MLB Season Preview – AL West
Following in the failed footsteps of the LA Angels, the Mariners broke the bank this offseason for the top free agent in 2B Robinson Cano. But while the Angels and Mariners try to throw cash at their problems, the A’s and Rangers remain as 2 of the best franchises not just in this division but in all of baseball. However it seems inevitable for the Astros, as they look set to spend another season in the division cellar as they continue to rebuild.
So most people have taken the Rangers to win the division and likely everyone will now with Jarrod Parker out for the season. I’m going to stick with the A’s. They just have so much depth in the organization and seem to get the most out of their talent that I believe they’ll take the West for the 3rd year in a row.
Pitching: Again, no Parker so that hurts. But Sonny Gray emerged last season and could take over as the staff ace. And maybe I’m crazy but I won’t be anything shocked if they get big years out of Scott Kazmir and Drew Pomeranz. A past star like Kazmir is exactly what they had when Bartolo Colon showed up, and look how he did for them. And Pomeranz everyone knows has great stuff. And if they don’t pan out, I still won’t be shocked if Billy Beane finds other diamonds in the rough. Their bullpen is simply one of the best in baseball. Johnson in for Balfour as closer should be a smooth transition.
Hitting: 3rd in the AL in HR’s last season, though not a great team BA. But I really like the middle of the order with Donaldson, Cespedes, and Moss. I wouldn’t expect Coco Crisp to hit 22 bombs again this season, but they certainly are getting his max potential. They have a lot of free swingers, but unlike a team…lets say the Jays…this lineup meshes together much better.
Defense: Great fielding has never been a staple of Billy Beane teams. In the prime of “moneyball” (2000-2003) they had 468 errors. Some of that is a result of the steroid era when all fielding numbers were down, but last season they were under 100 errors on the season. No gold glove winners on the horizon here, but they’re ok.
I might not be like all the cool kids in picking this team to win the division, but it isn’t like they can’t and I definitely believe this will be a playoff team. They have developed into one of the elite organizations in all of baseball and adding Fielder and Choo to an already solid lineup should do nothing but help.
Pitching: It isn’t a GREAT staff, but when you have a legit staff ace like they do in Yu Darvish then you’re already in decent shape. They’ll miss Derek Holland (out likely until midseason) who I believe is a solid number 2 guy. They brought in “crafty lefty” (never any crafty righties) Joe Saunders to help fill the void. Perez and Ogando are pretty solid back of the rotation guys, so while they aren’t the Tigers, Rays, or Nationals, they are solid when healthy. Neftali Feliz is back from Tommy John and back in the bullpen, it’ll be interesting to see if he ends up closing again or if they’ll stick with Soria.
Hitting: Maybe the best lineup in baseball. A lot of power, a lot of speed, they make contact, they’re great. They of course were able to move Kinsler in the Fielder deal because they have 21 year old Jurikson Profar ready to step in, but he’s out until June. But when he gets back, if he lives up to his potential, they’ll be even better. It is a tremendous lineup and it will win the Rangers a lot of games all on it’s own.
Defense: Pretty solid. A team fielding percentage of .986 tied them for 10th in the majors last season. When Profar gets back he should be an upgrade at 2nd over what Kinsler was in the field. Elvis Andrus has never won a gold glove but he is among the elite gloves in baseball. Beltre has 4 gold gloves to his name, and Alex Rios has a great arm in RF. Not the strength of this team, but far from a weakness.
I still haven’t jumped completely off their bandwagon as being a post season threat. As much as I like Mike Scioscia as a manager it might just simply be time for a change. Andy Reid is a great football coach, but in the end in Philly it was just clear he needed to go. And it worked out great for both sides. Might be the same situation here.
Pitching: I’m not a big C.J. Wilson guy, but he had a damn good season last year. If Weaver stays healthy it is a real good 1-2 at the top of the rotation. But after them it gets REAL thin. One of Richards, Santiago or Skaggs stepping up would be huge for this ball club. And while Ernesto Frieri had 37 saves and gets a lot of K’s, the bullpen was one of the worst in all of baseball last year with 4.12 ERA.
Hitting: Pujols is obviously on the back 9 of his career, but if he stays healthy he is still a great hitter. Don’t expect 40 HR’s and 120 RBI’s, but .280/30/100 should be attainable if he gets 500 AB’s. Not anywhere near what they paid for, but solid. I would expect Josh Hamilton’s numbers to be a bit better in his second season there. But of course Mike Trout is the catalyst for this team. The sky is the limit for this kid. This lineup is more than capable of putting a lot of runs on the board.
Defense: Well Trout is incredible in CF and Aybar has won a gold glove at SS so those are 2 pretty vital positions to be great at right there. But David Freese is pretty bad at 3rd which was a big reason the Cards were so willing to move him, and this team already despite having gloves like Trout and Aybar finished 27th in the majors last season with a brutal .981 fielding percentage.
Flashy offseason, but we have seen this story from the Mariners before and it never seems to translate. But a lot of people do seem to like this team going into the season, a lot more than I do anyway. Tough not to like the rotation obviously, and I know what the thought process is on Cano, but as I said….they’ve been here before.
Pitching: The King is alive and well with a fat new contract and as long as Hernandez is at the top of the rotation you’re sitting pretty. They went hard after David Price, but at least as of now failed to bring him in. Hisashi Iwakuma was awesome last season, but he’s hurt to open this season. Top prospect Taijuan Walker is going to be on this team at some point this season, but he’s hurt right now too. They could use him stepping in because behind Hernandez and Iwakuma they’re nothing special. They’ll need their starters to go really deep every night because this bullpen was a tire fire last season, however they did bring in Fernando Rodney which should be a big boost.
Hitting: Well you would at least think that Cano, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison would boost the offense, but that park is such a grave yard for hitters. It is just my opinion but if those guys can ignore the power numbers and simply focus on hitting balls in the gaps then they’ll be much better off, but that’s easier said than done. I don’t love the lineup, but there is potential.
Defense: This is where they’ll get a big boost from Cano. He has a ridiculous glove at 2nd. After him they don’t have any gold glove calibre guys but they’re ok. Dustin Ackley could take some time adjusting to playing LF. Corey Hart is hurt right now so we will see if he’s in right or DH, but he has a cannon in RF.
Well if there is one team everyone should agree on finishing in a spot, it is the ‘stros finishing last in the very difficult AL West. It’s not a good team, and on top of that the other 4 in this division are pretty loaded. But they have compiled the best prospect crop in baseball, so the hope is that help will arrive soon.
Pitching: Scott Feldman is the ace….the O’s let him walk and the O’s staff isn’t pretty. I can’t sugar coat this for all you Astros fans…Chris McQuid…so maybe I’ll just rave about how Mark Appel and hard throwing Mike Foltynewicz are on their way. The bullpen added Chad Qualls and he’s good, so that’s….something. I don’t know if he’ll be the closer or not. I believe they’re going closer by committee, at least as of writing this. It’s not a good staff top to bottom but as I said they do have some studs on the way.
Hitting: Folwer and Altuve at the top of the order is actually pretty good. Chris Carter has a lot of power and if he can get his BA up 20-30 points he’ll be pretty nice bat to have. It’ll be interesting to see what they do with stud prospect George Springer. After the year he had in the minors I don’t see how they send him back, but that’s just me.
Defense: They’re young so you can’t expect them to have great leather at this point. They led the majors last season in errors with 125. Matt Dominguez is pretty solid at 3rd and I know manager Bo Porter was stressing how vital it would be that they improve in the field this offseason. But coming into the season, it isn’t a pretty picture.
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