AL West – Looks like it’s Oakland’s to lose

by Dan M | Posted on Sunday, March 30th, 2014

ALWest

By Dic Humphrey

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
2013 Record 96-66
Finished 1st
Oakland is the team that should be picked to win.  They’ve won the division the last two seasons, and they added some nice pieces for this year’s team.  Yes, the A’s should be the slam dunk pick to win again.  EXCEPT!  They have been hit almost as hard as the Ranger with the injury bug.
Starting pitchers Jarrod Parker and A. J. Griffin will start the season on the disabled list.  Parker is out for the season with Tommy John Surgery.
Scott Kazmir was signed to replace Bartolo Colon.
Sonny Gray is their top starter with Parker and Griffin out.
Tommy Milone, Dan Straily and Jesse Chavez will round out the rotation when the season begins.
The everyday lineup is still stellar with Coco Crisp, Josh Donaldson, Jed Lowrie, Yeonis Cespedes and Brandon Moss as the top five.  The team also added some versatility with Nick Punto and Craig Gentry.  Offense should not be a problem for the Athletics.
Jim Johnson led the American League in saves last year with 50.  He’s been added to the bullpen to replace Grant Balfour.
The A’s always seem to have a good bullpen, helped in no small part by their antiquated ballpark, the stadium most well known as Oakland Alameda Stadium. It has huge foul ball areas and balls don’t carry well at night with the heavy air, rewarding fly ball pitchers.
General manager Billy Beane is creative and resourceful.  He’ll keep the A’s at least competitive.  They have a very good chance to win the division for the third year in a row, and likely finish no worse than third.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS
2013 Record 78-84
Finished 3rd
The Angels decided to spend big two years ago when they signed free agents Albert Pujols and C. J. Wilson.  When that didn’t work, they came back last year with Josh Hamilton.  This may finally be the year that the Angels get back into the playoffs.  Jerod Weaver and Wilson are the top two starters.  Garrett Richards at last seems poised to be a solid starter.  Tyler Skaggs was a terrific pickup in the off season from Arizona.  Hector Santiago rounds out what could become the best rotation in the division with the injuries in Oakland and Texas
A bad bullpen was much of the problem the past two years.  They’ve only moderately improved it this season.
The offense will need to carry the load.  Mike Trout, Pujols and Hamilton will bat two, three and four.  David Freese was acquired to play third base and bat fifth.  Much of this offense will depend on the success of Kole Calhoun in the leadoff spot.
If the Rangers’ and A’s injuries woes derail their seasons, the Angels are poised to step into the void and win the division.
SEATTLE MARINERS
2013 Record 71-91
Finished 4th
Seattle also put on their big boy pants in the free agent market this winter.  They signed the best player available – Robinson Cano.  They have a rotation headed by King Felix Hernandez.  Hisashi Iwakuma is lost to injury for some period of time, which the Mariners hope to be no more than a month.  Taijuan Walker is the number two minor league pitching prospect in baseball, and he could join the rotation sooner rather than later.  If those two contribute, the Mariners could cause trouble in this division.
The Mariners finished fourth last year.  They will need a lot of help both internally with players such as Walker and James Paxson having breakout seasons; and externally with injuries persisting in Oakland and Texas to have the chance to make the playoffs.
HOUSTON ASTROS
2013 Record 51-111
Finished 5th
Houston should be better.  It is difficult for any team to lose 111 games in a season, much less two seasons in a row.  However, they have a horrible starting rotation with former Ranger Scott Feldman making the opening day start.  The batting order is terrible.  Dexter Fowler (maybe), Jose Altuve and Jason Castro are the only decent hitters.  Put a bad bullpen and a terrible manager with it and another 111 losses begins to look feasible.
Last year, the Astros were so bad that they kept the Athletics in the race for the American League’s best record and the Rangers in the race for a Wild Card.  They likely will be improved enough this season to slow down the win totals at the top of the division.  Fourth place is too much to hope for.

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