Saturday, March 24, 2012

AL West Preview: Extended Athletics Edition

Well, the A's have officially left Arizona and arrived in Japan where they will open the season on March 28th. With their opener quickly approaching, I figured now would be a good time to switch gears from football mania back to baseball, and here's the divsion in which the A's will be battling in 2012:

AL West Preview

First Place, Los Angeles Angels

SS Erick Aybar
2B Howie Kendrick
1B Albert Pujols
DH Kendrys Morales
RF Torii Hunter
LF Vernon Wells
C Chris Iannetta
3B Alberto Callaspo
CF Peter Bourjos

RHP Jered Weaver
LHP C.J. Wilson
RHP Dan Haren
RHP Ervin Santana
RHP Jerome Williams
CL: Jordan Walden

The Angels made the biggest splash of the offseason by not only inking the market's top hitter in Albert Pujols, but also the markets top LHP in C.J. Wilson, a left-hander this rotation badly needed. This team is so strong that they have guys like Mark Trumbo (runner up for ROY in 2011) and Macier Izturis slated to ride the pine to start the year. They should each see plenty of time though, as this is a deep, talented squad. And if Hunter and Wells each play to their capability, then this just may be the best team in the American League. The one slight question they have surrounds young closer Jordan Walden, who the Angels appeared to have wavering faith in last season. However, there were tons of closers on the FA market this winter and the Angels didn't add any insurance. Scott Downs is coming off a career year as well as set-up, so the Angels appear confident in their late-inning relief.

2nd Place, Texas Rangers (Wild Card 1)

2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
CF Josh Hamilton
3B Adrian Beltre
DH Michael Young
RF Nelson Cruz
C Mike Napoli
1B Mitch Moreland
LF David Murphy

RHP Yu Darvish (R)
LHP Derek Holland
RHP Colby Lewis
RHP Neftali Feliz
LHP Matt Harrison
CL: Joe Nathan

The Rangers made the commitment of moving Feliz back to the rotation, where he pitched most of his minor league career, by inking former Giant Joe Nathan to close out games. They also have Alexi Ogando as the kind of, do-all artist, as he could close if Nathan struggles, or move back to the rotation should Feliz hit a bump. The Rangers also have a big question at the top of their rotation in Darvish, who's making his rookie tour through the big leagues this season. He should be good, but I'm not sure he's an ace and that could be asking too much of the 27 year-old in his first season in America. Their rotation has some definite questions, but none that can't be solved, and that lineup just seems to keep getting better and better, so they'll be in the playoffs yet again.

3rd Place, Seattle Mariners

3B Chone Figgins
2B Dustin Ackley
RF Ichiro Suzuki
1B Justin Smoak
LF Mike Carp
DH Jesus Montero
C Miguel Olivo
SS Brendan Ryan
CF Franklin Gutierrez

RHP Felix Hernandez
LHP Jason Vargas
RHP Kevin Millwood
RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (R)
RHP Blake Beaven
CL: Brandon League

The Mariners made an odd trade this winter that head just about everyone wondering why they didn't get more in dealing bright young starter Michael Pineda to the Yankees for DH Jesus Montero. I mean, they should have at least required Phil Hughes or one of the Yankees young arms in return, but they didn't do that. Anyway, it does improve the offense, but only marginally, and it leaves a rotation that was really setting up as one of the better young ones in the league, with a ton of question marks. Hernandez and Vargas will be fine, but after that, it's a crap-shoot. I do like their bullpen though, led by underrated closer Brandon League.

4th Place, Oakland Athletics

2B Jemile Weeks
LF Coco Crisp
CF Yeonis Cespedes
DH Manny Ramirez
1B Brandon Allen
C Kurt Suzuki
RF Seth Smith
SS Cliff Pennington
3B Josh Donaldson (R)

RHP Brandon McCarthy
RHP Bartolo Colon
LHP Dallas Braden
RHP Tyson Ross
LHP Tommy Milone (R)
CL: Grant Balfour

Unfortunately, I don't see the the A's as good enough to even beat out the Mariners for third place. They have injury issues in their rotation, along with a bunch of rookies all over the place, and I just don't see things panning out this year for the Green and Gold. Billy Beane put together one of the oddest offseasons I've ever seen a professional sports team go through. It must be an Oakland thing, as it seems their franchises are always making bizarre moves, from the Raiders and Warriors to the Athletics. After looking to initially clear payroll by dealing away their top pitching talent in Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey, they signed un-proven Yeonis Cespedes to a huge contract and traded Guillermo Moscoso for Rockies' outfielder Seth Smith when they appeared to be set in the outfield with Cespedes, Michael Taylor and Josh Reddick. However, they also re-signed Coco Crisp, taking away another spot from a youngster, and brought in Manny Ramirez, taking yet another spot away from a young bat. This has been the oddest approach I've ever seen Billy Beane take in an offseason. I could get behind going young and building for the new ballpark, but re-signing Crisp, Manny, bringing in Smith and giving loads of money to an unproven commodity did not fit that bill. Only way A's are relevant is if Cespedes is AL ROY, "ManRam" has a career rejuvenation at 38, and their pitching staff (Brett Anderson!) gets and stays healthy.

Note: Over the next two weeks, as we gear up for the rest of MLB's opening day April 5th, we'll be doing divisional previews here and there along with football free agency updates and anything relevant happening with the Warriors.

1 comment:

SportsMuze said...

The Angels mad a splash this off-season. Do you think they have enough to make it to the World Series this year?