MLB Preview: American League West Division

Eddie O'Malley@ed_omalleyContributor IFebruary 23, 2009

Over the next six weeks, I'll be doing a preview to one division in baseball a week before the start of the 2009 season.

Each week, I'll give my take on each team in the division, and the order of the teams is the order in which I predict they will standings wise.

First up, The American League West:


1) Los Angeles Angels

The Angels just seem to be head and shoulders above everyone else in this division, and look like they will have no trouble repeating as AL West Champs. 

The rotation is led by John Lackey, who won 12 games last year.  Right behind him in the number two and three spots are Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders, who won 16 and 17 games last year, respectively. That's a solid top of the rotation that no one else in this division can match up with.

The lineup is stacked with a good mix of young players and vets as well.  They also boast a potent middle of the order with newcomer Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, and Vladimir Guerrero. 

The biggest question here is can the Halos replace departed first baseman Mark Texeria's numbers?  It'll be hard to, but the addition of Abreu should help.  It's also time for Kendry Morales to prove he can be the everyday first baseman. 

Finally, the bullpen for the Angels. Brian Fuentes was signed to replace the departed Frankie Rodriguez and his record-setting 62 saves.  Fuentes, though not on the same level as K-Rod, is a solid closer who should be able to fill the role for the Halos. 

The bullpen is also anchored by set up man Scott Shields.  Shields should have no trouble getting the ball to Fuentes.

All in all, there is just too much talent on this team for anyone else in this division to overtake the Angels for the division yet.


2) Texas Rangers

The Rangers have the offense, but as has been the problem with this team for years, there just doesn't seem to be enough pitching on this team to compete for the division with the Angels.

The rotation is led by veterans Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla.  Millwood won a very unimpressive nine games while having an ERA over 5 last season.  Padilla did win 14 games, but his ERA was almost 5 as well. 

In fact, the rest of the guys projected to round out the rotation pitched with ERA's over 5 last season.  Guys like Scott Feldman and Mike Harrison will have to pitch better for this team to be able to compete.

The offense for the Rangers is a completely different story.  This lineup is stacked, and anchored by center fielder Josh Hamilton, who hit 32 home runs, and drove in 130 runs last season. 

Hamilton will have plenty of protection in the lineup with guys like Mike Young, Hank Blalock, and Jared Saltalamacchia, and Chris Davis in the lineup.

Finally, the Rangers bullpen, which is led by closer Frank Francisco.  This is a new role for Francisco, so it'll be interesting to see how he handles the pressure of being a closer.

The rest of the bullpen will be a mixture of vets and young guys.  Again, it'll be interesting to see if some of these young guys can step up, or if they can catch lightning in a bottle with some of the vets.

This team will not have any trouble scoring runs, but with this pitching staff, they will be giving up many runs as well.  

Ranger fans can look forward to lots of high scoring games. Unfortunately though, there just is not enough pitching on this team for them to compete for the division title or wild card yet.


3) Seattle Mariners

This team was an absolute mess last season.  They were the first team in baseball to have a payroll over 100 million, and lose 100 games. 

The Mariners will be looking to get back on track this season, and with the two guys they have at the top of the rotation, they should be able to climb out of the A.L. West basement.

The rotation is led by Felix Hernandez and Erik Bedard.  Hernandez only won 9 games in 30 starts last year, but his ERA was under 3.50.  A player with enormous potential, look for Hernandex to win around 15 games this season for the M's.

Then you have Erik Bedard behind Hernandez.  Bedard was acquired last offseason, and many thought that he would help get the M's back into the playoffs.  Injuries limited him to 15 starts last year.  If Bedard can stay healthy, the M's may be able to surprise some people and may challenge the Rangers for second place in the A.L. West.

The lineup is led by leadoff man Ichiro Suzuki.  Ichiro was up to his usual self last season, being among the league leaders in stolen bases, OBP, and batting average.  When Ichiro gets on he can cause havoc for opposing pitches and is one of the most feared leadoff hitters in baseball.

Unfortunately after Ichiro, there is not a lot to be excited about in this lineup.  There is not much protection for Adrian Beltre, even with the return of Ken Griffey Jr. to Seattle.  If you can avoid pitching to either of these guys in a big spot, you shouldn't have much trouble shutting this lineup down.

Finally there is the Mariners bullpen, which has been left with no closer to replace J.J. Putz, who was traded to the N.Y. Mets.  It seems the Mariners will be going with a closer by committee for now until either they acquire a closer, or someone steps up and takes control of the closer roll.

Overall, this team just doesn't have enough offense to be able to compete day in and day out.  They do have the two horses at the top of the rotation, but with no clear cut closer, I do not see this team being able to go anywhere this season.


4) Oakland Athletics

Even with the addition of Matt Holliday, and the return of Jason Giambi, I predict this team will finish last in the division.

The rotation is led by Justin Duchscherer.  Duchscherer won 10 games last year, and was among the league leaders in E.R.A with a 2.54 E.R.A.  The rest of the rotation fills out with unknowns.  For this team to not finish last, guy like Dana Eveland will have to step up and pitch well on a consistent basis.

The offense for the A's is anchored by newly acquired Matt Holliday.  Holliday provides the A's a solid cleanup hitter.  Is there enough protection in this lineup for him though? 

Jason Giambi should be able to provide some protection, as should Jack Cust.  Neither of these players strike fear in opposing pitchers though.  Then there is Eric Chavez, who missed most of last season due to injury.  His numbers have steadily declined over the last few years though.

Finally, the bullpen for the A's also has been left with no closer, as Huston Street was traded to the Colorado Rockies in the Matt Holliday trade.  The A's will go with a mix of vets and young pitchers in the pen, and hope someone steps up to be the everyday closer.

I just don't see enough talent on this team to be able to finish out of last in the west.  If the young pitchers in the rotation mature and are pitch well, they may be able to finish above the M's because they have a better lineup than Seattle.

So there you have it, my predictions/preview to the A.L. West.  I think the Angels are far better then the rest of these teams.  It'll be interesting to see how the rest of the division plays out because I think they are evenly matched and could really could finish in any order between second, third, and last.

Coming next week: The National League West


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