American League Central:
It will be an interesting year in the West with the two top teams having opposite strengths. But don’t forget about the team with a down year who is determined to get back on top.
1. Oakland Athletics (93-69)— We now know that this team has the arms to compete with the likes of San Francisco and Philadelphia. Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson are both terrific talents with even more room to grow and they are joined by Gio Gonzalez and the perfectionist himself, Dallas Braden. This young rotation reminds me a lot of the group that came up in the early 2000’s that produced Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Dan Haren, and Rich Harden. Last year, their biggest problem was scoring more than one or two runs a game. Even though they got rid of their best run producer in Jack Cust, it isn’t a loss that is going to make a huge difference due to their off-season acquisitions. They successfully brought in some very inexpensive pieces in Hideki Matsui, Josh Willingham, and David Dejesus. This is now a balanced team that Oakland fans can only hope mimics last season’s World Series winner across the bay.
2. Texas Rangers (87-75)— Losing out on the Cliff Lee sweepstakes will have huge ramifications for this team, much greater than people realize. The Rangers really don’t have an ace on this team, and I swear, if you tell me C.J. Wilson or Colby Lewis is an ace…. I will find you. There is NO WAY those two come close to duplicating their innings and ERA from last year, Wilson was a reliever and Lewis was in Japan, that’s like Matt Murton coming back and calling him a big bopper. Only way they can get back to where they were last year is if Josh Hamilton hops in a time machine and becomes 25 again, Neftali Feliz is a starter AND the closer, and Ian Kinsler becomes the first 40/40 players since… the one, the only, Alfonso Soriano. Okay, it’s not that bad, but you get my point; the offense is really going to need to produce big time.
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of California of the United States of America (81-81)— Jered Weaver is a stud. Dan Haren used to be. And Scott Kazmir just pretended to be. The rest of the staff is average at best as a whole with no one standing out in the back end of the bullpen. The Angels best hitters are either aging veterans past their prime, or younglings with potential who haven’t established themselves. One player to keep an eye on is Kendrys Morales. He basically is their only hope to compete. If he’s hurting other pitchers instead of hurting himself, the Angels may find themselves above .500. But because the chances of the happening are 50/50, that will be their record too… so if ¾ of the teams in this division are projected to be at or above .500 that must mean that….
4. Seattle Mariners (52-110)— Dear King Felix,
I am so sorry and feel very bad that you will probably be in line for 25 wins or so, but ultimately win only 10 of those. Maybe since the Yankees didn’t land Lee and will have Sabathia opt out after this year, you can get a nice lucrative deal from a team with a team and an offense that won’t get shut out more than 10 times in a year.
Honestly, this team flat out is terrible. They are the worst team in the majors, beating out the Kansas City Royals by quite a large margin. Ichiro has seen the best of times, 116-46 in 2001, and the worst of times, which very well might be right around the corner. I am not even going to try and give some silver linings because I would just be lying to you. At least Mariners fans won’t be sleepless in Seattle this year.
Halos Win Back the Crown in Weakest Division
1.Angels (88-74)– While the Angels’ infield looks terrible, especially with the loss of Kendrys Morales to start the year, the veteran outfield and one-two punch of Dan Haren and Jered Weaver should help them take back the division. Veterans Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu, and newcomer Vernon Wells may be enough to help the offense start clicking. Of course, no one knows whether or not Howie Kendrick is going to hit well for once, but he still is a better option than many other clubs’ second baseman in the AL. Morales may be a bit overrated, but he could be the key to the Angels’ success this season once his DL stint is over.
2.Rangers (85-77)– Losing Cliff Lee to free agency is going to come back and bite Texas in the you-know-what unless Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, and Nelson Cruz can stay healthy. If so, letting Cliff Lee go won’t be such a bad thing after all as they could very well cruise again to the playoffs. BUT, that is not going to happen because these guys are infamous for landing on the DL. Another occurrence in the offseason that will hurt them is the way they dealt with Michael Young. This guy has been their most consistent player year after year and they decide to sign Adrian Beltre and move Young to the DH. Yes, Beltre may be better defensively, but he has a history of only playing well in contract years, and this is not the way you treat hard working players like Young, who in response began requesting a trade. On the bright side, the decision to keep Feliz in the bullpen for now is definitely a smart one since they could not afford to have anything bad happen to him. This team combines a bunch of power with speed and they’re respectable pitching staff could be all they need to return to the World Series.
3.Athletics (79-83)– If I were to ask ten separate people who they thought would be the leader of the A’s offense, I would not be surprised if I got ten different answers. Yes there are only nine spots in the lineup, but you never know when it comes to the one team that is most known for its pitching and not batting. Bringing in Hideki Matsui may turn out to be a great decision. He is one of the quietest hitters in baseball, but yet one of the most productive. His best days may be over and coming to a pitcher’s ballpark certainly won’t help him, but he’ll add a lot to this boring offense. There’s no question that the strength of this team is their pitching, but the real question is whether or not they can stay healthy. Andrew Bailey and Brett Anderson are two of the most promising young stars in the game, but each of them can’t take care of themselves. As good as this organization brings their pitchers up to be, it won’t be enough to catch the two in front.
4.Mariners (65-97)– Last but not least we arrive at the cellar. We all know who is right at home in this spot: The Honey Nut Ichiros. They simply don’t have enough pieces to be considered a contender. King Felix and Ichiro remain the only two notable players to watch on this team. Some say Ichiro is on the decline, but last time he batted below .320 he responded with a .352 campaign. Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young award last year, which he rightly deserved, and he should put up another testimony as to why he is the best in the league. It’s going to be another long year at Safeco Field. On the bright side, they get 84 home games vs. 79 on the road due to a scheduling mistake. Too bad they still have to play those games.