Hello, baseball fans, and welcome to the third installment of College Sports Town’s 2013 MLB preview! Today (sorry about the delay, I have been sick the past few days), I am covering the third and final division in the American League, the West, where a new member has been added to a division already filled with talent. From this division I believe will emerge the 2013 World Series champion.
1. Los Angeles Angels
2. Oakland Athletics
3. Texas Rangers
4. Seattle Mariners
5. Houston Astros
Los Angeles Angels
Last year, the Angels experienced both highs and lows. Although they missed the playoffs by 4 games (they finished 89-73, 3rd in the division), they had a no-hitter thrown by Jered Weaver, Albert Pujols performing up to his Cardinals standard in the second half of the year, and of course, Mike Trout playing like the best player in baseball in his rookie season. This year, expect the Angels to build on their performances and then some. With the important addition of Josh Hamilton, the Angels have built the best lineup in baseball. As long as the rotation and pitchers Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, and Tommy Hanson play well, the Angels will go far.
Best Case- The lineup produces as expected, Trout wins the MVP, Wilson finishes top 5 in Cy Young voting, and the Angels win their second World Series in 11 years
Worst Case- Trout regresses, Pujols performs like he did in the first half of last year, Hamilton gets injured, the pitching isn’t serviceable, and somehow the Angels miss the playoffs again
Last year, the A’s came out of nowhere, finishing first in the division after going 94-68. Even though they lost to the Tigers in the ALDS, the A’s inspired disenchanted fans with the production they received from Yoenis Cespedes (who finished second in AL ROY voting), Josh Reddick, and Coco Crisp. This year, however, the A’s will regress- they were a bit flukey last year and although their team is good, I don’t think they’ll be good enough to win this division or get a wild card spot again, at least not this year.
Best Case- Cespedes only gets better and finishes top five in MVP voting, Crisp steals 50 bases, the pitching staff plays pretty well, and the Athletics return to the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in 10 years
Worst Case- Injuries plauge the team, Cespedes regresses, the pitching staff is horrendous, and the A’s finish 4th in the division.
The Rangers experienced disappointment despite a great season last year, as they lost the division crown on the last day of the season and lost the intial AL wild card game to the Orioles right after. The goat of the wild card game, former AL MVP Josh Hamilton, is now with the division rival Angels, but the lineup is still potent with Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre, and Elvis Andrus. The new additions of Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski should help soften the blow, and the rotation is still is good shape, with Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, and Matt Harrison (not to mention the stellar bullpen with many former All-Stars). There is also young talent on the way up, with Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar, so there might be midseason trades if the Rangers aren’t playing well.
Best Case- The Rangers don’t miss Hamilton, as the mainstays, young guns, and new additions all produce, Yu Darvish wins the AL Cy Young Award, and the Rangers go back into the playoffs and at least the ALDS.
Worst Case- Hamilton is sorely missed as Cruz is implicated in steroid cases and Andrus, Berkman, Beltre are dealing with injury troubles, Darvish underperforms, and the Rangers miss the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
The Mariners performed poorly as expected last season, going 75-87 and finishing 4th place in the division. They traded away long-time All-Star Ichiro Suzuki, but also had a perfect game pitched by ace Felix Hernandez. This year, although the Mariners likely won’t go to the playoffs, they are looking much better. They added Michael Morse, Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez, and Jason Bay to the lineup, and Oliver Perez and Jeremy Bonderman to the rotation/bullpen. This team has real promise if young players like Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak, and Dustin Ackley can produce.
Best Case- Reclamation projects like Bay, Perez, and Morales work out as they produce like they did when they were highly-touted players, Montero hits 30 HR, Ackley and Smoak bat .300, and Felix Hernandez wins the AL Cy Young. The Mariners seem like they are headed in the right direction.
Worst Case- The offseason moves don’t pay off, the young players are disappointing yet again, Hernandez’s contract extension’s injury clause needs to be used. The Mariners have to wait another a couple seasons for a path to contention.
Cringe now, folks- this is probably the worst team in the MLB yet again a season after going 55-107. The bright spot of the offseason was the signing of Carlos Pena, followed closely by their new uniforms and the fact that they are now in the AL West (which is only good in terms of fan attendance). Otherwise, this a team that got worse (somehow), trading .290 batter Jed Lowrie. The best player on this team is probably Jose Altuve, which is really not a good thing. If the Astros can win 60+ games, I’ll be impressed.
Best Case- The city of Houston wakes up from a collective nightmare and finds out it is 2005 again.
Worst Case- Reality.
There you have it! The Angels will take the division and perhaps the World Series after fierce yearlong competition from most of the other teams. Next time, the NL overviews begin, starting with the NL East. Be on the lookout!