Blog Entry

Spring position battles: American League West

Posted on: February 6, 2012 2:09 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2012 4:00 pm

By C. Trent Rosecrans

There's nothing like the Super Bowl to remind you that spring training is just around the corner. And with pitchers and catchers packing up their bags for Florida and Arizona, we here at Eye on Baseball will look at some of the key positional battles on tap for this spring, starting with the American League West.

Los Angeles Angels
Designated hitter: Mark Trumbo vs. Kendrys Morales vs. Bobby Abreu vs. Vernon Wells

At the end of the 2011 season, it seemed first base could be a battle for the Angels heading into 2012. That position was settled pretty easily with $240 million. The two previous candidates, Trumbo and Morales are now with BAbreu looking for playing time at DH. Add the wild card of Mike Trout possibly pushing either Torii Hunter or Wells into the DH competition and the team has a lot of players for one spot. Sure, the Angels are saying Trumbo can play third, but he's still not all the way back from an ankle injury and he hasn't proven he can handle the day-in, day-out rigors of third base (look at what it did to Kevin Youkilis last season). There's also the chance that Morales won't be healthy. There are so many variables to the Angles lineup that the only thing that seems certain at this point is that Albert Pujols will be at first base, batting third.

Oakland Athletics
Closer: Grant Balfour vs. Brian Fuentes vs.  Fautino De Los Santos vs. Joey Devine

One of the many players Billy Beane got rid of this offseason was closer Andrew Bailey, who went to the Red Sox for three players, leaving an opening at closer for 2012. Fuentes recorded 12 saves in Bailey's spot last season, while Balfour picked up two as well. Those two veterans should be seen as the favorites, but De Los Santos and Devine could surprise. De Los Santos struck out 43 batters in 33 1/3 innings last season, while Devine impressed in his first action since Tommy John surgery. Even if the two youngsters don't get the call after spring training, either are just one trade away from getting their shot -- and with the A's current situation, nobody in Oakland should be buying, just renting.

Seattle Mariners
No. 3-5 starters: Blake Beavan vs. Charlie Furbush vs. Hector Noesi vs. Kevin Millwood vs. Hisashi Iwakuma

Felix Hernandez, of course, is the Mariners' No. 1 starter and Jason Vargas figures to be the other Mariner to start in the team's two-game series in Japan. After that, it gets interesting. Seattle signed Iwakuma to a $1.5 million contract in the offseason, so he figures to be in the rotation somewhere. Noesi was acquired along with Jesus Montero in the Michael Pineada trade and should be somehwere in the mix, as well. That leaves the youngsters Furbush (25) and Beavan (23), to go against the veteran Millwood (37). Furbush and Beavan showed flashes during 2011, but are hardly proven products. After stints in the minors for the Red Sox and Yankees, Millwood went 4-3 with a 3.98 ERA in Colorado and should benefit from pitching at Safeco Field.

Texas Rangers
5th starter: Matt Harrison vs. Alexi Ogando vs. Scott Feldman

Unless the Rangers do sign Roy Oswalt, it appears the first four spots in the Texas rotation are set with Yu Darvish, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz, leaving three pitchers battling for the final spot. Last season the Rangers moved Ogando from the bullpen to the rotation with some success. They're looking to do the same with Feliz this season and possibly sending Ogando back to the bullpen. Ogando was 13-8 with a 3.51 ERA, but seemed to tire down the stretch. Harrison was 14-9 with a 3.39 ERA last season, but still has to battle for his job. And then there's Feldman, who is a long-shot here, but is used to the yo-yoing from the bullpen to the rotation. If the team does sign Oswalt, the three could be stretched out in spring, but return to the bullpen once the season starts.

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Since: Sep 19, 2011
Posted on: February 6, 2012 6:58 pm

Spring position battles: American League West

Swingin A's will be a suprise team and will win the division or at least a wild card team.
I do think that the A's are going be a better team, I figure at worse the A's will finish in 3rd place for I don't think that Seattle got that much better.  If the A's can get good Pitching they could go very far, but they are playing in a divison where Angels and Rangers got an lot better. So the A's is going to need have a great season just to make the wild card

Since: May 8, 2007
Posted on: February 6, 2012 6:33 pm

Spring position battles: American League West

Both the Angels and Rangers should be searching to make a deal right now. As a Jays fan, I have one player in mind I hope the Alex Anthopoulos has checked in on. 

Alexi Ogando seems to be one arm that might be undervalued in Texas. I believe the Ranger's brass values him, but I'm surprised that he isn't being given a spot in the rotation considering the kind of performance he put on last year. To me, he seems like a poor man's Michael Pineda, but he has potential in much the same way. I don't know what the asking price is for Ogando, but I hope it's been discussed at least once. 

In the case of the Angels, they should really be looking to move one of Bourjos, Abreu, or dare I say, Torii Hunter. Bourjos makes the most sense as he would actually have value, and Trout could replace him, but there in lies in the problem. If Trout is on the roster, then Bourjos kinda has to go, or be the 4th outfielder. I can't imagine the Angels will allow Vernon Wells to sit on the bench for the salary he is making, and neither he nor Hunter are capable to playing center at the elite level Bourjos and Trout bring to the table. Nobody really wants Bobby Abreu (no disrespect to the player, just reality at this point in his career). Which brings us back to Hunter. He could actually have some value in a trade, and if he were moved, the outfield could be Bourjos, Wells, and one of Abreu/Trumbo/Trout. All of this really depends on Morales' health as the article mentioned, meaning this is one intriguing situation to track in spring training.   

Since: Mar 9, 2008
Posted on: February 6, 2012 6:11 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Jan 18, 2011
Posted on: February 6, 2012 5:48 pm

Spring position battles: American League West

I agree, it's feliz who will have to win a spot. Ogando has proven he can start, he just got tired in his first year starting. I think the author got this one wrong.

Since: Oct 27, 2009
Posted on: February 6, 2012 5:16 pm

Spring position battles: American League West

It seems like the Rangers figure that Feliz will just jump right in, be a solid starter and give them 200 innings or so. I'm not so sure about that. Also, Ogando had some really nice moments as a starting pitcher last year (including being #2 behind Verlander in avg fastball MPH in the's always good to have a good fastball in the AL!). Yeah, I know he flatlined for a while but he was in the process of getting through his first time being a SP on a MLB team....So why flop him and Feliz in the first place? I'm curious about the Rangers thought process on this.  

Since: Jan 21, 2007
Posted on: February 6, 2012 4:39 pm

Spring position battles: American League West

Aw, hell no on Brian Fuentes! He is the leader for the "Arson Squad" catagory in the American League. Want a blown save or a loss? Just call his number and he'll be happy to help the cause.

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