Just in Time AL West Preview | XLSportsBlog.com

Just in Time AL West Preview

Posted on 02. Apr, 2014 by in MLB

You may be thinking, “Why is a preview of the AL West coming two days after the season has already started?” Well, it’s better late than never. Besides, if you can tell how the entire season is going to play out only two games into the season, you should be placing bets in Vegas. Like right now.

The AL West might be the most difficult division to project, as injuries and uncertainty cloud the rosters of each of the top four teams (sorry Houston, I don’t mean you). In fact, you could order the Rangers, Athletics, Angels and Mariners in any combination and it wouldn’t be that far-fetched.

Texas was perhaps the most snake-bitten team of the offseason, as numerous players from both the starting rotation and the everyday lineup were lost for varying lengths of time. However, despite the carnage, the offense should be able to keep the team afloat in the short term, as Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus, Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios form perhaps the best one through five linenup in all of baseball. With Yu Darvish and Colby Lewis expected back in the rotation within the next two weeks, Matt Harrison before May and Derek Holland presumably sometime around the All-Star break, the Rangers simply have to hope their depth allows them to weather the storm.

While Oakland did not experience the volume of injuries that Texas faced, the Athletics endured perhaps the most devastating injury news in the division, as presumed No. 1 starter Jarrod Parker was lost for the season after undergoing the second Tommy John surgery of his career. With solid starter A.J. Griffin also starting the season on the DL, Oakland’s pitching depth will be tested immediately, with talented youngster Sonny Gray having to assume even more of a burden as the ballclub’s new staff leader. Still, the offense returns intact, with Josh Donaldson leading one of the most versatile attacks in the league.

The Angels added some much needed pitching depth in the offseason, bringing in youngsters Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago to fill in the rotation behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson. If the pitching staff is able to perform at least adequately, the Halos may be able to slug their way to the top of the division. Having the best player on the planet certainly helps too, as Mike Trout has few, if any, weaknesses in his game. But Trout was brilliant a year ago, and the team was not even close to a spot in the postseason, so the Angels will need big bounce back campaigns from Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton if they hope to keep up with the rest of the West.

Perhaps no team benefited from the rash of injuries to its rival more than Seattle, who has already gotten off to a promising start to the 2014 season. The Mariners are not without injury concerns of their own, as Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker started the season on the DL as well. They are scheduled to be back relatively soon, bolstering a suspect rotation behind ace Felix Hernandez. Robinson Cano adds clout to a lineup with more question marks than answers, but many of those question marks, such as 1B Justin Smoak and LF Dustin Ackley, could begin to deliver on the promise that once made them among the most touted hitting prospects in the game.

The Astros are still years away from true contention, as their next wave of high profile prospects won’t even debut until sometime this summer at the earliest. That won’t stop them from playing spoiler all year, as they hope to make life on their AL West brethren more difficult than they did a season ago. They can’t be as bad as they were last year, right?

As far as my predicted finish, here it goes:

1) Rangers: 91-71

2) Athletics: 89-73

3) Mariners: 84-78

4) Angels: 81-81

5) Astros: 62-100

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