Saturday, March 1, 2014

2014 American League West Preview

***The Division Preview that follows is not betting advice in any way shape or form.  Please do not bet any money based in any part on these predictions.***

Don't forget to check out the American League East and American League Central Previews and check back next week for the National League East Preview. 

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:
Who's New:  
David Freese (3B) trade from Cardinals,
John McDonald (IF) free agent from Red Sox
Yorvit Torrealba (C) free agent from Rockies
Raul Ibanez (OF) free agent from Mariners,
Brennan Bosch (OF) free agent from Yankees
Chad Tracy (OF) free agent from Nationals
Tyler Skaags (SP) trade from Diamondbacks, 
Wade LeBlanc (RP) from Houston,
Chris Volstad (RP) from Rockies,
Joe Smith (RP) free agent from Indians,
Frenando Salas (RP) trade from Cardinals,
Hector Santiago (RP) trade from White Sox,
Clay Repada (RP) free agent from Indians
Brandon Lyon (RP) free agent from Red Sox

Who Left:  
Chris Nelson (3B) free agent to Reds
Peter Bourjos (CF)  trade to Cardinals,
Mark Trumbo (DH/OF) trade to the Diamondbacks,
Brad Hawpe (OF) released
Jason Vargas (SP) free agent to Royals,
Jerome Williams (SP) free agent to Astros
Barry Enright (SP) free agent to Phillies
Tommy Hanson (SP) free agent to Rangers
Daniel Stange (RP) free agent to Nationals
Robert Coello (RP) free agent to Yankees
Juan Gutierrez (RP) free agent to Giants
Tommy Hanson (RP) released
Ryan Madson (RP) unsigned free agent
Scott Cousins (RP) free agent to Red Sox
Winter Headlines: 
New coaching staff: Don Baylor, Gary DiSarcina.
Pujols says ankle is 99.9 percent healthy.
Trout best player in the league?
Rebuilt bull pen.
Mark Mulder looks good in comeback attempt until injury ends experiment.
What to Expect?:
People in southern California are frustrated.  The Angels paid big money for C.J. Wilson and Pujols in 2012 and for Hamilton in 2013.  Add to that the spectacular additions of young talent Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout and theoretically this should be a World Series contender every year.  Instead, Trumbo and Bourjos are gone and the Angels are on the verge of losing their manager and General Manager.  The addition of Angels legends Don Baylor and Gary DiSarcina to the coaching staff may help take some pressure off of Scioscia and a healthy Pujols and Weaver should play a big part as well.  If the revamped bullpen can support closer Ernesto Frieri this team may reach their potential.  Although the top three teams in this division are very close all three have pitching issues and the Angels seem to have the offense that will get them past the pitching issues.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
The perception is that this is an underachieving, over paid group of guys.  Realistically, the payroll is high but these are professional guys who have suffered through difficult injuries and have fought hard to come up just short several years in a row.  Each year they seem to get off to a slow start and have bullpen troubles that put them far enough behind that they can't catch up.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Angels Fans Want?:
The Angels have added Raul Ibanez to the outfield for some insurance.  Alberto Callaspo had been a solid third baseman for several years in Anaheim but they have upgraded with David Freese. The problem, as it has been the last three years, is the bullpen.  The pitching staff has been the big reason for the struggles in the big A and although it has been greatly revamped for the upcoming season there are still major questions.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Josh Hamilton's numbers were down greatly from his days in Texas.  If we're being honest the season was a bit of a disaster for him.  The more he struggled the harder he seemed to work and the worse the season got.  The stories this winter are that Hamilton is working hard and has refocused on training and is ready for a big season, though he is already injured this spring and may miss up to two weeks.  That being said, don't expect 40 Home Runs and 120 RBI's but 20-25 Home Runs and 90-100 RBI is a reasonable expectation.
Expect Great Things From:
Albert Pujols, according to most people, has been a disappointment for the first two years of his big contract.  In reality it is a false perception. True, his first month of 2012 was a slow month but Pujols greatly improved over the rest of the season.  Although the team did not reach the playoffs it was largely due to the bullpen and not Pujols.  Albert's numbers were down greatly last year but Pujols was trying to play through a major foot injury that was clearly effecting him.  At times it appeared to be painful for Pujols to even jog from the dug out to first base.  After a surgery to repair the foot and an off season program expect Pujols to come back strong.
Prediction:1st in AL West

Oakland Athletics
Who's New?: 
Nick Punto (IF) from Dodgers,
Fernando Abad (IF) free agent from Nationals,
Craig Gentry (OF) trade from Rangers,
Sam Fuld (OF) free agent from Rays
Philip Humber (SP) free agent from Astros,
Scott Kazmir (SP) free agent from Indians,
Josh Lindblom (SP) trade from Rangers,
Drew Pomeranz (SP) trade from Rockies
Luke Gregerson (RP) trade from Padres,
Jim Johnson (RP) trade from Orioles,
Eric O'Flaherty (RP) free agent from Braves
Who Left?: 
Jemile Weeks (2B) trade to Orioles, 
Kurt Suzuki (C) free agent to Twins
Scott Sizemore (2B) free agent to Yankees
Chris Young (OF) free agent to Mets,
Michael Choice (OF) trade from Rangers,
Bartolo Colon (P) free agent to Mets,
Brett Anderson (SP) trade to Rockies,
Seth Smith (RP) trade to Padres,
Jerry Blevins (RP) trade to Nationals,
Hideki Okajima (RP) free agent to Japan,
Grant Balfour (RP) free agent to Rays
Pedro Figueroa (RP) released
Chris Resop (RP) free agent to Royals
Pat Neshek (RP) free agent to Cardinals
Winter Headlines:
Retooled Pitching Staff.
What to Expect?:
The A's and Billy Beane have surprised people two years in a row.  In 2012 they shocked the Rangers by winning the division on the last day with a budget team.  They retooled the team for 2013 and surprised everyone again.  For 2014 they have again revamped the team.  Expectations should be tempered as some of the new acquisitions, like Scott Kazmir, Jim Johnson and Craig Gentry have had major ups and downs in their career.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
Billy Beane always seems to find a way to win on a small budget.  Anyone who roots for a team that is not in a major market should be rooting for this group.  While the Rangers and Angels (and in some cases even the Mariners) seem to be spending at will, the A's are winning the old fashioned way.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Athletics Fans Want?:
As good as the team has been the last few years, they have not exactly dominated the west.  The Angels truly should have won this division the last three years and the A's allowed the Rangers to hang around late in the season both seasons before winning the division late.  With a retooled pitching staff there are still major questions.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Jim Johnson was a big acquisition from the Orioles.  Johnson was an All Star and nearly perfect when the Orioles made the playoffs in 2012 but struggled at times in 2013.  He will be replacing Grant Balfour, who played a major part in Oakland's success the last few years.  Don't expect Johnson to dominate the way Balfour did.
Expect Great Things From:
There was a perception last year that Yoenis Cespedes had a big fall off when his average dropped from .290 to .240.  True, the average was a big drop due mostly to injuries, but despite the low average, Cespedes managed to improve in Home Runs and Runs Scored and was only 2 RBI behind his rookie pace.  A healthy Cespedes could compete for an MVP.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Scott Kazmir has had an interesting career.  He was involved in a trade from the Mets to the Rays that basically got Jim Duquette fired as GM in New York. The pressure on Kazmir to become the ace of the Rays staff were tremendous and as the Rays went from joke to contender, Kazmir played a big part.  When he was traded to the Angels, it was expected that he would be the final piece for an Angels dynasty.  That quickly turned into a 9-15 season followed by stints in the minors and a year in Colorado.  Last year Kazmir went 10-9 for an Indian playoff team but it was hardly what was expected of Kazmir when he entered the league.  With big playoff hopes in Oakland this year Kazmir will need to prove he can fulfill the potential that was once seen in him.
Prediction: 2nd in AL West.  American League Wild Card

Texas Rangers:
Who's New:  
Prince Fielder (1b) trade from Tigers,
J. P. Arincebia (C) free agent from Blue Jays,
Brent Lillibridge (3B) free agent from Yankees,
Josh Wilson (SS) free agent from Diamondbacks,
Michael Choice (OF) trade from Athletics,
Kensuke Tanaka (OF) free agent from Giants,
Shin Soo Choo (OF) free agent from Reds,
Tommy Hanson (SP) free agent from Angels
Jose Contreras (P) free agent from Red Sox,
Justin Germano (RP) free agent from Blue Jays,
Mike Mikolas (RP) trade from Pirates
Pedro Figueroa (RP) waiver claim from Athletics
Daniel Bard (RP) free agent from Cubs
Who Left:  
Brendan Harris (IF) free agent to Dodgers,
Lance Berkman (DH/1B) retired
Jeff Baker (IF) free agent to Marlins
Ian Kinsler (2B) trade to Tigers,
A.J. Pierzynski (C) free agent to Red Sox,
Chris McGuinness (IF) trade to Pirates
David Murphy (OF) free agent to Indians,
Craig Gentry (OF) trade to A's,
Nelson Cruz (OF) free agent to Orioles
Josh Lindblom (SP) trade to A's,
Matt Garza (SP) free agent to Brewers
Joe Nathan (RP) free agent to Tigers,
Travis Blackley (RP) unsigned free agent.
Winter Headlines:  
Profar or Andrus?  Answered by trade of Kinsler
Fielder impact over Kinsler tenure.
Rangers show lack of loyalty again.
Choo chooses Rangers
What to Expect?:
What to expect is a great question.  The Rangers seem to surprise people one minute and disappoint people the next.  Texas lost several key players this year again (Pierzynski, Murphy, Gentry, Nathan, Cruz and Kinsler) but they made some major moves as well (Choo and Fielder).  Last year when Hamilton and Young were allowed to leave Michael Young complained that the Rangers ownership had a lack of loyalty to their players. When Kinsler was traded it appeared that Young's charges could be applied again.  Ron Washington has done a great job as manager but at what point does the ownership allow too many of their long time veteran leaders to get away?  In addition to the loss of leaders through trades and free agency there is the pitching issues.  Derek Holland, looked on as the number two starter (and was looked at as the key to the rotation) will be out until near the all star break making a questionable rotation even more of a liability.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
Ron Washington is one of the best managers in the game and he constantly has this team in contention. Like Joe Maddon in Tampa, Washington is often able to do more with less.  After surprising everyone with a 2010 World Series appearance and coming within inches of winning it all in 2011 the Rangers had a disappointing end to 2012 and 2013.  For the few who remain from those teams it would be nice to see them win.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Rangers Fans Want?:
Despite adding Fielder and Choo the Rangers may have lost too much.  It is not just the number of players that have left since the World Series appearances it is more a matter of the heart and soul that has left.  The World Series teams were led by Hamilton, Kinsler, Young, C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Elvis Andrus, Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre and Cliff Lee.  Only Andrus and Beltre remain from that group.  It is true that Fielder and Choo will be strong additions but neither seems to have the leadership quality of the men who have left.  The pitching staff, past Yu Darvish, is a mess.  The team was relying heavily on  Derek Holland (who was only 10-9 in 2013) who will now be out until the All Star Break after having leg surgery and the bullpen appears to be a jigsaw puzzle with no real closer.  They will try using Neftali Feliz as closer again but the results have been hit or miss each time he tries to fill that position.  Although this is a strong team the pitching is the main reason I am picking them third.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Jurickson Profar has been pretty much anointed as the next great middle infielder.  The team even decided to move one of the faces of the franchise to allow him to play full time.  Granted it was a small sample size in 2013 but he only hit .234.  Profar will likely be much better than that small sample size (and his defense should get him consideration for a Gold Glove) but don't expect him to replace Kinsler's numbers.
Expect Great Things From:
Prince Fielder may not be the leader that Kinsler and Young were but his numbers may skyrocket in Texas.  The balls in Texas seem to fly farther faster during the summer months than in most parks and with Fielder's power you can expect his Home Run and RBI totals to soar.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Neftali Feliz has been the off and on closer for the last few years.  He was expected to contribute greatly to the Rangers last season but injuries sidelined him  for the better part of the year.  Feliz will have little time to ease back into the position as Joe Nathan has left for Detroit.  Feliz will need to be near perfect for the Rangers to compete.
Prediction: 3rd in AL West

Seattle Mariners
Who's New:
Robinson Cano (2B) free agent from Yankees, 
Logan Morrison (1B) trade from Marlins,
John Buck (C) free agent from Pirates
Wilie Bloomquist (OF) free agent from Diamondbacks,
Corey Hart (OF) free agent from Brewers,
Cole Gillespie (OF) free agent from Cubs,
Scott Baker (SP) free agent from Cubs
Zach Miner (SP) free agent from Phillies
Ramon Ramirez (RP) free agent from Rays
Logan Kensing (RP) free agent from Rockies
Who Left:  
Henry Blanco (C) free agent to Diamondbacks,
Kendrys Morales (1B/DH)  unsigned free agent
Raul Ibanez (OF) free agent to Angels
Jason Bay (OF) released
Carlos Peguero (OF) trade to Royals
Oliver Perez (SP) unsigned free agent
Joe Saunders (SP) unsigned free agent
Carter Capps (RP) trade to Marlins,
Winter Headlines: 
Poor Lloyd McClendon.
Cano asks for respect.  Gets money instead.
Can the top three starters lead to a surprise Mariners success.
What to Expect?:
Why do bad teams happen to good people?  Lloyd McClendon may be a good manager but it will be hard to tell.  McClendon is getting his second chance at managing and for the second time he will be taking over a team that has little chance to win.  The Mariners potentially have a great top of their rotation with Hernandez, Iwakuma and a young Taijuan Walker.  Although Iwakuma and Walker are already injured in spring training and will be out for an unknown amount of time.  These three (when healthy) should keep the Mariners in many games but the bullpen and offense may not be strong enough to win all of the games started by these three.  The Mariners spent a lot of money to get Cano from the Yankees but there is little hope that his numbers will be good enough to help this team compete with the rest of the division.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
There are some likable players on this team, like Felix Hernandez, who have been with this team for a long time and have seen some truly low times.  The Mariners often make a loud off season noise but it rarely works out for them.  The Mariners have been around since 1977 and have had very few moments to celebrate.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Mariners Fans Want?:
Although the Mariners made a big splash with Cano and some smaller ripples with signings like Corey Hart, and Logan Morrison, there is still not enough talent here to compete with the top three in this division. The strength of the team was intended to be the starting pitching with Hernandez, Iwakuma and Walker.  With Walker and Iwakuma already suffering injuries this season could  dissolve before it even starts.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Robinson Cano is a great player but there is very little support in Seattle.  With fewer big bats in the lineup it would be odd to expect the opposition to pitch to him in dangerous situations. Expect Cano to hit 20-25 Home Runs but don't expect him to raise a world series trophy in Seattle.
Expect Great Things From:
Felix Hernandez is one of the top pitchers in the league and regardless of how bad the team behind him is King Felix will always shine.  Hernandez's numbers will be great but don't expect those numbers to automatically translate into wins.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Lloyd McClendon is getting his second chance to manage but unfortunately he is getting a well below average team.  McClendon is a good manager but often managers who lead bad teams don't get many chances to prove they can manage.
Prediction:4th in AL West

Houston Astros

Who's New:  
Jesus Guzman (1B) trade from Padres, 
Cesar Izturis (SS) free agent from Reds
Dexter Fowler (OF) trade from Rockies,
Adron Chambers (OF) free agent from Cardinals
Scott Feldman (SP) free agent from Orioles,
Jerome Williams (SP) free agent from Angels
Anthony Bass (RP) trade from Padres,
Pete Moylan (RP) free agent from Dodgers,
Chad Qualls (RP) free agent from Marlins,
Matt Albers (RP) free agent from Indians,
Jesse Crain (RP) free agent from Rays
Who Left:  
Brandon Laird (IF) free agent to Royals,
Matt Pagnozzi (C) free agent to Brewers, 
Ryan Jackson (IF) trade to Padres,
Brandon Barnes (OF) trade to Rockies
Trevor Crowe (OF) free agent to Tigers
Philip Humber (SP) to Athletics,
Jordan Lyles (SP) trade to Rockies,
Eric Bedard (SP)free agent to Rays
Wade LeBlanc (RP) to Angels,
Edgar Gonzalez (RP) free agent to Reds
What to Expect?:
The Astros are making efforts to improve. They have upgraded their bullpen with Pete Moylan, Chad Qualls and Matt Albers.  They have improved their offense and defense with Dexter Fowler and they are working hard to improve the team.  Listening to their first spring training game the other night, the Astros announcers talked about the improved attitude this year.  There is much more optimism and a feeling of a light at the end of the tunnel.  The realistic truth is they are probably a few years away from competing for a division or wild card spot but their improvement makes this division the toughest in the AL.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
The Astros organization has come close to winning it all several times but they have rarely, in their brief history, been this far from competition.  It would be nice to see them surprise some people for the benefit of some players who are under rated stars.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Astros Fans Want?:
The team has improved from two years ago to last year and the improvement should continue this year but truth be told it is not enough at this point to compete.  The offense and bullpen have been improved but the starting pitching is still atrocious.  The Astros are working on a five year plan and this year may be the tipping point to either confirm they are moving in the right direction or to tell them to scrap it all and start over.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Dexter Fowler is easily the biggest addition the Astros have made but there is not enough in the lineup or rotation to expect Fowler to make a drastic impact.  Fowler will definitely improve the team and will likely benefit Jose Altuve in the lineup but Fowler will not lead this team to the playoffs.  At least not this year.
Expect Great Things From:
Jose Altuve is probably the most under rated second baseman in the league.  He may not have huge power numbers (he has only 14 Home Runs in three years) and his strike outs are a bit higher than you would normally like for a top of the lineup guy but Altuve is on the verge of becoming a great player.  Expect Altuve to hit near .300, steal 30 bases and hit about 25-30 doubles.  With some extra help in the lineup from Fowler, Altuve could take the next step in becoming a star in the league.
Prediction:5th place in AL West

*-Please be aware that these predictions are based on the rosters as set at the end of February.  There are still several key free agents unsigned which could alter these previews.  Also, injuries during spring training could alter my outlook.  Check back next week for the NL East Preview and continue following to see my final predictions at the start of the season.  

The Angels, Athletics and Rangers have great offenses but their pitching staffs leave a lot to be desired.  Seattle has a great top of their rotation but little offensive support.  Pitching clearly is the key in this division.  How many American League West pitchers have won the Cy Young Award?

Answer to Last Week's Question:
Congratulations to TJD for last week's trivia question.
The American League Central division was founded in 1994 and contained the White Sox, Twins, Royals, Indians and Brewers.  When the league expanded to add the Diamondbacks and Devil Rays in 1998 there was a need to move one American League team to the National League to avoid having uneven numbers in each league.  The Brewers were moved to the National League Central.  The Tigers moved from the American League East to the American League Central.  The division has remained in that format since then.

1 comment:

  1. Good analysis. Saw Pomeranz pitch in the minor leagues. Can't understand why he can't get his act together.
    I knew Texas had a big turnover but to see it in print is pretty amazing.
    I think the Astros will open some peoples eyes. They will be better(can't get much worse), but will not be ba contender this year. Jarred Cosart will be rookie of the year.

    I'm stumped on the trivia. Without looking at the all the rosters my guess is 3. King Felix for sure. My 2 other guesses are Jared Weaver and Bartolo Colon although I'm not sure if they ever won the Cy Young.



Have questions about something in this or a former post? Have a suggestion for a future post? Want more information on a specific team, player, season or game? I welcome the feedback, so feel free to leave a comment in the box or email me at baseballeras (at) gmail (dot) com.