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Saturday, March 24, 2012

2012 Preview: AL West; Giants Notes

On we move to the AL West, where the top two teams, LA and Texas, are legit contenders and expected to make the playoffs. Then there's a large, gaping gap between them and the following two squads in Oakland and Seattle, who again will bottom feed in the division and American League.

AL West Preview


First Place, Los Angeles Angels

Lineup:
SS Erick Aybar
2B Howie Kendrick
1B Albert Pujols
DH Kendrys Morales
RF Torii Hunter
LF Vernon Wells
C Chris Iannetta
3B Alberto Callaspo
CF Peter Bourjos

Rotation/Closer
RHP Jered Weaver
LHP C.J. Wilson
RHP Dan Haren
RHP Ervin Santana
RHP Jerome Williams
CL: Jordan Walden

The Angels made the biggest splash of the offseason by not only inking the market's top hitter in Albert Pujols, but also the markets top LHP in C.J. Wilson, a left-hander this rotation badly needed. This team is so strong that they have guys like Mark Trumbo (runner up for ROY in 2011) and Macier Izturis slated to ride the pine to start the year. They should each see plenty of time though, as this is a deep, talented squad. And if Hunter and Wells each play to their capability, then this just may be the best team in the American League. The one slight question they have surrounds young closer Jordan Walden, who the Angels appeared to have wavering faith in last season. However, there were tons of closers on the FA market this winter and the Angels didn't add any insurance. Scott Downs is coming off a career year as well as set-up, so the Angels appear confident in their late-inning relief.

2nd Place, Texas Rangers (Wild Card 1)

Lineup:
2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
CF Josh Hamilton
3B Adrian Beltre
DH Michael Young
RF Nelson Cruz
C Mike Napoli
1B Mitch Moreland
LF David Murphy

Rotation/Closer
RHP Yu Darvish (R)
LHP Derek Holland
RHP Colby Lewis
RHP Neftali Feliz
LHP Matt Harrison
CL: Joe Nathan

The Rangers made the commitment of moving Feliz back to the rotation, where he pitched most of his minor league career, by inking former Giant Joe Nathan to close out games. They also have Alexi Ogando as the kind of, do-all artist, as he could close if Nathan struggles, or move back to the rotation should Feliz hit a bump. The Rangers also have a big question at the top of their rotation in Darvish, who's making his rookie tour through the big leagues this season. He should be good, but I'm not sure he's an ace and that could be asking too much of the 27 year-old in his first season in America. Their rotation has some definite questions, but none that can't be solved, and that lineup just seems to keep getting better and better, so they'll be in the playoffs yet again.

3rd Place, Seattle Mariners

Lineup:
3B Chone Figgins
2B Dustin Ackley
RF Ichiro Suzuki
1B Justin Smoak
LF Mike Carp
DH Jesus Montero
C Miguel Olivo
SS Brendan Ryan
CF Franklin Gutierrez

Rotation/Closer:
RHP Felix Hernandez
LHP Jason Vargas
RHP Kevin Millwood
RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (R)
RHP Blake Beaven
CL: Brandon League

The Mariners made an odd trade this winter that head just about everyone wondering why they didn't get more in dealing bright young starter Michael Pineda to the Yankees for DH Jesus Montero. I mean, they should have at least required Phil Hughes or one of the Yankees young arms in return, but they didn't do that. Anyway, it does improve the offense, but only marginally, and it leaves a rotation that was really setting up as one of the better young ones in the league, with a ton of question marks. Hernandez and Vargas will be fine, but after that, it's a crap-shoot. I do like their bullpen though, led by underrated closer Brandon League.

4th Place, Oakland Athletics

Lineup
2B Jemile Weeks
LF Coco Crisp
CF Yeonis Cespedes
DH Manny Ramirez
1B Brandon Allen
C Kurt Suzuki
RF Seth Smith
SS Cliff Pennington
3B Josh Donaldson (R)

Rotation/Closer
RHP Brandon McCarthy
RHP Bartolo Colon
LHP Dallas Braden
RHP Jarrod Parker (R)
LHP Tommy Milone (R)
CL: Grant Balfour

The A's had one of the oddest offseasons I've ever seen a professional sports team go through. Something about Oakland, the Raiders, A's and Warriors always making such bizarre moves. After looking to initially clear payroll, they signed un-proven Yeonis Cespedes to a huge contract and traded for Rockies outfielder Seth Smith. However, they just don't have enough in that lineup, even if Cespedes rocks and wins ROY, and the rotation sorely misses Brett Anderson who hopefully will be ready by May. To make it short and simple, it will surprise me more if Oakland doesn't lose 100 games this season than if they do!

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Giants Notes: Injuries could be forcing the Giants hand regarding the opening day roster. They announced this week that they expect Vogelsong to start the year on the DL and the Giants likely won't carry a starter in his spot as they won't need a 5th starter until the middle of April, so the Giants can ease Vogey back. The 34 year-old did throw an inning in Thursday's game, and looked and felt good, but he's still a ways behind the rest of the rotation. Also, even though he made his debut in the field in a minor league game Saturday (now hearing he didn't play in the field, further questioning his timetable), Freddy Sanchez appears destined to start the year on the DL as well. That opens up two roster spots that will likely go to two youngsters vying to make the team. My guess is that this locks Brett Pill and Manny Burris onto the opening day roster. They also could use one of the openings to carry Hector Sanchez as a third catcher and power bat off the bench, but I think they want him playing everyday in Fresno.... I've also noticed that the Giants have started to use Huff in the outfield more, and with all his major league experience out there, he makes the more logical choice than Belt. Angel Pagan has struggled to get it going this spring and some suggest that the Giants may use Huff in left and shift Cabrera over to center if those struggles carry into the regular season. Anyway, as I said, I think that until Vogey and Sanchez return, it means 25-man roster spots for Pill and Burris and will give them a brief window to make the decision very hard on the Giants when those guys do heal up and return!
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

1 Comments:

  • At 9:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Pujols is like Lebron James in my book, leaving his hometeam for a little more money. But yeah, that Angels team is pretty nasty. SI's choice to win the series over the Giants.

     

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