MLB: The Key Player For Each American League West Team

Adam BernacchioAnalyst IIIApril 1, 2011

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 03:  Coco Crisp #4 of the Oakland Athletics high fives teammate Josh Willingham #16 after Willingham hit a 3 run home run against the Milwaukee Brewers during the second inning of the spring training game at Maryvale Baseball Park on March 3, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Last up in our “Key” player series are the key players for each American League West team.

The AL West figures to be a two-team race in 2011, but the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim could surprise if some of their veterans turn back the clock to 2005.

Let’s take a look at the key players who will help decide this division in 2011.


Texas Rangers

Derek Holland. Losing Cliff Lee this winter was a big blow to the Rangers’ starting rotation. Now someone needs to step up. That someone is Holland.

Holland has a ton of talent and reminds me a lot of Steve Avery (hopefully without the arm injuries), but eventually he needs to put it all together.

He has shown flashes of brilliance, like in the ALCS against the New York Yankees, but then he has meltdowns like he did in the World Series against the San Francisco Giants.

Most of Holland’s peripherals improved from 2009 to 2010, which tells me he is figuring things out. He increased his K/9 from 7.0 to 8.5, lowered his HR/9 from 1.7 to 0.9, and increased his Groundball Percentage from 41.5 to 42.1.

If Holland continues his progress, the Rangers will be that much better off.


Oakland A’s

Coco Crisp. The A’s are a trendy pick (not by me) in 2011. With a young, talented pitching staff and with the additions of David DeJesus, Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham on offense, many believe they will challenge the Rangers for AL West supremacy.

The key will be the offense. Can the A’s score enough runs and avoiding losing those tough 2-1 games throughout the season? One of the guys I feel will be key in fueling that offense is Crisp.

Believe it or not, Crisp has been around for nine years and has played in 140 games or more in just two of those years. When he is on the field, he is actually pretty productive. Crisp has a career .277/.332/.410 slash line.

If Crisp can play in over 140 games with the A’s in 2011, a .270/.330/.430 slash line with 10-15 HR’s, 5-10 triples, and 30-plus steals is not out of the question. That would be a huge boost to the A’s’ offense.


Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Kendrys Morales. No matter Morales does for the rest of his career, he will always been known as the guy who broke his leg celebrating at home plate after a walk-off HR. That injury limited him to only 51 games in 2010.

Morales burst onto the scene in 2009 when he hit .306/.355/.569 with 34 HR’s in 152 games and finishing fifth in the AL MVP voting. His emergence was one of the main reasons why the Angels won the AL West that season.

Morales is still out with his injury (starting the season on the 15-day DL) and the Angels are no longer favorites to win the West. If the Angels plan to make any run in 2011, they are going to need a healthy and productive Morales.

Few teams can lose their best offensive player and get away with it. The Angels aren’t one of those teams.


Seattle Mariners

Michael Pineda. Much like Brandon Belt in San Francisco, the original plan for Pineda was to have him start the season in the minor leagues. However, like Belt, Pineda played his way onto the Major League roster with an outstanding spring.

Pineda had a 2.12 ERA and struck out 15 in 17 spring innings. He looked sharp and was popping his fastball in the mid-90s all spring.

The reason I have Pineda as the “Key” for the Mariners is because they are going to be really bad in 2011. I mean really bad. But it’s important that they start developing their younger talent.

If Pineda develops into the pitcher they think he will, he will form a nice one-two punch with Felix Hernandez.

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