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2015 AL West Division Preview

The AL West should be a great division this season. You have the Moneyball A’s, the young Astros, the injury prone Rangers, the upstart Mariners, and the reigning division champs, the Angels. There are lots of good storylines and it should be a competitive division. Lets go get the inside scoop for each team in the American League West.

 

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:

The Angels come into this season as defending AL West champs and they should be looking to continue what they had going in the regular season. Once they got to the playoffs though, they ran into a Royals team that was determined and wasn’t going to be beaten. Losing Howie Kendrick in their middle infield will definitely hurt this team as he was mildly overlooked with Trout, Hamilton, and Pujols anchoring the middle of the order.

 

The Angles pitching staff is in a weird place. Jared Weaver should be the dominant ace of this club. With Garrett Richards coming off knee surgery from last season, there is no guarantee that he will be the same type of pitcher he was last season when he was one of the best in baseball. The back half of this rotation is skeptical and could provide some issues for this ball club. In the bullpen, they have some pieces with Huston Street and Joe Smith that will make the 8th and 9th innings tough for some teams. The pitching depth on this team isn’t too deep which worries me a bit because of Weaver’s age and Richards coming off knee surgery.

 

On offense, this team can be very dynamic. You can’t talk about the Angels and not talk about Mike Trout. It has been well documented that he is the real deal. Coming off of an MVP season, he doesn’t only do it in the field, but at the plate too. Anaheim’s is very hit or miss (no pun intended). They can go through stretches where everyone is on their game, and then at other times, they will strike out to no end. One player to watch is CJ Cron who will be the DH. He has the power to be a 25 HR guy if he gets ABs every day and doesn’t get injured. He is a good young talent.

 

When the season is nearing its end, I can see this team fighting for the division title, but I don’t know if they’ll be able to seal the deal. This is an improved division from a year ago and I don’t know if they will be able to put it all together like they did last year when they had the most wins in the AL. I see the Angels getting one of the Wild Card spots in the AL, which will not be easy, but I definitely see them playing some Postseason baseball.

 

Texas Rangers:

You get injured, you get injured, you get injured, and while we’re at it, why don’t you just get injured too. That is basically how last season went for the Rangers. Their team was absolutely brutalized by the injury bug last season and they really struggled. They had to bring guys up from the Minors that weren’t ready at all and they had to make the most of it. This season though, they should be much better if they avoid the injuries.

 

The Rangers pitching staff is lead by one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball in Yu Darvish. He is the no doubt ace of this staff and a good one at that. This offseason was a bit quite in Arlington, but they did make a move to acquire Yovani Gallardo from the Brewers. This move is one that solidifies the rotation for the Rangers and gives them a good 1-2 punch. The back half of the rotation is also one that I like with Martinez, Holland, and potentially Colby Lewis if he can stay healthy. The bullpen is what worries me about this team. Neftali Feliz should be the closer for this team and I don’t know if he is proven enough to obtain that role. He has been shaky in the past and it will be interesting to see what he can do for this team.

 

On offense, I’m not really sure what to expect. 1-4 is pretty good with Andrus, Choo, Beltre, and Fielder, but after that, it drops off pretty good. Those top four will produce for you, but for this team to be successful, they will have to have some production from the bottom of the order.

 

With a new manager in Jeff Banister, this team is moving in a new direction away from Ron Washington. It will be interesting to see where he takes this team because they are hard, in my opinion, to get a beat on. I don’t think this team is good enough to make the playoffs, but I have definitely been wrong before. I project this team to be around the .500 mark because they are playing in a very tough division. But, don’t be surprised if this team surprises some people.

 

Oakland A’s:

Billy Beane was at it again this offseason making moves that only he could envision. Getting rid of Samardzija was just one of many moves, but the biggest one may have been acquiring Ben Zobrist from Tampa. Zobrist is a guy who can play any position and fits the mold of the A’s pretty good. Last year it looked like no one was stopping them. All of a sudden they fell off big time and limped into the Wild Card game. We will see if they can put it all together this season.

 

The A’s pitching staff took a big hit when they traded away Jeff Samardzija. Because they are the A’s and can’t afford big contracts either, they had to part ways with Jon Lester too. It didn’t deplete them like you might think, but the do have a lot to prove. The ace of this staff has got to be Sonny Gray. Behind him is a mix of young and old with Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez and then Jarrod Parker and AJ Griffin who both missed last season. In the bullpen, Sean Doolittle won’t be ready for opening day, but he should be the closer once he gets back. Acquiring Tyler Clippard from Washington for Yunel Escobar will help this bullpen a lot.

 

The lineup for the A’s should be interesting to say the least. Last season they traded away their power bat in Yoenis Cespedes and after that it was never the same. By signing Billy Butler it can only help Oakland who will be searching for offense wherever they can get it. Brett Lawrie and Ben Zobrist are the new pieces stepping in for Josh Donaldson who supplied a lot of the power a season ago.

 

When it comes down to it on paper, this team should be nowhere near the playoffs; and that might be the case. But, everyone doubted them a few years back when they won the AL West and that is why you can’t doubt these guys. I see them being a team like the Mariners of last season where they are in it to the end but fall a bit short. You always want to see if Billy Beane has any more tricks up his sleeves before you write this team off so don’t be down on the A’s this season.

 

Houston Astros:

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

After firing manager Bo Porter last season, the Astros are looking to keep moving in the upward direction. They showed glimpses of what they are capable of being, but last year was just not the year it was going to happen. They have a great number of young players who are either at the MLB level, or just about to emerge into the Majors. This ball club may still be about a year away, but this team should not be taken lightly going into the 2015 season.

 

The Astros pitching staff will look a lot like last year. Led by the emergence of Dallas Keuchel, they will look to him again to lead this young staff. They do have a veteran presence in Scott Feldman, but he isn’t quite a number one starter. The rest of the rotation with McHugh, Straily and Oberholtzer will try to give the Astros good innings and keep them in ball games. When it’s time for the bullpen, the front office did a great job grabbing some veteran relievers this offseason. Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek, and Chad Qualls should help bolster the bullpen.

 

At the plate for Houston, their biggest threat might be the smallest player in baseball in Jose Altuve. He is the real deal and was the Silver Slugger winner for American League second basemen a season ago. Aside from Altuve, they have some other good young players that will help this team. George Springer and Jon Singleton are two guys looking to break out after getting called up in the middle of last season. Evan Gattis and Chris Carter will supply the power while newly acquired center fielder Colby Rasmus should help too. This is an offense that has a lot of potential and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

 

This is a very young team with many players who still haven’t played a full season in the big leagues yet. They did add some good pieces by acquiring Jed Lowrie, Evan Gattis, and Colby Rasmus. They all should help, but the starting rotation for this team is what worries me. Mark Appel, their top draft pick, is still in the minors and won’t be able to help this team quite yet. Look for this team to be competitive because of their offense but they are still a year or two away in my opinion. I project this team to be around the .500 mark in an AL West that has no clear-cut favorite.

 

Seattle Mariners:

After coming off of their best season in a long time, the Mariners look to continue their upward trend and potentially crack the Postseason for the first time since 2001. Seattle finished last season 1 GB of the last Wild Card spot and they are poised to break out this season. For a long time the offense has been the issue. They are trying to make it less of an issue by bringing in AL home run champion from a season ago, Nelson Cruz. “King” Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano lead Seattle and they are looking to lead the Mariners to the playoffs in 2015.

 

The Mariners pitching staff is obviously lead by their ace Felix Hernandez. He is the real deal and some will say he got robbed of the Cy Young in the American League. Behind Felix, Hisashi Iwakuma would be an ace on some other staffs around the league. James Paxton and Taijuan Walker lead the youth revolution on this staff and if they can stay healthy for a full season, they could be very dangerous on the back end of this staff. It isn’t just their starting rotation though. The bullpen was one of the best in baseball last season lead by closer Fernando Rodney who “shot the arrow” plenty of times a season ago. The Mariners bread and butter is their pitching and they will lean on it to take them where they want to go.

 

At the plate, this team is finally ready to break out. They do play in the one of the biggest pitchers parks in baseball, which has drawn some big time hitters away. This offseason though, Nelson Cruz was brought in to help provide some power that seemed to be missing from a season ago. Kyle Seager will be looking to build off of one of his best seasons of his career and be a force behind Cano and Cruz. You can’t talk about the Mariners and not talk about Robinson Cano. His presence in the Mariners order made this offense so much better last season and I don’t see why he won’t be able to do that again. Look for this offense to be very dangerous in 2015.

 

In the end, this Mariners team is built for a long run in the playoffs. The pitching is there and the hitting is finally there to back them up (finally!). In an AL West that is wide open, I see Seattle with a legit shot at winning this division. They were only one game back of making the Postseason in 2014, and you know that manager Lloyd McClendon will be building on the success of last season. My prediction for this Mariners team in 2015 is a division title for the first time since 2001.

 

My Projected Standings:

  1. Seattle Mariners (Division Winner)
  2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Wild Card)
  3. Oakland A’s
  4. Houston Astros
  5. Texas Rangers

As I have stated multiple times, this division is wide open. Even though I have Texas in last place, I don’t think they will even be that bad of a team. I do think the Mariners and the Angels will be fighting for the top spot, but the rest of the division will be competitive. This has the potential to be a very good race out west this season.

Josh Eastern View All

Seattle sports fan and MLB writer for International Sports Hub

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