By Christopher Burgess
The AL West is a veritable cornucopia of good baseball, perpetual struggle and the Astros. While the Astros have also fallen into the perpetual struggle, lumping them in with the Mariners is doing a grave disservice to the talent it takes to be as bad as the Astros have been the past couple of years. With that, lets get to the preview:
1) Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers lost Ian Kinsler this offseason, and Kinsler responded by saying he hopes the Rangers go 0-162 in a classy response to a fairly regular business deal. Unfortunately for Kinsler, the Rangers have plenty of talent to make up for his loss, and thus most assuredly won’t go 0-162 this season. The team to the southeast of them might be a different story. The Rangers acquired Prince Fielder to play first and Shin-Soo Choo to lead off, no offense to you Ian, but that’s most definitely an upgrade. They also got JP Arrencibia to catch and hit home runs, or just hit home runs.
Meanwhile, the Rangers pitching staff also looks quite strong. Well the top part of it at least. That features Yu Darvish (pending a neck injury). They need their younger pitchers and Joe Saunders to hold water until Matt Harrison and Derek Holland can come back from their injuries. The injury question is quite big with most of the Texas roster, with Jurickson Profar missing roughly the first third plus of the season with a shoulder injury and actual catcher Geovani Soto also nursing an injury.
Prediction: They either do really good, or blow up due to spontaneous combustion and cost Ron Washington his job.
2) Oakland A’s
The Oakland A’s lost Brett Anderson, Grant Balfour and Bartolo Colon due to Moneyball reasons this offseason and then lost Jarret Parker to different Moneyball reasons (a second Tommy John Surgery) this spring. This combination of pitching losses made me move the Rangers ahead of the A’s in the projected order of finish. The A’s still do have some pitching talent on their roster (mainly because they breed it at some strange pitching commune). They will need Sonny Gray to have a breakout performance to lead them back to the playoffs, and maybe another division crown. They also somehow need Scott Kazmir to find Duct Tape so he doesn’t fall apart midway through April as per usual.
Hitting-wise the A’s have Jed Lowrie for some reason hitting in the middle of the order (until he gets injured), along with Yeonis Cespedes (ditto on the until he gets injured), Brandon Moss (surprisingly less injury than strikeout prone), and Josh Reddick. You might as well fire up the DL race between the A’s and Rockies now as this lineup is destined to spend plenty of time there, and Parker is already keeping the bench warm for the pitching staff. Eric Sogard, who for some reason almost won the “Face of MLB,” fan-voting contest, and Daric Barton, who fans still hate, round out the A’s lineup.
Prediction: The pitching injuries will cost the A’s a chance to repeat as division winners. They’ll have fun in a one game playoff pitching someone like Dan Straily against the likes of Tampa or the Yankees.
3) Anaheim Angels
The Angels on paper are more talented than the A’s. They were also more talented than the A’s last season, and look at what happened (hint: Nothing good). So what did they do? They flipped Peter Bourjous for David Freese and wlll use him to bat behind Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. The Angels also have Raul Ibanez at DH and Kole Calhoun rounding out their outfield. All this will be fine and dandy if the Angles can stay healthy, which surprisingly enough has been a problem for them too. They are the healthiest team coming into the year, assuming Pujols is back near full strength, but if not, who really knows what will happen with this Angels lineup.
Their pitching staff has been meh to “can’t turn away because this is a trainwreck ,” in recent years, and they hope that C.J. Wilson, Jarred Weaver, Garrett Weaver, Hector Santiago and newly acquired Tyler Skaggs can turn that around. Skaggs is probably the most intriguing member of the rotation as he has been a highly rated prospect for a long time, but was dumped by the Diamondbacks for Mark Trumbo after Arizona gave up on him. Left handed starters are always in demand, so Skaggs figures to get quite the look, but with a funky delivery and questionable work ethics, the Angels might be looking for a different fifth starter sooner rather than later.
Prediction: The injury bug eventually bites here too, and will knock them to just out of the playoffs again.
4) Seattle Mariners
The Seattle Mariners acquired Robinson Cano, so now they have a must watch everyday player to go along with their must watch starting pitcher Felix Hernandez. The Mariners come into this season with, you guessed it: INJURY ISSUES. For them it’s two projected starters: Taijuan Walker and Hisashi Iwakuma. To replace them (in the short term) is none other than Randy Wolf. That’s not really a good sentence to have uttered about your starting rotation, so for the Mariners hopes of success, that’s gonna have to change right quite.
The Mariners also added Corey Hart and Logan Morrison to their lineup, which they hope will be more successful than their other lineup overhauls of recent seasons. They also must hope that Kyle Seager, Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, Mike Zunino and Brad Miller (no not the center) can adapt (in some cases finally) to playing at the big league level. If they do that, and quickly, this team could be scary. If not, it’s going to be another in a long line of teams that looked promising preseason but never developed up in the Pacific Northwest.
Prediction: They’ll finish fourth, but start looking more competent as the season goes along. They might even fight for a Wild Card birth if their pitchers get and stay healthy.
5) Houston Astros
Uh, ya. Sorry for the one Astro fan who clicked here expecting something serious. Here’s a compilation of gifs to summarize the Astros.
No it’s not fair to single out just the Astros for having incredibly stupid .gifs. Yes it is completely fair to point out, this is all stuff that comes up before a positive Astro .gif, which is actually about Rick Ankiel throws.
Prediction: See the header picture.