Hello everyone and welcome to another addition of MLB Insight. In this edition I will give my preview of the American League West. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
#5 – Houston Astros (2013 Record: 51-111) The worst record in the Majors
Pitching – Last season, the pitching for Houston was absolutely hideous with a team earned run average of 4.82. This year, there is a brighter outlook, sort of. The Astros have acquired some new pitchers out of their farm system to use. Ground ball specialist Scott Feldman, explosive thrower Jarred Cosart, and “Mr. Consistent” Brett Oberholtzer (that’s a mouthful) will try to make a difference. The rest of the rotation is a bit of a mess. On the relieving side, the Astros picked up three ground ball specialists: Chad Qualls, Josh Fields, and Jesse Crain. However, they will need to improve their performance in games decided by one run (they were 18-35 in those types of games last year).
Batting/Defense – Houston has two guys who are good on offense: Jose Altuve and Dexter Fowler. Altuve is the only consistent player on the Astros squad. He always seems to get on base, he gets runs, and he has also had 41 hits in one month. Fowler is a newcomer but hopes to contribute. He is a double and triple hit machine mainly due to his long legs and slim stature. The rest of the offense is filled with strike out kings such as Chris Carter and Brett Wallace, who had 316 strikeouts combined.
Bottom Line- The Astros are light years away from any hopes of being in first place in the American League West. However, there is a small star of optimism (I’m done with the space puns) for this team. They have a ton of talent in the farm system due to a good deal of number one picks in the Draft. Maybe in five years they will be a good team, but as for this year, their pitching and batting will be their Achilles heel. Due to this, I place them finishing fifth in the American League West.
#4 – Los Angeles Angels (2013 Record: 78-84)
Pitching – Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson pretty much make up the starting pitching for the Angels. Weaver has concerned Angel’s fans over the past couple of seasons because his fastball velocity has steadily been declining. However, don’t worry Angel lovers; Weaver still has his deceptive delivery. As for CJ Wilson, all he does is win. Remember last season? He went 17-7 with a 3.39 earned run average. In 2014, he is expected to replicate or even better last season’s numbers. As for relievers, closer Ernesto Frieri is a young, promising closer who converted 37 games out of 41 opportunities.
Batting/Defense – Oh boy…the Angels batting and defense. Well, I’ve got some good news, and I’ve got some bad news. The good news is they have some of the best defensive players in the game–Erick Aybar, Mike Trout, and David Freese. But the bad news is that on offense they are full of players who are on the decline and do not get on base. Adding third baseman David Freese out of St. Louis and the ancient designated hitter Raul Ibanez did very little. May I remind you the Angels spent a ton of money reeling in Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, but now they want a refund. Especially since centerfielder Mike Trout’s contract year is coming up and they are going to have to unload a bundle on him.
Bottom Line – The Angels of Anaheim are not exactly going to be in heaven this year. They have a lot of issues to fix before they can be a team in the running for the World Series like they were back in ’09. They need pitchers who can pitch and batters who can use a bat for what it is meant for…hitting the ball! I predict the LA Angels will finish next to last in the American League West.
#3 – Seattle Mariners (2013 Record: 71-91)
Pitching – Felix “the King” Hernandez and Hishashi Iwakuma are the best pitchers for the Mariners. “The King” led the team in strikeouts last year with 216 and Iwakuma led the team in wins, earned run average, and walks plus hits per inning pitched. As for the rest of the rotation they are young and talented, but lack experience. James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, and Erasmo Ramirez have great speed, but they are fresh out of the Minors and will be playing their first full season. On the relieving side, all eyes are on closer Danny Farquhar who is also fairly new to the MLB scene.
Batting/Defense – It’s no secret that the new addition to the Mariners infield this year is former Yankee second baseman Robinson Cano. Cano racked up on a 240 million dollar contract in the offseason and his hoping to have an impact on a rather talentless infield. Third baseman Kyle Seager is the only other infielder who has any offensive power. In the outfield they are tremendously lacking batting talent. Michael Saunders and Dustin Ackley are both batters with great defensive ability but to be able to effectively swing a bat was not something they were born with. Right fielder Cory Hart has some pop in his bat and will be good on defense, if he can stay healthy.
Bottom Line – The Mariners just don’t have enough talent to make it to the top of their division. Their pitching, though talented, is just too young and inexperienced. Their batting, which averaged a lowly .237, is where they will be hurt the most this year. We may see that average go up a few digits because they’ll be hitting inside hitter friendly Safeco Field, but I predict their lack of batting power, coupled with inexperienced pitchers, will leave them sitting third in the American League West.
#2 – Oakland Athletics (2013 Record: 96-66) Lost in ALDS to Detroit
Pitching – The Athletics have taken a huge hit to their starting rotation. Number one pitcher Jarrod Parker has been sidelined for the season to have Tommy John’s surgery. Young gunner Sonny Gray will take his place as lead off and will use his fastball and power curve to take out hitters. Following him is veteran Scott Kazmir who has struggled over the past few seasons, but seems to be getting his career back on track. On the relieving side, the Athletics will be trying out a veteran closer by the name of Jim Johnson. If that name sounds familiar it is because he was a beast of a closer for the Baltimore Orioles last season with 50 saves.
Batting/Defense – The infield for the Athletics has a great star, third baseman Josh Donaldson. Donaldson was the only player on the Athletics squad with a batting average over .300. He is followed by outstanding first baseman Brandon Moss ( who has some terrific power ) and great defensive player Jed Lowrie. In the outfield there will be Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes, and Josh Reddick. These three make up one of the most talented outfields in the American League. Crisp is a longtime veteran who is a constant threat on the bases; Cespedes was the 2013 Homerun Derby winner; and Josh Reddick who, when healthy, is a terrific on-base guy.
Bottom Line – The bottom line is the Oakland Athletics are a super talented team that will make a run for the World Series title. Their pitching is very talented but young. I feel this lack of inexperience could hurt them in the long run. On the batting/defense side, they are set. However, John Jaso and second baseman Eric Sogard are two guys who could hurt their otherwise talented offensive lineup. I expect left fielder Yoenis Cespedes will be the American League Home Run leader and the team will lead the league in homeruns. I predict the Athletics will not win their division but will get a Wild Card spot finishing second in the American League West.
#1 – Texas Rangers (2013 Record: 91-72)
Pitching – The starting pitching for the Texas Rangers is led by three elite pitchers: Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, and Martin Perez. Darvish had 277 strikeouts last season; Holland had a career best season in 2013; and Perez went 10-5 in 2013 after breaking his forearm. The Rangers will be missing a very strong closer by the name of Joe Nathan. Nathan’s 1 .39 earned run average last season really set him apart . The man replacing him is really uncertain right now, but the job could go to either Neftali Feliz, Tanner Scheppers, or Joakim Soria.
Batting/Defense – The Texas Rangers finally have a huge batter in their lineup-Mr. Prince Fielder. Not to mention they have one of the best infields in the league with third baseman Adrian Beltre, shortstop Elvis Andrus, and young second baseman Jurickson Profar. In the outfield they have a new star, Shin-Soo Choo along with power left fielder Alex Rios. This is a stacked lineup that has some of the league’s best on offense and defense. I expect the Rangers will do better than their 730 runs last season.
Bottom Line – The bottom line for the Rangers is that they are on their way to a great season. Last year they just fell short of making the playoffs, but I feel they are due to go again. 2013 was their fourth consecutive season of 90+ wins and I believe they will make it five straight when 2014 is said and done. Their pitching is some of the best they have ever had and their infield/ outfield is extremely good. Even though there will be some close competition, I believe the Rangers will finish first in the American League West.
This concludes my outlook of the American League West. Thank you for reading.