Tag Archives: AL West

2015 MLB Preview: AL West

(Author’s Note: Sorry about the delay in posts, I’m going to try to complete this preview within the next week or so). The AL West was one of the best divisions in baseball in 2014, despite the dreadful duo of the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros at its tail end. The Los Angeles Angels, the Oakland Athletics, and the Seattle Mariners were either in the playoffs or in the hunt until the very last day. The AL West should remain fairly vicious this year, with those same three teams winning plenty of games. I do think two playoff teams will again emerge from the division this season, but the A’s will not be one of them.

Divisional Breakdown

  1. Los Angeles Angels
  2. Seattle Mariners
  3. Oakland Athletics
  4. Houston Astros
  5. Texas Rangers

Team Breakdown

  1. Los Angeles Angels

On the strength of unexpectedly solid starting pitching and Mike Trout’s first MVP season, the Angels won the most games in the league and took home the AL West title before falling to the spunky Kansas City Royals in the ALDS. The Angels’ roster didn’t change much over the offseason, which is a good thing when talking about a 98 win team. The Angels had the top-run producing offense last year, and the lineup should remain potent. Mike Trout is an outstanding talent and a perennial MVP candidate, Kole Calhoun is very good in right field, and Albert Pujols’ remaining efficacy has often been underrated in recent years. While the loss of Howie Kendrick to the crosstown Dodgers hurts, the upgrade from C.J. Cron to Matt Joyce at DH should make up for lost production. The rotation has the potential to be very good. I’m not the biggest fan of Jered Weaver or C.J Wilson, but each had a decent 2014 and can contribute in a solid rotation. The key factors in this staff are Garrett Richards and 2014 Rookie of the Year runner up Matt Shoemaker. If Richards can return (in mid-April) pitching like he did last year, and if Shoemaker can replicate his rookie year performance, the Angels’ rotation will be in good shape. If new addition Andrew Heaney can come up and contribute to the staff at some point, even better. The bullpen is in better shape than it was at the beginning of last year, with Huston Street installed as closer. Street and setup man Joe Smith form one of the better one-two bullpen combinations in the big leagues.

Verdict

Best Case- Trout wins his second straight MVP, Richards and Shoemaker are dominant once again, and the Angels take the AL West on the way to the AL pennant.

Worst Case- Age takes its toll on Pujols, Wilson, and Weaver, Richards doesn’t look the same after the injury, and the Angels fall behind the Mariners in the division.

Trout and the Angels willl be fishing for a championship in 2015.

  1. Seattle Mariners

The Mariners had a pretty good 2014, winning their most games since 2007. Robinson Cano was a welcome addition into Seattle’s lineup, Kyle Seager showed himself to be one of the better third basemen in the leagues, and Felix Hernandez added yet another fantastic season onto his resumé. The Mariners enter the season poised to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2001, thanks to several key offseason acquisitions who should complement the incumbent stars well. Nelson Cruz should provide much-needed power in the heart of the lineup, and Seth Smith and Austin Jackson will make the Mariners’ once-weak outfield respectable. Meanwhile, the Mariners have one of the most fearsome rotations in baseball. King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma are a dominant one-two punch, and hopefully 2015 will be the year that Taijuan Walker shows the hype surrounding him to be true. The bullpen arms will aim to repeat the standard they set in 2014, when Seattle had the lowest bullpen ERA of any major league team. Closer Fernando Rodney is among the best in baseball, and Tom Wilhelmsen and Danny Farquhar both had sub-3 ERAs last season. The Mariners should hold on to the lead in a lot of close games this year.

Verdict

Best Case- Hernandez is a Cy Young candidate, Cano and Seager are tops at their positions, and the Mariners win the AL West for the first time since 2001.

Worst Case- Walker cannot produce at the major league level, Cruz cannot replicate his powerful production of last year, and the Mariners just miss out on a wild card spot.

Hernandez and Cano must be on the top of their games for the Mariners to reach the postseason.

  1. Oakland Athletics

The A’s looked like the best team in baseball last season, until several ill-fated trades aimed to make Oakland even more formidable ended up backfiring. The midseason acquisitions of Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija served only to rid the team of Yoenis Cespedes and prospect Addison Russell. Somewhat poetically, Lester was on the mound for the epic Wild Card Game loss to the Kansas City Royals. Perhaps in response, the 2015 offseason has been one of massive turnover for the A’s roster. Gone are Lester, Samardzija, Josh Donaldson, Derek Norris, Brandon Moss, John Jaso, and Jed Lowrie, key components of the successful A’s squads of the past few years. In their place are several promising pieces which, if everything pans out, could turn out to be extremely valuable. The lineup is interesting blend of speed and power, with Coco Crisp and Billy Butler serving as examples of each attribute. Brett Lawrie, Ben Zobrist, and Josh Reddick form a solid heart of the batting order, but it remains to be seen if Ike Davis can be a starting first-bagger at the big league level. Similarly, the rotation could be very good, but there are nagging question marks. Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir are a solid top two in the staff, but after that, things look a bit rough. Jesse Chavez appeared to revive his career, and the A’s will count on him to continue his success in 2015. The bullpen, 3rd in the league in reliever ERA last year, should be good, with former Nat Tyler Clippard assuming the closing role in place of the injured Sean Doolittle. Once the latter returns, the two should form an imposing end-of-game pair.

Verdict

Best Case- The rotation holds together, Billy Beane’s roster gambles pay off, and the new-look A’s take back the AL West title.

Worst Case- The new lineup doesn’t mesh, the rotation is a tire fire beyond Gray and Kazmir, and the Athletics fall behind– gulp– the Astros in the AL West.

Jesus- sorry, Josh Reddick and the new-look A’s hope to maintain the team’s recent success.

  1. Houston Astros

It’s difficult to imagine that a team that went 70-92 could be considered improved, but the 2014 Astros were Houston’s most successful squad since 2010. There were several brights spots for Houston– George Springer’s powerful debut, the breakout seasons of Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh — but the brightest of all was diminutive second baseman Jose Altuve, who took home the AL batting title. Although the Astros won’t quite be in playoff contention in 2015, there should be plenty of hope for the future in Houston. The lineup is improved, even with the departure of Dexter Fowler. New additions Jed Lowrie and Colby Rasmus should be solid replacements at short and in center, and Evan Gattis, Chris Carter, and Springer form a powerful middle of the lineup. The lineup will look even better if Jon Singleton can realize his potential at first, and if Carlos Correa and his impressive bat can reach the majors by September. The rotation is less impressive at the moment, but it has the potential to be fairly good. If Keuchel and McHugh continue their 2014 success, new acquisition Dan Straily produces at the level he did in his rookie season, and top prospect Mark Appel impresses enough to reach the Show this season, the Astros might begin to scare some teams around the league. The bullpen, statistically the worst in the league last year, should be much improved. Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek are two of the better righty relievers in the league, so things should be a little less hopeless in the Houston ‘pen this year.

Verdict

Best Case- Houston’s pitchers realize their potential, the position player prospects impress, and the Astros are in the wild card race until late in the year.

Worst Case-  Correa and Appel suffer more setbacks, McHugh and Keuchel struggle, and the Astros finish in the AL West cellar.

Jose Altuve waves goodbye to the 60-win seasons of the past few years.

  1. Texas Rangers

The American League’s worst team in 2014, the injury-plagued Rangers looked nothing like their competitive teams of the last several years. Even though many of the Rangers’ struggles could be linked back to injuries to star players like Prince Fielder and Yu Darvish, I don’t believe that Texas will be much better this year. Darvish is hurt again, and Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo have yet to display why Texas invested $300 million in them as free agents last offseason. The lineup is ok, with perennial All-Star Adrian Beltre at third and Elvis Andrus at short, and should become better midway through the season, when minor league phenom Joey Gallo is projected to reach the majors. Still, Jurickson Profar has been set back yet again with injury issues, and the rest of the lineup just isn’t that eye-popping. Unless Fielder and Choo can return to their past levels of performance, Texas might have a difficult time scoring runs. The rotation is pretty unintimidating, especially without Darvish. Yovani Gallardo and Derek Holland are good starting pitchers, but not good enough to carry a rotation of Ross Detweiller, Colby Lewis, and Nick Martinez to the postseason. The bullpen was already going to be a weak spot on the team after the departures of Joakim Soria and Jason Frasor over the past year, but an injury-plagued spring has made the situation even worse. Closer Neftali Feliz will have to carry the load for Texas in the ‘pen.

Verdict

Best Case- Gallardo and Holland impress, Fielder, Choo, and Beltre form a solid core of the lineup, and the Rangers reinsert themselves into the wild card conversation.

Worst Case- The rotation and bullpen are disasters, Fielder and Choo look like shells of their former selves, and the Rangers are once again one of the worst teams in the league.

For the Rangers to have a shot at the postseason, Prince Fielder will have to stay on the field.

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2014 MLB Preview: Divisional Previews

Hello, baseball fans, and welcome to College Sports Town’s divisional previews of the 2014 MLB season. Posted on this page are links to previews for each division. I’ve worked very hard to bring you what I hope are accurate predictions for the upcoming season, and I’d appreciate feedback, as always. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank Tim Balk for all his help in making these extensive posts actually interesting. Thank you, and enjoy!

AL EAST

AL CENTRAL

AL WEST

NL EAST

NL CENTRAL

NL WEST

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2014 MLB Preview: Playoff Picture

Hello once again, baseball fans. It’s time for my predictions for which teams will make the playoffs, and which team will bring home the vaunted World Series title for 2014. As always, the season will take many twists and turns, but these are the teams I expect to see playing for the title in October.

Divisional and Wild Card Winners AL East- Boston Red Sox

AL Central- Detroit Tigers

AL West- Oakland Athletics

AL Wild Card #1- Tampa Bay Rays

AL Wild Card #2- Kansas City Royals

NL East- Atlanta Braves

NL Central- St. Louis Cardinals

NL West- Los Angeles Dodgers

NL Wild Card #1- Washington Nationals

NL Wild Card #2- Cincinnati Reds

Wild Card Matches

AL- Tampa Bay Rays defeat Kansas City Royals

NL- Washington Nationals defeat Cincinnati Reds

Divisional Round

AL- Detroit Tigers beat Tampa Bay Rays in 4 games, Boston Red Sox beat Oakland Athletics in 5 games

NL-  St. Louis Cardinals beat Washington Nationals in 4 games, Los Angeles Dodgers beat Atlanta Braves in 5 games League Championship Matchups

AL- Detroit Tigers beat Boston Red Sox in 6 games

NL- St. Louis Cardinals beat Los Angeles Dodgers in 5 games

World Series

Detroit Tigers beat St. Louis Cardinals in 7 games

tigers

Cabrera and Verlander will finally lead the Tigers to postseason success.

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MLB Preview 2013: AL West

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.

Divisional Breakdown

1. Los Angeles Angels

2. Oakland Athletics

3. Texas Rangers

4. Seattle Mariners

5. Houston Astros

Team Breakdown

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.

Image

If Trout can make more catches like this, they’ll be fine!

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

Oakland Athletics

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.

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Hopefully, last season will lead to a sequel for this, though!

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.

Texas Rangers

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.

Image

Don’t expect to see a new version of this for 2013…

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.

Seattle Mariners

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.

Hopefully Mariners fans will see more celebrations over the next 4 or 5 years.

Hopefully Mariners fans will see more celebrations over the next 4 or 5 years.

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.

Houston Astros

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.

The literal bright spot of the season.

The literal bright spot of the season.

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!

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