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Friday, March 27, 2015

2015 MLB Previews: AL West

Onto the AL West, where quite a few teams will sport some different looks from a year ago, especially the Oakland A's. The Mariners are getting better and the Angels will always be competitive with Arty Moreno running the show. The Rangers lost ace Yu Darvish and stud 2nd basemen Jurickson Profar for the year but have so much offense their still gonna hang around in this thing too. It should make for another tight race in the West in 2015, as has been the case generally over the last few years in this division.

AL West

1st Place, Seattle Mariners

Lineup:
CF Austin Jackson
RF Seth Smith
2B Robinson Cano
DH Nelson Cruz
3B Kyle Seager
1B Logan Morrison
C Mike Zunino
LF Dustin Ackley
SS Brad Miller

Rotation:
RH Felix Hernandez
RH Hisashi Iwakuma
LH James Paxton
RH Taijuan Walker
LH J.A. Happ
SU: Danny Farquar
CL: Fernando Rodney

Key Reserves: UT Rickie Weeks, IF Willie Bloomquist, OF Justin Ruggiano

The Mariners are the popular pick in the AL this year. Most everyone has them taking the West, and some even have them making it all the way to the classic. I think they're the most talented team in this division, from top to bottom, and the huge power bat of Nelson Cruz gives them a 40-HR threat they haven't had in years. I also believe Robby Cano is bound to get off to a hotter start and put up better numbers in year two at Safeco. They have the pitching, the have the bullpen and closer. They have the legit leadoff hitter and a really solid lineup all the way through. They also have nice depth they can throw at you in case guys get hurt or need a break. That staff holds the key though. They're gonna score runs, that's a given (barring major injury and/or complete meltdowns all through the lineup), but they need that young, back-end of the rotation to step in if they're going to run away with this division. If Taijuan Walker is what people in Seattle believe he can be, he's going to be a top-end rotation guy and I think he's gonna put it together this year.

2nd Place, Los Angeles Angels

Lineup:
RF Kole Calhoun
CF Mike Trout
1B Albert Pujols
LF Matt Joyce/Josh Hamilton*
3B David Freese
DH C.J. Cron/Matt Joyce
C Chris Iannetta
SS Eric Aybar
2B Johnny Giavotella

Rotation:
RH Jered Weaver
RH Garrett Richards**
LH C.J. Wilson
RH Matt Shoemaker
LH Hector Santiago
SU: RH Joe Smith
CL: RH Hustin Street

Key Reserves: OF Collin Cowgill, IF Josh Rutledge
*Hamilton away from team with personal non-baseball related issues (No ETA) 
**Richards could start year on DL

OK, the top three in that batting order is ridiculous and probably second to none in all of baseball. All three of those guys can hit for power, average and the top-2 can fly on the base-paths. After that though, things get a little hazy with Josh Hamilton's situation unknown at the time. If he's unable to help them until mid-season or possibly not at all this year, then that's a huge hit. If he can get his personal stuff back on track and get back on the field sometime in May, and he's actually in good baseball shape, then they should be OK. The rotation could be really good with further improvements from Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker (both busted out in 2014). They should get another solid season from ace Jered Weaver and Wilson's always good for a dozen or so wins and respectable ERA. They have the pitching to compete, granted Weaver and his diminishing velocity and stuff don't tank this year and G-Rich stays healthy. If Hamilton does get back sooner than later and is still himself, and that rotation gets and stays healthy, then they're going to be a real playoff contender, but they gotta get and stay healthy.

3rd Place, Oakland A's

Lineup:
LF Coco Crisp
CF Sam Fuld
2B Ben Zobrist
DH Billy Butler
1B Ike Davis
SS Marcus Semien
RF Josh Reddick
3B Brett Lawrie
C Stephen Vogt


Rotation:
RH Sonny Gray
LH Scott Kazmir
RH Jesse Hahn
RH Jesse Chavez
LH Drew Pomeranz/RH A.J. Griffin*
SU: Tyler Clippard
CL: Sean Doolittle

Key Reserves: OF Craig Gentry, IF Eric Sogard
*Griffin out until mid-season rehabbing from surgery

The A's have made some head-scratching moves, as well as some savvy pickups over the last 12 months, sort of re-shaping a team I thought was headed in the right direction. Instead, They have a host of new players in the lineup that weren't there to start 2014 and that rotation is praying A.J. Griffin is able to come back strong sometime in June. They have some talent in that lineup, but a lot of guys are coming off down years and have some question marks. They always seem to compete though, and they have enough talent to make a playoff run if they get good health and some big years out of guys like Reddick, Butler, Crisp and Lawrie (all guys shown capable of being all-star level players in the not too distant past). The bullpen, as always, is solid, with about 3 guys that can close if Doolittles injuries nag him all year. They have depth in the rotation too so guys should be plenty fresh come the August/September push. Still have them behind LA, but not by much.

4th Place, Texas Rangers


Lineup:
CF Leonys Martin
SS Elvis Andrus
RF Shin-Soo Choo
3B Adrian Beltre
1B Prince Fielder
DH Mitch Moreland
LF Ryan Rua
2B Rougned Odor
C Robinson Chirinos

Rotation: 
RH Yovanni Gallardo
LH Derrek Holland
RH Colby Lewis
LH Ross Detwiler
RH Nick Martinez
SU: RH Tanner Scheppers
CL: Neftali Feliz

Key reserves: OF Nate Schierholtz, IF Adam Rosales

The Rangers lost ace Yu Darvish for all of 2015 and at least some of 2015 as the elite right-hander underwent Tommy John Surgery early in the month. With the loss of him, so goes any hope the Rangers had at contending, as their rotation is simply dreadful without him. Gallardo is decent but more a mid-rotation guy now, Holland is so un-predictable and injury prone he's hard to count on and Colby Lewis is a #5 in most any other rotation in the league but going to be counted on heavily now as a #3. Their lineup is nice, even without Jurickson Profar, who is also gone for the year for the second straight summer, but extremely top-heavy. After Fielder, things take a fall although young LF Ryan Rua could become the guy that protects him.
The bullpen is in decent shape, with Neftali Feliz closing again. He can be dominant at times, but he hasn't thrown more than 30 innings in a season since 2011. They just don't have enough pitching to compete for the division and not quite enough offense to overcome it.

5th Place, Houston Astros


Lineup:
2B Jose Altuve
3B Luis Valbeuna
RF Goerge Springer
LF Evan Gattis
DH Chris Carter
SS Jed Lowrie
CF Colby Rasmus/Jake Marisnick
1B Jon Singleton
C Jason Castro

Rotation:
LH Dallas Keuchel
RH Scott Feldman
RH Colin McHugh
LH Brett Oberholtzer
RH Roberto Hernandez
SU: RH Pat Neshek
CL: RH Luke Gregorson/LH Kevin Chapman

Key Reserves: OF Jake Marisnick, IF Marwin Gonzalez, IF Matt Dominguez

You know, I actually really like how far the Astros have come since being the laughing stock of the league the last few years. While they're still a little young and raw to really be competitive yet, I think this is the year they're going to start putting some things together and winning some ballgames. In a tough AL West, they probably will have trouble finishing higher than 4th or 5th, but they have a young rotation that is a WIld Card. If McHugh, Keuchel and Oberholtzer grown on last year, they're going to have a nice little rotation. The pen isn's great, as they don't have a shut-the-door closer at the moment but they're hoping one emerges, possibly young lefty Kevin Chapman. They have a ton of raw power, a lot of speed at the top and a darkhorse MVP candidate in the extremely underrated, reigning MLB batting champ, Jose Altuve. If I were starting a franchise right now and had my pick of 2nd basemen, It'd be the Altuve (over Cano and Anthony Rendon). They're going to be a fun team to watch this year, that's for sure.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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1 Comments:

  • At 12:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Agree with everything but I actually think Houston overtakes the Rangers. The rangers are overrated. Prince is fat and slow and Beltre is about all they got now. They needed Profar, not same without him. I just think Fielder will be average maybe .260 25 and 90 and Beltre will be close to that too. That's all they have.

    Im not big on Oakland this year either. I think they're gonna stink.

     

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