The Mariners made a big splash in the offseason by landing Cliff Lee in the trade involving Roy Halladay. He and Felix Hernandez provide the best 1-2 rotation punch in the majors. Lee was a perfect rental for the Phillies since he posted a 5-0 record with a 0.68 ERA and pitched a complete game with 10 strikeouts and no earned runs allowed in Game 1 of the World Series. He was also a 22-game and Cy Young winner in '08 with the Indians. The Mariners have their go-to guy if they make the playoffs.
Hernandez isn't called "King Felix" for nothing. He won 19 games and pitched 217 strikeouts with a 2.49 ERA.
Ian Snell transitioned to the AL pretty nicely, allowing two or fewer runs in seven of his last nine starts. He is capable of pitching 170 strikeouts, and Safeco Field is a pitcher-friendly ballpark, so he should be able to pitch a low-4.00 ERA and maybe below.
Ryan Rowland-Smith posted a 3.74 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in 15 starts last season after starting in AAA, so he will prove to be a reliable No. 4 pitcher.
Doug Fister will be the No. 5 starter while Erik Bedard heals. He pitched a 4.13 ERA in his first season in the big leagues, and he's only 24, so he's a young starter who will continue to rise.
Bedard made 15 starts last year and the year before, so he has been through injuries and will not return until August this season. He's a great strikeout pitcher when healthy though. He can get a batter per inning. Garrett Olson provides insurance.
David Aardsma had 38 saves in 42 chances, a 2.52 ERA, and 80 strikeouts in 71 innings. The batters had a .190 average against him. He enters the 2010 season as one of baseball's most underrated closers.
Mark Lowe is a great setup man who made 75 appearances and had 26 holds. He also had a 3.26 ERA and a pretty good K/9 rate just below 8.
Brandon League had a high ERA with Toronto, but he struck out a batter per inning, and pitching in Seattle should lower his ERA.
Sean White pitched a 2.80 ERA, so he's a reliable middle inning reliever, but his K/9 rate is ridiculously low. It was 3.92 last season.
RF Ichiro Suzuki is, in my opinion, the most consistent hitter in all of baseball. He already has 2,000 hits in nine seasons. He had a high .352 average last season with 225 hits. All nine of his seasons have been marked by 200+ hits and a .300+ average. He had a career-low 26 stolen bases last year, and that's still incredible. He's the best leadoff man in the majors, hands down.
3B Chone Figgins is another free agent signing for the Mariners that will make a big impact. He and Ichiro together are a scary combination. Figgins can steal 40 bases, and he had a career-high 114 runs last season. He will likely be able to hit 70 RBI, which he has never hit before, but since he's hitting behind Ichiro, he'll have more RBI opportunities.
2B Jose Lopez had a career-high in home runs and RBI with 25 and 96. He also had 42 doubles. His bat provides power, but he had 15 errors in 2009. There are rumors going around that he may switch to third with Figgins.
LF Milton Bradley had yet another tantrum that caused the Cubs to let him go. He's a talented hitter though. If he bounces back from his dull '09 season, he could hit 20 home runs and 70-80 RBI. He hit .321 in Texas, so his average will likely rise from the .257 average last season.
DH Ken Griffey Jr. signed a one-year contract with Seattle to return, and playing at DH should keep him healthy, but he will likely hit 400-450 at-bats even if healthy. He may still be able to hit 20 home runs, and his experience should prove valuable to the rest of the team.
1B Ryan Garko was another one of the many free agent signings by the Mariners. He isn't a great hitter for a first baseman, but he's still pretty solid, and he should be able to hit more RBIs now that he's no longer in the Giants' lineup. Casey Kotchman may platoon with Garko since he's an excellent defensive first baseman.
SS Jack Wilson was signed to a two-year deal, and his glove provides excellent defense. He won't hit 12 home runs again like he did in '07 since Seattle isn't hitter friendly, but he should still be a solid contact hitter.
Catchers Adam Moore and Rob Johnson are competing for the starting job right now. Johnson is the favorite since he is great behind the plate, but he isn't known for his bat while Moore is. He hit .301 in the minors and could post decent numbers if he starts.
CF Franklin Gutierrez had a breakout '09 season with 18 home runs, 70 RBI, and a .283 average. If he improves his plate discipline, he could hit .300. He's a great center fielder with his glove. There shouldn't be any reason why he can't repeat last season or maybe even build on it.
LF Eric Byrnes signed a one-year deal and will provide great depth at the bench. If healthy, he should be able to hit 15-20 home runs, and Bradley is injury-prone as well, so he may end up getting starting time. He's also a good outfielder and is fast.
The Mariners definitely had the best offseason of any baseball team, and they greatly improved in '09 from 64 to 85 wins. They now have a great rotation and bullpen, and their offense has great depth. All this trouble should be enough to lead the Mariners to an AL West title.
2. Los Angeles Angels
The Angels had a big loss when John Lackey signed with the Red Sox, and now Jered Weaver is expected to be the Opening Day starter. Some are expecting him to emerge as their new ace. He won 16 games last season and had a 3.75 ERA with 174 strikeouts. He also pitched four complete games, including two shutouts. He may become an elite starter.
Joe Saunders had 16 wins, but he still struggled last year with a 4.60 ERA, but he played through shoulder stiffness. He still finished strong with a 7-0 record and a 2.55 ERA. He isn't a strikeout pitcher though. Look for him to return to his '08 form.
Ervin Santana also played through injuries last season, and he pitched a 5.03 ERA. He finished strong though just like Saunders, and he should return to his '08 form.
Joel Pineiro signed a two-year deal with the Angels, and he is coming off a great '09 season with a 3.49 ERA and 15 wins. He displayed this form in a couple of seasons with Seattle, so his transition back to the AL may be a smooth ride for him. He only walked 27 batters last season.
Scott Kazmir is reportedly getting his form back, and his .212 batting average against with the Angels and his ERA going down from 5.92 to 4.89 after the trade appear to be positive signs. He won't likely throw 239 strikeouts ever again, but he will still be a solid pitcher for the Angels.
The rotation appears to be stable, but the bullpen is an area of concern.
Brian Fuentes led the majors with 48 saves, but that's a misleading stat since the Angels play a lot of close games, which helped Francisco Rodriguez break the all-time record for single-season saves. His ERA spiked from 2.73 to 3.93, and he had a career-low 7.53 K/9 rate with seven blown saves. He also blew it in the ALCS by allowing a costly game-tying home run in the ninth inning to A-Rod.
The Angels signed Fernando Rodney to a two-year contract, and he is expected to be their setup man, but he may become the closer if Fuentes struggles. However, he isn't a quality closer either. He pitched a 4.40 ERA and had a 4.88 BB/9 rate, but he converted 37 saves in 38 opportunities.
Scot Shields is coming off season-ending surgery, and the Angels are hoping that he will return to form. He has always been a reliable setup man and should do great as a 7th-inning reliever as long as he stays healthy.
Kevin Jepsen and Brian Stokes head the rest of the Angels' bullpen and are both mediocre relievers at best, but Jepsen may have upside since he had a strong second half with a 3.11 ERA.
SS Erick Aybar will be taking over the leadoff spot now that Chone Figgins is gone, and he won't score 114 runs, but he still has great contact, and he will probably steal 20+ bases. He hit a .312 average last season.
RF Bobby Abreu hit 100 RBI for the seventh consecutive season, and he had 30 steals last season, and with Figgins gone, he will be asked to steal more often.
1B Kendry Morales saved the Angels $180 million after they failed to re-sign Mark Teixeira by putting forth an AL MVP-caliber season with 34 home runs and 108 RBI with a .306 average. He has entered his prime.
CF Torii Hunter has won nine consecutive Gold Gloves, and he can hit 20 home runs and steal 15-20 bases. He also might have hit 100 RBI if he wasn't out for five weeks.
DH Hideki Matsui signed a one-year contract with the Angels. He will be Vladimir Guerrero's replacement, and as long he stays out of the outfield, he should last a full season. He hit six RBI in the final World Series game to be named the World Series MVP.
LF Juan Rivera is one of the most underrated outfielders in baseball. He hit a career-high 25 home runs and 88 RBI, and he has a strong outfield arm along with his power.
3B Brandon Wood will be replacing Chone Figgins at third, and he displayed incredible power in the minors, but there are questions about his ability to translate that to the majors since he has a .192 average in the majors so far, and he strikes out a lot. He may be able to hit 20 home runs in his first full season with the Angels, but his average will likely be low. Maicer Izturis will take over if Wood proves unable to handle the starting job.
C Mike Napoli hit 20 home runs for the second consecutive season. He will continue to get 350-400 at-bats and share playing time with Jeff Mathis, who is better defensively and had an amazing ALCS with a .583 average.
2B Howie Kendrick got demoted to AAA in the middle of the season, and he had an incredible return to raise his average to .291, so he may finally have the breakout season that the Angels have been waiting for.
The Angels had some key losses in John Lackey, Chone Figgins, and Vladimir Guerrero. The lineup and rotation are stable, but the bullpen will be what holds the Angels back if they don't win the AL West.
3. Texas Rangers
Rich Harden will replace Kevin Millwood as the new Opening Day starter. The Rangers are hoping that he can stay healthy for a full season. He has made 51 starts over the last two seasons, so there's hope for that. He's a great strikeout pitcher. He threw 171 in 141 innings last season.
Scott Feldman had 17 wins last season, but he had a mediocre strikeout rate, and his ERA at home was mediocre too. It was 4.71, and it was 3.56 away from Texas. If he can't lower his ERA or raise his strikeout rate, he may be a one-year wonder if he doesn't rack up wins like last year.
The rest of the rotation spots are up for grabs among Brandon McCarthy, Matt Harrison, Tommy Hunter, and Derek Holland head the rest of the rotation, and they have a lot to prove.
McCarthy is injury-prone, and he has a mediocre strikeout rate. He hasn't done anything to make himself look like a former big-name prospect.
Harrison may not be ready to be in the rotation since he has a 5.76 ERA and a .307 batting average against over the last two years in the majors, so a demotion to AAA may be appropriate for him.
Hunter should win a starting spot. He had a 2.95 ERA before his last seven starts, which had a 6.28 ERA. He just hit a rookie wall, and he should be able to gain stamina and build on his rookie season.
Holland needs to prove himself since he had a 6.12 ERA. He had a pretty good strikeout rate though with 107 in 138 innings. A demotion to AAA may happen to Holland if he doesn't do well enough.
The rotation is a questionable area for the Rangers, but the bullpen appears to be in order.
Frank Francisco will be the closer. He started off with 17 2/3 scoreless innings last season but ended with a 5.82 ERA after the All-Star break while playing through shoulder pain.
C.J. Wilson is the setup man for now but will take over at closer if Francisco struggles. He has experience at closer, and he pitched really well last season with a 2.81 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 73 innings.
Darren O'Day had an incredible season after being claimed off waivers by posting 20 holds, a 1.84 ERA, and a 6.29 H/9 rate.
Darren Oliver had 20 holds as well with the Angels last season, and now he's back where he's played most of his career, and his 2.71 ERA last season should carry over to the Rangers' bullpen and strengthen it.
CF Julio Borbon will bat leadoff for the Rangers. He hit .312 and stole 19 bases in only two months in the majors as a rookie, so he should be able to steal 30+ bases in his first full season, and he's a great contact hitter.
3B Michael Young hit .322 last season with 22 home runs and 68 RBI. He missed most of last September. He's played at least 155 games every other season since 2002, so he can be counted on for durability and to post double-digit home runs and at least 80 RBI.
LF Josh Hamilton missed significant time last season after breaking out in '08. If he stays healthy, he may be able to hit 30-100 again. He could be a good fantasy bargain.
RF Nelson Cruz had an incredible first full season with 33 home runs and 20 stolen bases, and a batter-friendly home park and having entered his prime should help Cruz post similar numbers and possibly drive in more runs as he only had 76 in '09.
2B Ian Kinsler had a 30-30 season, but his average plummeted from .319 to .253. He has excellent plate discipline though, so he should be back in the .280 area if he doesn't go back to the DL.
The Rangers signed DH Vladimir Guerrero to a one-year contract with a 2011 option after the Angels decided to let him go. He suffered injuries last season, and he's past his prime when he consistently hit .300-30-100. He could still hit 20 this year, but he's fragile when in the outfield.
1B Chris Davis appeared to be on the verge of a breakout last season, and he hit 21 home runs in 391 at-bats, but he struck out 150 times, so he was pretty much a one-trick pony, and he spent some time back in AAA. However, he's hitting 11-for-20 in spring training, so if he carries that into the season, he may reach 30 home runs and will drive in more runs.
SS Elvis Andrus was only 20 as a rookie, but he did very well with a .267 average, including .280 after the break. His speed is impressive. He stole 33 bases, and he's a great contact hitter. Look for him to possibly reach .300 this season and steal 40 bases.
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia will likely continue to share time at catcher with Taylor Teagarden. He has terrible plate discipline. He struck out 97 times in 283 at-bats.
The Rangers will fight it out with the Mariners and Angels for the AL West title. Their offense is perfectly stable, and their bullpen has improved a lot. The rotation was solid last year, but there are question marks surrounding the back end. Nolan Ryan predicted 92 wins for them, and that may happen, but it still won't be enough to win the ultra-competitive AL West.
4. Oakland A's
Ben Sheets finally found a new home after the Texas Rangers backed out of signing him due to his extensive injury history. He didn't play at all in '09, but since Oakland has a pitcher-friendly ballpark, he has a better chance of making a comeback, and he was a good strikeout pitcher in Milwaukee.
Brett Anderson has tons of upside. He only had 11 wins, but the A's aren't a team to give a pitcher good run support. If he played for the Yankees, he would win at least 16 games. He had 150 strikeouts and only 45 walks, and he can only go higher at a young age.
Justin Duchscherer sat out the entire '09 season just like Sheets. He had a 2.54 ERA in '08 with 10 wins in 22 starts, and that's good considering the A's have a weak offense.
Dallas Braden pitched well in '09 with a 3.89 ERA, but he missed August and September with a foot rash.
Trevor Cahill is only 22, and he made 32 starts as a rookie and posted a 4.63 ERA. He allowed 27 home runs, so he needs to improve his fly ball rate.
If Cahill can't handle the responsibilities of a starter, Gio Gonzalez and Vin Mazzaro are options.
Andrew Bailey won AL Rookie of the Year honors after posting a 1.84 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and 26 saves, and his batting average against was .167. He's only 25, so he has many years ahead of him as an elite closer.
Michael Wuertz had his best year ever as a reliever with 102 strikeouts in 79 innings, and he had a 2.63 ERA. His batting average against was .188.
Brad Ziegler fell back to Earth in '09 after his '08 season with a 1.06 ERA and 11 saves. He still performed solidly as a setup man with 14 holds and a 3.07 ERA.
Joey Devine would have been the closer if he hadn't gotten injured. He had an 0.59 ERA in '08, so he should be a reliable reliever if he remains healthy.
LF Rajai Davis will bat leadoff for the A's, and he batted .305 and stole 41 bases in '09. He also has above-average fielding skills, and his speed helps. Look for him to build on his '09 campaign.
CF Coco Crisp spent most of last season injured, and he doesn't appear capable of hitting 15 home runs with a high average anymore, but he still has blazing speed. The A's need their center fielder to stay healthy though, and that is an area of concern since he's only played 145 games in a season twice in seven full seasons.
C Kurt Suzuki is a bright spot in Oakland's otherwise dim offense. He had 15 home runs with 88 RBI last season. His RBI total only trailed Mauer, McCann, and Martinez. He also had eight stolen bases, which is high for a catcher. He also led catchers with 37 doubles.
DH Jack Cust re-signed with the A's for one more year, and he has the most power in the lineup, but he doesn't have much to offer other than home runs. He had a whopping 197 strikeouts in '08 and 185 in '09. He can be counted on to hit 25 home runs and strike out frequently.
3B Kevin Kouzmanoff has decent power. He hit 88 RBI last season with 18 home runs. He hit 23 the year before. He needs to learn to draw walks though. He only walked 27 times last season. Improving his power will be difficult since he's still playing in a pitcher-friendly park in Oakland just like he did in San Diego. Eric Chavez will have to stay healthy if hopes to push for playing time.
RF Ryan Sweeney has little power, but he's a great contact hitter. He had a .320 average in the last four months of the season to finish with a .293 average. He plays excellent defense in right field.
2B Mark Ellis played well in the second half of last season with seven home runs and 43 RBI. If he can stay healthy, which he has had trouble doing over his career, he can hit for decent power for a second baseman and steal double-digits.
1B Chris Carter will likely be the eventual starter since he tore it up in the minors with his power and batting average. Jake Fox and Daric Barton will likely platoon with him at first base, and Fox will likely log in some time at DH.
SS Cliff Pennington has little power with his bat and is a terrible fielder at shortstop, He can run pretty well, but he needs to learn to start going for it more quickly.
The A's have a rising young rotation and an excellent bullpen. Their offense is possibly the worst in the majors though, and their lack of power and a well-rounded batting lineup will keep the A's in last place.
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