2009 MLB Preview: AL West
This is Part II of our 2009 MLB preview. I broke down the NL West in Part I, and now move onto the AL West. How can this be hard? The Mariners, Rangers and A’s all stink, and the Angels will cruise to yet another division title right?
Not this year.
Keep reading, you may discover a few shocking revelations.
4) Texas Rangers
On the bright side Josh Hamilton broke out in a big way, starting and finishing the year red hot. The Rangers need him to hit better than .278/.287/.243 (June/ July/ August) in the dog days of 2009.
Eventually, Michael Young quit whining and took his glove over to third, making way for shortstop prospect, Elvis Andrus, but he let it be known that he is not a happy camper. Happy or not, the Rangers new third baseman last hit at least 20 home runs (24) in 2005.
Ian Kinsler was a stud last year, and should be again, but will be a stud for a last place team; again. So much for last year’s progress.
-The Entire Rotation: Just an awful piece of work. Texas needs everyone from Milwood to Brandon McCarthy to pitch above their abilities to have even a shot at contending.
-Josh Hamilton: Will need to dust off his “Natural”shoes once more; time to take Wonderboy out of the case and start hacking.
-Chris Davis: Hit 17 home runs in only 80 games after his call-up. Why can’t Texas ever groom pitchers this talented?
-Jerrod Saltalamacchia: I just nearly spelled his name right without a spell check. That feat would have been better than Salty’s ’08 season.
TEAM GRADE: D
3) Seattle Mariners
The Mariners are built on the strength of three starting pitchers (Felix Hernandez, Eric Bedard and Brandon Morrow) with loads of potential, but very little production to this point.
Truth be told, the back end of the rotation is sub-par at best, and while Carlos Silva lost over 20 pounds this past off season, how much can that really help the production of a pitcher with a career ERA of 4.61?
The bullpen is a mess without J.J. Putz (traded to the Mets) and Morrow (in the rotation), so the question is: Can the front end of the rotation be good enough to overcome the shaky relief? Probably not, but the AL West is as wide open as it has been in years, so it wouldn’t be completely out of the question.
Ichiro is the only proven hitter on this team, unless you count Adrian Beltre. Jeff Clement looks to have taken the lead over Kenji Johjima at catcher and Ken Griffey Jr. will certainly be an upgrade at DH over Jose Vidro, but this team has too many duds and not enough studs swinging the bats.
-Eric Bedard: Possibly the player most vital to the success of this team. If he pitches like he did in Baltimore, they have a remote chance to compete, if he pitches (or more aptly doesn’t pitch) like he did for the M’s last year, the dream will die.
-Brandon Morrow: How will Morrow react to more innings as a starter? Will he hold up? Morrow has the stuff to be a No. 1 starter in this league. Something he shares in common with…
-Felix Hernandez: This is a kid with an arsenal so potent many dubbed him this generation’s Doc Gooden. King Felix played better last year, but still hasn’t approached his lofty ceiling.
-Ken Griffey Jr.: With so many experts down playing the Kid’s signing as a purely nostalgic move, how can he be critical to the success of Seattle? Aside from Beltre, Griffey is the only Mariner with the potential to slug 30 home runs, and they desperately need him to do so.
TEAM GRADE: C
2) Oakland Athletics
While most have figured Matt Holliday’s numbers will go down, I mentioned to Britton that I thought it may be more likely that they actually go up. Remember, Holliday isn’t a home run hitter, he’s more of a gap to gap guy. While he will undoubtedly lose a few outs to Oakland’s spacious foul lines, he will likely make up for those losses and more with the spacious alleys in left and right center. Having Jason Giambi hitting behind him will be huge, as the burly first baseman has never had much trouble getting the ball out of the yard. For all the talk of Adam Dunn this offseason, Giambi has to be considered a poor man’s Dunn. Giambi hasn’t hit less than 30 home runs in a season in which he played in at least 139 games since 1998, and is a virtual lock to approach 100 RBI if healthy as well.
Unfortuantely much of Oakland’s success is dependant on two things: the health and productivity of the left side of their infield (Eric Chavez and Bobby Crosby) and the growth and dependability of a very young and inexperienced rotation.
There are rumors of a Mark Mulder reunion, but until it happens, I’m going to continue to assume Justin Duchscherer (31) will be the only Oakland starting pitcher above the age of 25 (Dana Eveland-25, Sean Gallagher-23, Dallas Braden-25, Gio Gonzalez-23).
The bullpen is solid, though not spectacular, and the Joey Devine/ Brad Ziegler combo is much better than depending on Huston Street.
With the AL West ripe for the taking and don’t be surprised if these young A’s sneak up and steal it.
-Matt Holliday: The biggest aquisition can’t afford to have a drop-off in production if the A’s are to compete.
-Jason Giambi: He only needs to stay healthy. If he can he’s a lock to hit 30+ homers.
-Gio Gonzalez: The youngster is currently slotted in the five-hole, but needs to pitch more like a No. 2 for the A’s to actually win the crown.
-Eric Chavez’s 70-year old body: What does Chavez have a better chance of doing: playing in more than 135 games, or hitting higher than .270? I honestly don’t know if either can happen, but the A’s are hoping for both.
TEAM GRADE: B
1) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Vladimir Guerrero may seem like he’s 40, but he is only 33, and still very productive with a bat in his hands.Torii Hunter and newly inked free agent Bobby Abreu both need to have bounce back years and Howie Kendrick needs to play 160 games in the worst way, he’s on the verge of becoming the Angels’ version of Bobby Crosby.
LA may have lost Francisco Rodriguez to the Mets, but they picked up Brian Fuentes to replace him. Adding Fuentes to anchor a mix which already included Jose Arredondo and Scot Shields, gives them hands down the best bullpen in the division.
I wouldn’t be shocked if the Halos finish second, but having a more dependable rotation, and a stronger pen gives them the preseason nod over the A’s.
-John Lackey: Is the team’s horse. He needs to pull his weight and lead the staff. They can’t afford for him to pull up lame.
-Ervin Santana: Which road version will the Angels get; ’07 or ’08?
-Howie Kendrick: How many different ways can LA fans say, “Please stay healthy?”
-Chone Figgins: Yet another major health concern. Figgins played in only 115 games in ’07 and 116 in ’08.
TEAM GRADE: B+