|Watch out for monkey gangs Torii!|
1) LA Angels
2) Texas Rangers
3) Oakland A’s
4) Seattle Mariners
They are never a sexy team by any means, but they always manage to remain competitive until the final week of the season. This year will be no different. The Angels are my pick to win the AL West. In Mike Scioscia I Trust. He’s a terrific manager and knows how to win games given the talent (or lackthereof) on his
roster. Expect a regression from Jeff Weaver, but a progression from Dan Haren. Haren is a sleeper pick in the Cy Young Race this year. With a low BB rate and a high K rate, he was one of the unluckiest pitchers in baseball last season. However, he lit it up when he came to LA midseason. The lineup leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s a typical scrappy Angels line-up. Vlad is gone, but has been replaced with Vernon Wells. A terrible contract, but he still hit 28 dingers last year. Moreover, the Angels always seem to go out and get the pieces they are missing to make a playoff run at the trade deadline every year.
Texas could challenge for the AL West crown, but I don’t see it with the pitching staff assembled. It will be interesting to see how C.J. Wilson performs this year given the spike in innings last year. After Wilson, the talent drops off. In terms of a lineup, the Rangers are as stacked as anyone – when healthy. I’m waiting for the season that Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton both stay healthy for a full year. Throw in the mashing potential of Mike Napoli and this may be one of the scariest, if not THE scariest, 3-4-5 hitters in the league. One can only imagine the numbers these three could produce. Neftali Feliz’s talent would really be best suited in the rotation, especially with how thin it is. I just hope the Rangers don’t pull a Joba Chamberlain with him each year – “he’s starting, he’s relieving, he’s starting, he’s relieving”.
Oakland is my pick to finish third in the division. Positives include a stacked rotation reminiscent of the days of Mulder-Hudson-Zito in the late 90s. Gio Gonzalez, Brett Anderson, and Trevor Cahill have already proved effective at the major league level. I’m looking for them to take the next step this year. Gonzalez’ potential is immense and has the highest ceiling of the three. He could either flame out or be an absolute stud by season’s end. The lineup is weak sauce. Cliff Pennington? Mark Ellis? Kevin Kouzmanoff? Coco Crisp is arguably the best hitter on this team. When that’s the case, you know you’re in trouble. This team will only go as far as its rotation can carry it. Just imagine when Harden comes back……and then hits the DL again after three starts.
Poor Seattle. Poor King Felix. He deserves more. Arguably the best pitcher in baseball, the King was awarded with his first Cy Young award. Everyone’s sexy pick to win the AL West in 2010, Seattle disappointed. The high expectations aren’t there this year. Neither will the actual performance. Erik Bedard is a wildcard. Michael Pineda has the potential, but is he ready for MLB hitters now? I question why the Mariners are even starting the service time clock with him by starting the season with him on the MLB roster. Why not wait until June/July and save themselves the money? As good as Pineda is, he’s certainly not the missing piece to a division crown here. Once again, an absolute putrid lineup, but a lineup with some young hitters still learning the ropes in Justin Smoak, Michael Saunders, and Adam Moore. Ichiro and Chone Figgins are aging and there does not seem to be much talent on the horizon. This organization could really suffer over the next few years.
After writing this, I have realized how less than mediocre the lineups in the AL West are outside of the Rangers. Couple the rotation of the Angels with the lineup of the Rangers and you have an immediate World Series favorite.
Player to Watch Under 25:
|The one that got away from X Mark's Braves|
When considering players for this “award”, I wanted to select a younger player who could have a direct impact on the AL West pennant race. Had Feliz been slotted in the rotation, he would have been an easy choice. As is the case, I am going with Elvis Andrus. He plays solid defense and is the fastest kid alive. However, he struggled to get on base to utilize his speed in 2010. He can wreak havoc on the basepaths and
I fully expect him to in 2011. If he can successfully set the table for The Big 3, he’s a sure bet to score 100 runs. 2011 will bode much better for Elvis.
Honorable mention: Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Walden, Hank Conger
|Woah! Is half his face a catcher's mask?|
Congratulations, Adam Moore. You are the proud recipient of the 10th Man Award for the AL West. Slotted to be the backup to Miguel Olivo behind the dish, Moore can hit. He has a career .303 average and .850 OPS in the minors – not bad for a catcher. However, he has not really been given much of an opportunity to display his skills at the major league level. I would love to see what he could do with some regular ABs.