March 21, 2007

AL West Preview

I'm finally getting around to writing down my preseason thoughts...I meant to do each team but I'll be lucky to do each division. I'll start with the AL West, going from worst to first

4. Seattle Mariners (70-92)

Good lord, is Bill Bavasi trying to get himself fired? Let's recap the worst offseason moves:

1. Traded Fruto and Snelling for Vidro - an electric reliever prospect and a glass-man outfielder for a fading second baseman (who can't play 2B anymore) owed $12m over the next two years. Snelling may be a big injury risk, but he still would have made a better DH (and for much less money) than Vidro, who can't play 2b anymore. Vidro gets lots of credit as a player due to his position - a second baseman who hits 15 HRs is much more valuable than a DH that does the same. You know you're in trouble when your number 3 hitter is a punchless contact hitter.

2. Traded Rafael Soriano for Horacio Ramirez - again, a flamethrowing reliever for a mediocre pitcher with an injury history. At best, Ramirez is a 4th starter. At worst, he's a junk-baller who will have a hard time staying afloat in AAA.

Quality Players: Sexson, Johjima, Ichiro, Felix Hernandez
Holes: Lopez, Betancourt, the rest of the rotation
Concerns: Putz is injured and probably won't be nearly as effective as last season

3. Oakland A's (78-84)

I love the A's...but I think their window is closed (for now). Their only plus offensive force now is Nick Swisher, everyone else is average or below average (I don't think Piazza has much left in the tank, even as a DH). Similarly, their rotation is starting to run out of steam. If Harden can stay healthy for an entire season this win total can be notched up a few, but right now the only lights-out starter they have is Haren. I salute the A's for their years of success but their era has passed for now.

Quality Players: Swisher, Haren, Street, Bradley, Chavez (sort of)
Holes: Ellis, Kendall, Stewart
Concerns: Harden + Crosby are both glass men at this point. The back end of the rotation is pretty scary too.

2. Texas Rangers (83-79)

I have a hard time projecting this team...even without their bandbox ballpark they probably have the best offense outside of the Northeast Monetary Nexus. They have Mark Teixiera as the centerpiece of their offense and nearly everyone else is at least league average. Plus, for once they have *some* pitching. Padilla and Millwood will keep them in games and the rest of the staff has some upside...though I don't think McCarthy will pan out as well as Texas's staff will have hoped (look at that HR rate!)

Quality Players: Tex, Kinsler, Young, Lofton (underrated), Millwood, Padilla
Holes: Blalock
Concerns: McCarthy + Texas = lots of gopherballs.
Wild Card: Wilkerson and Sosa have Tremendous Upside Potential

1. Anaheim Angels (88-74)

In contrast to Texas, the Angels have the horses on the pitching side of the equation. Lackey is a bona fide ace, and Escobar and Santana are quality starters. When healthy, Colon and Weaver are also great. A (healthy) Anaheim rotation is easily the best in baseball. On the offensive side, they have lots of upside. Vlad is always solid, but the real keys to their season will be their amazing young middle infield of Stephen Drew and Howie Kendrick, along with breakout catcher Mike Napoli. If Colon and Weaver manage to make 75% of their starts, watch out.

Quality Players: Kendrick, Drew, Napoli, Cabrera, Vlad, Lackey, Escobar, Santana
Holes: Anderson, Kotchman/whoever is on 1b
Concerns: Gary Matthews Jr will regress to the fourth outfielder that he actually is.