Divisional Preview: AL West

The Rangers were baseball’s surprise team last season, surging past the American Leagues win leaders, Tampa Bay Rays, in the ALDS and then cruising past a heavily favored Yankees team in the ALCS. The Angels also fell from grace in 2010 while the Mariners, 2010s trendy pick, sucked.

1) Texas Rangers (87-75)

I think the Rangers still are a good team and still are up and coming with many young prospects yet to make debuts, but I believe they will take a step back in 2011. The main reason is pitching. First of all, they lost Cliff Lee, who by far was their best starter and helped them tremendously down the stretch and in the post-season. Second, I expect some regression to the mean from CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis. Both are good pitchers, but had especially good years in 2010 and should see some production decline. Moreover, CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis are now their #1 and #2 pitchers. Color me unimpressed if those are a team’s top two starters. Beyond that, they plan to give starts to Matt Harrison and Tommy Hunter, neither of whom are good. I am still a big Derek Holland, but it appears Texas still hates him.

However, the bullpen will be nasty once again. Obviously, Neftali Feliz is a freak in the bullpen, but the pen also has Alexi Ogando, Darren O’Day, Darren Oliver, Arthur Rhodes, etc,etc. Yeah, pretty good.

Plus, the lineup is good. They have Josh Hamilton, the reigning MVP, and one of the games more underrated hitters, Nelson Cruz, who I think could have a better offensive season than Hamilton in 2011. Kinsler is another good bat and the defense should be strong with Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, and Julio Borbon. The pitching will keep them from 90 wins, but as a whole this is a good team that should win the division.

Players to watch: Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz

2) Oakland Athletics (85-77)

The As were my sleeper team last year and are my “sleeper” team this season, but I have a tough time calling them a sleeper since everyone is picking them to upset Texas this season. They are this years Mariners. Except I don’t believe they’ll fall apart. For one, the pitching is better. Granted, they don’t have a legit ace like Felix Hernandez, but the whole staff is better. If Brett Anderson stays healthy, I think he’ll emerge as one of the best pitchers in baseball. Other arms include Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, and Dallas Braden. And between Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes, Brad Ziegler, and their other relievers, the pen should do their part in holding leads.

Offensively, the As will struggle, but it is an improved offense from last season. They added Hideki Matsui to DH, and despite his age, he is still a legitimate force on offense. However, I wonder how he will be impacted by the Colliseum. Oakland also added David DeJesus, a solid bat who also brings a solid glove to the table. Josh Willingham will also bring much needed area to the Bay. Although he will be a defensive liability in left field, the rest of the defense should be superb between Daric Barton, Mark Ellis, Cliff Pennington, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Kurt Suzuki, DeJesus, and Coco Crisp. If they have good fortune, much like San Diego last season, the As very well could win the West.

Players to watch: Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, Daric Barton

3) Los Angeles Angels (81-81)

I love the Angels pitching staff. I really do. Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana might be the best top 3 in the AL. Joel Piniero and anyone besides Scott Kazmir are also good ends to the staff. The pen should be decent with Kevin Jepsen, Scott Downs, and Fernando Rodney.

However…the rest of the team is not so good. Vernon Wells could be “alright” but he isn’t a good fielder. Peter Bourjos is a stud fielder, but can’t hit. Callaspo, Aybar, Kendrick, and Trumbo represent a weak infield, especially offensively, in my opinion. When your best hitters are an old Bobby Abreu, Tori Hunter, and Vernon Wells, you’re in trouble. The Angels are in trouble. I have them at .500 because of their starting pitching. But if anyone of their big three gets hurt, lookout for the cellar floor.

Players to watch: Kendrys Morales (IF he returns), Hank Conger

4) Seattle Mariners (72-90)

Ah, now onto the lowly Mariners. Felix=stud. Michael Pineda=promising rookie. Rest of staff=poo poo. That simple. No point in breaking it down further than that, because that’s the end result of what any analysis would be. The bullpen isn’t any good either. Brandon League is a nice arm, but they are going to hope Aaron Laffey and Jamey Wright can hold the few wins they will get.

Offensively they still suck, but should be better than 2010. Ichiro is a rock, Figgins should be better, Cust adds some good OB skills, and Dustin Ackley is a Rookie of the Year candidate. But the team lacks power and the ability to get on base. That will mean few runs. Tough to win without scoring when the pitching isn’t that good. 2011 will be another long season.

Players to watch: Michael Pineda, Dustin Ackley

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4 Comments on “Divisional Preview: AL West”

  1. carloscollazo06 Says:

    Is Ackley headed straight to the big league club? Or are they giving him some minor league experience first?

  2. Jeterian 2 Says:

    Don’t like Texas’ staff without Lee for some reason.

  3. carloscollazo06 Says:

    Because it’s really not that good. Wilson probably wont be as good as last year and who are those other guys? But when Feliz finally becomes a starter there will be hope for a deep playoff run.

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