Yesterday I looked at the AL East and posted my predictions in the division race.
Today I will do the same for what I believe will be the best race in baseball–the AL West.
First off, The Angels. I know that they lost key players in Chone Figgins, John Lackey, and Vlad Guerrero. However, Brandon Wood, Joel Pinero, and Hideki Matsui should do a nice job in their respective spots. Brandon Wood was the Angels’ former number one prospect and I hear his defense is expected to win him a few gold gloves in his career. Joel Pinero is by no stretch of the imagination an ace, but he was a key part to the St. Louis Cardinals 2009 NL Central championship. Plus when you have Pinero slated as your number five starter, you have a pretty good rotation. Matsui is coming off a post-season where he was named World Series MVP as a member of the Yankees. Until the Angels are dethroned, they will be the favorite in my eyes.
That being said, the Seattle Mariners might be the most improved team in baseball. Cliff Lee, Brandon League, Casey Kotchman, Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley, Eric Byrnes all joined a Mariners team that was already kind of loaded. They resigned Jack Wilson and gave an extension to Franklin Rodriguez–both of whom might very well be the best defenders at their positions. The only question is with Erik Bedard hurt until possibly June, who will step up after the Felix Martinez-Cliff Lee punch. I look for Ryan Rowland-Smith to have a good season.
The Texas Rangers also improved a lot. Signing Rich Harden, Vladimir Guerrero, and Darren Oliver were all very nice moves. They did however, lose contributors in Marlon Byrd, Kevin Millwood, and “Hamerin'” Hank Blalock. Scott Feldman will solidy his name as the ace of the Rangers in my eyes. Plus the Power Rangers were already stacked with an offense that already consisted of Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Josh Hamilton, plus the defence of 2009 rookie-phenom Elvis Andrus.
Last but not least–the Oakland Athletics. The A’s upgraded an already deep pitching staff with the addition of Ben Sheets. Also, two time All-Star Justin Duchscherer is coming back from injury. Although Coco Crisp will start the year in the DL because of a broken finger suffered the final weekend of Spring Training, he will be back and he will contribute. Jake Fox and Kevin Kouzmanoff will add a bit of offense to a team that was lacking some. I do not think the Athletics will be at the top in the end, but with good young pitchers like Dallas Braden, Trevor Cahill, Vin Mazzaro, and Gio Gonzalez- they A’s pitching will only get better in the future. To go along with solid starting pitching the A’s have one of the most under-rated bullpens in baseball. Not only do they have rookie of the year winning closer Andrew Bailey, but also Michael Wuertz (When he comes back from injury), and Brad Ziegler. I will just say that the A’s are my darkhorse to win the division.
*I have the Angles winning the AL Wild Card.