Tuesday, February 26, 2008

SEASON PREVIEW PART 1: AL West

IMAGE: ANGELSWINDOTCOM FROM FLICKR


Now that spring training is finally upon us, I figure it's time to start some season previews. I intend to do separate division by division previews with brief comments on each team, with individual team by team previews for the NL East. I'm starting with the AL West, being the division probably farthest from the Met fan's consciousness, although we do play Texas, LAA, and Seattle in June interleague series.

LA Angels of Anaheim
Prediction: 1st Place, 91-71
The Angels get a bat behind Vlad at last. While it ain't Manny Ramirez or another truly elite slugger, Torii Hunter is a fine addition, though he came at a price. They also add Jon Garland, a 2-time 18 game winner that probably doesn't deserve to be a 2-time 18 game winner, while waving goodbye to Bartolo Colon and the OC, Orlando Cabrera. Erick Aybar will start the year in OC's place, but if his bat proves to be as anemic as it seems, former #1 pick and power bat Brandon Wood is waiting in the wings. The big loss for the Angels comes not through trade or free agency, but through injury to Kelvim Escobar, who stood out as a great #2 to Lackey last year. He isn't expected back until at least May. All that aside, the Angels are a perennial playoff team. They have an incredible bench, a great bullpen, a solid staff and a better lineup than in years past. They shouldn't have trouble repeating as AL West champs. Lest I forget, Howie Kendrick is healthy, and I along with many others LOVE Kendrick. He to me is Chase Utley minus some power and plus some average in the making, and a stalwart of my fantasy teams. :)
Fantasy Pick: Kendrick

Seattle Mariners
Projection: 2nd Place, 88-74

The Mariners surprised a lot of folks winning 88 games last year, and while their offseason dealings may hurt them in the long run, it shouldn't affect this year negatively. I would agree that they played somewhat over their heads last season, probably having been a mid to low 80 win team rather than 88, so the improvements this year should equate to a similar finish. The obvious big move is Erik Bedard, who with Felix Hernandez brings in a lethal 1-2, but their lineup is only getting older, with Jose Lopez as the only regular under 30. Carlos Silva gives their rotation more depth, but boy what a contract. I shiver to think what that means for Oliver Perez. Their bullpen remains strong with J.J. Putz in the 9th, but after him it falls off sharply, George Sherill now gone in the Bedard deal. Their rotation can now hang with the Angels, but the rest of the team just got older and weaker. Maybe they catch fire and sneak in to the playoffs. Probably not a bad Vegas bet for the AL pennant, with the big potential payoff, but I doubt it...
Fantasy Pick: Felix Hernandez

Texas Rangers
Projection: 76-86, 3rd Place
Things always seem to change yet stay the same in Texas. Nolan Ryan's on board as team prez, which is nice, but he can't pitch anymore. I like the fact that they appear to be building something up, with the acquisition of Saltalamacchia last year and Josh Hamilton over the winter, but the rotation is the same old hodge-podge of discarded starters from elsewhere, this year's edition being Jason Jennings. You just can't find a starter that wants to pitch for a bad team in a bandbox. They should have a fun lineup to watch, with Salty, Hamilton, Kinsler and Young, and having brought on Hamilton and Milton Bradley they may escape the endless OF merry-go-round they've been on, but maybe not. It's football country, and until the Rangers get a pitcher who can hang with their new team president, it will remain football country. How bout them Cowboys? Ha.
Fantasy Pick: Ian Kinsler

Oakland Athletics
Projection: 4th Place, 70-92
The A's will have a new ballpark in 2 years, and that's probably how long it will take for them to be relevant again. Billy Beane has gone all out with rebuilding, and Joe Blanton is likely the next one to go. The direction of the team is probably the right one, as they weren't going anywhere even with Swisher, Haren and Blanton, but again, it will take time. This is another team with interesting raw players in Denorfia, Barton, Buck and Cust, but it stops at interesting. Keith Foulke's back for another round. Expect surliness. Personally, I'll be glad to see them out of contention; they've bored the hell out of me since the early 90's and then you had to hate them. See you in a few years, A's.
Fantasy Pick: Daric Barton

So there you have it for the west. No big upset picks here, although I'd like to be wrong about the Angels/Mariners. I'm not the biggest fan of the Seattle the place, but they have good fans, and you gotta root against Orange County.

In Mets news, Duaner Sanchez pitched successfully today, which is great to see; I really expect a strong bullpen this year, which would give us no major weaknesses anywhere if all goes well.

The Citi Field logo has been released, and while I don't hate it as much as Brooklyn Met Fan, it doesn't do much for me. What can you expect from a bank?

PS- Happy to see that the Blog got a hit from Port St. Lucie! It's almost baseball.

1 comment:

chris kirkland said...

Nice write-ups. I enjoyed reading them. Almost went with the Mariners as the Al West champs to shake things up a bit, but still feel it is the Angels due to their superior lineup. Should be a real tight race all season long though. Keep em coming!

Later

Chris