The AL West consists of four teams; three of which look like they could win the division without a problem. The Angels, Rangers, Mariners, and Athletics are all talented teams. But, only one team can win the division. However this division ends up, I know it's going to be a very tight race.
1. Los Angeles Angels
To pick one team to win in this division is so hard, but I had to go with the Angels. Despite losing many key pieces to the team—John Lackey, Vladimir Guerrero, and Chone Figgins—I think that they are still putting a very solid team out on the field.
The Angels' starting pitching rotation looks fine even without Lackey. Jered Weaver is most likely going to take over Lackey's spot as the Angel's ace. I think that Weaver is going to be a great ace for the Halos. He has tremendous stuff and no ceilings to how good he can be. Last year Weaver went 16-8 and also had four complete games and two shutouts. Those seem like numbers an ace would have. lthough Weaver is an exciting pitcher, I believe that the real excitement happens behind him in the rotation.
Weaver will be followed in the rotation by Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, Scott Kazmir, and Joel Piniero. That is one of the best rotations in all of baseball. The Angels have talent all through their rotation which is going to help them win the AL West.
The Angels lost two key parts of their offense this offseason. Both Vladimir Guerrero and Chone Figgins both found new teams to play for in the AL West. Those two players are not easy to replace, but the Angels tried their best. They went out and signed 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui to DH for them. I think that Matsui will more than make up for the the loss of Vlad.
The real question is at third base for the Angels. Chone Figgins has always set the tone for the Angels lineup and now he's gone. The Angels decided to replace Figgings with Brandon Wood. Wood has been a solid prospect for the Angels for some time now, but he hasn't showed much in the bigs. He might be great or not great at all.
The good thing is that the Angels will not be depending on Wood a lot in the lineup. They're lineup is already very talented and a couple of slumping batters won't really hurt the Angels' strong lineup. Wood will just have to keep up defensively and if he does that then I think the Angels will be fine without Figgins.
The Angels have a solid bullpen that should help them win plenty of close games. Brian Fuentes made Angels fans forget about K-Rod and he should continue to impress. Behind Fuentes the Angels have a number of talented veterans and youngsters. Scot Shields had a lost season last year due to injuries, but if he returns to his old form then he will be a big key to the Angels bullpen. The Angels also acquired Fernando Rodney this offseason and he will make up for Shields if he struggles. They have an array of young arms that are very talented and should perform well.
Overall, the Angels have a very solid team. They are a balanced team that consists of solid players all throughout. If their replacements for their big losses this offseason can put up similar numbers then I think that L.A. will have no problem winning the AL West.
2. Seattle Mariners
The whole Mariners organization has been revived as of late. They have so many positives and very few negatives. The Mariners have one of the best 1-2 punches in all of baseball.
Both Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee at the top of a rotation is any baseball fans dream for their team. Mariners fans are very lucky to have two dominant pitchers in the same rotation. The Mariners have three solid guys behind Hernandez and Lee that should put up solid numbers too. If Erik Bedard can stay healthy, he can be just as good as Felix and Lee. That would make the Mariners the best rotation in all of baseball. Rowland-Smith and Snell are nice pitchers that are fantastic at the four and five spots for the M's.
There is no question that the Mariners rotation is good to go, but there are some questions about their offense. he Mariners biggest question is how will Milton Bradley perform? Bradley has a whole lot of skill, but he always seems to screw up. His stay with the Cubs was a disaster. Why won't it won't be a disaster in Seattle?
I think that Bradley will bounce back this year both in his attitude and skills wise. I think that last season opened up his eyes to many things, and he's determined to change. The Mariners have plenty of other talented hitters. Ichiro is a hit machine, and Chone Figgins should fit nicely in the M's lineup. Ken Griffey Jr. should also continue living his dream in Seattle by putting up some decent numbers for the fans that love him.
The Mariner's biggest problem is their bullpen. There are plenty of question marks in their bullpen, but I think that if they can just put up numbers that are just enough, then it won't be a problem for the team. The Mariners' are a team on the rise and 2010 will be big for them. They might not make the playoffs, but it surely will be close. Seattle is only going to get better.
3. Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers are so hard to predict this year. They have a great lineup, but there are a lot of question marks in it. Their starting pitching is getting better, but everything must go right for their rotation to keep up with the other rotations in the AL West. Rich Harden will probably be the key to their season. If he puts up the fantastic numbers that he's used to doing and doesn't get injured, than their rotation should hold up. If Harden doesn't perform up to par, then it will be very tough for the Rangers to make the playoffs.
The Rangers will score a lot of runs for sure. Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler will anchor a very solid Texas Rangers lineup.
Texas also has a very solid bullpen that will win them some games down the stretch. Frank Francisco has great stuff and I think he will have a solid season as the Rangers' closer. Neftali Feliz is very exciting, and he's probably going to be in the bullpen this year. I can see him being a very dominant set-up man and he will be a perfect bridge to the ninth for Francisco.
The Rangers are on the rise, but they just aren't there yet. The team has too many question marks to contend with the Angels and Mariners. In order for them to go to the playoffs everything has to go right for them. I'm not saying it won't happen, but it is looking very unlikely to me. I like the Rangers, but this year is just not their year.
4. Oakland Athletics
The Athletics are a mess. I think it's time that they totally rebuild. They have a lot of talented young players and they can acquire more by trading some of their older talented players. Some people think that that's the reason they got Ben Sheets, to be trade bait. Similar to what they did with Matt Holliday.
No matter what the A's do, I don't see them contending this season. The AL West is just too talented for a team like the A's to contend. They have a lot of bright spots on the team, but they also have a lot of dull spots.
The A's pitching is going to be shaky at best. They do have good young pitchers though, but they are still developing. The Athletics lineup will not produce a lot of runs. That will make it pretty hard for the A's pitchers to succeed. They have a great young bullpen, but it won't get plenty of good opportunities to work with.
The A's just need to clean out everybody but their young prospects. The team is going nowhere right now. Things could be looking very bright as short as two or three years down the road.