American League West Preview

This one is a two-team race between the Rangers and Angels. With the AL East so loaded with teams likely to beat up on each other, it’s highly likely that whichever team doesn’t win the West will get one of the Wild Card berths.

Texas Rangers:

Good: They are reigning AL Champs and, even after losing C. J. Wilson, still have plenty of arms: Holland, Harrison, Lewis, Feldman…. They also have big hitters: Napoli, Béltre, Cruz, Kinsler, Michael Young, Hamilton, Cruz, and the very underrated David Murphy. I, for one, love Alexi Ogandi’s arm.

Bad: The pitching is solid, but it’s not world beating. It’s typical AL West--lots of number two and threes looking for a one. Joe Nathan as the closer? Yeah, three years ago.

Hot Spot: Yu Darvish will either make people forget about Wilson, or bring out their best Hideki Irabu analogies. Josh Hamilton is running out of second chances. Will he be an MVP or just another drunk? Elvis Andrus is supposed to superhuman, not mortal. He can run, but gets thrown out 1/3 of the time and 25 errors is a lot. I’d personally give up a bit of range and play Michael Young (.338) at short.

Prognosis: If Darvish is the real deal, they repeat; if not, Wild Card.

Los Angeles (which is really Anaheim) Angels:

Good: They got Albert Pujols and there simply isn’t a better player. Nor is there a better manager than Mike Scioscia.There are lots of young players on the cusp: Trumbo, Trout, Bourjos…. Howie Kendrick is a very useful and versatile player. The pitching staff has the potential to be solid: Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, Dan Haren, and newly acquired C. J. Wilson.

Bad: It also has the potential to disappoint, as it so often has. The catching isn’t great. There are lots of off-the-hill payroll drains, starting with Wells and Hunter. The closer is Jordan Walden, who blew 10 of 42 chances last year.

Hot Spot: Bobby Abreu is already complaining about a diminished role (righly so in my view). Where does Kendry Morales play? Not many guys cross the diamond from first to third. Erick Aybar… There’s something about this guy that bothers me. (Maybe it’s a seeming lack of baseball sense.)

Prognosis: If the chemistry is right, the Angels can supplant the Rangers. A lot must go right, though.

Oakland A’s:

Good: Frankly, not much. If healthy, Dallas Braden. If he plays to potential, Brian Feuntes. if the scouting reports are correct, Yoenis Céspedes.

Bad: When you turn to a rookie and to Manny Ramirez (after his 50-game suspension) for salvation, that speaks volumes. The A’s gave away Gio Gonzaléz, who led the staff in all categories last year. They didn’t resign Josh Willingham, who led in homers and RBIs, or Cliff Pennington, who led in average. The starting outfield might be Crisp, Gomes, and Josh Reddick (whom they acquired for giving up their closer). That can’t be good.

Hot Seat: General Manager Billy Beane. Look, if this team finishes close to .500 I’ll reevaluate my opinion that his Moneyball image is mostly hype. Brandon McCarthy. No one can figure out why this guy isn’t a great pitcher. Céspedes comes with a lot on his plate.

Prognosis: This looks like a last place team to me. Maybe Manny will have a change of heart and help this club, but smart money is that it’s Tampa redux.

Seattle Mariners:

Good: Even an aging Ichiro is a great hitter. Miquel Olivo is a serviceable receiver, which Jesus Montero will not be. What the latter will be is the next coming of Jay Buhner. Brandon League is satisfactory in the pen. Expect Hector Noesi to be decent (but not spectacular). And, of course, there is Félix Hernández, one of the game’s best hurlers.

Bad: This team simply doesn’t hit. Losing Franklin Guiterrez to injuries won’t help. The M’s questions this year will be the same as those of the team that lost 95 games last year: After Ichiro, can anyone hit the broad side of a barn? After King Felix, who can close down the opposition?

Hot Seat: General Manager Jack Zduriencik traded his number two starter (Pineda) to the Yankees. He’d better be right about Montero. Justin Smoak simply must do better than last year’s .234/15/55. It may already be too late for Chone Figgins.

Prognosis: The Mariners will probably avoid the basement for the simply reason that they, unlike the A’s, actually have a few premier players. But it isn’t going to be pretty.


1. Rangers

2. Angels

3. Mariners

4. A’s

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