Wednesday, March 05, 2008

2008 Previews: AL West

Los Angeles Angels
2007: 94-68 1st Place; Lost in ALDS 0-3

Since Arte Moreno took over ownership of the Angels, an offseason hasn't passed without the team making a big move. Under Moreno's ownership the Angels have made the post-season 3 out of 5 years, so you can't really argue with his philosophy. The Angels added Jon Garland and Torii Hunter. Garland's pick-up gains importance as Kelvim Escobar is recovering from shoulder issues, and will start the season on the DL. Torii Hunter joins an outfield that is crowded with talent in Vladimir Guerrero, Gary Matthews, Reggie Willits, Juan Rivera and Garret Anderson. Hunter will take over CF, and Anderson or Matthews will DH. The only question mark on the team is the bullpen. Closer Frankie Rodriguez is legit, but other than Darren Oliver and Scot Shields the arms are questionable. If Escobar comes back and stays healthy, either Ervin Santana or Joe Saunders could move to the pen giving it more stability. Still in a weak division they'll have all year to figure out their problems before getting tested in the playoffs.

Pivotal Player: Jered Weaver. If he can produce on the same level as his first two seasons, Ecsobar's absence will not be that painful for the Angels.

Non-Roster Invitee of Note: Nick Adenhart. Young prospect could see time in the big leagues if injuries strike the pitching staff

Oakland Athletics
2007: 76-86 3rd Place

Just like their National League counterparts across the bay, for the A's this season will be all about the young guys. Gone are Danny Haren, Mike Piazza, Mark Kotsay, Nick Swisher, Shannon Stewart, and Milton Bradley. This season is about Carlos Gonzalez, Ryan Sweeney, and Daric Barton. It's also a chance to see if Rich Harden and Bobby Crosby can make it a whole season without getting injured. A healthy Harden actually makes the rotation halfway decent. The bullpen is going to be messy though. This year isn't about success this year, it's about winning in the future. A bunch of guys will get a shot this year to see if they can help the A's in the next few years get back to the top.

Pivotal Player: Daric Barton. The centerpiece of the Mark Mulder deal, will have a chance to show what he can do at 1B this year. Should be in the running for Rookie of the Year.

Non-Roster Invitee of Note: Gio Gonzalez. Possibly the #1 prospect in the White Sox organization, was acquired for Nick Swisher. Led the minors in strikeouts last season. Could see some starts or relief work later in the season

Seattle Mariners
2007: 88-74 2nd Place

The Mariners started hot and were in the think of the playoff hunt at the all-Star break. They stumbled down teh stretch and were on the outside looking in. This offseason brought changes to bolster the pitching staff, none large than getting Eric Bedard. Along with Felix Hernandez, this in one of the best 1-2 combos in baseball. The also added Carlos Silva, who may not be great, but is a definite step up over the back end guys they had last year in Jeff Weaver and Horacio Ramirez. Add to that those guys Jarrod Washburn and Miguel Bautista and you have a decent rotation. The problem for this team will be scoring runs, a problem not made easier by the loss of Jose Guillen. Guillen was second on the team in HRs, hits, and RBIs. They replaced him with Brad Wilkerson, a career .250 hitter and who has never driven in more than 80 in a season. The pitching is there, but unless they get a big bat in the line-up, the Mariners will be on the outside looking in once again

Pivotal Player: Richie Sexson. His production has dropped off each of the 3 seasons he's been in Seattle. He needs to be a 30 HR 100 RBI player again for the Mariners to sniff the playoffs.

Non-Roster Invitee of Note: Arthur Rhodes. Returning to the Mariners, trying to return to teh Majors after injuries

Texas Rangers
2007: 75-87 4th Place

If this season's Texas Rangers were a movie, it would be titled "There Will Be Bombs". The Rangers will give flight to many a baseball this year. New faces in the outfield Josh Hamilton and Milton Bradley and a healthy Hank Blalock will see to that. The Rangers also boast a productive middle infield of Ian Kinsler and Michael Young in the field and at the plate. The downside is that opposing batters will joining in on the hitting fun as well. The Rangers pitching hasn't improved much over the staff that allowed the 6th most runs in baseball. The Rangers did not have one starter with an ERA under 4.50. Add to this their best two arms out of the bullpen last year (Eric Gagne and Akinori Otsuka), that film about the Rangers will be of the horror variety.

Pivotal Player: Hank Blalock. The Rangers will need to score tons to complete. Blalcok is the team's top power hitter, he needs to set the pace.

Non-Roster Invitee of Note: Chris Shelton. The talk of baseball two Aprils ago, now he'll be lucky to be in the Majors this April.

Final Standings:
The Rangers have the hitters, the Mariners have the pitching, Oakland has not a lot of anything. They'll all be looking up at the Angels who seem to have it all.

1) Los Angeles Angels
2) Seattle Mariners
3) Texas Rangers
4) Oakland A's

No comments: