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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

AL West Division Preview

The AL West seems like one of the easier divisions in baseball to predict this year. There's the class of the division, the LA Angels, then the rest of the bunch could basically finish in any order behind them. Here's how I think it will go:

1st Place, Los Angeles Angels
Lineup:
3B Chone Figgins
2B Howie Kendrick
RF Vladimir Guerrero
LF Bobby Abreu
CF Torri Hunter
1B Kendry Morales
DH Gary Matthews Jr.
C Mike Napoli
SS Erick Aybar

Pitching:
RHP John Lackey
RHP Ervin Santana
LHP Joe Saunders
RHP Jered Weaver
RHP Dustin Moseley
SU: Scott Shields
CL: Brian Fuentes

DL: RHP Kelvin Escobar (late-April)

The Angels' move to obtain Bob Abreu went way under the radar, but that move really completed their offense if you ask me. Their lineup has everything; speed, power, average and clutch hitters all the way down the order. Their starting rotation has some question marks entering the season, as both Escobar and Santana may not open the year on the 25-man roster, although Santana should be back within the first couple of weeks of the season and Escobar before the first month. In other words, their starting pitching should be at full strength come May. They also play good defense and despite the loss of one of the game's premiere closers, Francisco Rodriguez, their bullpen is again amongst the AL's best. If their boppers stay healthy, and Escobar and Santana come back strong, they really should run away with the AL West, once again.

2nd Place, Oakland Athletics
Lineup-
CF Ryan Sweeney
SS Orlando Cabrera
LF Matt Holliday
DH Jason Giambi
RF Jack Cust
3B Eric Chavez/Nomar G.
C Kurt Suzuki
2B Mark Ellis
1B Daric Barton/Nomar G.

Pitching:
RHP Justin Duchsherer
LHP Dallas Braden
LHP Dana Eveland
RHP Sean Gallagher
RHP Trevor Cahill
SU: Joey Devine
CL: Brad Zieglar

The A's could end up being a very good ballclub, or they could end up tanking, depending largely in part to their health. They have some age/injury concerns which hold the key to the teams offensive success (Giambi, Nomar, Chavez, Cabrera). We know Holliday's going to give them 25+ home runs 100+ RBI with a .300 average while giving Oakland their best hitter since Miguel Tejada was around. I also think that Giambi can still be a successful DH if he can share some of the duties with Nomar. If they can get anything out of Eric Chavez this season, that would be huge as Jack Hannahan wasn't the answer there last year. I like the makings of their young starting rotation, and they need Duchsherer healthy all year to lead them. Trevor Cahill is a bright young arm and should have a nice rookie year and Dallas Braden reminds me a lot of Noah Lowry, unfortunately he can't seem to stay healthy though either. Mr. Steady, Dana Eveland should continue to progress, albeit marginally. They have the bullpen to succeed as well with Zieglar and Devine (although his shoulder is an issue) both shutting the door on teams. If the vets are healthy and the pitching keeps progressing, the A's could win 80-85 ballgames in this division, easy, but I just don't see all of it clicking.

3rd Place, Seattle Mariners
Lineup-
RF Ichiro Suzuki
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
DH Ken Griffey Jr.
3B Adrian Beltre
2B Jose Lopez
1B Russell Branyan
CF Franklin Gutierez
C Jeff Clement/Kenji Johjima
LF Wladimer Balentien

Pitching:
RHP Felix Hernandez
LHP Eric Bedard
LHP Jerrod Washburn
RHP Carlos Silva
LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith
SU: Tyler Wakler
CL: Mark Lowe

DL: RHP Brandon Morrow (mid-April)

The Mariners are in full on rebuilding mode. Take away Ichiro, Ken Griffey Jr. and Adrian Beltre from the lineup and everyone's 25 or under, and the youngsters, although some have high ceilings (Balentien and Clement), have proved little to nothing at this level. I really do like that starting rotation though, and I think Eric Bedard is in line for a nice comeback year. 2007 #1 pick, Phillipe Aumont, is in the wings and could help this season after pitching for team Canada in the WBC. I'm also still waiting for the year that Hernandez realizes his potential and puts it all together: sub-3 era, 200+ strikeouts and 15+ victories. They also will play pretty good D. It's the bullpen that's the team's major weakness, as they will be hard pressed to hold any leads that they do get, led by Tyler Walker, Miguel Batista and Mark Lowe.

4th Place, Texas Rangers
Lineup:
2B Ian Kinsler
3B Michael Young
DH Hank Blalock
CF Josh Hamilton
RF Nelson Cruz
LF Marlon Byrd
1B Chris Davis
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
SS Elvis Andrus/Omar Vizquel

Pitching:
RHP Kevin Millwood
RHP Vicente Padilla
LHP Matt Harrison
RHP Brandon McCarthy
RHP Scott Feldmen
SU:C.J. Wilson
SL: Frank Francisco

Once again, the Rangers have the offense to keep up with practically anybody on the universe. Hamilton and Kinsler are all-stars and MVP candidates and Chris Davis looks like one of the next members of the new age sluggers (Ryan Braun, Josh Hamilton, Prince Fielder ect...). However, their pitching just seems to get worse and worse each year. I like Brandon McCarthy, and I think he can still turn it around if he gets healthy, but they just don't have much in their rotation. Millwood and Padilla are on the downside while Feldman and some of the other are what they call 4A pitchers (advanced for AAA, but not quite good enough for the show). The bullpen is a little better than last years, but they won't often get leads to hold onto with that rotation getting them the ball. Maybe if they could somehow add a starting pitching....or two... or three, then they could jump right up there with the Angels and they may have a few in their system. Youngsters Neftali Perez (19) and Derek Holland (22) could arrive in the second half of 2009 and provide a huge shot in the arm for the rotation.
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4 Comments:

  • At 3:27 AM, Anonymous Fanatic said…

    Wow, forgot the Angels got Abreu. They look pretty damn good on paper there. Like ALCS good if you ask me. I think this is Vlads walk year too so he is going to be primed for a huge season and he will stay healthy.

     
  • At 1:52 PM, Anonymous A's Fan on Giants Blog said…

    I'm an A's fan and I gotta say, I think they're going to be better than a lot of people think they'll be. Jason Giambi still can hit 30 home runs a year (if he has his magic piece of underwear that is) and they still have some other guys besides Matt Holliday who can hit.

    Joey Devine should be a fine closer too and make the bullpen a strength. I agree that the Angels should be the favorites, but I don't think they'r going to run away with this.

     
  • At 11:36 PM, Anonymous J Billingsley aka J-Bill said…

    My pics:

    1. Angels
    2. Rangers
    3. Mariners
    4. Athletics

    I think the Rangers can score more than a lot of other teams and I think their going to be better than people think.

     
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