American League Season Previews and Predictions: AL West

In a continuation of the series of American League division preview, we’re going to skip over to the American League West.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Best Offseason Move:

Even though he was under their control for several more seasons, the Angels signed arguably the best player in baseball this past week to a six-year deal at $144.5 million. It locks up the 23-year old, who is one of the league’s best in average, homeruns and steals bases until he enters his true prime as long as he stays healthy and at the price they agreed to it’s a win for both sides.

Adding David Freese via trade from the St. Louis Cardinals could be a plus for the Angels. It could give the Angels another .280-.295 average hitter in an offense that is already stacked, as long as his back issues don’t return from last season.

Player to watch:

2013 was a short season for 34-year old Albert Pujols. A foot injury hampered the former three-time MVP and got him shut down in July. Two seasons removed from signing a 10-year, $240 million dollar contract there’s lot of speculation as to whether Pujols can produce even a decent season in the eight years that remain. If his foot is healthy he could still put up a .270-.285 average and 25-30 home runs. If he’s unhealthy, his season could end very similar to 2013.

Crash and Burn Predictions – 90 wins, 72 losses, and first place in the AL West

Pujols will hit at least .272 with 28 home runs this season and the Angels will see the playoffs. The team has a solid lineup from top to bottom, filled with players who should fill the roles their assigned, health dependent. With Jared Weaver and C.J. Wilson leading a staff of young pitchers, the Angels offense will need to stay consistent and healthy all year. The Angels will make the playoffs this season as the AL West champ.

Texas Rangers

Best offseason move:

Any time a team can add a power bat to its roster it’s a plus, especially when he can hit 35-40 home runs while holding a .280-.300 batting average. That is what the Rangers got when they acquired Prince Fielder from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Ian Kinsler. Fielder adds protection in the lineup for Alex Rios and Adrian Beltre. It’ll be fun to see if Fielder’s power numbers get a boost from hitting in the heat of Texas.

Player to watch:

After a few dreadful years with the White Sox, Alex Rios put together back to back solid seasons. While his home run total was down a little last season, he also had the green light on the base paths more often ending the season with 42 stolen bases. With Beltre and Fielder in the lineup, Rios should see more favorable pitches in his at bats. He’ll definitely be a key offensive and defensive player for the Rangers.

Crash and burn prediction – 86 wins, 76 losses, second in the AL West, and claiming the second wild card

A rough start to the schedule will require the Rangers offense to be hot from the first pitch on Monday. Injuries to the pitching staff could pose problems with teams like the Rays, Red Sox, A’s, and Angels in the first month of the season. Once most of their players get healthy, and if the offense can carry them through that rough stretch, the Rangers will claw back and get themselves into the playoffs.

Oakland Athletics

Best offseason move:

After back to back 50-plus save seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, the acquisition of reliever Jim Johnson by the A’s gives them a solid ninth inning guy. The only concerns about Johnson is his higher WHIP stat in 2013, and the slightly questionable infield defense behind him since he throws sinkers for ground outs.

Players to watch:

Last season starting pitcher Scott Kazmir had his first healthy season since 2010 with Cleveland. He was brought on to be the second or third starter for the club, and has the hope he could at least replicate his 2013 performance if not improve on it some.
After a break out 2013 season, third baseman Josh Donaldson will be a fun watch this season. He hit .301 with 24 home runs in one of the hardest stadiums for power in baseball, the Oakland Coliseum. Keep an eye on this 28-year old as he continues to figure out his swing, and is one of the keys to Oakland’s young offense.

Crash and burn prediction – 80 wins, 82 losses, and third in the AL West

Billy Bean has done it again. Somehow he manages to find young talent or cheaper players he could build a contender with. Unfortunately this season he and the A’s will run into an Angels team that will find their legs early and start to pull away from the A’s in the division. The A’s will also have trouble keeping up with a more powerful Texas team, once they’re healthy and the weather warms up.

Seattle Mariners

Best offseason move:

The first of the insanely large contracts dealt this offseason went to former Yankee Robinson Cano. The fact the Yankee’s wouldn’t give him a 10-year contract should’ve been a red flag with the way they’ve thrown money around, but Seattle was desperate for an offensive star. 31-year old Cano has hit above .300 in average for each of the last three seasons and 27-plus home runs in that same time. While he probably won’t be worth the contract in the back half of it, this season he should provide a strong bat the Mariners lacked even if he’s hitting in Safco Field.

Players to watch:

The Mariners pitching staff dealt with a lack of run support in 2013. Felix Hernandez was one who hurt the most from lack of offensive output. With a 3.04 ERA, Hernandez finished the season barely above .500. He’s going to improve from that 12-10 mark with a boost from the offseason. The injuries to starters Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker could hurt how the Mariners start this season.

Crash and burn predictions – 78 wins, 84 losses, and fourth in the AL West

The first seven of the eight series are against AL West teams for the Mariners which means a fast start is very important for them. Injuries in the pitching staff and the fact Cano and Corey Hart are the only for sure bats in the lineup so it’ll be important for everyone else to step up to their potential to try to hang in the division.

Houston Astros

Best offseason moves:

The Astros have built their squad with mostly all young players. In fact, they only have six who have more than four years of Major League experience. Three of those players came to the team this offseason. Chad Qualls and Jesse Crain came to the team via free agency to give the Astros a couple veterans to anchor the young bullpen. Scott Feldman also signed with the team through free agency as their ace of the staff.

Players to watch:

On the offensive side Houston was able to grab Dexter Folwer from Colorado to give the lineup a lift. The question is, “Can he adjust from being away from Colorado because his struggles on the road last season?”.

It’ll be interesting to see if all the young players the Astros have acquired over their dismal recent history will take a step forward and at least improve some from last season.

Crash and burn prediction – 60 wins, 102 losses, and fifth in the AL West

The bars are raised even higher this season by the four teams ahead of them in their division, and while the Astros will be more competitive game to game they’ll again have a 100-loss season.


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