Today, we forecast the AL West
1. Los Angeles Angels
Kinda easy to pick this division. The Angels just keep chugging away, winning the AL West every year but one since 2004, last year by 21 games. And they do it the same way, good pitching, good defense. However, this season, the Angels will have to deal with some big-time defections. Mark Texiera, Francisco Rodriguez and Garret Anderson all left LA forcing the Angels to try and replace them. Brian Fuentes was picked up to close games and Bobby Abreu was signed to take up Anderson's duties, but the Angels are counting on Kendry Morales to replace Texiera. Lotsa luck with that. Other problems include the decline of some of the Angels core players. Vladimir Guerrero has dropped in average, RBI and OPS each of the last 3 seasons. Jered Weaver's ERA and walks has increased each of his 3 seasons in the league. And Gary Matthews BA has declined 70 points since his huge 2006 in Texas, the year before he became an Angel. That said, the Angels are still the class of the AL West, and with Kelvim Escobar coming back, the Angels should be plenty stocked to take the West, probably by mid August.
2. Oakland A's
track record is any indication—smart and talented. Young Brad Ziegler takes over for the traded Huston Street in the bullpen, and his 1.06 ERA shows he's capable. Also coming up to help the Billy Beane marches to his own drum. He keeps stockpiling young, inexpensive talent and trading them by the time they come up for free agency. however, this off-season, he broke that strategy, by trading young talent and picking up big bat Matt Holliday, who's due to come up for free agency next winter, when Beane will let him go and recoup the 2 draft picks. That aside, the A's will be young—only Justin Duchscherer is older than 25 in the rotation—and if Beane's pitching staff are uber-prospects (no. 7 and 11 in Baseball America's Top 100 prospects) are Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill. At the plate, the A's hope Holliday and prodigal son, Jason Giambi can help turn around a MLB-worst .242 BA and .369 slugging percentage. They also pray that the ghost of Eric Chavez can return and remain somewhat healthy and provide a semblance of what he's capable of. All told, the A's can mount a charge against the Angels, but truly they cannot seriously challenge them. Especially if they decide to trade Holliday in July. Figure 85 wins.
3. Texas Rangers
Nolan Ryan, the Rangers President knows what the problem is: pitching, or a lack of the quality of it in Arlington. So, this off-season, instead of going after Sabathia or Lowe, Ryan brought in only one person to fix the Ranger's horrific pitching staff (5.37 ERA), pitching coach Mike Maddux. Here’s hoping Maddux brought his wizard wand with him. Of the starters, only Vincent Padilla had an ERA under 5.oo (4.74), but the Rangers are hoping, Brandon McCarthy can stay healthy and provide some depth, if not a stellar fastball. They are also hoping super prospect Neftali Feliz can provide some help tout suite. At the plate, the Rangers will feel the loss of Milton Bradley and his .536 slugging percentage. Texas feels however, that there's more than enough hitting to go around, with Josh Hamltion, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young and 20-year old, Elvis Andrus, who batted .295 and stole 54 bases in AA last year. The Rangers will be fun to watch,—the games in Arlington could last 4 hours long—but won't be significantly improved from last year.
4. Seattle Mariners
Starting over. Yes, the Mariners got Ken Griffey back for a farewell tour, but the real news in Seattle is that the Mariners are gonna start over. Gone is Raul Ibanez, Richie Sexton, J. J. Putz and most of the Mariner front office—that's what happens when you lose 100 games with a $100 dollar payroll. Unfortunately, the Mariners aren't poised for a Rays-like turnaround; on the contrary, they have traded away many of their young prospects—think Matt Thorton and Adam Jones—and have gotten little in return. The Mariner's cupboard isn't completely bare, Felix Hernandez is becoming the dominator he could become, Brandon Morrow is talented and developing and Eric Bedard isn't a complete bust since coming over from Baltimore. However, Carlos Silva has been a complete bomb, and newly acquired Garrett Olsen won’t provide relief without a lot of coaching and help. On offense, the Mariners are trying to clean house and improve the 4th lowest slugging percentage. They acquired Russell Branyan who hits a HR every 15 at bats, but usually strikes out the other 14 times. Also newly acquired Endy Chavez, Franklin Gutierrez are good defensive players who are fill-ins until minor leagues Michael Saunders and Greg Halman are ready. The Mariners are a team in flux; enjoy Griffey while you can, and know that the time will not look much like it is now in a year.