Well this has been the Angels division the past decade, but is there a changing of the guard in 2010. Many people believe the Marniers may be able to take the Angels and take over as the class of the division. The Marniers made the most changes, and it is obvious that the Angels have lost some talent, Texas is about the same except they lost the best hitting coach in the buisness, and Oakland is getting better. This is a division on the rise, but who will win it this year? Continue reading to find out my opinions on the AL west this year.
1. L.A. Angels
2. Seattle Mariners
3. Texas Rangers
4. Oakland Athletics
1. L.A. Angels
Departed- Jose Arredondo, Kelvim Escobar, Chone Figgins, Vladimir Gurerrero, John Lackey, Gary Matthews Jr., Darren Oliver
Aquired- Hideki Matsui, Joel Piniero, Fernando Rodney, Brian Stokes
Most people question wether this team will be able to mantain the level of play that they have performed for the past decade after losing the core of those teams. While i believe this is a less talented Angels team than we have seen in previous years i dont believe they are going to lose this division to the Mariners. While the rotation may not have a bonafied ace they are solid from top to bottom (If Joe Saunders is your worst starter thats saying something.). I do think that Jered Weaver could become the ace of this rotation, and Scott Kazmir was once Tampa Bay's ace. So im not even sure that i agree that they dont have an ace. I think any one of thier starters could become the ace of this staff, they are just going to have to prove it. The bullpen is somewhat rough, i am curious who will close (Brian Fuentes, or Fernando Rodney?) and neither one is a great closer. Outside of those 2 guys only Scot Shields strikes me as a great arm. They will have to go to their farm system to fill out their bullpen. The infield has some question marks, the biggest being how will Brandon Wood perform? Kendry Morales is solid at first and Aybar and Kendrick are solid up the middle. Macier Izturis will be their utility man, but they dont have a ton of bench depth behind him. Mike Napoli will start at catcher and has good power, Jeff Mathis is an okay backup. The outfield is solid offensivly but not to good deffensivly. Bobby Abreu continues to hit and run well, but his deffense coninues to slide. Torii Hunter is still a great offensive threat although injury prone, but his defense is starting to go. Juan Rivera had a great season, replacing Garrett Anderson after his departure. With the trade of Gary Matthews Jr., the Angels are thin on the bench for the outfield with Reggie Willits as their 4th outfielder. So they Angels will have to rely on their farm system to give them some depth there. The biggest channge is replacing the great Vladimir Guerrero at DH with Hideki Matsui AKA Godzilla. Guerrero had his least productive season of his career which meant the Angels were willing to let him go, but im not sure they improved here. They traded one injury prone veteran who cant play the field for another. Overall the Angels have lost some talent, but they still have enough talent on the offensive side and their rotation is good enough top to bottome to win this division, but it will be close.
2. Seattle Mariners
Departed- Miguel Batista, Adrian Beltre, Bill Hall, Kenji Johjima, Brandon Morrow, Carlos Silva
Aquired- Milton Bradley, Chone Figgins, Ryan Garko, Cliff Lee, Eric Byrnes, Brandon League
The Marniers improved from a 100 loss team to a contender in 2009, and now they hope to win the division. They have made headlines this offseason with the additions of Cliff Lee, Chone Figgins, and Milton Bradley. They may have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, with King Felix at the top of the rotation. He was the 2nd best pitcher in the AL last year behind Grienke, and is still only 24 years old. And the great thing is that the Marniers locked him up long term in the offseason. Behind him they added 2008 CY Young winner Cliff Lee who should benifit greatly from the Marniers outstanding defense and spacious field. Ryan Rowland Smith has potential and they are hoping for a healthy season from Erik Bedard. The biggest question mark to me is Ian Snell, he has a lot of talent and looked promising several years ago in Pittsburgh if he can have a good year it would go a long way to helping this team win the division. The bullpen is one of the weak links on this team, i think David Aardsma played out of his mind last year and i doubt a repeat performance. Brandon League is a solid arm, and i think his aquisition was an attempt to improve the bullpen. We will have to see if any of their young pitchers step up, because you can never really predict how a reliever is going to pitch accuratley. The infield is very strong deffensivly but offensivly they are mediocre. At first they have former Angel, Brave, and Red Sox Casey Kotchman, while he plays outstanding defense his offense has hovered around the .270-10-50 line. At third they have former Angel Chone Figgins, who again plays good defense and he also hits for average and has great speed. Figgins will likely hit 2nd behind perenial all-star Ichiro Suzuki. Up the middle is really the Mariners main power threat in Jose Lopez (his ceiling is about 25 HR though), and at short the great glove of Jack Wilson. So the Marniers basicaly have a wall on the left side of the infield. Rob Johnson will likely start at catcher and good be solid, but he will battle for playing time with Adam Moore. The outfield is pretty good to, with Ichiro in right he provides awesome defense and is guaranteed to collect 200 hits and 20+ stolen bases. In CF Frankilin Gutierez is also an elite defender who can cover a lot of ground, plus he has good offensive game (He has 20-20 potential). The only weak link defensivly in the outfield is Milton Bradley in LF, he makes a lot of dumb mistakes but he is not a horrible defender. He needs to rebound from a bad year offensivly in Chicago. Ken Griffey Jr. will likely DH most of the time with Bradely, and Ryan Garko also getting some time there. The mariners have speed, pitching and defense but their lack of power is what will hold them back from winning the division.
3. Texas Rangers
Departed- Marlon Byrd, Andruw Jones, Kevin Millwood, Ivan Rodriguez, Hank Blalock, Omar Vizquel
Aquired- Khalil Greene, Vladimir Guerrero, Rich Harden, Colby Lewis, Darren Oliver, Clay Rapada, Chris Ray
Texas is stuck in the 3 spot again this season, and its not a reflection on their talent, but on the talent of the division. Texas main problem is their lack of a solid pitching staff. They were much improved last season, but they slumped offensivly. But the rotation has a different look to it in 2010, Kevin Millwood is gone and Rich Harden is in. Harden is extremely injury prone and is a lock for 2 stints on the DL, but when healthy he is a force. Behind him there isnt a ton, Scott Feldman and Brandon McCarthy are solid middle of the rotation guys. Tommy Hunter was pitching well last season, and he could break out in 2010. While they have some solid young guys coming up, i dont see them contending with the staff they have. The bullpen is decent with Frank Francisco at closer, and Chris Ray the likely set up man. The main guy to look at in 2010 is Neftali Feliz, he could start but if hes in the pen he could be awesome. By the end of the season he may be the primary set up man. The infield is solid with slugger Chris Davis at first, he will need to improve his discipline, but he has 30 HR power. Michael Young will man 3rd and provide solid offense as he has in the past. Up the middle looks pretty good with all-star Ian Kinsler at 2nd, he hits for power and has good speed (a 30-30 season is possible). He is partnered with Elvis Andrus at short, he may not have power but he plays good defense and has great speed. Jarrod Saltalamacchia will likely split time with Taylor Teagarden although neither player has lived up to their potential. The outfield is weaker with the loss of Marlon Byrd, but if Josh Hamilton is healthy in CF it would help greatly. Nelson Cruz also is great in RF, and the Rangers hope David Murphey can play well in LF. The Rangers biggest addition in 2010 is definatly Vlad, he should have a great year that might garner comeback player of the year consideration because he loves the ballpark in Arlington and he has put up great numbers there. He should continue adding to his hall of fame credentials this season. The Rangers are solidly in 3rd place and i dont see them getting out of this spot due to the excellent managment and resources of the Mariners and Angels.
4. Oakland Athletics
Departed- Nomar Garciaparra, Bobby Crosby, Adam Kennedy, Aaron Cunningham, Dana Eveland, Jeff Gray, Scott Hairston, Aaron Miles, Brett Wallace, Willy Taveras
Aquired- Coco Crisp, Jake Fox, Gabe Gross, Adam Rosales, Ben Sheets, Michael Taylor
Oakland seems like they are going to be stuck in last place a little while longer. They have improved talent wise from the 2009 club, we will have to wait and see if that translates to wins. The rotation is interesting and will at least be better than the Rangers. Ben Sheets is the headliner of this staff, will he be able to return to form this season after missing all of 09'. When healthy Sheets is a great pitcher and was the ace for Milwaukee for years. Justin Ducsherer is another starter returning from injury who the A's will rely to give them veteran leadership in the rotation. They also have 3 youngsters who will try to improve upon their 09' seasons Dallas Braden, Trevor Cahlil and Brett Anderson. Looking at each of thier stats and after watching them last year i really like Brett Anderson and i think he may be the breakout pitcher on this staff. If all 3 of these guys can play to thier potential Oakland could make a move to 3rd but they would need some offensive help to. The bullpen is lead by 09' AL rookie of the year closer Andrew Bailey. The A's may actualy have the best pen in the division when you look at each player. Mike Wuertz will likely be the setup man and Brad Ziegler, Joey Devine, and Craig Breslow make up a solid bullpen. The infield is okay, there arnt any superstars but some solid talent. Kevin Kouzmanoff will likely start at 3rd ending the age of Eric Chavez, and Jake Fox will figt to play first with Daric Barton (my guess is that Fox will win the job). Fox has some sick power but he is very similar to Jack Cust and will strikeout a good amount and does not play good defense. The middle infield will be made up of Mark Ellis at 2nd, and Cliff Pennington at short. Pennington is probably the weaklink in the infield. Kurt Suzuki will start at catcher, he has been a solid major leaguer and continues to improve (Im a nig fan of Kurt Suzuki). They also have some infield depth with Adam Rosalses from the Reds, and Eric Patterson (former Cubs prospect). The outfield has speed, with Rajai Davis in LF, and Coco Crisp in CF. They should combine for over 70 SB, and will make up the top of the batting order. And sweet fielding Ryan Sweeny will start in RF. Jack Cust will return as the DH and will split some time with Fox there. Fox, Cust, and Kouzmanoff are really the only power hitters on the team, so they may have a hard time driving in runs. If they get good production from Fox, and Kouzmanoff they may be able to sneak up on the Rangers but that would have to be paired with some great pitching.