The AL West is an interesting division this year.
There are four good and well-run teams. The long-time division power (L.A.) seems to be on the decline, while the other three teams (Texas, Oakland, and Seattle) seem to be rising.
I'll be doing a series of predictions about the division, but the first one up is team records, from fourth to first.
I project the division to be EXTREMELY tight, and the tiniest of changes can certainly skew things.
I'm projecting Texas for a last-place finish, mainly because I have concerns about the starting rotation.
Rich Harden, the "ace," has a ton of injury issues and is coming off a 4.35 FIP season in the NL. Scott Feldman is more of a No. 3 than a No.2. Tommy Hunter is more of a No. 4 than a No. 3. I like Derek Holland, but he and a (if) healthy Harden aren't enough to make this more than a C+ rotation.
The bullpen looks solid, as do the lineup and defense, but the questionable starting pitching pushes this team JUST below the others.
The pitching and defense here are absolutely spectacular. The As pair baseball's best bullpen with a starting rotation that could be the best in the majors as well. They run out three plus defensive CFs in the outfield, and the infield is savvy defensively as well.
However, the A's lineup is the worst unit (lineup, starters, relievers, or defense) in the division. A declining Jack Cust is the closest thing the A's have to a power source and, while prospects Chris Carter and Michael Taylor may help down the stretch, I'm not convinced they'll be huge impact hitters as rookies.
If the lineup comes together better than expected, the A's could run away with the West. I don't see it yet, however, so they'll slide in a close third.
Seattle's got the same incredible rotation and defense of Oakland. Their bullpen projects to be far worse than the A's group, but Seattle's lineup, while far from earth-shattering, looks to be quite a bit better than Oakland's.
I see the ultimate difference between these two fairly similar teams to be about three wins.
I hate to put the Angels as winning the division, because a) as an A's fan, I don't like them, and b) it's a BORING sort of pick. But honestly, that's what it looks like, at least on paper.
The Angels run out the worst defense in the division (quite a change from a few years back) and, while they aren't the "best" at anything in the division, they should hit better than Seattle and Oakland and pitch better than Texas.
I see that being JUST enough to eek by the Mariners (by one game) and secure the Angels one final playoff berth before the prospect-heavy Seattle, Oakland, and Texas teams vie for supremacy in the coming years.
Overall, it's a tight division, with the first-place Angels only beating the last-place Rangers by six games.
It's early, though, and it'll be very interesting to see what plays out.
In my next article, I'll be breaking down the teams' rotations, so stay tuned.