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This article originally appeared here. This is the sixth in a series of six Major League Baseball divisional previews. Check them all out right here. Today’s featured division, the AL West, has the fewest number of teams of any division in baseball…
|Los Angeles Angels||100||62|
The Angels ran away with the division, winning 100 games while everyone else in the division posted a losing record. Oakland predictably took a step back, as GM Billy Beane opted to begin his rebuilding process a year early- trading away Dan Haren, Mark Kotsay, and Nick Swisher for prospects such as Dana Eveland, Greg Smith, Joey Devine, and Gio Gonzalez, who have either already made an impact in the big leagues or are projected to shortly. Texas did their usual all-hit, no-pitch thing, but showcased the game's new superstar, Josh Hamilton. Hamilton was acquired from Cincinnati in a trade for Edison Volquez, who in turn held up the Rangers' farm hand tradition of pitching prospects fulfilling their potential on other squads (such as Chris Young in San Diego, John Danks in Chicago, Armando Galarraga in Detroit). Seattle was the surprise of the season, as their acquisition of ace Erik Bedard turned out awfully, and a last place finish stood in stark contrast with the World Series appearance predicted by prominent sports personalities like Mike Greenberg.
Projected 2009 Standings:
|Los Angeles Angels||86||76|
Individual Team Previews:
Los Angeles Angels - The Angels have been one of the most consistent teams in MLB the last several seasons. They consistently win a lot of regular season games and then lose to the Red Sox in the playoffs. (Zing!) In seriousness, this is among the top franchises in MLB. They will be hard pressed to replace the lost bat of Mark Teixeira. While Bobby Abreu is a nice addition, choosing to keep Juan Rivera as DH above the addition of a more powerful middle of the order hitter (such as Manny Ramirez) will prove to be a bad off-season move. This lineup is too riddled with young talent that has yet to fulfill its promise. Last season's 100 wins were a product of the terrible seasons had by everyone else in the division. I picked Brian Fuentes as the division's best closer, but I don't feel good about it. I like to potential of Brandon Morrow, but I actually think Jose Arredondo, Everyday Eddie and Santiago Casilla will be the save leaders for their respective teams... meaning it's a strange division when I think 75% of the teams will have a top 'closer' who isn't named the closer yet. Meaning I couldn't select them for the divisional all-star team at this time. I think you get the idea. And of the 'closers to be', I like Arredondo the best. He's fantastic.
Oakland Athletics - I've already talked about Billy Beane's youth movement which began before 2008. During 2008, he also dealt starting pitchers Joe Blanton and Rich Harden, further deepening his pool of prospects. Notable free agent signings included past stars looking to prove their value such as Orlando Cabrera, Nomar Garciaparra, and Jason Giambi. He also traded for Matt Holliday, which some speculate means he wants the top picks awarded by MLB once Holliday signs a big-money free agent contract after 2009. There is also the possibility Holliday gets dealt at the trading deadline if Oakland's rebuilding process is still underway. I, for one, think the youth movement is ahead of schedule in Oakland. Before the injury to Justin Duchscherer, and some iffy spring performances from others, I was ready to predict their starting five as tops in the division. They have too many guys and too much talent not to have several of them breakout. And their lineup, to me, nudged out Texas for the best in the division: mainly because I think Jason Giambi's comeback year, while not as exciting to fantasy players, will be just as good as Chris Davis' breakout year, Holliday and Hamilton cancel each other out, and OC should be a huge upgrade over Andrus, who will struggle offensively. I also like the depth at the major league level, and think Daric Barton does some damage before the season is over.
Seattle Mariners - What is there to say? I actually like Erik Bedard, despite what he did to 3 of my fantasy teams last year. And I like him for a bounce back year this year- conveniently his contract year. Adrian Beltre was acquired by Seattle after his huge contract year, and he’s in one again... so maybe this is the one year he'll earn that salary. Other than that, around the horn goes like this: Johjima, Betancourt, Lopez, Branyan. Yuck. The OF is more of the same, as Wladimir Balentien is the only guy I'm remotely intrigued by. I can’t imagine a scenario where Jeff Clement isn't getting regular at-bats by mid-June. I do think things got overly terrible last year, so there will be an improvement this year, but not enough to post a winning record- or even climb out of the cellar.
Texas Rangers - Josh Hamilton was easily THE story of this team, and possibly all of baseball outside of Tampa Bay, last season. The home run derby was an all-time performance for that event. He's also in every single ad for the team around here. But another story, in his enormous shadow, is the breakout year Ian Kinsler had. As well as the year Baylor product David Murphy had. The addition of Kris Benson (with something to prove) as a back-end of the rotation guy is a little intriguing (and not just because Ana Benson lives closer to me now). Kevin Millwood and Vincente Padilla wouldn't be in most teams' top two, they are at least capable of leading this team to a respectable record. Maybe it's my desire to see the local teams perform at some sort of interesting level, but I think there are some good things brewing in Arlington. The worries are that the great catching talent (Salty, Teagarden, Ramirez) does not sort itself out this season, and that Blalock and Young may be on the decline. But there is enough talent here to expect a winning record, and I'm projecting a modest 4 game increase from last year's total.
Divisional All-Star Team:
If I was to make an all-star team with the best players at each position (including the bench and bullpens) it would look like this:
Divisional All-Star Team:
|1B||Jason Giambi (L)||Athletics|
|2B||Ian Kinsler (R)||Rangers|
|3B||Chone Figgins (S)||Angels|
|SS||Orlando Cabrera (R)||Athletics|
|LF||Matt Holliday (R)||Athletics|
|CF||Josh Hamilton (L)||Rangers|
|RF||Vladimir Guerrero (R)||Angels|
|DH||Ken Griffey Jr. (L)||Mariners|
|B||Gary Matthews Jr. (S)||Angels|
|B||Jeff Clement (L)||Mariners|
|B||Taylor Teagarden (R)||Rangers|
|SP||Felix Hernandez (R)||Mariners|
|SP||Joe Saunders (L)||Angels|
|SP||Erik Bedard (L)||Mariners|
|SP||Jered Weaver (R)||Angels|
|SP||Kevin Millwood (R)||Rangers|
|RP||Jose Arredondo (R)||Angels|
|RP||Eddie Guardado (L)||Rangers|
|CL||Brian Fuentes (L)||Angels|
Best Lineup: Athletics
Best Fielding: Angels
Best Bench: Rangers
Best Starting Five: Angels
Best Bullpen: Angels
Best Manager: Mike Scioscia, Angels
Individual Player Superlatives:
Divisional MVP: Josh Hamilton, Rangers
Divisional Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, Mariners
Divisional ROY: Gio Gonzalez, Athletics
Breakout Hitter: Chris Davis, Rangers
Breakout Pitcher: Dana Eveland, Athletics
Let me know your thoughts on my predictions, or man up and tell me how you think it's going to go down differently.