Wild Card in bolstering that aspect of their roster.
Over his last two seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, Bundy was a shaky force on the rubber. He surrendered 41 home runs in 2018, struggled with his command, and there were limited bright spots in his 2019 campaign. At the same time, he was a steady force from 2016-17 and has made 30 starts in each of the last two seasons.
Julio Teheran is a proven commodity, and the Angels keep waiting for Andrew Heaney and Griffin Canning, when healthy, to turn a corner. But if Bundy can get his career back on track, it’ll provide manager Joe Maddon‘s rotation with some stability. With a new coaching staff by his side, it’s feasible to think that the Angels could toy with Bundy’s offerings and he’ll be a better pitcher this season.
Seattle Mariners: Shed Long Jr.
The Mariners are looking for an identity, as a lot of top prospects and young players project to be on their opening day depth chart. Some of these individuals garnered some big-league reps in 2019 such as Shed Long Jr.
Long hit considerably well in his brief time with the Mariners last season, as he totaled five home runs and 15 RBIs while posting a .787 OPS and 113 OPS+ across 42 games. Meanwhile, he took extensive starting reps at second base and left field. That versatility bodes well for any MLB team.
There’s a bit of uncertainty up the middle for the Mariners, as they project to shuffle Long, Dee Gordon, and Brandon Crawford at the middle infield positions. With that said, Long showed some promise in 2019 and could prove himself worthy of being a long-term fixture at second base with more playing time. Such a development would be something for the Mariners to hold their hat on.