MMO 2015 Season Preview: American League West

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Texas Rangers – 5th Place

Key additions: Yovani Gallardo

Key subtractions: Alex Rios, Jason Frasor and sort of Yu Darvish

In what I expect to be the best division in the American League, I can’t find a reason to give Texas anything higher than 4th place. Since I think Houston will be young and fun enough to watch, I’ll peg Texas here.

Texas won’t be as bad as they were in 2014, but the loss of Darvish and the continued uncertainty of Prince Fielder is a big deal. Right now, Fielder looks like he is going to be fine – but he’s still coming back from neck surgery.

This team also is living and dying on the potential of Andrus and Odor. I’m starting to have my doubts on Andrus and it’s too early to tell with Odor. The only player you can 100% count on in this lineup if Adrian Beltre who continues to produce year after year in spite of his age.

Outside of Gallardo, I’m not really convinced this rotation of Holland, Detwiler, Lewis and Tepesch can keep up in this division which is packed with quality hitters and better pitchers.

Another rough year in Texas, just possibly not quite as embarrassing as 2014 was.

Houston Astros – 4th Place

Key additions: Evan Gattis, Luis Valbuena, Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek, Jed Lowrie, and Colby Rasmus.

Key subtractions: Dexter Fowler & Mike Foltynewicz.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Xtreem pegs Houston in 3rd or higher, they seem like the young sexy pick this year but I just cannot buy in yet.

I will say in terms of just mashing the ball, the combination of Evan Gattis, Chris Carter, George Springer and Colby Rasmus is going to be really fun to watch. I am not sure yet what the plan is for Gattis/Carter because I don’t think Gattis is going to play the field much which means you have two DH’s. That’s going to be a tricky situation later in the year when Gattis proves to be a defensive liability.

Still, you take those four guys and put Jose Altuve in front of them and you have suddenly got a scary looking lineup.

The problem in Houston is, and will be the pitching. I cannot come up with a logical reason why the starting rotation of Keuchel, Feldman, Wojciechowski, McHugh and Hernandez can compete for a division title inside the best division in the American League.

I don’t care how scary the lineup looks on paper – that rotation doesn’t scare anybody. Their bullpen additions were nice adds, Gregerson paired with Qualls and Neshek should do just well enough.

It won’t matter though, they may be a story early in the year but that rotation is not holding up for 162.

Oakland A’s – 3rd Place

Key additions: Ben Zobrist, Brett Lawrie, Marcus Semien, Billy Butler, Ike Davis, and Tyler Clippard

Key subtractions: Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Derek Norris, John Jaso, Jed Lowrie, Alberto Callaspo, Daric Barton, Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, and Luke Gregerson

Look, I know the formula seems to work when everybody seems to think Billy Beane has lost his mind – but I look at that key departure list and remember how their season ended and I just cannot put them any higher than 3rd in this division.

Is Oakland where Ike Davis find himself or is where he just continues to have hot streaks that make us salivate and look to blame Mets management for sticking us with a 30 HR 1B in Lucas Duda?

Realistically, if Ike Davis isn’t a power hitter then Billy Butler becomes the most important hitter in this lineup – that’s a scary situation if you ask me. This lineup looks nothing like the A’s of the past few years (the Astros do), they look more like the Rays of the past few years.

The rotation should be solid with Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jesse Hahn leading the way and then the fingers crossed with Drew Pomeranz and Kendall Graveman.

I love the addition of Tyler Clippard, he was the only Nationals reliever I hated seeing, I think the combo of Clippard with Sean Doolittle could be nasty.

Overall, I’d say this team is annoying because I think they can pitch real well – but they won’t be able to produce runs at the same clip they did over the last few years and for that reason, they slide into third here.

Los Angeles Angels – 2nd Place

Key additions: Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano & Matt Joyce

Key subtractions: Howie Kendrick, Hank Conger and then possibly Josh Hamilton

For the Angels, it’s all about staying healthy and putting together quality years from the talent around Mike Trout.

Can Albert Pujols drive in 100 runs again? A .790 OPS year isn’t exactly eye popping, but it will do just fine in his current role, based on his age.

The only real hole in this lineup is the one left by Josh Hamilton, and frankly – I’m not sure how big of a hole that is. I’m not too confident that Collin Cowgill is good enough for the everyday role in LA, but I’m also not too concerned about what he’s replacing based on last year’s result.

Cowgill is having a nice spring, but he always seems to…right?

He did okay last year, not good – not the worst thing you ever saw either. We’ll see how that goes.

The rotation is once again lead by Jered Weaver following by Garrett Richards who should be back from a knee injury at the end of April, then you have C.J. Wilson. I really like Matt Shoemaker, he went relatively unnoticed last year going 16-4.

The bullpen is still pretty good – Huston Street and Joe Smith slam the door shut and while I like the combo of Clippard/Doolittle better, they are still one of the best 8/9 combo’s in the American League.

Seattle Mariners – 1st Place

Key additions: Nelson Cruz, Seth Smith, J.A. Happ, Justin Ruggiano, and Rickie Weeks.

Key subtractions: Kendrys Morales, Michael Saunders, Brandon Maurer, Chris Young, Justin Smoak.

I cannot be the only person who knows Yankees fans that mocked Robinson Cano’s choice of choosing Seattle over the Yankees right?

How do you think Robinson feels about that decision right now? Put the money aside…try and tell me why he is not in a better situation right now? I still think the Yankees picked the wrong time to be “smart” with their money.

Adding Nelson Cruz to this lineup was a great move, should prove very beneficial to Cano also. You’re replacing James Jones with Austin Jackson and CoreyHart/Justin Smoak with Cruz – yeah I’d say they did pretty well there.

The rotation is lead obviously by King Felix. Hisashi Iwakuma takes his spot as the #2 – no brainer there. What will be interesting to see is whether James Paxton and Taijuan Walker are ready to step in and follow King Felix’s lead to help make this one of the best rotations in the American League. The hype and potential are there, but they have to prove it on the field.

Seattle’s bullpen was very good last year, they bring back all of the key pieces and while I am not the biggest Fernando Rodney fan in the world – I have to trust that this bullpen remaining in tact from 2014 should lead to great things.

I think Seattle has put it all together, finally. If Walker/Paxton can be the pitchers many have expected them to be, then Seattle should be considered a top 3 team in the American League.

AL West MVP: I don’t think it makes sense to pick anybody but Mike Trout here.

AL West Cy Young: King Felix took back his reign last year from Darvish, and with Darvish out – Felix is a no brainer.

AL West Sleeper: Is Taijuan Walker a sleeper? I guess he has to be right? He’s my guy.

mike-trout

XtreemIcon’s Picks

5th Place – Oakland A’s

Guys, they lost basically everything and added……Tyler Clippard. Look, Clippard is one of the best 8th-inning guys in the league, but he’s the key addition to a team who barely avoided missing the playoffs in epic fashion and proceeded to lose their two best pitchers, best position player and a reliever comparable to Clippard in the first place. Not to mention Coco Crisp missing two months. I do think Zobrist is a solid player and Semien will have a nice year, but there’s literally nothing on that roster you can depend on to have a really good year. There’s some potential there (Semien, and I do really like Gray), but nothing reliable. Put it this way. My bet is the A’s all star this season isn’t earned. It’ll be one of those default, every-team-needs-one loophole all stars like Daniel Murphy.

4th Place – Texas Rangers

The loss of Darvish absolutely destroys any chance this team has to compete. What makes this team a step up from cellar dweller to me is that, like Jessep said, you can pencil Beltre in for an all star season, which is more than you can say for the A’s. And I think a healthy Prince Fielder is also better than anyone on Oakland. And I ALSO think Leonys Martin is better than anyone on the A’s. I think Andrus is a very good shortstop, though perhaps slightly overpaid, and Odor has tons of potential. I think Gallardo and Holland are good pitchers, though neither is a prototypical ace. But of course, neither is any pitcher on Oakland. There are plenty of issues here, and I don’t think they’ll be a particularly good team, they’ll just be better than Oakland. Which means…

3rd Place – Houston Astros

Jessep was right! I pick the Astros for third place. This team will score a million runs. Or slightly short of that, maybe. And they can catch the ball. They have a tremendous defensive outfield with Colby Rasums, Jake Marisnick and George Springer left to right and a perennial all star at second base in Altuve. Jason Castro is a very solid defensive catcher, as well. Besides the power, Chris Carter became a well-rounded hitter in the second half, believe it or not. The left side of the infield won’t offer much production on either side of the ball, but again, I only pick this team for third place. I think the bullpen is very good and Keuchel is about ready to be one of the better lefties in the league. Feldman isn’t great, but he’s outperformed his FIP the last two seasons and actually has a good defense behind him now. He’s solid at worst. I don’t think we’ve gotten to a really good team in the AL West yet, this is just who’s less worse than the others.

2nd Place – Seattle Mariners

Over hype. To be fair, they didn’t lose anyone of value. To be honest, they didn’t really gain a whole lot of value, either. Everyone will point to Nelson Cruz as a huge splash that will put them over the top. But Cruz cooled off considerably and hit only .249/.308/.451 after May 31. And he’s moving to a stadium that greatly suppresses power. Kyle Seager’s star is on the rise, but aside from Cruz, Seager and Cano, where’s the offense coming from? Dustin Ackley stinks, Logan Morrison hasn’t played 100 games in four years, Mike Zunino is one more bad year from being a complete disaster, Brad Miller couldn’t hit sand if he fell off a camel and Seth Smith is a platoon player. Austin Jackson is decent, I suppose. I do think they have a great rotation and a solid pen, but this team will lose a lot of low-scoring games. There won’t be a real big gap between the Mariners and the Astros if Houston finds itself pitching better than expected.

1st Place – Los Angeles Angels

The Angels’ rotation isn’t that far behind Seattle’s (especially if Heaney is as advertised when he gets his shot) and they also have a very solid pen, but the difference here is that the Angels can actually hit. Jessep expressed his concern over Cowgill in the outfield, rightfully so, but also mentioned he’s not exactly replacing 2008 Hamilton, also rightfully so. If the former Mets legend happens to stutter out of the gate, the Angels can always trot Matt Joyce out there, who played a solid left field for the Rays the last two seasons and get C.J. Cron’s bat in the DH spot. Second base is hole for sure, and David Freese had his second straight season in decline, but the Angels aren’t only the best team in the division, they’ll probably have home field in the playoffs, as well.

AL West MVP: Michael Nelson Trout.

AL West Cy Young: King Felix. These are easy.

AL West Sleeper: Marcus Semien. He hit .272/.374/.465 in 1,740 minor league at bats, so there’s immense talent there. As a shortstop now, he could be a perennial all star if he can stick there defensively.

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About Michael Branda 267 Articles

Michael Branda grew up a Mets fan watching the mid 1980’s teams and his favorite Met of all-time is (and was) Wally Backman. When it comes to sabermetrics versus old school thinking, he’s in the middle and believes adopting new ways to get answers is helpful, especially when the old way has not produced results.