AL West Preview

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AL West Preview
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
With the way the Angels dominated last year’s AL West, you would think that they would be an easy pick to repeat.
You would—and you would be wrong.
We should have learned one thing from Michael Lewis’ Moneyball: Do not sleep on the Oakland A’s.
Here are the picks:

 

Division Winner: Oakland Athletics

Oakland’s pitching will be good because their pitching is always good. Their future number-one and two starters will be making their way up this year (Anderson and Trevor Cahill). Duscherer will be missed while he is on the DL, but the other pitching will be able to carry his slack by midseason.

Billy Beane worked his magic last year and brought in Matt Holliday for a contract year, Jason Giambi with a little gas left in the tank, and a dependable shortstop in Orlando Cabrera.

They may not win over 90 games, but this team will win the division.

X-Factor: Cahill and Anderson really need to hit the ground running and win games immediately. If not, they may lose too much ground to the other teams.

Liabilities: The Eric Chavez and Nomar Garciaparra platoon at third base. Both players are immensely talented. Both players are injured too often to be dependable. Maybe these two can keep each other from missing too much time, but both are not consistent enough to be dependable.

(Side Note: Billy Ripken just described “The Yips” for pitchers and fielders on MLB Tonight. The MLB Network was a great idea, and the best part is the return of Harold Reynolds to national television as an analyst.)

 

Also-Rans:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Nova Scotia, and Djibouti

Sorry, but I think if your name is five words long, you leave it open for mockery.

The Halos are already missing their two best pitchers from last year in Ervin Santana and John Lackey, though Lackey’s injury does not appear to be serious. If they can survive until he comes back and Kelvin Escobar gets accustomed to pitching in the bigs again, then they have a shot.

The Bobby Abreu signing was nice, but Vlad Guerrero has little left in the tank defensively, especially patrolling right field. Both of these outfielders will hit well but not enough to increase to get their team to the playoffs.

Torii Hunter is a great fielder and an above average hitter, but the Angels have liabilities in the oft-injured Chone Figgins at third and Juan Rivera at DH.

X-Factor: Jose Arredondo could be one of those pitchers like K-Rod once he gets big-league seasoning.

Liabilities: Starting pitching, as stated above, and they will not win as many one- and two-run games without K-Rod.

 

Texas Rangers

The Rangers may be two years away from a division run, as they have finally decided to develop pitching as opposed to simply load up on hitting. Neftali Feliz, who came in the Teixera to Atlanta deal, will be a star.

Their lineup is dangerous as always with Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler with a plethora of young talent, but they do not have the pitching to compete this year.  Case in point: Kevin Millwood. Yes, that Kevin Millwood, is the number-one starter.

Look for this team in two years when Baseball America’s number-one farm system makes it to the bigs, unless they trade it all away for offense—again.

X-Factor: Elvis Andrus could be a sensational shortstop of the future.

Liabilities: Pitching, as well as Michael Young being another year older and at a new position.

 

Seattle Mariners

Is it not sad that this once-proud franchise has sunk to the depths of mediocrity? However, their new GM Jack Zduriencik looks to be making nice moves that will benefit the team in the future.

I appreciate the Griffey signing as a baseball fan that likes tradition, but I think they brought him in to sell tickets while they win 65 games.

Felix Hernandez is poised to have the breakout year we have all been expecting and he will at least be fun to watch while this team reloads. Young up-and-comers Wladimir Balentien and Jeff Clement should be up this year and contribute to the team, though their best years are still ahead of them.

X-factor: Russell Branyan could provide some much needed pop in a lineup depending mostly on Griffey and Adrian Beltre.

Liabilities: Erik Bedard will struggle to stay healthy and be another quality pitcher behind Hernandez.

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