2013 MLB Predictions: American League West Preview
The American League West has been one of the most competitive divisions in baseball for years—there are four teams in the division, making the rivalries fierce and providing great baseball when they get together.
For the first time since the six-division format was introduced in 1994, the AL West will go to five teams with the addition of the Houston Astros.
That will add to the "anything is possible" theme that the West has possessed.
The Oakland Athletics stunned baseball by riding their young talent to a division championship in 2012—with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Texas Rangers still having solid teams, there will be another competitive race in 2013.
And you never know, maybe the Seattle Mariners can make the jump as well.
The AL West will be worth staying up late to watch, and here's how it will shake out.
5) Houston Astros
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2012 Record: 55-107 (6th in NL Central)
Key Additions (Courtesy of Baseball Prospectus): OF Trevor Crowe, RHP Alex White, 3B Josh Fields, 1B Carlos Pena, RHP John Ely, C Jason Jaramillo, OF Rick Ankiel, LHP Erik Bedard, RHP Brad Peacock, OF Chris Carter, 2B Ronny Cedeno
Key Departures: OF Jordan Schafer, C Chris Snyder, RHP Wilton Lopez, SS Jed Lowrie, RHP Fernando Rodriguez
Outlook: The good news about the Houston Astros' switch to the American League is that they got a sweet new logo that brings back memories of Nolan Ryan throwing heaters in the Astrodome.
The bad news is that Nolan Ryan couldn't make this a .500 team.
The Astros' roster is currently filled with prospects who didn't make it with other teams or are slowly realizing their potential.
They also have a pair of veterans in Carlos Pena and Rick Ankiel who can help the youngsters learn—but the Astros don't have enough to be a surprise contender this year.
There isn't a strength on the major league roster, but there are several young players who can help establish something in the future.
Bleacher Report's Mike Rosenbaum listed the Astros as the ninth-ranked farm system in Major League Baseball this spring and Baseball America has five prospects in the Houston organization ranked in the top 100, including last year's top pick, Carlos Correa.
It makes for hope that these prospects can team up with some of the younger players on the team, such as Jose Altuve and Chris Carter, but as for 2013, the Astros will receive a rude welcome to the American League.
4) Seattle Mariners
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2012 Record: 75-87 (4th in AL West)
Key Additions (Courtesy of Baseball Prospectus): 2B Robert Andino, OF Jason Bay, RHP Jeremy Bonderman, OF Raul Ibanez, C Ronny Paulino, 1B/OF Michael Morse, C Kelly Shoppach, RHP Kameron Loe, RHP Joe Saunders, DH Kendrys Morales
Key Departures: C Miguel Olivo, LHP George Sherrill, RHP Kevin Millwood, 3B Chone Figgins, OF Trayvon Robinson, C John Jaso, 1B Mike Carp
Outlook: In recent years, the Seattle Mariners have been a team built on pitching.
The Mariners had a middle of the road staff, as they ranked 12th in the major leagues in team earned run average (courtesy of ESPN), and they own one of the dominant pitchers in baseball, Felix Hernandez.
While the Mariners signed Hernandez to a seven-year, $175 million contract extension to extinguish any trade rumors that could have popped up, Seattle still needed to upgrade offensively.
According to Baseball Prospectus, the Mariners lineup was 27th in the major leagues in runs per game last season, and the addition of Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales will help them close that gap.
A slew of young bats, including Jesus Montero and Dustin Ackley, will continue to develop as well—the Mariners will see another offensive bump with the fences being moved in at pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.
Do the Mariners have enough to shock the division like the Oakland Athletics did a year ago? It doesn't look like it. But if the young bats take a step forward, it's possible.
3) Texas Rangers
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2012 Record: 93-69 (2nd in AL West, Lost to Baltimore Orioles in AL Wild Card game)
Key Additions (Courtesy of Baseball Prospectus): RHP Joakim Soria, C A.J. Pierzynski, 1B Lance Berkman, RHP Derek Lowe
Key Departures: RHP Scott Feldman, LHP Koji Uehara, RHP Roy Oswalt, C/1B Mike Napoli, RHP Mark Lowe, OF Josh Hamilton, RHP Ryan Dempster, LHP Mike Adams, IF Michael Young
Outlook: The Texas Rangers have been able to have their way with the AL West over the past couple of seasons, which has propelled them to a pair of World Series appearances.
However, with the departure of several key pieces from those teams, the Rangers won't have enough to make up for it.
The biggest blows are the departures of Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young. Many Rangers fans will play this off as the team getting younger and wiser, but will that make them contenders?
To replace that production, the Rangers will lean heavily on Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre and Lance Berkman.
While Cruz played in 159 games a season ago (according to Baseball-Reference), he's had a history of hamstring and quadriceps injuries that have landed him on the disabled list six times in his eight-year career, according to Baseball Prospectus.
Adrian Beltre and Lance Berkman are consistent contributors as well—however, Beltre will turn 34 in April and Berkman was limited to 32 games with the St. Louis Cardinals last season.
The pitching will survive, as the Rangers have rebuilt the team from the 10-9 glory days they used to endure in the early 2000s. Yet, their best hope may be for top prospects Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt to make an early-season debut in order to reclaim the American League West championship.
2) Oakland Athletics
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2012 Record: 94-68 (1st in AL West, Lost in five games to the Detroit Tigers in ALDS)
Key Additions (Courtesy of Baseball Prospectus): C John Jaso, SS Jed Lowrie, RHP Fernando Rodriguez, LHP Hideki Okajima
Key Departures: SS Stephen Drew, 3B Brandon Inge, RHP Brandon McCarthy, RHP Brad Peacock, OF Chris Carter
Outlook: The Oakland Athletics rise from doormat to AL West champions was one of the shocking storylines of the 2012 season.
Now, the Athletics have to try and repeat that success to contend in 2013.
The Athletics are filled with young players, and that means a team can have consistency issues.
Oakland is incredibly young and talented, with Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick leading the way, but the pitching staff (which ranked sixth in team ERA last season, according to Baseball-Reference) needs to do their part as well.
Overall, this is a team that I think can get better. The Athletics have had no problem acquiring solid pitching, and it will lead them into the conversation as potential AL West champions.
If the offense can duplicate it's 2012 form, we will be talking about a team that can do much more.
1) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
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2012 Record: 89-73 (3rd in AL West)
Key Additions (Courtesy of Baseball Prospectus): RHP Ryan Madson, RHP Tommy Hanson, RHP Joe Blanton, OF Josh Hamilton, RHP Jason Vargas, C Chris Snyder
Key Departures: RHP Zack Greinke, RHP LaTroy Hawkins, OF Torii Hunter, 3B Maicer Izturis, RHP Dan Haren, RHP Jordan Walden, 1B Kendrys Morales, RHP Ervin Santana
Outlook: One year after being the mystery team for Albert Pujols, the Angels decided to pull off another offseason stunner, signing Josh Hamilton away from the division-rival Texas Rangers.
The addition of Hamilton gives the Angels another bat in what will be a deadly lineup with Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout.
Yes, Hamilton puts this team over the top to win the division. However, the Angels also need consistency from their newest superstar, Trout, to make it happen.
The arrival of Trout was one of the biggest stories in baseball last season, as he put up video game numbers in 2012 to the tune of 30 home runs and 49 steals, according to Baseball-Reference.
To sum things up, he's good at baseball. But what if his numbers aren't as insane as they were a year ago?
Trout doesn't need to go 30/50 to validate his status as the best young player in baseball today, but he needs to avoid a sophomore slump to help the Angels get where they couldn't last year: October.