Time to wrap up my thoughts on the upcoming American League season by getting to the AL West. This I believe will be the most improved division in baseball, as the Angels have owned it as of late.
Predicted order of Finish
1. Los Angeles Angels- I think the division will be better, but I still like the Angels. They lose K-Rod and Texiera, but gain adequate replacements in Fuentes and Abreu. The Angeles still have a solid line up with a good mix between vets and youngsters. What's bad for the rest of the division is that they till have a ton of depth throughout their system.
The Angels have the best manager in the game in Mike Scoscia and he wins with pitching and defense. Some early injuries in the rotation to start the season, but once all 5 are healthy, they have one of the best staffs in the game. Ervin Santana joined staff ace John Lackey as a big time pitcher last season. Expect Jered Weaver same this season. Brian Fuentes will not have a record setting season like his predecessor, but will do a good enough job closing games.
The Angels won't score a ton of runs, but they won't have to. Scoscia likes to run alot, but only Chone Figgens is a true base stealing threat. Vlad will be Vlad and that is good news for Angels fans. adding a Bobby Abreu to hit infront of him will help alot. Abreu sees more pitches than anyone in the game and still hits for average and will drive in 100 plus runs. What the Angels need is for some of their youngsters to become all-stars. Kendry Morales and Howie Kendrick are the likely candidates. Top prospect Brandon Wood is still trying to find a place on this team, but if he does he has the tools to possibly succeed.
2. Oakland A's- Billy Beane was at it again in the off-season, improving this club. He added vets Matt Hollday, Jason Giambi, Orlando Cabrerra and Nomar Garciapara. They will be good, but not great. A sure bet is that Beane flips Holliday at the deadline for pieces to next years team.
For a change, the A's don't have a great young rotation. Most of the can't misses lately have. That's not to say that the cupboard is bare, the A's do have solid youngsters in the minors, it's just a matter of which one's will finish the year in the rotation. One guy I like alot is former Phillies prospect Gio Gonzalez.
The A's bullpen is very effective with Brad Ziegler and Joey Divine closing out games. The million dollar question for Billy Beane is what will he do with Matt Holliday if the A's are close at the deadline.
3. Texas Rangers- This is a true sleeper team to keep your eyes on. Top to bottom they can hit (the ballpark helps as well). Expect SS Elvis Andrus to stay in the Rookie of the Year talks all season. The Rangers are also starting to lock up it's young talent including:Kinsler, Cruz, Davis, Saltamacchia and soon Hamilton.
They have one player who nobody talks about that will be a household name by the end of the season- Nelson Cruz. the knock on him is that he's already 28, but he hit 6 homers on a September callup and is pencilled in as the Rangers cleanup hitter. There will be plenty of guys on to drive in.
The problem with the Rangers is that the pitching is awful. There is a few arms in AA and AAA, but nothing that offers an immediate impact. This franchise hasn't called up a quality arm in a real long time. Until they develop some pitching, it won't matter how many runs they can score.
4. Seattle Mariners- Things got real ugly last season in Seattle. Many people had predicted a World Series trip for the M's. They are just the opposite of the Rangers. They can get people out, but the offense will be very below average. Expect them to keep dealing to sure up that farm system.