MLB Picks 2009 – American League WestÂ
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
LAST YEAR: 100-62
The Angels will be without Fransisco Rodriguez this season at the back of the pen, and that will cost them some games. They also couldn’t hold onto the coveted big bat in the lineup in Mark Teixeira, who went the free-agent route to the Yankees. The Angels pitching remains solid, and picking up Brian Fuentes gives them a proven closer to try and replace Fransisco Rodriguez. The lineup is aging and if the pitching doesn’t stay healthy, the Angels may drop some, but still have enough to win the AL West, as they won it by 21 games last year.
ON THE RISE: HANK CONGER C – He could find his way to Anaheim before the season is out.
LAST YEAR: 75-86
The A’s let go of Joe Blanton and Rich Harden before the trade deadline last year, and fell off rapidly because of it. The question for the A’s is can their young pitching prospects, namely Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson lift the team into contention? They gave the lineup a boost by adding Jason Giambi, and Matt Holliday. The A’s have some big arms in the bullpen, even after dealing Houston Street, and Joey Devine may be their closer before the season is out. If there is a team that can be somewhat Tampa Bay-like, it is the A’s, but a lot would have to happen to make a run at the Angels.
ON THE RISE: BRETT ANDERSON LHP & TREVOR CAHILL RHP: Both will likely be in Oakland before the season gets too long, and both have the potential to make an immediate impact.
LAST YEAR: 61-101
After losing 101 games, one would think there is no way to go but up for the Mariners, but that isn’t a guarantee. The offense lost their top dog in Raul Ibanez, who is now with the Phillies. The one up side is their starting pitching. Felix Hernandez, at just 22, will be their No. 1 starter. Eric Bedard off an injury-riddled ’08, should be much more effective this season, and when healthy, is one of the top lefthanders in the game. Brandon Morrow showed signs last year he can pitch, and Ryan Rowland Smith pitched to a 2.56 ERA in the last seven weeks of the season. Add in Eric Heilman, and Jarrod Washburn, and the Marners’ pitching isn’t so bad. The M’s will miss J.J. Putz closing games, and Sean Green eating innings in between, and this could surface as a major problem. The M’s are going to struggle to score runs, as the lineup that had a .318 on base percentage last year, looks even weaker.
ON THE RISE: JEFF CLEMENT C – Not the best defensive catcher, but he could be the
M’s DH out of spring training.
LAST YEAR: 79-83
The Rangers’ second-place finish in the AL West last year was the first time they finished above third in almost a decade. The Rangers certainly have the bats to matchup with any offense in the AL, what they need is some pitchers to step up and have career, or brekout years to bridge the gap between themselves and the Angels. They ranked dead last a year ago, with a 5.51 ERA. Kevin Millwood is capeable and so is Victor Padilla, and they both have to have big years for Texas to even have a shot. They also need Brandon McCarthy to be healthy, and Scott Feldman to get better. The pen needs Joaquin Benoit healthy again. C.J Wilson suffered through ’08 and finally had surgery will have to be effective as well. Lots of question marks, and how many of those that have positive answers, will serve the fate of the Rangers.
ON THE RISE: DEREK HOLLAND LHP – Hard thrower that could find his way into the Rangers’ rotation before the All-Star break.
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. LOS ANGELES