Sunday, March 22, 2015

2015 American League West Predictions

***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 National League EastNational League CentralNational League West,  American League East, and American League Central previews and check back next week for the Final Predictions.

Seattle Mariners
Who's New:
Carlos Rivera, IF (Waiver Claim from Red Sox)
Rickie Weekes, 2B (Free Agent frrom Brewers)
John Baker, C (Free Agent from Cubs)
Nelson Cruz, OF (Free Agent from Orioles)
Justin Ruggiano, OF (Trade from Cubs)
Seth Smith, OF (Trade from Padres)
Shawn O'Malley, OF (Free Agent from Angels)
J.A> Happ, SP (Trade from Blue Jays)
Joe Saunders, SP (Free Agent from Orioles)
Kevin Correia, SP (Free Agent from Dodgers)
Justin Germano, RP (Free Agent from Dodgers)
Mark Lowe, RP (Free Agent from Indians)
Rafael Perez, RP (Free Agent from Pirates)
Mike Kickham, RP (Waiver Claim from Cubs)
Who Left:  
Justin Smoak, 1B (Free Agent to Blue Jays)
Kendrys Morales, 1B (Free Agent to Royals)
Humberto Quintero, C (Free Agent to Red Sox)
Xavier Avery, OF (Free Agent to Tigers)
Michael Saunders, OF (Trade to Blue Jays)
Cory Hart, OF/DH (Free Agent to Pirates)
Chris Denorfia, OF (Free Agent to Cubs)
Xavier Nady, OF (Released)
Blake Bevan, SP (Free Agent to Diamondbacks)
Brandon Maurer, SP (Trade to Padres)
Chris Young, SP (Free Agent to Royals)
Logan Kensing, RP (Free Agent to White Sox)
Joe Beimel, RP (Free Agent to Rangers)
Winter Headlines: 
Mariners look to navigate the waves to the front of a watered down West.
What to Expect?:
With the improvements made and the money spent combined with the weakened competition Mariners fans should expect October baseball.  The top of the lineup with Austin Jackson, Kyle Seager, Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz is definitely impressive.  The pitching staff is the key.  Felix Hernandez is still king but will the rest of the rotation hold up?  Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker had injuries last year.  Still, if they can get healthy, with the addition of J.A. Happ, this could be a very strong rotation and could push Seattle into the post season.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
Seattle entered the league in 1977 and have watched a parade of other teams beat them to the World Series.  Since the Mariners came into the league the Phillies, Royals, Twins, Marlins, Padres, Diamondbacks, Angels, Astros, Rockies, Rays and Rangers have either reached or won (or both) their first World Series.  The Mariners have never even reached the World Series.  In fact, the Tampa Bay Rays, who beame the pinnacle of bad play in the late 1990s-early 2000s and have only been in existence for 17 years, have already had more post season success than Seattle.  It's time for something to go right in the Pacific Northwest.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Mariners Fans Want?:
There are questions about the health of Iwakuma and Walker and everything rests on their arms.  If the rotation breaks down this team could falter.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Kyle Seager had a break out year in 2014 winning a Gold Glove, All Star appearance and consideration for the MVP.  Although his RBI were up significantly from 2013, the rest of his numbers did not have a significant jump.  He certainly benefitted from having Cano in the lineup and having Austin Jackson and Nelson Cruz in the lineup won't hurt but don't expect a drastic jump in numbers.
Expect Great Things From:
Felix Hernandez is still King Felix.  Despite having Cy Young caliber years every year, four other All Star appearances and a perfect game, 2014 may have been his best year yet.  At 15-6 and a 2.14 ERA his pitching kept Seattle in the Wild Card race and his durability was much needed in a year where the other starters suffered injuries.
Prediction:1st in AL West

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:

Who's New:  
Drew Butera, C (Trade from Dodgers)
Josh Rutledge, IF (Trade from Rockies)

Daniel Robertson, OF (Trade from Rangers)
Matt Joyce, OF (Trade from Rays)
Nick Torpeano, SP (Trade from Astros)
Cesar Ramos, SP (Trade from Rays)
Andrew Haney, SP (Trade from Marlins)
Adam Wilk, SP (Free Agent from Pirates)
Zach Stewart, SP (Free Agent from Braves)
Atahualpo Severino RO (Free Agent from Braves)
Alex Sanabia, RP (Free Agent fromm Marlins)
Scott Snodgress, RP (Free Agent from White Sox)
Ryan Mattheus, RP (Free Agent from Nationals)
Matt Lindsrom, RP (Free Agent from White Sox)

Who Left:  
Hank Conger, C (Trade to Astros)
John Hester, C (Free Agent to Phillies)
Howie Kendrick, 2B (Trade to Dodgers)
Gordon, Beckham, 2B (Free Agent to White Sox)
Ian Stewart, SS (Free Agent to Nationals)
John Buck, C (Free Agent to Braves)
John McDonald, IF (Retired)
Brennan Boesch, OF (Free agent to Reds)
Tony Campana, OF (Free Agent to White Sox)
Shawn O'Malley, OF (Free Agent to Mariners)
Wade LeBlanc, SP (Free Agent to Japan)
Chris Volstad, SP (Free Agent to Pirates)
Randy Wolf, SP (Unsigned Free Agent)
Michael Kohn, (Free Agent to Braves)
Jairro, Diaz, RP (Trade to Rockies)
Kevin Jepsen, RP (Trade to Rays)
Joe Thatcher, RP (Free Agent to Astros)
Buddy Boshers, RP (Free Agent to Rockies)
Dustin Richardson, RP (Free Agent to Dodgers)
Jason Grilli, RP (Free Agent to Braves)
Michael Roth, RP (Free Agent to Indians)
David Carpenter, RP (Free Agent to Braves)
Sean Burnett , RP (Unsigned Free Agent)
Dane De La Rosa, RP (Free Agent to Orioles)
Jarrett Grube, RP (Unsigned Free Agent)
Winter Headlines: 
Players recovering from injuries leads to a million questions
What to Expect?:
The thing working in the Angels' favor is that this is now a very weak division.  While I certainly expect them to hang around the top, they may need to make some in-season moves to be able to make the playoffs and certainly if they wan to advance.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
The Angels are often the "forgotten" California team in the league.  The A's Giants and Dodgers have the winning histories with multiple World Series wins each and even San Diego has the baseball world buzzing with their big spending this winter.  in the west coast mix, the little town of Anaheim gets lost in the noise.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Angels Fans Want?:
The A's have weakened themselves greatly and the Astros are probably a few years from a playoff run but the Angels are heading into the season with health questions of several key players. Josh Hamilton is coming off an injury plagued year.  Garrett Richards had a nasty knee injury and Jared Weaver (whether he admitted it or not) was not the same after leaving a start early with a back injury. Pujols has struggled with injuries since arriving in Anaheim and the lineup has lost a leader in Howie Kendrick. A healthy group could be frightful group to the AL West but injury questions are everywhere on this team.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Garrett Richards seemed to have gotten everything working his way last year and would have gotten consideration by many for a Cy Young. His record was at 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA when his season ended with an injury.  He finally was able to get in some mound work on 2/26 but the team limited him to about 50 pitches.  It would be great to see him pick up where he left off but the truth is we will have to wait and see.
Expect Great Things From:
Mike Trout is probably the top player in the game.  You will get some argument for Miguel Cabrera or Andrew McCutcheon (and I could probably be persuaded to vote for McCutcheon as well) but Trout is clearly one of the top in the game.  Expect Trout to be in the MVP discussions again this year.
Is this his last Chance?
Josh Hamilton and C.J. Wilson both signed big contracts with the Angels in a year that looked like the team would walk to a division title.  Neither has performed to their expectations.  Wilson was knocked around in the ALDS last year leading Angels fans to sour even farther on him.  Hamilton has battled injuries and slumps and comes into camp with an injury plagued off season again.  The Angels want to win with these two but if the season goes sour they may be shipped somewhere else.
Prediction: 2nd in AL West

Oakland Athletics
Who's New?: 
Billy Butler, DH (Free Agent from Royals)
Ike Davis, 1B (Trade from Pirates)
Brett Lawrie, 3B (Trade from Blue Jays)
Semien Marcus, IF (Trade from White Sox)
Josh Phegley, C (Trade from White Sox)
Chris Bassitt, C (Trade from White Sox)
Luke Montz, C/DH (Free Agent from Red Sox)
Niuman Romero, IF (Free Agent from Orioles)
Ben Zobrist, IF (Trade from Rays)
Andrew Brown, OF (Waiver Claim from Mets)
Jason Pridi, OF (Free Agent from Rockies)
Nick Buss, OF (Free Agent from Diamondbacks)
Rudy Owens, SP (Free Agent from Astros)
Brad Mills, SP (Free Agent from Blue Jays)
Kendall Graveman, SP (Trade from Blue Jays)
Sean Nolin, SP (Trade from Blue Jays)
Jesse Hahn, SP (Trade from Padres)
Kevin Whelan, RP (Free Agent from Tigers)
Ryan Verdugo, RP (Free Agent from Red Sox)
Eury De La Rosa, RP (Trade from Diamondbacks)
Tyler Clippard, RP (Trade from Nationals)
Who Left?: 
Adam Dunn, DH (Retired)
Josh Donaldson, 3B (Trade to Blue Jays)
Brandon Moss, 1B (Trade to Indians)
Alberto Callaspo, 3B (Free Agent to Braves)
Jed Lowrie, SS (Free Agent to Astros)
Kyle Blanks, 1B (Free Agent to Rangers)
Daric Barton, 1B (Free Agent to Blue Jays)
Derek Norris, C (Trade to Padres)
Luke Montz, C (Free Agent to Red Sox)
Geovanny Soto, C( Free Agent to White Sox)
Nick Punto, IF (Free Agent to Diamondbacks)
John Jaso, C (Trade to Rays)
Yunel Escobar, SS (Acquired from Rays with Ben Zobrist, Traded to Nationals for Tyler Clippard)
Nick Buss, OF (Free Agent to Diamondbacks
Johnny Gomes, OF (Free Agent to Braves)
Josh Lindblom, SP (Waiver Claim by Pirates)
Jeff Samardzjia, SP (Trade to White Sox)
Jason Hammel, SP (Free Agent to Cubs)
John Lester, SP (Free Agent to Cubs)
Joe Savery, RP (Free Agent to White Sox)
Luke Gregerson, RP (Free Agent to Astros)
Winter Headlines:
After going all in for the 2014 pennant, A's look all out for 2015
What to Expect?:
This team has lost a lot of the heart of the playoff team that competed the last few years.  Cespedes, Donaldson, Moss and Barton are all gone.  Even the late season acquisitions that the A's fans believed would put them in the Fall Classic walked away in the offseason.  You should never count Billy Beane out, and this is a very weak division, but the A's likely do not have enough to compete.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
As always, this is a Cinderella team.  They don't have the budget that the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers and Angels (or even the Mariners) have and have found ways to win the old fashioned way: smart minor league scouts and smart free agent pick ups.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Athletics Fans Want?:
Pitching depth is a serious issue.  Past Sonny Gray the rotation looks like a mess.  Jarrod Parker is expected out until June and their number 2 starter is Scott Kazmir.  With Seattle and Houston improving the A's may find themselves near the bottom of this division.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
At one time Scott Kazmir had the stuff of an ace.  When he was traded to Tampa Bay as a prospect from the Mets, fan outrage played a big part in Jim Duquette getting fired.  When he was traded to the Angels in 2009 some felt the Angels punched their ticket to the Series.  His career fell apart after that and 2014 was a big step back towards reaching his potential with a 15-9 record and 3.55 ERA.  Realistically though he was too inconsistent to count on as a true #2 starter.
Expect Great Things From:
After a14-10 season Sonny Gray is now expected to be an ace for this team.  In what will be his second full year in the majors, Gray will be expected to take a major step into the leadership role and be the leader of this staff.  Expect him to be an All Star for this team.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Coco Crisp has been at the center of the A's rebirth the last few seasons.  He has suffered through some extreme pain with neck and back injuries over the last year but somehow was still able to help this team reach the post season.  Now entering his 14th Major League season, injuries may limit his production.
Prediction: 3rd in AL West.  

Texas Rangers:

Who's New:  
Chris Gimenez, 1B (Free Agent from Indians)
Kyle Blanks,1B (Free Agent from Athletics)
Thomas Field, IF (Free Agent from Pirates)
Elliot Johnson, IF (Free Agent from Indians)
Carlos Corporan, C (Trade from Astros)
Antoan Robinson, OF (Free Agent from Yankees)
Nate Schierholtz, OF (Free Agent from Nationals)
Carlos Peguero, OF (Free Agent from Royals)
Ryan Ludwick, OF (Free Agent from Reds)
Ross Detwiler, SP (Trade from Nationals)
Yovani Gallardo, SP (Trade from Brewers)
Anthony Ranaudo, SP (Trade from Red Sox)
David Martinez, RP (Free Agent from Astros)
Anthony Bass, RP (Free Agent from Astros)
Ross Detwiler, RP (Trade from Nationals)
Kyuji Fujikawa, RP (Free Agent from Cubs)
Mitch Atkins, RP (Free Agent from Braves)
Ross Ohlendorf, RP (Free Agent from Nationals)
Joe Beimel, RP (Free Agent from Mariners)
Jamey Wright, RP (Free Agent from Indians)
Juan Carlos Oviedo, RP (Free Agent from Rays)
Who Left:  
J.P. Arencibia, C (Free Agent to Orioles)
Josh Wilson, IF (Free Agent to Tigers)
Mike Carp IF/OF (Free Agent to Nationals)
Carlos Pena, 1B (Unsigned Free Agent)
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B (Unsigned Free Agent)
Brad Snider, 1B (Unsigned Free Agent)
Luis Sardinas, IF (Trade to Brewers)
Daniel Robertson, OF (Trade to Angels)
Alex Rios, OF (Free Agent to Royals)
Bryan Peterson, OF (Free Agent to Brewers)
Engel Beltre, OF (Free Agent to White Sox)
Scott Baker, SP (Free Agent to Yankees)
Aaron Poreda, SP( Released)
Miles Mikolas, SP (Released)
Phil Irwin, SP (Released)
Robbie Ray, Jr, (Trade to Red Sox)
Justin Marks, RP (Free Agent to Diamondbacks)
Nate Adcock,RP (Free agent to Reds)
Scott Barnes RP (Free Agent to Blue Jays)
Wilmer Font, RP (Free Agent to Rangers)
Alexi Ogando, RP (Free Agent to Red Sox)
Neal Cotts, RP (Free Agent to Brewers)
Zack Segovia, RP (Free Agent to Padres)
Ryan Feirebrand, RP (Unsigned Free Agent)
Alfredo Figaro, RP (Unsigned Free Agent)
Pedro Figueroa, RP (Unsigned Free Agent)
Matt West, RP (Waiver Claim by Blue Jays)
Corey Knebel, RP (Trade to Brewers)
Ben Rowan, RP (Free Agent to Dodgers)
Winter Headlines:  
Nightmare season of 2014 is over but have the Rangers woken up?
What to Expect?:
Many Rangers fans had big expectations heading into last season.  Adding Fielder and Choo to the lineup were expected to keep this team in contention.  Injuries doomed all hopes from the start of spring training and only got worse as the year went on.  This team will certainly be improved from last year's injury derailed year but this is not a playoff team.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
Everything that could have gone wrong last year did go wrong.  Ace pitchers were out for the year.  Big free agent signings were either injured or didn't perform.  Their "can't miss" prospects missed and their manager resigned mid season.  After such a negative year it would be nice to have something positive happen in Texas.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Rangers Fans Want?:
The glory days of Young-Kinsler-Cruz seem like a distant memory at this point, though they were only a few years ago.  There is still talent on this team but the attitude and spirit of this organization seems to be drastically different.  They will need someone to spark this team if they want to avoid the basement.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Prince Fielder is a star in this league and when healthy is one of the best in the game.  Last year was  night mare for Fielder.  After having played well over 500 straight games Fielder missed most of the year.  Let's not kid ourselves.  This injury was serious.  He had serious neck and back surgery.  A neck and back that is strained with every big swing the big man takes.  Personally, I am rooting for Fielder to have a monster season because I like the guy.  The realist in me says there is a real possibility that his back and neck may not make that possible.
Expect Great Things From:
Elvis Andrus is quietly the veteran of this team and one of only a handful of players from the World Series teams remaining.  He may not get the recognition he should and he may not get an All Star appearance but anyone who enjoys watching baseball should enjoy watching Elvis.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Colby Lewis was a major part of the Rangers' World Series teams.  Although Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson got most of the recognition, Lewis was a major part of the success.  Injuries limited his availability in 2012 and 2013 and undoubtedly played a part in the collapse of the team.  Lewis reached double digits in wins for the first time since the World Series year of 2011 but he unfortunately also lost a league high 14.  The Rangers need solid pitching to compete but it is unclear whether Lewis can provide it.
Prediction: 4th in AL West

Houston Astros
Who's New:  
Hank Conger, C (Trade From Angels)
Dan Johnson, 1B (Free Agent from Blue Jays)
Jed Lowrie, SS (Free Agent from Athletics)
Evan Gattis, C (Trade from Braves)
Luis Valbuena, 3B (Trade from Cubs)
Colby Rasmus, OF (Free Agent from Blue Jays)
Will Harris, SP (Waiver Claim from Diamondbacks)
Pat Nesheck, SP (Free Agent from Cardinals)
Luke Gregerson, RP (Free Agent from Athletics)
Roberto Hernandez, RP (Free Agent from Dodogers)
Dan straily, RP (Trade from Cubs)
Who Left:  
Jesus Guzman, IF (Unsigned Free Agent)
Carlos Corporan, C (Trade to Rangers)
Dexter Fowler, OF (Trade to Cubs)
Rudy Owens, SP (Free Agent to Athletics)
Paul Clemens, RP (Free agent to Phillies)
David Martinez, RP (Free Agent to Rangers)
Jose Cisnero, RP (Free Agent to Reds)
Nick Torpeano, RP (Trade to Angels)
Anthony Bass, RP (Free Agent to Rangers)
Jose Veras, RP (Free Agent to Braves)
Matt Albers, RP (Free Agent to White Sox)
Jesse Crain, RP (Free Agent to White Sox)
Kyle Farnsworth, RP (Unsigned Free Agent)
Mike Foltynewicz, RP (Trade to Braves)
What to Expect?:
Expect improvement.  The Astros have a strong young crop of players on their way but this is still not a playoff contender.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
Since the end of the Bagwell-Berkman-Biggio days, this franchise has gone through hell.  They are rebuilding from the ground up and it would be nice to see some  youthful grins in the post season,
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Astros Fans Want?:
It likely won't.  With the weak division they are currently in there is always the chance of a surprise success but they are probably a year or two away.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Evan Gattis surprised a lot of people in 2013 with his success behind the plate in Atlanta.  He improved in a lot of ways in 2014.  In Houston he will be playing Left Field, not catching, and will have to adjust to the AL pitchers.  Expect him to be a solid contributor but don't expect him to lead the team to the post season.
Expect Great Things From:
Jose Altuve won a batting title last year, the first Astros player to do so.  Despite playing on some very poor Houston teams, Altuve is one of the best players in the league.  Unfortunately playing in Houston has kept him under rated in the national spotlight.
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.  

Mike Trout won the 2014 MVP. Since 1969 when the league moved to the division format, how many times has the American League MVP come from the American League West ?

Answer to Last Week's Question:
The Tigers first won the AL East title in 1973, although they lost to the A's in the ALCS.  They would not win again until 1984 when they would beat the Royals in the ALCS and the Padres in the World Series.  

Their third division title came in 1987 when they won the division in dramatic fashion on the last weekend of the season.  They then lost to the Twins in the ALCS.

Following 1987 the Tigers fortunes took a bad turn and they fell to the bottom of the league.  They would not win another division title until 2011.  They have won every year since.  The four straight division titles gives them 7 division titles overall.

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