The countdown to Opening Day is getting smaller. The Opening Series is well over, and there is only one day to Opening Day. Every day, from now to the beginning of the season, I will be previewing at least one division, leading up to my postseason picks on Opening Night. After doing all three NL divisions (E C W) and the American League East and Central, we will continue with the American League West.
1. Los Angeles Angels -- 2013 Record: 78-84; Projected Record: 92-70
The Angels have Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, C.J. Wilson, and Jered Weaver. It's about time they start contending. It's about time everyone is healthy. With rotation issues in both Oakland and Texas, it looks like the Angels might be able to sneak back in to the race and win the American League West. They have definitely got the team to do it, it is just a matter of if they can put the wins on the scoreboard.
The Angels solidified the back of their rotation by acquiring both Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago. Both pitchers are still young, but they really help fix the issue that has caused them to be out of the postseason for a few seasons now. Giving up Mark Trumbo is not great, but the power in this lineup is so good that they were willing to give up a good hitter in order to get some much-needed rotation depth. The back of the rotation will be the x-factor for the Angels, but both Skaggs and Santiago look very good.
This prediction is a tad bit bold, but it will be the right one. The Angels have the best team in the American League West from a personnel standpoint, they just have yet to show it. And this is the season that they come out strong, with a chip on their shoulder, and win the American League West. Do not get me wrong, the Angels have some tough competition, but they can pull this off in 2014, and likely shock many.
2. Oakland Athletics -- 2013 Record: 96-66; Projected Record: 90-72
The Athletics lost two pitchers, Jarrod Parker and Bartolo Colon (Mets), which will lead to the downfall of their reign in the American League West. Their pitching has always been a strength, but when it turns to a weakness, it immediately becomes very tough for the Athletics to produce consistent wins. In 2013, the A's won 30 of their 50 one run games, something that will hurt with a lack of pitching depth. Their one run games look to be key in 2014, and will be a big factor in their success.
The A's have one of the best overall teams, but now that their rotation has fallen off the table, their above average offense will not be able to keep them propelled. This prediction sounds like it is for an 81-81 team, but I still predicted the Athletics to win 90 games. I'm just trying to justify their downfall. They still have a good team, and have always surprised me, something that very few teams have been able to do consistently. Let me tell you, the Athletics always find a way. It's that simple.
The A's just might win the division, but the Angels outlook looks better than theirs. We will have to see how they do with their pitching hurting, which I believe leads to the second place finish in the division, and a tie with the Tampa Bay Rays for the first Wild Card spot. It's a toss-up from there.
3. Texas Rangers -- 2013 Record: 91-72; Projected Record: 88-74
Yu Darvish and Derek Holland are both injured, with Holland missing likely the entire first half of the season. One of the best offensive teams in the American League lost something that has kept them right in the mix, pitching. They were planning on resorting to Tommy Hanson at the back of their rotation, something that, frankly, would not go well. It's obvious that the Rangers are hurting for starting pitching, which will hurt their stance in the American League West.
The Rangers got Prince Fielder from the Tigers, signed Shin-Soo Choo, and called up Jurickson Profar, to go along with Alex Rios, Mitch Moreland, Adrian Beltre, and Elivs Andrus. If you cannot understand, let me tell it to you this way, the Texas Rangers are stacked offensively. Last season, five of the top ten run scoring teams missed the postseason. Seven of the top ten teams in ERA made the postseason. That means that even if you have a great offense, pitching rules in this game, and the Rangers' pitching is somewhat weak during this season.
I could be wrong. Totally wrong. But, facts do not lie, and I have seen offensive teams flail in big games. I have also seen offensive teams thrive and win the World Series. The Rangers "luck" this Spring Training is telling my gut that they cannot do it this season, and they might just have to wait one more season.
4. Seattle Mariners -- 2013 Record: 71-91; Projected Record: 83-79
Let me tell you: one player can make all the difference, or be the part that just does not work out. Robinson Cano will make a difference, but without anyone to surround him, it's hard to see the differences he will make. If a tree falls, and there is no one around, did it make a sound? Cano's difference can help the Mariners' record, but their postseason chances look slim. When their young pitching develops is when the Mariners begin to contend.
Three pitchers, Hisashi Iwakuma, Stephen Pryor, and Taijuan Walker, all seemingly rotation pitchers are on the disabled list to begin this season. It does not get much worse than that. Three possible starters missing extended time. Offensively, the Mariners have nobody besides Robinson Cano. Kendrys Morales could return, but it seems like it's a lost cause, as he is still a free agent. Other than that, only Justin Smoak is the big hitter in their lineup.
The Mariners have a good ball club, but it is a few years before they contend. Do not worry, Robinson Cano will still be there. He signed a 10-year deal with the Mariners this off season, and as I said, when their young pitching develops (which shouldn't take long), they will be back in the postseason and could go deep into it.
5. Houston Astros -- 2013 Record: 51-111; Projected Record: 57-105
Oh, the Astros. My grandfather once told me a saying, "Every team wins 60 games and loses 60 games, it's the other 42 that count." Well, the Astros are the only outlier in my predictions (good saying!). There is not much to like about this team, but there is a lot to like about their farm system, much of which will start making it's way to the Majors this season. They did make some really good off season moves, and will be better, but not by much.
The Astros have the likes of Dexter Fowler and Jose Altuve in their lineup, but not much else seems to be exciting about this season. They do get a full season of Jarred Cosart, one of the best young pitchers in their organization. He allowed only 13 runs in 60 innings pitched last season, and will be back this season in the rotation. Former top prospect Jonathan Singleton may also be in the Majors sometime this season, but he is battling with some off-the-field issues will likely keep him under wraps.
The Astros are looking square in the face of a last place finish in the American League West, and in the Major Leagues overall. But, hey, all they can go is up! Well, joking aside, the Astros are looking at another dismal season. One of the few possible bright spots for these fans are all those rich prospects that will be coming up, those of whom will bring this team out of last into the future.