-- Last season Seattle led most of the way but couldn't go the distance as Anaheim took the division by just a game. In what ended up being the most competitive division in the AL Arizona could have made the playoffs or won the division just as easily as Seattle and Anaheim. Oakland, with their one man wrecking crew Damaso Torres, wasn't that far behind either. It's a toss up this season but look for another tight race in the AL West.
Anaheim edged out Seattle by a single game for the AL West and relied heavily on their offense to take the division. Then, on their way to the inaugural World Series title their pitching kicked in and they shocked the For Life world. Offensively the onslaught was led by All Star RF RJ Nunez who compiled 119 RBI on 32 HR while hitting .318 and Kip Winston, who supplied the power and led the team in homers, 40, and RBI, 126 while hitting .271. All of the core pieces return to a mostly veteran lineup and the bombs should continue to fly out of Angels Stadium in Season 2.
Pitching was the weak link during the regular season and ranked well below average across the board. James Caruso and Paul King had pedestrian regular season performances as compared to their post season campaigns, while Phillip Stull impressed over the summer and was rather normal through the playoffs. A number of pitchers from last seasons squad have moved on but the heart of the staff remains the same. Wilton Sung will start the season on the big league roster and will provide some spot start and LR help. It will be up to the offense again to carry this team back to the title, and overachieving performances like that of Phil Stull will be necessary for their pitching to keep up.
Seth LaRue remains the Angels top prospect, a righty with Cy Young caliber stuff, LaRue should be ready by S4. Hitting the majors before LaRue will be lights out reliever Jaime Stephens a left handed fireballer. With the 9th overall pick the Angels added more pitching depth in top LR Slim Evans.
P Shayne Farley
RF RJ Nunez
RF RJ Nunez
CF Pepper Post
The Mariners squeaked into the playoffs last season after failing to capture the AL West title but showed they deserved their WC1 slot by beating AL East champ Baltimore. They were swept by a dominant Detroit squad in the ALDS. Both sides of the ball were balanced with neither the pitching or hitting performing extremely well or bad. The offense was led by All Star Gus Lavarnway and catcher Julian Mateo. The two combined to hit 73 homers and 222 RBI in cavernous Safeco. Better than expected performances by 1B/DH Carlos Castro and 3B Rafael Bautista aided the team in their playoff push. The offense will get another bump from top prospect, CF Chris Dunn who looks to add more pop and speed to the lineup.
The Mariners staff had trouble staying consistent, even at pitcher friendly Safeco, but performed well overall and were led by lefty Jude Reed who posted 14 wins and only 2 losses. Four rookies will make their debut for the Mariners staff this season including R.A. Clyburn who looks to break into the rotation.
After the all of the promotions the Seattle system remains decently stocked with players like 6th overall pick Vladimir Rodriguez. There aren't any blue chippers to be found but a handful of ML quality prospects remain in the system. Like many other teams Seattle went without signing a major international last season.
P Jude Reed
P Rob Houston
C Julian Mateo
2B Alex Clark
SS Junior Crespo
CF Gus Lavarnway
LF Hooks Rolls
RF Scott Bolick
The Dbacks were on the cusp of a playoff birth last season finishing only three games behind Seattle and Toronto for a WC spot. Their entire squad was consistent but went unrewarded, something they hope to change this season. No major departures or arrivals for the ML squad means that fans in Phoenix can probably expect another winning season and, perhaps, a trip to the playoffs. OF Jose Chavez led last years offense with a stellar 38 homers and 117 RBI while hitting just below .300. Rookie OF Esteban Cabeza did his best to emulate the veteran by going for 32 and 105 on route to a fine rookie season. Expect more fireworks from this squad in S2.
Again, consistency was the name of the game here Jose Arrojo and Odalis Escobar turned in solid seasons atop the rotation for Arizona. A couple of vets exit the team but don't expect any less of a performance out of the staff has a whole. Coming off of one of the better rookie pitching campaigns, Ted Reynolds looks to improve upon his 30 saves in 37 opportunities. If the rotation can remain consistent there's no reason to believe he won't be able to. Young SP Kevin Young was a bit of a mystery last season, posting numbers short of what you'd expect from him. Look for Young to bounce back, all it would take is a couple of extra wins from him and a couple more converted save opportunities from Reynolds to put this team in the playoffs and maybe atop the division.
Norberto Martin was a major international victory for the Dbacks and is the catcher of the future. 21st overall pick Vernon Turner will provide some depth to the rotation one day but after these two there's not much to write home about. However, another successful year of scouting could help to quickly stock this system.
1B Giovanni Sodowsky
3B Peter Becker
Last season usfbully wrote "When it comes to Oakland, the conversation begins and ends with Damaso Torres." He couldn't have been more right. The All Star, 2B Silver Slugger and inaugural AL MVP tore up opposition pitching and hit .347 in a pitchers park with 23 homers and 115 RBI. Oh, and he stole 52 bases. Is it possible to have a man crush on a virtual player? Because Torres would be a prime candidate. Don't overlook the performances by Mike Eckenstahler and Al Franco as well, who did their part to provide the pitching staff with some offense to protect. Overall, though, Oaklands power numbers were low, even considering the park they play in, and if there's any way nutbag can add some power they will probably challenge for the AL West title. No major additions or losses to the lineup means that Torres and Co will be back to wreck pitchers once again.
Last season 30 year old Curtis Miller proved to be a rock in the rotation with 15 wins and while the rest of the rotation wasn't bad it wasn't that good either. Another bright spot, vet closer Jermain Ford converted on 23 of 27 save chances and proved dependable. However, a lack of SP depth plagued this talented team last season and with no SP additions to to the rotation it could present another road block to success this season.
With the 13th overall pick the A's took college senior Dave Reames, a big boppin' 1B who may contribute to the ML team this season. Heine Weaver is the pride and joy of the A's system and is only about a season away from being a full time ML'er. The right handed hitting second baseman has ML power and should hit for a high average in addition. Rogers Davey will be provide a nice boost to the A's rotation when he's ready in about two to three seasons.
2B Damaso Torres
2B Damaso Torres