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Home / MLB / 2013 Season Preview: American League West

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The American League West experienced the most tumultuous offseason in baseball. Michael Young, an All-American ballplayer and long time Ranger, was traded out of the division and league to join the Phillies. The Angels signed a former MVP at the expense of the Texas Rangers and completely revamped their rotation. They’ll start 2013 with just two members of last year’s staff. Not to be outdone, the Mariners made moves to fix their  feeble offense by adding Kendrys Morales in an intra-divisional trade that sent Jason Vargas to Los Angeles and acquired Michael Morse from Washington. All that and the division welcomes a new team, as the Houston Astros join one of the toughest divisions in baseball, and weren’t shy about making a splash with their own intra-divisional deal moving their starting shortstop to Oakland for 1B prospect Chris Carter.

First Place: Los Angeles Angels

The Angels may have been stunned to miss the 2012 postseason, but they weren’t shocked into inaction. Los Angeles replaced 60% of their disappointing rotation. They traded for Tommy Hanson (from Atlanta in exchange for Jordan Walden) and Jason Vargas (from Seattle in exchange for Kendrys Morales) while also agreeing to a 2-year, $15 million pact with Joe Blanton. This group will slot behind a true ace, Jared Weaver, and a solid #2 starter, C.J. Wilson, who was signed to a 5-year, $75 million contract just one year ago. Ervin Santana was traded to Kansas City and the team elected to save money by not picking up Dan Haren’s option or making a major play for Zack Grienke, who left for the cross-town Dodgers with a hefty $147 million contract in his pocket.

The Angels instead decided to spend that money bringing in Sean Burnett and Ryan Madson to solidify the bullpen. Along with Ernesto Frieri and Scott Downs they’ll form one of the best bullpen’s in baseball. Obviously that wasn’t the only spot where the Halos were aggressive. In the biggest splash of the entire offseason, 2010 MVP, Josh Hamilton, was signed to a 5-year, $125 million dollar contract. I don’t necessarily think Los Angeles is an advantageous landing spot for the troubled slugger, but you can’t doubt his talent.

With the best 3-4 punch (Pujols/Hamilton) since the steroid boosted duo of Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, the young sensation Mike Trout patrolling center field, a strengthened bullpen, and a quality rotation, the Los Angeles Angels are the best team, not just in the AL West, but all of baseball.

Projected Lineup

  1. Mike Trout (LF)
  2. Erick Aybar (SS)
  3. Albert Pujols (1B)
  4. Josh Hamilton (RF)
  5. Mark Trumbo (DH)
  6. Howie Kendrick (2B)
  7. Alberto Callaspo (3B)
  8. Chris Iannetta (C)
  9. Peter Bourjos (CF)

Projected Rotation

  1. Jared Weaver
  2. C.J. Wilson
  3. Tommy Hanson
  4. Joe Blanton
  5. Jason Vargas

Second Place: Texas Rangers

The Rangers have had a great run over the past few seasons, playing in two World Series in the past three seasons. That came after years upon years of struggles. Now they will try to replace Hamilton’s offense with the signings of A.J. Pierzynski at catcher and Lance Berkman at DH. They’ll also need to replace the reliability that Michael Young has provided for the last decade as he is gone to Philadelphia. Joakim Soria was signed, coming off Tommy John surgery, to bulk up the bullpen in an offseason that was more about key departures than exciting additions. Although 2012 will be remembered for their fade down the stretch, blowing the division and the Wild Card game in the process, they should be very competitive once again in 2013 with a great shot to battle the Athletics and AL East stalwarts for a Wild Card slot.

Projected Lineup

  1. Ian Kinsler (2B)
  2. Elvis Andrus (SS)
  3. Lance Berkman (DH)
  4. Adrian Beltre (3B)
  5. Nelson Cruz (RF)
  6. David Murphy (LF)
  7. A.J. Pierzynski (C)
  8. Mitch Moreland (1B)
  9. Craig Gentry (CF)

Projected Rotation

  1. Yu Darvish
  2. Derek Holland
  3. Matt Harrison
  4. Alexi Ogando
  5. Martin Perez

Third Place: Oakland Athletics

The defending divisional champion Athletics only get projected to third place, but that’s life in the rough and tumble American League West. Last year’s edition of the A’s ranked 24th in on-base percentage yet managed to score the 14th most runs in baseball and outscored opponents by 99 runs. I expect a reversion to the mean there. This team will be carried by their deep rotation that features one of the most underrated arms in baseball, Brett Anderson, and up-and-comer Jarrod Parker.

They signed Hiroyuki Nakajima from Japan to play shortstop, however he isn’t expected to bring the same kind of impact that Yoenis Cespedes provided in his first year coming over from Cuba. To make space for Nakajima, Cliff Pennington was traded to Arizona. Oakland will need to find hitters to step up if they are to again make the postseason. Josh Reddick came through with 32 HR last year filling that need. In their favor is a five-player swap that GM Billy Beane consummated with the Houston Astros. In the deal, Oakland received Jed Lowrie, who may move to 2B or 3B, and could serve as a boost to the lineup. Their pitching will keep them competitive for most the season, but the Angels and Rangers should be ashamed if they let the A’s snag the division crown once again.

Projected Lineup

  1. Coco Crisp (CF)
  2. Seth Smith (DH)
  3. Yoenis Cespedes (LF)
  4. Brandon Moss (1B)
  5. Josh Reddick (RF)
  6. Jed Lowrie (2B)
  7. Josh Donaldson (3B)
  8. John Jaso (C)
  9. Hiroyuki Nakajima (SS)

Projected Rotation

  1. Brett Anderson
  2. Jarrod Parker
  3. Tom Millone
  4. A.J. Griffin
  5. Bartolo Colon

Fourth Place: Seattle Mariners

It’s easy to bash on the Mariners while their down, but they really took some steps to improve for 2013. The club acquired Michael Morse, Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez, Jason Bay and Robert Andino this offseason. In 2012, the Mariners surrendered less runs than the Rangers or Angels and return five viable starters plus newcomer Joe Saunders.

The continued maturation of Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager, Jesus Montero, and Michael Saunders must mend flawlessly with the veteran additions to the lineup for this club to be competitive. The addition of the Houston Astros to the division should come as a big sigh of relief for the Mariners who will see themselves crawl out of the division cellar and be remarkably more competitive. Don’t be surprised to see them higher in the standings, but for now, 4th place is the most fair-minded projection, despite my bullishness on their lineup.

Projected Lineup

  1. Dustin Ackley (2B)
  2. Franklin Gutierrez (CF)
  3. Kyle Seager (3B)
  4. Mike Morse (LF)
  5. Kendrys Morales (DH)
  6. Jesus Montero (C)
  7. Justin Smoak/Raul Ibanez (1B)
  8. Michael Saunders (RF)
  9. Brendan Ryan (SS)

Projected Rotation

  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Hisashi Iwakuma
  3. Joe Saunders
  4. Erasmo Ramirez
  5. Blake Beaven

Fifth Place: Houston Astros

The Astros will move to a tougher division in a tougher league where they’re not yet equipped to play. In the throes of a full rebuilding project, the Astros may not even have a player most fans have even heard of. Youngsters like Jose Altuve, Fernando Martinez (who Credit: SportsLogos.netwas a Mets top prospect), and Chris Carter (just acquired in a deal with Oakland) have bright futures, but are not ready to lead this team. The biggest problem may be their inexperienced pitching staff, which after trading Wandy Rodriguez to Pittsburgh at last year’s trade deadline is headlined by the likes of Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris. The Astros will balance out an otherwise great AL West, possibly losing 100 games. The future is bright, but this will be the “bottoming-out” season. On the bright side, their new logo looks great!

Projected Lineup

  1. Jose Altuve (2B)
  2. Justin Maxwell (CF)
  3. Brett Wallace (1B)
  4. Carlos Pena (DH)
  5. Fernando Martinez (RF)
  6. Jason Castro (C)
  7. Chris Carter/J.D. Martinez (LF)
  8. Matt Dominguez (3B)
  9. Tyler Greene (SS)

Projected Rotation

  1. Lucas Harrell
  2. Bud Norris
  3. Jordan Lyles
  4. Philip Humber
  5. Alex White/Brad Peacock

Ryan Kantor is an author at Reading Between the Seams. He is a life-long Yankees fan and a proud Clemson alumnus, residing in North Carolina, where he works in marketing research. For more stories like this, you can visit his personal blog at RyanKantor.com and follow him on Twitter at @Ryan_Kantor.

Credit to RotoChamp.com (assistance projecting rosters), SportsLogos.net (team logo images), TheFullCount1544.blogspot.com/ (slider image)


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