Projecting the State of the American League West in 2015

J.J. Matthews@@thajagepageContributor IIIMay 24, 2013

Projecting the State of the American League West in 2015

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    With about a quarter of the 2013 season in the books, the American League West still has its fair share of questions moving forward as it did at the beginning of the season. With the exceptions of the Texas Rangers running away from the pack; and the Houston Astros performing at a historically poor level, there are no clear answers for what the rest of 2013 holds for the Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels.

    But what about 2014? Or 2015? With strong farm systems, progression and regression of current players, free agency and trades; the landscape of the AL West could be drastically different a year and a half from now.

    On that note, we peek into the crystal ball and predict how the AL West will look two years from now. The slides will be done in a power ranking from first to last, with a list of starting lineups, rotations, and best players.

1. Texas Rangers

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    Starting Lineup:

    C - Jorge Alfaro

    1B - Mitch Moreland

    2B - Jurickson Profar

    SS - Elvis Andrus

    3B - Adrian Beltre

    LF - Jacoby Ellsbury

    CF - Leonys Martin

    RF - Mike Olt

    DH - Ian Kinsler

    Starting Rotation:

    Yu Darvish

    Derek Holland

    Matt Harrison

    Martin Perez

    Colby Lewis

    Best Player: Elvis Andrus

    The rich get richer in Texas, as the Rangers will continue to be the class of the AL West come 2015. Many will think the pitching staff won't be able to hold up, but with the progression in Derek Holland's control, Yu Darvish's rise to Cy Young contender status and the inevitable emergence of Martin Perez, Texas' rotation will be just fine.

    The lineup remains powerful, with Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler and free agent signee Jacoby Ellsbury manning the middle of the lineup. Ellsbury has been tied to the Rangers before, and with Nelson Cruz set to become a free agent after the 2013 season, expect the Rangers to be big players in signing Ellsbury away from the Red Sox.

    By 2015, Jurickson Profar will have forced his way into the lineup full-time, leading to the shift of Ian Kinsler to DH. Profar and Andrus will combine to become one of the most dangerous 1-2 punches in all of baseball, setting the table consistently for the big bats behind them. The Rangers are one of the best organizations in baseball right now, and that won't change by 2015.


2. Oakland Athletics

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    Starting Lineup:

    C - Derek Norris

    1B - Brandon Moss

    2B - Jed Lowrie

    SS - Addison Russell

    3B - Josh Donaldson

    LF - Grant Green

    CF - Yoenis Cespedes

    RF - Michael Choice

    DH - Michael Taylor

    Starting Rotation:

    Jarrod Parker

    Tommy Millone

    Dan Straily

    A.J Griffin

    Sonny Gray

    Best Player: Yoenis Cespedes

    With the quality arms in the Athletic's farm system, it is hard to imagine this team falling any lower than second place in this division. Expect Parker and Millone to take huge steps forward throughout 2013 and 2014, and man a very young, but strong, rotation by 2015.

    The most impressive part of the Athletics outside their staff will be their outfield, which could develop into one of the best all-around outfields in all of baseball by 2015. Yoenis Cespedes will grab all the headlines and be a regular MVP candidate as long as he stays healthy, but he will be surrounded by Michael Choice and Grant Green, who both have the chance to become above-average major league ball players.

    The question with the A's moving forward will be the same as it is now, whether or not they can find ways to win with one of the worst team batting averages in baseball. The A's currently rank 24th in the MLB in a .241 team average, but are ranked 11th in on-base percentage at .326. If the team continues to remain patient as it is now, the A's will continue to be one of the toughest outs in all of baseball.

3. Seattle Mariners

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    Starting Lineup:

    C - Mike Zunino

    1B - Mike Morse

    2B - Dustin Ackley

    SS - Brad Miller

    3B - Kyle Seager

    LF - Julio Morban

    CF - Michael Saunders

    RF - Giancarlo Stanton

    DH - Stefen Romero

    Starting Rotation:

    Felix Hernandez

    Hisashi Iwakuma

    Danny Hultzen

    Brandon Maurer

    Andrew Carraway

    Best Player: Giancarlo Stanton

    Yup, call this featured columnist bias, but I fully believe Giancarlo Stanton will be a Seattle Mariner by 2015. With the Mariners desperate to finally add an offensive player to more than a one-year deal, Seattle will sell the farm in order to get one of the best young players in baseball. It will take Seattle trading Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Nick Franklin and Jesus Montero, but the Mariners will take the plunge and rely on the depth of the rest of their farm system to make up for it.

    By 2015, the Justin Smoak experience will have come to an end, and an aging Mike Morse will man first base for the Mariners. Other than that, the roster stays relatively the same based on how their prospects should progress over the next two years. The Mariners will be a better hitting team, but will still have some bumps and bruises to face with so many young players still littering the lineup.

    The rotation will be better, even though they will certainly miss the potential impact of Taijuan Walker who will have been moved in the Stanton trade. Hultzen at this point will work his way into the rotation behind the 1-2 punch of Felix and Iwakuma. Maurer may find himself back in the minors at some point this season, but the talent is there to be a big league starter in the near future. The surprise here is Andrew Carraway who has strung together a good stretch in Tacoma this season.

    The Mariners will still be hovering around .500, but will be a better team than they are in the present.


4. Los Angeles Angels

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    Starting Lineup:

    C - Hank Conger

    1B - Mark Trumbo

    2B - Howard Kendrick

    SS - Eric Stamets

    3B - Kaleb Cowart

    LF - Peter Bourjos

    CF - Mike Trout

    RF - Josh Hamilton

    DH - Albert Pujols

    Starting Rotation:

    Jered Weaver

    C.J Wilson

    Tim Lincecum

    Jason Vargas

    A.J Schugel

    Best Player: Mike Trout

    So people may not agree with the Angels in fourth place, but this team is going to have some issues come 2015. The free agent spending spree of 2012 and 2013 will be in full-effect with Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and C.J Wilson taking up a majority of their payroll. Sure, this team will be able to hit the day lights out of the ball, and Mike Trout will be the best player in all of baseball, but the pitching staff is going to have to figure out how to keep runs off the board.

    Expect the Angels to go after Tim Lincecum this offseason, as it seems more-and-more likely the Giants will be willing to let him walk away. The problem is by 2015, Tim Lincecum may no longer come close to resembling the same Lincecum who was once the best pitcher in baseball. Sure, Weaver and Wilson will be able to hold things together at the top of the rotation, but the Angels will be kicking themselves for not over-paying for Zack Greinke instead of signing Josh Hamilton this offseason.

    To make matters worse, the Angels have one of the worst farm systems in all of baseball. With the exception of Kaleb Cowart, the Angels don't really have much to expect from the farm over the next two years. If the Angels aren't this low by 2015, it may not take much longer before they are.


5. Houston Astros

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    Starting Lineup:

    C - Max Stassi

    1B - Jonathan Singleton

    2B - Jose Altuve

    SS - Nolan Fontana

    3B - Rio Ruiz

    LF - J.D Martinez

    CF - George Springer

    RF - Robbie Grossman

    DH - Carlos Perez

    Starting Rotation:

    Lucas Harrell

    Jordan Lyles

    Jarred Cosart

    Mike Foltynewicz

    Lance McCullers

    Best Player: Jonathan Singleton

    Okay, I'll be completely honest. The Astros are at least another five years away from being competitive, and trying to predict what their roster will look like in two years may have been the most challenging thing I have ever done. But, when you dive into the Astros farm system, you'll see that Houston has the talent to contend... even if it is in 2018.

    Jose Altuve, Jonathan Singleton and George Springer will make up the core of the lineup, but will have trouble knocking in runs when the rest of the team struggles to get on base. In all honesty, their starting lineup is a who's who of their minor league system as of right now. Many think Altuve will get traded by 2015, but the Astros can't afford to trade away the only player on the team that get fans excited. The good thing for the Astros is that by 2015, Carlos Correa, the first-overall selection in the 2012 Draft should be on the verge of cracking the major league club, and in all honesty, It wouldn't even be all that surprising if he was there already.

    The pitching staff will be interesting for the Astros. Gone will be Bud Norris, who will most likely be traded at some point this season in order for the Astros to continue to build there farm system. Lucas Harrell will lead a very young staff that has plenty of potential. McCullers will be in the tail end of the rotation by 2015, but don't be surprised if he is their ace by the 2017 season.