AL West Preview 2012

Posted: March 14, 2012 by Kodi in MLB

There has been a lot of transactions throughout the AL West this offseason

A preview of the 2012 season for the Angels, Athletics, Mariners and Rangers

See how the AL West will be won. . . 

Oakland Athletics

The Oakland Athletics were 74-88 last season which ranked them 3rd in the AL West but Bob Melvin Replaced Bob Geren after a 27-36 start and finished the season nearly .500 going 47-52. Melvin is returning as the A’s manager but he will be putting a completely different team on the field than he did last season. There is a lot of turnover in the MLB whether it is through an organizations farm system, free agency or trades. Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics chose all of the above in an attempt to turn this team around. It is going to be difficult playing in a division with the Rangers and Angels but the A’s have always done well evaluating young talent and finding players nobody knows about, haven’t you seen Moneyball?

At this time last year everyone was excited about Daric Barton in the Bay Area but it turned out to be Brandon Allen that everyone should have been raving about. Allen got a limited amount of playing time but showed promise in his at bats. Barton on the other hand had just 13 extra base hits with no HR’s and was eventually demoted back to the minor leagues. Barton is struggling to recover from an injury and the Athletics have had a lot of turnover from last season. They will be rolling out a nearly brand new lineup and their gem will be Cuban League extraordinaire Yoenis Cespedes. The 26 year old is the son of an Olympic softball pitcher who has flourished in Cuban ball and looks to make an impact in the MLB. The A’s also took a chance on OF Manny Ramirez who will have to sit out 50 games due to a suspension for performance enhancing drugs. The biggest issue for the A’s will be the 3B position which would have been filled by Scott Sizemore but he is out for the year with a torn ACL.

Oakland had just two Pitchers with more than 9 wins last year and neither player is on the roster this season. They also got rid of their Closer and will rely on Brian Fuentes who had 12 Saves and was 2-8 with a 3.70 ERA last season as a reliever. In all the Athletics bullpen last season was 10-18 with an ERA above 3.40 and this year they will be reliant upon a lot of young talent. Not only is their bullpen lacking their starting rotation is relying on a excess of unproven talent as well as a fat old Bartolo Colon. This may just be Moneyball 2 in the making but all of these prospects need to pan out for Brad Pitt to make a sequel as Billy Beane.

I really did enjoy the book more than the movie but Moneyball did give Major League Baseball an opportunity to pull in some new fans. If baseball fans out there want a sequel Beane and the A’s need to quickly figure out who is their Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson are going to be. The movie was terrible from my perspective although I absolutely loved the book, there’s something about the daughter’s role in the film that jerks me the wrong way. I think that the A’s season this year will not be turned into a feature length film and they could find themselves sitting at or near the basement of the AL West at the end of the year. That being said these young prospects are the future of the A’s organization and knowing Billy Beane the second they emerge he will trade them for another handful of young talented prospects, it is the circle of life in the Oakland organization.

2012 Transactions:

Acquisitions: P Edgar Gonzalez, OF Jason Pridie, OF Brandon Moss, P Jarrod Parker, OF Collin Cowgill, P Ryan Cook, P Brad Peacock, C Derek Norris, P Tommy Milone, OF Josh Reddick, OF Seth Smith, P Barolo Colon, OF Jonny Gomes, OF Manny Ramirez, OF Yoenis Cespedes

Departures: P Andrew Bailey, P Craig Breslow, P Trevor Cahill, OF David DeJesus, P Gio Gonzalez, P Rich Harden, DH Hideki Matsui, P Josh Outman, OF Ryan Sweeney, OF Josh Willingham

Projected Lineup:

2B Jemile Weeks

SS Cliff Pennington

LF Coco Crisp

DH Seth Smith

CF Yoenis Cespedes

RF Josh Reddick

C Kurt Suzuki

1B Brandon Allen

3B Josh Donaldson/Adam Rosales/Eric Sogard/ ???

Projected Bench:

OF Jonny Gomes

1B/OF Chris Carter

C Anthony Recker

IF Eric Sogard

Projected Rotation:

1 RHP Brandon McCarthy

2 RHP Bartolo Colon

3 LHP Tommy Milone

4 RHP Brad Peacock

5 RHP Graham Godfrey/Jarrod Parker

Projected Bullpen:

Closer: Brian Fuentes

Setup: RHP Grant Balfour/RHP Fautino De Los Santo

Middle Reliever: RHP Joey Devine/RHP Ryan Cook/LHP Jerry Blevins/ RHP Andrew Carignan

Long Reliever: RHP Graham Godfrey/Jarrod Parker

Key Prospects:

1B Daric Barton

LHP Pedro Figeuroa

1B Kila Ka’aihue

OF Michael Choice

RHP Tyson Ross

C Derek Norris

RHP Neil Wagner

OF Michael Taylor

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

 

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim had a 86-76 record in the 2011 season good enough for 2nd place in the AL West. Manager Mike Scioscia was given a couple of gifts from the Angels organization when they brought in two of the biggest free agents of the year. The Angels already had a balanced baseball team with solid pitching and an offense that could score runs. They will likely improve in all categories after signing future Hall of Famer 1B Albert Pujols the former St. Louis Cardinal as well as former Texas Rangers Pitcher C.J. Wilson.

Last season the Angels were led in HR’s and RBI by 1B Matt Trumbo a player not many expected to be in such a position. Trumbo was given a lot more opportunity to play after Kendrys Morales’ brutal injury some time ago. Despite dismal offensive seasons by Vernon Wells and Peter Bourjos the Angels ranked in the middle of the AL in nearly all statistical categories. With the signing of Albert Pujols nearly everyone in the lineup will benefit from seeing better pitches. The Angels have one of the deepest benches in the American League and as of now it is working against them but they have the pieces to make a big move for another pitcher. Matt Trumbo and Morales are both likely to play a role from the bench although Kendrys is still struggling to stay healthy. Mike Trout deserves more playing time after a successful rookie outing but the young man has been extremely sick during spring training and he is unlikely to make the opening day roster.

The Angels had a great rotation last year and now they have essentially swapped Joel Piniero for C.J. Wilson. This is a team that already led the AL in team ERA with a 3.57 last season and now they added a dominant left handed pitcher. The Angels ranked 2nd in runs, earned runs, HR’s allowed despite pitching the most innings of any team in the American League. Of the top 7 vote getters in last year’s Cy Young race the Angels will have 3 of them in their starting rotation. Jordan Walden saved 32 games last season as well as posting a 5-5 record with a 2.98 ERA. Walden is a solid young Closer but the Angels could use a little more depth in the bullpen and if they decide to move a couple of players I would expect them to get a solid arm in return.

It seems quite obvious that the Angels are going to be a team to watch in 2012 but the most important piece of this puzzle is 1B Albert Pujols. El Hombre as some Angels fans call Pujols, to his displeasure, is coming off his worst season and there is some worry about the 32 year old. That bad year people are worried about is one that Pujols hit 37 dingers and knocked in a meesily 99 RBI. Even if Pujols begins to lose the battle against father time he could drop 8 HR’s and 15 RBI and still would have led the Angels last season. I expect The Machine to bounce back somewhat methodically and look for other complimental players flourish around Pujols. The pitching rotation is one of the best in all of baseball but their weak point is the bullpen. These pitchers can go the distance but you would like to rely on solid relief pitching when you need to. I believe that the Angels will win the AL West and we could see this team playing late into October and maybe even early November.

2012 Transactions:

Acquisitions: IF Jorge Cantu, RP LaTroy Hawkins, C Chris Iannetta, RP Jason Isringhausen, OF Ryan Langerhans, SP Brad Mills, 1B Albert Pujols, SP C.J. Wilson

Departures: 1B Russell Branyan, RP Jason Bulger, SP Tyler Chatwood, SP Scott Kazmir, C Jeff Mathis, RP Matt Palmer, SP Joel Pineiro, RP Fernando Rodney, IF Gil Velazquez

Projected Lineup:
SS Erick Aybar
2B Howie Kendrick
1B Albert Pujols
RF Torii Hunter
LF Vernon Wells
DH Bobby Abreu
3B Alberto Callaspo
C Chris Iannetta
CF Peter Bourjos
Bench:
C Bobby Wilson
1B/OF Mark Trumbo
IF Maicer Izturis
OF Ryan Langerhans
Projected Rotation:

1 RHP Jered Weaver
2 RHP Dan Haren
3 LHP C.J. Wilson
4 RHP Ervin Santana
5 RHP Jerome Williams
Projected Bullpen:
Closer: RHP Jordan Walden
Setup: LHP Scott Downs/RHP LaTroy Hawkins
Middle Relievers: RHP Jason Isringhausen/LHP Hisanori Takahashi/RHP Rich Thompson
Long Reliever: RHP Bobby Cassevah
Key Prospects:
OF Mike Trout
RHP John Hellweg
SS Sean Segura
1B/3B Casey Haerther
RHP Matt Shoemaker
1B/OF Kole Calhoun

Seattle Mariners

The Seattle Mariners were led by great pitching behind another phenomenal year by King Felix Hernandez and they only allowed 4.2 runs per game. It was too bad that the Mariners had one of the worst offenses in the MLB averaging just 3.5 runs per game which is why they were dead last in the AL West and finished with a 67-95 record. The Mariners need to produce runs to win games and they traded away a great young pitcher to the Yankees in return for a great Catching prospect. The face of the franchise, Ichiro Suzuki, is coming off of his worst season in the MLB and it seems that another player is losing the battle against the aging process. Despite a few veterans on the Mariners team the Seattle squad is extremely young and their pathetic offense last year may have been just been fine tuning.

The biggest surprise when you look at the Mariners offense is that Ichiro will no longer be serving as Manager Eric Wedge’s leadoff hitter. Ichiro will move down two spots and hit 3rd becoming the heavy hitting RF that everyone expects in the 3 slot. Justin Smoak was having a admirable year until he began battling thumb injuries and hopefully the young 1B can stay healthy for the whole year. The biggest issue for the Mariners is determining whether or not Jesus Montero is a reliable option as backstop if not they are going to have Miguel Olivo playing behind the plate. Olivo maybe a reliable option defensively at Catcher but the Mariners offense will not be boosted by his batting. CF Franklin Gutierrez had problems last Spring Training with IBS and this year he suffered a partial tear of a pectoral muscle and will miss at least a month.

The Mariners pitching starts and ends with Felix Hernandez but last season Seattle fans were surprised by the performance of a young LHP named Jason Vargas. Fernandez and Vargas are a great 1-2 punch on any team’s rotation but the AL West seems to be filled with solid starting pitching. The Mariners have a decent bullpen which could be surprised by the play of some young talented prospects. The Closer role is filled by Brandon League who had a great year Saving 37 games and posting a 2.79 ERA and he may be the most reliable Closer in the Division. The pitching last season was great and put Seattle in the position to win a lot more games than the 67 they found themselves winning.

Seattle is in the middle of a rebuilding process and are transitioning away from the Hall of Fame OF that has served as the focal point of the Mariners organization. They hope that the team is making the right decisions to improve this team and if moving a 37 year old player down the batting order is the biggest news then there isn’t much to talk about in the Pacific Northwest. King Felix’s name was swirling around last summer before the trade deadline and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mariners trying to get what they can in a deal for him and Ichiro. This is the beginning of a long process and the Mariners are going to be in the basement of the AL West once again this season.

2012 Transactions:

Acquisitions: C/DH Jesus Montero, C John Jaso, P Hong-Chih Kuo, P Kevin Millwood, P George Sherrill, P Hishashi Iwakuma, P Oliver Perez, P Aaron Heilman

Departures: P David Aardsma, IF Sean Kazmar, P Michael Pineda, P Jose Campos, IF Carlos Guillen, C/OF Chris Gimenez, P Josh Lueke, C Jose Yepez, P Jamey Wright, C Josh Bard, IF Adam Kennedy, OF Wily Mo Pena

Projected Lineup:

1 3B Chone Figgins

2 2B Dustin Ackley

3 RF Ichiro Suzuki

4 LF Mike Carp

5 DH Jesus Montero

6 1B Justin Smoak

7 C Miguel Olivo

8 CF Michael Saunders

9 SS Brendan Ryan

Bench:

C John Jaso

IF Munenori Kawasaki

IF Kyle Seager

OF Casper Wells

Projected Rotation:

1 RHP Felix Hernandez

2 LHP Jason Vargas

3 RHP Kevin Millwood

4 RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

5 RHP Hector Noesi

Projected Bullpen:

Closer: RHP Brandon League

Setup: RHP Shawn Kelley, RHP Tom Wilhemsen

Middle Releivers: LHP George Sherrill, RHP Chance Ruffin, LHP Hong-Chih Kuo

Long Reliever: RHP Shawn Camp

Key Prospects:

3B Alex Liddi

P James Paxton

OF Carlos Peguero

IF/OF Vincent Catricala

P Taijuan Walker

P Danny Hultzen

 

Texas Rangers

For the second straight season the Texas Rangers made it to the World Series after finishing 3o games above .500 winning the AL West title with a record of 96-66. They beat the Rays and Tigers to win the AL Pennant but would eventually lose in 7 games to the St. Louis Cardinals. Just like they did last season the Rangers lost their Ace pitcher, Cliff Lee in the 2011 offseason and C.J Wilson in 2012. Texas won a bidding war for their right to sign Wilson’s replacement a Japanese League standout by the name of Yu Darvish. Many thought that Texas would be able to land another big free agent like 1B Prince Fielder but ultimately the Rangers spent their money on retaining players that were on the roster these past few years.

Josh Hamilton made a big splash when he decided it would be a good idea to relapse at a local watering hole in Texas, not to mention bringing his good pal Ian Kinsler into the mix. Realistically that has nothing to do with baseball but one has to worry about Hamilton’s demons and his ability to retain a healthy lifestyle. The lineup for the 2012 season is nearly identical to their 2011 roster besides a few missing players but no one left that would leave Ron Washington scrambling to fill a huge hole. The Rangers Catching situation will be split between Mike Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba after Bengie Molina retired but the 1-6 hitters are all back into the same spot in the batting order. Some fans were hoping for that upgrade at 1B after Mitch Moreland did little to help his team in the postseason but he will be given another chance to prove himself again this year.

The Rangers rotation was great last season but when C.J. Wilson left town to join the division rival Angels, Texas was hunting to find his replacement. They got their trophy in Darvish but spent a lot of money on another unproven Japanese Pitcher. The Rangers hope that Yu’s game will transition well to the MLB but it is difficult to determine just how well players will assimilate to baseball at the Major League level. Someone decided that flame-throwing Neftali Feliz should be given his chance as a starter and the Rangers went out and signed Joe Nathan to replace him as the teams Closer. This could be a bad decision for both players because Feliz may not have the stamina and control to throw 6+ innings every fifth game. Meanwhile Joe Nathan is only getting older and the former Twins Closer has a great Save percentage during the regular season only to buckle under the pressure in the playoffs.

The Texas Rangers may not win the Division this season but luckily for them MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and Co. decided that the playoffs needed a couple of play-in games like March Madness. Texas is going to be extremely competitive but I find it hard for them to win the Wild Card outright and their only hope is to become one of those first teams to play in what is essentially game 165. The pitching situation for Rangers is solid but they’re in a Division with the Angels and are going to have an uphill battle. The Closer situation is scary, Yu Darvish has big shoes to fill, and as cool as Derek Holland’s mustache is it doesn’t allow him to pitch 3 times a week. It will be interesting to see how well Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Adrian Beltre play as they aren’t getting any younger and as they go so go the Texas Rangers.

2012 Transactions:

Acquisitions: P Yu Darvish, P Greg Reynolds, 1B Brandon Snyder, 1B Brad Hawpe, P Mitch Stetter, OF Kyle Hudson, 1B Conor Jackson, P Joe Beimel, P Martin Perez, P Joe Nathan, C Dusty Brown, C Luis Martinez

Departures: P Tim Wood, P C.J. Wilson, C Matt Treanor, P Darren Oliver, CF Endy Chavez, SS Andres Blanco, P Eric Hurley, 1B Chad Tracy, P Ryan Kelly

Projected Lineup:

1 2B Ian Kinsler

2 SS Elvis Andrus

3 LF Josh Hamilton

4 3B Adrian Beltre

5 DH Michael Young

6 RF Nelson Cruz

7 C Mike Napoli

8 1B Mitch Moreland

9 CF Julio Borbon

Bench:

C Yorvit Torrealba

IF Alberto Gonzalez

OF Craig Gentry

OF David Murphy

Projected Rotation:

1 RHP Colby Lewis

2 LHP Derek Holland

3 RHP Yu Darvish

4 LHP Matt Harrison

5 RHP Neftali Feliz

Projected Bullpen:

Closer: RHP Joe Natha

Setup: RHP Mike Adams, RHP Alexi Ogando

Middle Relievers: RHP Koji Uehara, RHP Mark Lowe, RHP Yoshinori Tateyama

Long Reliever: RHP Scott Feldman

Key Prospects:

OF Leonys Martin

SS Jurickson Profar

LHP Martin Perez

3B Mike Olt

LHP Robbie Ross

C Jorge Alfaro

RHP Neil Ramirez

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