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Blog Entry

2009 AL West Preview

Posted on: February 13, 2009 2:54 am
Edited on: February 13, 2009 2:58 am
 

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2008 Record:
100-62, 1st Place in AL West, Lost in ALDS to Boston
BP's 2009 Projection: 92-70, 1st Place in AL West

Key Additions:

Key Departures:

Up until a day ago, I would have said the Angels offseason was a complete failure. However, the Bobby Abreu signing changed that. Abreu brings this ballclub another player in the lineup that can be feared. Abreu usually hits for high average and is a career .315 hitter with runners in scoring position. He isn't that good of a defender, but his offense should surely make up for it. Abreu doesn't have quite the power numbers that Mark Teixeira had, but he should be a fine replacement in a lineup that desperately needed him. I applaud GM Tony Reagins for moving on past the contract that was given out to Gary Matthews. As for Fuentes, he's not as good as Rodriguez, but he's still a very good closer that can get the job done. Looking at the loss of Garland, this may or may not hurt the Angels. Garland is a good pitcher, but he just wasn't very good for the team a year ago. I have my doubts as to whether or not Dustin Moseley will last and ultimately I think the job may end up going to Nick Adenhart. However, if both of them fail, Kelvim Escobar should be back from injury by June. Escobar was one of the American League's top pitchers two seasons ago and his return should help the Halos on either offense or defense.

Projected Lineup:

  1. 3B Chone Figgins (S)
  2. LF Bobby Abreu (L)
  3. RF Vladimir Guerrero (R)
  4. CF Torii Hunter (R)
  5. 1B Kendry Morales (R)
  6. C Mike Napoli (R)
  7. DH Juan Rivera (R)
  8. 2B Howie Kendrick (R)
  9. SS Erick Aybar (S)

The addition of Abreu made this lineup so much better off than it was before. Manager Mike Scioscia is contemplating batting Abreu second as he is a high on base type player. Guerrero would then be able to provide Abreu protection in the lineup as well. The other alternative would be to have a player with a lesser on base percentage, such as Howie Kendrick, bat second and have Abreu hit 3rd behind him. Either way, this lineup should hold up against their AL West opponents. Whether or not it's good enough to win in the postseason is another topic. I'm assuming the Angels will just give Mike Napoli the starting catchers job, though he may once again platoon at the position with Jeff Mathis. Napoli isn't a good defensive catcher, but he broke out at the plater last season hitting over 20 home runs in less than 400 at bats. That's pretty impressive. Meanwhile, Mathis is known as a defensive catcher, but needs to start hitting to get any playing time.

Projected Bench:

As mentioned just above, Mathis and Napoli will battle it out for the starting catchers job, with the most likely scenario being another platoon. Maicer Izturis once again is the teams utility player that will serve as the main backup for the middle infielders and third base. Rob Quinlan will be back again as the backup on the corners, but likely might only find playing time against left handed pitchers. Meanwhile, Gary Matthews becomes the teams fourth outfielder and late inning defensive replacement for either Guerrero or Abreu. It's still up in the air whether or not Reggie Willits will be with the team after the team has signed Abreu. They may opt to go with only four reserves and add another bullpen pitcher.

Projected Rotation:

  1. RHP John Lackey
  2. RHP Ervin Santana
  3. LHP Joe Saunders
  4. RHP Jered Weaver
  5. RHP Dustin Moseley

Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders had breakout seasons last year which was the primary reason the Angels were able to win 100 games. Santana finally was able to win on the road, while Saunders just exceeded all expectations. However, that leaves things a little difficult when projecting the success of the team in 2009. Will Santana and Saunders continue to dominate? While both will be good ballplayers, a slight decline should be expected. Meanwhile, Weaver remains a capable 4th pitcher in the rotation. The 5th spot in the rotation will be a spring training battle between Dustin Moseley, Nick Adenhart, and Shane Loux. Moseley is the favorite for the spot entering spring, but Adenhart is the better talent. The only thing that concerns me with the Angels pitching staff is the lack of depth in the minors. Who do the Angels turn to if one of these players goes down.

Projected Bullpen:

Not bad.....Shields has been one of the best setup men in the league since he first came up in 2002, while Oliver is proving to be a capable one as well (though he is getting older). I doubt Justin Speier will be as bad as he was a year ago, but then again I doubt Arredondo or Loux will be as good as they were. Fuentes is an adequate replacement for Rodriguez, though he probably doesn't scare opposing hitters half as much.

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects

  1. RHP Nick Adenhart
  2. RHP Jordan Walden
  3. OF Peter Bourjos
  4. LHP Trevor Reckling
  5. RHP Sean O'Sullivan
  6. RHP Kevin Jepsen
  7. C Hank Conger
  8. 1B Mark Trumbo
  9. RHP Anthony Ortega
  10. RHP Mason Tobin

Spring Position Battle(s):

5th Starting Pitcher - Dustin Moseley vs. Nick Adenhart
Last Few Bullpen Spots - Take Your Pick Among several players

 


Oakland Athletics
2008 Record:
75-86, 3rd Place in the AL West
BP's 2009 Projection: 84-78, 2nd Place in the AL West

 

Key Additions:

Key Departures:

As usual, the offseason just doesn't start until A's GM Billy Beane makes a blockbuster trade. Only this time, it's different as the A's were the team adding the superstar instead of unloading them. After a season in which the A's offense finished last in the American League in runs, team OPS, batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, strikeouts, and extra base hits, the A's needed to go out and get some bats. The found them in Matt Holliday and Jason Giambi. Both Holliday and Giambi are high on base percentage players with the capability to drive plenty of balls out of the park. Couple those two with a healthy Eric Chavez back in the lineup, and the teams offense went from the worst in the league to something that looks respectable. The signing of Russ Springer and the trade for Michael Wuertz have remained under the radar, but both should help a young A's bullpen. The A's didn't really lose any impact players this offseason either. Huston Street was expenable with the emergence of Joey Devine and Brad Ziegler last season, while Carlos Gonzalez's plate approach didn't fit Billy Beane's "moneyball" philosophy. Greg Smith was decent, but the A's are stacked in the minors with pitching talent and Andrew Brown was cut only after he had to have season ending surgery on his arm.

Projected Lineup:

  1. CF Ryan Sweeney (S)
  2. DH Jack Cust (L)
  3. 1B Jason Giambi (L)
  4. LF Matt Holliday (R)
  5. 3B Eric Chavez (L)
  6. C Kurt Suzuki (R)
  7. SS Bobby Crosby (R)
  8. RF Travis Buck (L)
  9. 2B Mark Ellis (R)

The A's lineup is pretty interesting as it stands right now. I imagine it will change throughout the year. My guess is that at some point Travis Buck will eventually switch back to batting leadoff for the team. The 2-5 spots in this lineup are all on base machines and Suzuki's high average should follow up nicely in the sixth hole. The one thing A's fans should be watching this year is if they get any production from Bobby Crosby in the lineup. If Crosby struggles early on, I wouldn't be surprised to see Cliff Pennington replace him as the everyday shortstop. Meanwhile, A's fans need to watch the health of the players on the team. The A's used the disabled list a record 25 times last season, which only beat the previous record that was set the season before. Mark Ellis is questionable for opening day after undergoing an offseason shoulder surgery, while Chavez has missed the last season and a half with various injuries of his own. Travis Buck has been injured at various points throughout the past two seasons, while Ryan Sweeney had a minor injury as well last year that limited him to under 400 at bats on the year. Meanwhile, Bobby Crosby was one of the A's healthiest players a year ago, but his history suggests that he could go down at any point.

Projected Bench:

I'm not actually sure if Barton will be on the opening day roster or not. The A's have the option of sending him down to AAA Sacramento or platooning him with Travis Buck (with Giambi at DH and Cust in right field instead). I'm not sure if playing Barton in a platoon would be relatively healthy for Barton's production. In most cases, people platoon left handed batters because they can't hit left handed pitching well, but Barton is a different case. He couldn't hit the righties last year. At age 23, Barton can hardly be considered a bust, but if the A's aren't going to give him regular at bats, it might be best that he regains his confidence in AAA. As for Rajai Davis, he will stay on the team as a defensive replacement and pinch runner (as he did a year ago). It is possible that Jack Hannahan will find a spot on the bench this year as well, but everything I've read suggests the A's are going to go with seven bullpen pitchers. The only way Hannahan would be on the bench in that scenario would mean Barton was in AAA.

Projected Rotation:

  1. RHP Justin Duchscherer
  2. LHP Dana Eveland
  3. RHP Sean Gallagher
  4. LHP Dallas Braden
  5. LHP Gio Gonzalez

Justin Duchscherer was practically unstoppable last season and was one of the American League's best pitchers. However, Duchscherer has had health issues the past few seasons (including last year) which might leave the A's staff without a true veteran leader. Only Duchscherer and Eveland are expected to be guaranteed a spot out of spring training, while Gallagher, Braden, and Gonzalez remain the favorites to take over the other spots. The A's have a lot of young pitchers with high upside, but none have broken through at the big league level yet. Beane's general consensus this offseason was that the pitchers would probably pitch better if they had more offensive support and less pressure to throw a shutout. In the minors, the A's have a quartet of young pitchers waiting for the future in Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Vin Mazzaro, and James Simmons, but none are expected to get the call early unless they are lights out this spring. If the A's are out of contention at the trade deadline, it wouldn't surprise me if Duchscherer is traded for prospects as the future of A's pitching waits for 2010.

Projected Bullpen:

The only one that's not a lock for the pen here is Josh Outman, but with the team still looking for lefty relief help outside of Blevins, Outman is the best internal option the A's have at this point. Also, as Outman is a starting pitcher he can eat up innnings for the A's in a long relief role if any of the A's young starters get bounced early. A's head coach Bob Geren has said that he'll enter 2009 with a closer by committee, but those never seem to work out. My guess is that Joey Devine will eventually become the everyday closer at some point during the season with Brad Ziegler setting him up. The A's bullpen was the second best in the American League a year ago and it improved with the addition of Springer and Wuertz. Look for this to be the A's strongest unit in 2009.

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects:

  1. LHP Brett Anderson
  2. RHP Trevor Cahill
  3. RHP Michel Inoa
  4. OF Aaron Cunningham
  5. SS Adrian Cardenas
  6. 1B Chris Carter
  7. LHP Gio Gonzalez
  8. RHP Vin Mazzaro
  9. 2B Jemile Weeks
  10. RHP James Simmons

Spring Position Battle(s):

Starting Rotation - Spots 3-5
Daric Barton vs. Travis Buck
Last Bullpen Spot

 

 


Seattle Mariners
2008 Record:
61-101, Last Place in AL West
BP's 2009 Projection: 69-93, Last Place in AL West

 

Key Additions:

 

Key Departures:

There has been a lot of talk recently about the Mariners signing Ken Griffey Jr., yet nothing has yet to be signed. I expect the team to either bring back Junior or add Garret Anderson as spring training gets going. However, it's been a dismal offseason for the Mariners. They lost their best run producer in Raul Ibanez to free agency, while their new GM Jack Zduriencik traded J.J. Putz away for a slough of players, including outfielder Franklin Gutierrez. The team is in rebuilding mode after they saw a 118 million dollar payroll rack up 101 losses for the team a year ago. Both Adrian Beltre and Erick Bedard are in the last year of their deals and the team could look to move both at the deadline if they decide not to resign them.

Projected Lineup:

  1. RF Ichiro Suzuki (L)
  2. 2B Jose Lopez (R)
  3. 3B Adrian Beltre (R)
  4. 1B Russell Branyan (L)
  5. CF Franklin Gutierrez (R
  6. DH Jeff Clement (S)
  7. C Kenji Johjima (R)
  8. SS Yuniesky Betancourt (R)
  9. LF Endy Chavez (L)

Well...This is the current lineup. If the Mariners go out and sign Ken Griffey Jr. or Garret Anderson, you can expect Endy Chavez to head to the bench as the teams fourth outfielder and then the team would probably demote Wladimir Balentien back to AAA Tacoma. Griffey would probably help more than Anderson considering Anderson would be just another free swinger on a team that has plenty. Aside from Ichiro at the top of the lineup, the Mariners don't really have too many threats. Beltre knows how to hit a few out of the park, but he isn't really that patient of a hitter and with the lack of protection he'll be receiving, it doesn't look like he's in for a good year. Jeff Clement could emerge as one of the Mariners most productive hitters this seasons as he is expected to be the teams everday designated hitter. Meanwhile, Kenji Johjima needs to turn around his 2008 performance if he wants to remain the starting catcher on this team.

Projected Bench:

Burke is going to be the teams third catcher and will probably never see the light of day in a game. He is just on the roster in case of an injury to either Kenji Johjima or Jeff Clement (as you can't move the DH to a position). Ronny Cedeno was acquired as depth in the deal that sent Aaron Heilman to the Chicago Cubs. As for Mike Morse, he will be used in a number of spots as he can play both infield and outfield positions. I expect Morse to take over the role Willie Bloomquist had for the team a year ago. Looking at Balentien, the Mariners have plenty of options. If they add Grifffey or Anderson, they can send him back down to AAA to get some everyday at bats. If neither of those two is added, the team can platoon him with Endy Chavez in left. Balentien has talent, but he just hasn't converted it into anything at the major league level.

Projected Rotation:

  1. RHP Felix Hernandez
  2. LHP Erik Bedard
  3. RHP Brandon Morrow
  4. RHP Carlos Silva
  5. LHP Jarrod Washburn

The Mariners front three in their rotation is the best in the American League West. Hernandez has been a consistent workhorse year after year and seems to be improving every year as well. Meanwhlie, Bedard is the top of the rotation pitcher he's always been, though like usual, injuries have stopped him from reaching his full potential. Speaking of potential, Brandon Morrow has plenty of it. This kid might actually be the best pitcher in this rotation. To this day, I still think it's funny an overhwelming majority of Mariners fans told me he wouldn't be ready to pitch in the big leagues in 2008. Rowland-Smith is probably a better option to start in the rotation instead of Washburn or Silva, but it's the contracts of those two players that will keep them in the rotation in the long run. However, both Washburn and Erick Bedard are good candidates to be traded at the July trade deadline.

Projected Bullpen:

The closer job is up for grabs this spring. The Mariners website suggests that Mark Lowe has the inside track on it, but I think Miguel Batista has a good chance at beating him out in spring training. The bullpen should be decent in 2009. There is nobody overpowering in it, but then again, there is no one that is terrible either. Garrett Olson has said he would be open to converting to a reliever if it works out best for the team, and I think it will happen as Olson is highly unlikely to make the team as a starter unless Bedard or Washburn is dealt.

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects:

  1. OF Greg Halman
  2. OF Michael Saunders
  3. RHP Phillip Aumont
  4. MI Carlos Triunfel
  5. RHP Juan Ramirez
  6. C Adam Moore
  7. 3B Mario Martinez
  8. 3B Jharmidy DeJesus
  9. OF Dennis Raben
  10. RHP Michael Pineda

Position Battle(s):

Designated Hitter
5th Starter
Closer

 


Texas Rangers
2008 Record:
79-83, 2nd Place in the AL West
BP's 2009 Projection: 81-81, 3rd Place in the AL West

 


Key Additions:

Key Departures:

You know the Rangers had a bad offseason when Andruw Jones was their key signing. I had to go back two seasons to even find a picture of an Andruw Jones highlight and it looks like he broke his back hitting the ball in the process. Maybe that's why he's been bad the past year and a half? Plain and simple, the Rangers didn't accomplish anything this past offseason. They moved Laird to the Tigers for Moscoso, a move which had to be done, but it actually made the team worse (in the short run). Had the Rangers decided to trade Jarrod Saltalamachhia for pitching, they would be in much better shape, but 2009 is looking to be much like 2008...Great hitting and no pitching to speak of. On the bright side of things, the Rangers do get a healthy Brandon McCarthy back this season and have young stars in AA waiting for 2010 when they will get their first full season in the big leageus.

 

Projected Lineup:

  1. 2B Ian Kinsler
  2. 3B Michael Young
  3. CF Josh Hamilton
  4. DH Hank Blalock
  5. RF Nelson Cruz
  6. LF David Murphy
  7. 1B Chris Davis
  8. C Jarrod Saltalamachhia
  9. SS Elvis Andrus

Initially looking at this lineup (without checking numbers), I was surprised when I saw Nelson Cruz playing right field and batting 5th. I had always assumed Marlon Byrd would get the bulk of the at bats as he's been very good since acquired two seasons ago. However, once I started to look closer at the numbers, this started to make sense. In a little over 100 at bats last season, Cruz had an OPS+ of 170. During the minor league season, Cruz batted a ridiculous .342/.429/.695 with 37 homers and 99 RBI in 380 at bats. The man obviously seems ready to take over in the big leagues. Meanwhile, looking at the rest of the Rangers lineup, it wouldn't surprise me if Elvis Andrus eventually moved up to the leadoff spot. This kid is a great talent swinging the bat and harnesses a ton of speed making him the perfect guy to set the table. Ian Kinsler isn't really a true leadoff hitter. Also, the Rangers will get a full season of Chris Davis at first base, which means Rangers fans better bring their gloves if they are going to be sitting in the bleachers.

Projected Bench:

Jones would have to put up a ridiculous spring in order to work his way into the starting lineup, though many have said Jones' has looked a lot better after losing 30 pounds in the offseason. Vizquel provides the Rangers depth in the infield and should help young Andrus develop along the way. Meanwhile, I'm not sure if their is going to be enough at bats for Marlon Byrd to be happy this year. The Rangers outfield is starting to get crowded which means a trade could happen during spring. As for Taylor Teagarden, he has the chance to overtake Salty as the everyday catcher, but it might take a while for him to do it.

Projected Rotation:

  1. RHP Kevin Millwood
  2. RHP Vincente Padilla
  3. RHP Brandon McCarthy
  4. RHP Matt Harrison
  5. RHP Scott Feldman

Uggh....And that's pretty much all I have to say about that. There is a small chance Millwood and Padilla put together a strong season, but it's highly unlikely. McCarthy should be the Rangers best pitcher in 2009 (if he can stay healthy). The team just better make sure Millwood doesn't reach his 180 innings for his option to kick in and they need to be careful as to when they call up youngsters Neftali Feliz and Derrick Holland.

Projected Bullpen:

Another "make-shift" bullpen is in the works for the Rangers. Half of these guys are non-roster invites, but I figure they will still make the team. Guardado might be a bargain for the Rangers if he can perform as well as he did a year ago. Meanwhile, I expect C.J. Wilson to bounce back in some way, shape, or form. He isn't as bad as he pitched a year ago.

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects

  1. RHP Neftali Feliz
  2. LHP Derrick Holland
  3. 1B Justin Smoak
  4. SS Elvis Andrus
  5. LHP Martin Perez
  6. C Taylor Teagarden
  7. OF Engel Beltre
  8. RHP Michael Main
  9. OF Julio Borbon
  10. C Max Ramirez

Position Battle(s):

Shortstop - Elvis Andrus vs. Omar Vizquel
Catcher - Jarrod Saltalamachhia vs. Taylor Teagarden
Bullpen - A handful of players

Comments

Since: Jan 20, 2007
Posted on: February 15, 2009 12:05 pm
 

2009 AL West Preview

Good job, BP.  I don't disagree with anything you've posted, except maybe the part about Abreu being a "feared" hitter.  I would say he is a very good hitter and should be respected by the opposition but I don't know that he would be feared by the opposition.  Just symantics really.  Again, good job!




Since: Nov 11, 2006
Posted on: February 14, 2009 9:44 pm
 

2009 AL West Preview

I agree with you on the most part,  but I think that if the A's stay healthy and Fuentes has a sub-par season that the A's will return to their dominance of the AL West.



The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com