The American League West is the smallest division in baseball with only four teams, and it has been dominated by the Angels for the past couple of years. They have been at or around the top of the division since their World Series win in 2002.
Will they be at the top of the West again this year or are the Mariners finally ready to challange the Angels for the division?
Seattle Mariners (91-71)
The Seattle Mariners were a bit of a surprise last year in the West. They finished only a couple games behind the Angels for the division.
Now with basically the same line-up and a new pitcher in the starting rotation, the Mariners will take the Western division crown from the Angels.
Their line-up is very balanced and somewhat overlooked when it comes to talent. They have one of the best leadoff hitters in the game with Ichiro at the top and a good mix of power and contact behind him with Sexson, Beltre, Wilkerson, Ibanez, and Lopez.
Their defense was one of the best in the league, which kept them in most games.
The starting rotation got a big upgrade when the M's aquired one of the best pitchers from last season in Erik Bedard from Baltimore. Along with Hernandez, Silva, Washburn, and Bastista this is a solid pitching rotation with two potential aces at the top.
The bullpen should be solid with Morrow, White, and Jimenez to set up for one of the best closers in the game in J.J. Putz. All in all, I think this team has enough to be able to get past the aging Angels in the AL West.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (88-74)
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (or whatever they are called now) made some key moves in the offseason bringing in one of the best defensive outfielders in the game in Torii Hunter, but I don't feel that they addressed the need of power behind Vlad that they needed to.
Their line-up has a lot of speed with Chone Figgins at the top and Kendrick, Aybar, and even Vlad still, but I still believe that this team is getting much older.
How many more productive years do they expect from Garret Anderson? Torri Hunter is a great defensive pickup but will he be able to protect Vlad in the line-up? And even Vlad is showing signs of wear and tear at 32 and already having some knee problems in the spring.
The pitching staff has been banged up this spring and needs to get healthy fast. Weaver had an off year last year and new pitcher Jon Garland is a solid starter but does not have the stuff to be an ace in the American League.
The rest of the rotation is alright with Saunders, Ervin Santana, and Moseley.
Their bullpen is their strength with K-Rod as the closer and Scot Shields and Justin Speier setting up for him. I think the Angels don't have enough to keep up with the Mariners and will tire out at the end of the season like they almost did last year.
Texas Rangers (71-91)
The Rangers have been living at the bottom of the AL West for a while now, but it looks like they might be taking the first step towards the top.
They have a good core of young players that they can build around for the future. Their line-up is a little underrated; they did drop a 32-spot in Baltimore last year, and they got a little bit better with the addition of young outfielder Josh Hamilton.
Along with Young, Blalock, Kinsler, Byrd, Bradley, and the Salty one (who isnt even the starting catcher which I think is stupid) this is a decent line-up.
Their problem comes when it comes to who does the pitching. Kevin Milwood is listed as the ace which spells trouble already. Along with Padilla, Jennings, and a couple of young starters in Kason Gabbard and Luis Mendoza, the rotation will see its fair share of bumps and bruises over the year.
The bullpen isn't that bad and should bail out the starters during the year with Benoit, Guardado, Fukumori, Littleton, and first year closer C.J. Wilson. The Rangers should compete with teams but are still two years away from contending for the division crown.
Oakland Athletics (69-93)
This will be a rough year for the rebuilding A's. They have a very young line-up with a ton of rookies and no names.
The recognizable names in the line-up are Crosby, Cust, Buck, Sweeney, and Ellis. After that, it's a bunch of rookies trying to prove themselves. They include Kurt Suzuki, Daric Barton, Jack Hannahan, and Chris Denorfia.
The pitching rotation is the same way with Blanton and Harden anchoring the top. Chad Gaudin, Justin Duchscherer, and Lenny DiNardo will round out the rotation.
The bullpen is good and will win some games for the A's with three potential closers in Huston Street, newly out of retirement Keith Foulke, and Alan Embree.
This team is going to go through a couple rough years before they return to the playoffs, but they have a good foundation to build on with some good young bats and young arms.
That ends my division predictions. Just for review, I have the Red Sox winning the AL East, the Tigers out of the Central, the Mariners winning the West, and the Yankees as the Wild Card.
In the last part of the series, I will tell you who wins each series and the CY Young and MVPs of each league and the World Series Champion.