The following is a team-by-team preview and analysis of the AL West division.
Los Angeles: The Halos have lost the most in this division from the previous year. The departures of Chone Figgins and staff ace John Lackey will prove to be significant. This offense will need big years from Kendry Morales and top prospect-turned-starting-third-baseman Brandon Wood. The starting pitching needs to step up in Lackey’s absence, and Fuentes needs to do a better job saving games if the Angels want to stay at the top of this division. Fantasy Spotlight-Kendry Morales. I expect Morales to build off of an impressive ‘09 campaign and finish 2010 with a stat line of .315 30 HR 100 RBI and 90 Runs.
Oakland: The A’s are a ballclub of contrast. They enter 2010 with the likelihood of finishing in the top 5 in team pitching and the bottom 5 in team batting. The addition of veteran right-hander Ben Sheets gives this starting rotation the leader is desperately needed. Look for youngsters Brian Anderson and Trevor Cahill to come into their own this season and prove their worth as top pitching prospects. Reigning Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey commands the back of a solid bullpen. Fantasy Spotlight- Brett Anderson. Anderson enters his second year aiming to pitch close to 200 innings with 14 wins 3.70 ERA and 165 strikeouts.
Seattle: The Mariners come into camp with a new look and upbeat attitude. The additions of speedster Chone Figgins give the M’s a formidable 1-2 punch at the top of the line-up along with Ichiro. Center-Fielder Franklin Gutierrez is ready to have a break-out year and supply some offensive punch. The starting rotation boasts 2 aces in new addition Cliff Lee from Philadelphia and incumbent King Felix Hernandez. Fantasy Spotlight-Felix Hernandez. King Felix should be a top-5 pitcher taken in fantasy drafts this year. I expect big numbers in 2010, look for a stat line of 18-20 wins, 2.70 ERA, and 220 strikeouts.
Texas: The Rangers look to improve on a year marred by injuries and under-performances. This team is close to being a threat in the AL, and it will come down to the team’s pitching. I like the addition of Rich Harden into the starting rotation, the major question is can he stay healthy? He joins promising young arms Derek Holland and Scott Feldman, who was 12-4 on the road last year. If Josh Hamilton has a bounce back year offensively, and Nelson Cruz doesn’t strikeout every game, this team can do some damage in this division. Fantasy Spotlight-Josh Hamilton. Hamilton tweaked his swing last offseason despite having a monster comeback ‘08 campaign. I see him coming back into form and staying healthy, putting up numbers similar to .280 30 HR 95 RBI 95 Runs.
Prediction: With key major offseason acquisitions, the Seattle Mariners finally make it back to the top of this division, knocking out the Angels and a hungry Texas team. In Griffey’s last farewell, he receives one last chance at a World Series title.