Last, but not least, the AL West:
1. Los Angeles Angels
2. Oakland Atheltics
3. Texas Rangers
4. Seattle Mariners
Best Hitter: Vladimir Guerrero
Best Pitcher: Joe Saunders
The Angels lost some key members of their 2008 team, but still have a strong starting staff and experienced lineup that gives them a great shot to repeat as AL West champions. With Torri Hunter, Vladimir Guerrero. and Chone Figgins, the Angels’ lineup will not have a problem scoring runs. Add in Bobby Abreu and Juan Rivera and this batting order puts fear into opposing pitchers. The rotation may be a little more shaky with Joe Saunders leading the staff, but Dustin Moseley and Shane Loux are question marks in the 2-3 spots. The health of John lackey is also a concern for the Angels as he will start the year on the DL. The loss of K-Rod in the offseason will hurt Los Angeles as well, but picking up Brian Fuentes leaves the Angels with a more-than competent closer to hold leads and bring the Angels back to the playoffs.
Oakland’s acquisition of Matt Holliday in the offseason gives the A’s a strong offense, but a rotation of unknown pitchers leaves the Athletics with a lot of question marks. Holliday, Mark Ellis, and Jack Crust lead the offense, and even though it is not as powerful as the Angel’s offense, Oakland will still score plenty of runs. The rotation is the concern as prospects Trevor Cahil and Brett Anderson will get thrown into the fire right away and how they react to being in the majors will likely make-or-break the A’s season. If they excel, look for Oakland to compete for the division title, but if they struggle, the Athletics are going to be looking at the bottom of the division.
Texas has a mediocre lineup as well as a mediocre pitching staff that will make it though for them to really challenge for the division. Josh Hamilton and Michael Young are strong hitters, but Texas needs a resurgence from Hank Blalock so that too much of the load doesn’t fall upon unproven players like Daniel Murphy, Chris Davis, and Elvis Andrus. The pitching staff is equally unreliable with Kevin Millwood leading the way, but the end of the staff with Brandon McCArthy and Matt Harrison is going to be inconsistent at best. Without a real closer, Texas may have trouble holding leads and without much of an offense to come back, the Rangers will find themselves at home come October.
An improved lineup will make the Mariners more competitive this year, but a lack of depth in their rotation will leave them last in the AL West. With Ichiro, Ken Griffey Jr., and Adrian Beltre, the Mariners have an offense that can score some runs. It may not be as powerful as other lineups in their division, but it is certainly better than the last few Mariner offenses. Besides ace Felix Hernandez, the rotation has some experience, but also a lot of inconsistency. Erik Bedard, Carlos Silva, and Jarrod Washburn have all had good seasons at points during their career, but you don’t really know what you’ll get from them in each start. Seattle’s bullpen is shaky at best with Brandon Morrow as the closer. The Mariners will struggle this year, but their lineup has improved and they will not be the pushover we have seen in the past few seasons.