AL West Preview
Starting 9: When it comes to Oakland, the conversation begins and ends with Damaso Torres. This super stud player is in the prime of his career at 29, and is the way to early MVP favorite in the AL. Terry Knight is the Robin of this club, and looks like a great table setter. Junior Crespo, a solid all-around player is a FA who will likely be back. The rest of the offense looks anemic, especially in the power category. The A’s should have one of the better defenses.
Pitching: The A’s rotation (at time of writing) is not very good. The Coliseum will help a little, but this is the biggest weakness on the club. Setup man Jermaine Ford is their best pitcher out of the pen that will surely have a few stinkers. If they choose to bring back Sam Smoltz, they should get a boost to the rotation.
The Future: Oakland has a stable of solid young pitching. At first glance it is lacking a dominant force but the group is led by a pair of fire ballers out of the pen; Rogers Davey and Jimmy Borders. In the field, Oakland looks to have a few prospects that will make an impact. Heinie Weaver will make a great addition to the offense as an all-around player, and Colby Greenwood looks like a future 40-120 guy.
Starting 9: The M’s are going to have problems scoring. In a park that hampers offense there is not much talent with the wood. Alex Clark is going to be the leader on this squad, but look for a solid rookie season from Jumbo Hill if he gets the call after Spring Training. If Seattle chooses, they will get a boost from FA Catcher Julian Mateo. Mateo would instantly become the best player on the team, but would not have much help.
Pitching: Jude Reed is a crafty lefty who will look to be the ace in Seattle. While he has a hit-able fast ball the spacious park of Safeco will turn a few HR’s into outs. Rob Houston is a rubber armed reliever who should be able to give 100+ solid innings out of the pen.
The Future: R.A. Clyburn is a middle of the rotation prospect and should be an innings eater. Rickey Cunningham is a two pitch pitcher with great movement on his fastball. There is not much to brag about on the positional side for Seattle, Maicer Mujica will be a solid RF/3B prospect, but does not stand out in any category.
Starting 9: The Angels bats are going to have some POP! 5 players have a power rating over 84. Their best hitter is right fielder R.J. Nunez, who will be on the hunt for the home run crown in Season 1. Switch Hitting DH/C Bronson Walker will have probably strike out 120 times, but he will crush lefties, and handled righties. Pepper Post is awaiting a new contract, and if he can stay healthy makes this lineup very formidable.
Pitching: Anaheim is lacking solid starting pitching. Paul King is arguably their #1, but his control issues will inflate his pitch count and get him in more trouble than he needs to be. Bo Clontz will be called out of the pen to close games out. If re-signed, Fernando Lee will be a good setup man for the Angels.
The Future: The pitching options look pretty good in So Cal. Seth Larue will not be a work horse, but he will be outstanding when he is on the mound. Matt Lee might be in the bigs before the first game is played. Anaheim has a pair of DH prospects, but their best all-around player might end up being Peter Ray. If Ray’s power develops he can be a solid 5th or 6th hitter in the lineup.
Starting 9: Arizona and Peter Becker look to make an impact in the Wild West. Becker might not have the range to play Short or Center, but will be a productive bat at whatever position he plays. Jose Chavez is a big bat that looks to have a few more years in the tank.
Pitching: The Diamondbacks pitching is a mystery. Unlike most teams, they do not have absolute wastes, but they also are lacking a stand out arm. Veteran Odalis Escobar will be asked to step into the leaders role in the rotation, while the youngster Ted Reynolds might be the top candidate for the closers role. Inning eater Dennis Wang might be going back to the desert.
The Future: Zona’s pitching mysteries continue into the minors. They have several odd prospects, including Eric Baker. Baker should have pin point control, but does not have a great stuff. Outfielder Esteban Cabeza is the best prospect in the field, and might be ready to contribute now.
How they will finish:
Year 1 in the AL West looks to be wide open. In my opinion, Arizona has the most complete team, and if they can get consistency from Chavez, will be the “best” of this field of four. Do not count out Oakland or Anaheim, any time a team can rely on a player like Torres or Nunez they have a shot. Seattle does not have the offense to compete in year 1.