AL West At A Glance
Los Angeles Angels: What’s there to say about the Angels? They have the best lineup in baseball and one of the game’s top pitchers in Jered Weaver. C.J. Wilson is solid, though there are some concerns after that. Joe Blanton, Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson are all back end starters and there’s a huge bridge between the top two and bottom three. They should score a ton of runs, though. Their bullpen is very deep. They also probably sport the best defense around the diamond, as well. The division is deeper than the AL Central, otherwise I’d peg them as 100-game winners along with the Tigers.
Oakland Athletics: I went back and forth between the Rangers and Athletics for second place and ultimately settled on Oakland because of their loaded pitching staff. Brett Anderson, Tommy Milone, Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin are as talented a young rotation as there is in baseball. There’s a health issue with Anderson, clearly the team’s ace talent-wise, and rookie Dan Straily will be the fifth starter and all he did was lead all of the minor leagues in strikeouts in 2012, despite only starting 25 games prior to his callup. The A’s scored the second most runs in the league after the All Star Break and Yoenis Cespedes will be better after getting acclimated to the bigs. Josh Reddick emerged, but needs to be more consistent at the plate. First baseman Brandon Moss had a second half to remember, hitting .291/.358/.596 with 21 home runs and 18 doubles in only 296 plate appearances.
Texas Rangers: Jurickson Profar is going to infuse a lot of good karma into the Rangers, and they need it, especially after they lost their last four games of the season (three regular season games and the one-game playoff against Baltimore) and went from winning their division to watching the playoffs on TV. Compounding matters, the team let megastar Josh Hamilton leave via free agency to their bitter rivals in Anaheim and spent free agency locking up a pair of 37-year-olds in Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski. They can’t afford anything less than big years from just about everyone in their lineup. They do have a strong rotation, led by ace Yu Darvish, followed by Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando, a 2011 All Star. Colby Lewis should return from surgery in June. Joe Nathan really needs to keep his head on a swivel. The Rangers are shorthanded in the pen, but if Nathan can keep the ninth inning under wraps, he’ll get some much needed help from Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz, both due back from Tommy John surgery in May and August respectively.
Seattle Mariners: I really like what the Mariners did this offseason. Unlike the Indians who made win-now moves when they are clearly not ready to win now, the Mariners signed older veterans to short term deals and added Michael Morse who’s playing out his final arbitration year and is ready to be locked up. They added Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez as their righty and lefty bats off the bench, both of whom should have significant clubhouse influence, as well. Jesus Montero should be ready to break out and start flashing the potential he showed in the Yankees minor league system, making him one of baseball’s top prospects for several years. Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley need to join Montero and hold their own coming out party and Franklin Gutierrez needs to stay healthy. And I can’t say enough about Michael Saunders in right field. He showed last season he has “star” written all over him. Oh. They also have Felix Hernandez. Much like the Royals, they are a year or two away, provided they continue to make these savvy acquisitions.
Houston Astros: The Astros are the only reason the Twins aren’t the worst team in the league. Houston lost 213 games the last two seasons in a division in which they played the Pirates and the Cubs 36 times. Now they move to a division with three legitimate playoff caliber teams and the Mariners, a far better team than the Pirates or Cubs. It could get ugly. There are some bright spots on the team. Ace Lucas Harrell is a promising arm, but needs to get the walks down. Second baseman Jose Altuve was an All Star last season but actually deserved it, not because the Astros had to have one by rule. Matt Dominguez at third base is a top prospect, acquired from the Marlins as part their attempt to make fools of baseball fans in Miami. Justin Maxwell has all the tools (and I mean all of them), but he just hasn’t figured out how to use them yet. He’s too old to be a prospect anymore, but he’s young enough to still be able to put it together. If he finally does, he could join Altuve for All Star weekend on his own merit. They do have five players in Baseball America’s Top 100, but only two of them even saw AA action in 2012. On second thought, it will get ugly.
XtreemIcon: Angels, Athletics, Rangers, Mariners, Astros
Jessep: Angels, Mariners, Athletics, Rangers, Astros
Joe D: Angels, Rangers, Mariners, Athletics, Astros
XtreemIcon: Jesus Montero
Jessep: Jason Bay
Joe D: Jarrod Parker
XtreemIcon: Jurickson Profar
Jessep: Brandon Maurer
Joe D: Jurickson Profar
XtreemIcon: Jered Weaver
Jessep: Felix Hernandez
Joe D: Felix Hernandez
XtreemIcon: Mike Trout
Jessep: Albert Pujols
Joe D: Mike Trout
Up Next: National League West