With this being the final week of Spring Training (crazy, right?), I figured it’d be justified to take a look at all 30 clubs and examine where they stand, what they need and where it looks like they’ll finish heading into the 2010 season. So, leading up to Opening Night between the Red Sox and Yankees, I’ll touch on one of the six divisions each day Monday-Saturday. Today, Day 6, we look at the American League West …
Angels: Just like in the National League West, the AL West is pretty much a toss-up. And just like in their NL counterpart, it’s the backpedaling of the L.A. team that has it that way. Still, though, the Angels — like the Dodgers — will remain competitive. Sure, they lost John Lackey, Chone Figgins and a gimpy Vladimir Guerrero. But nobody produces runs better than the Angels, and very few are better in-game managers than Mike Scioscia. The starting rotation — with Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana, Joel Pineiro and Scott Kazmir — isn’t as great as last year’s, but still solid (though a bit questionable). The back end of the bullpen — with Fernando Rodney and Brian Fuentes — is very good. And the offense — with Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu, Hideki Matsui and company — will still score a bunch. So, the Angels are still very relevant.
Rangers: I like the Rangers, and I think they pose a big threat this year. A couple of things will have to go their way, though. A few guys will have to step up in that starting rotation, and youngster Julio Borbon will have to step up as the leadoff hitter. All signs point to Borbon being more than capable of handling that role, but who will stick out among a starting staff that includes Scott Feldman, a fragile Rich Harden and starter-turned reliever C.J. Wilson? With the offense and bullpen the Rangers have, though, they can get by with just an average starting staff. Relievers Neftali Feliz, Darren Oliver, Darren O’Day and Frank Francisco. The offense is flat-out deadly, with Michael Young, Guerrero, Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler and others. Can this be the year the Rangers finally return to the playoffs (they haven’t been there since 1999). Why not?
Mariners: Like pretty much the entire baseball world, I love the moves the Mariners made this offseason (perhaps despite Milton Bradley). Is it enough to get them over the top and into the playoffs in possibly Ken Griffey Jr.’s final season? I’m one of few who think not. The reason: They won’t hit enough for power, and the starting rotation is not deep enough. Seattle is perfectly tailored for spacious Safeco Field. They’re one of the best defensive clubs in baseball — perhaps the best — and there’s a lot of high-on-base guys in that lineup. But what does the middle of the order consist of? Bradley, Jose Lopez and an over-the-hill Griffey? And who’s after rotation studs Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee? Ryan Rowland-Smith and Ian Snell? Great job by general manager Jack Zduriencik this offseason. But, like the Giants, they’re a big bat away from a postseason berth, in my mind.
Athletics: You may be looking at the worst team, personnel-wise, in baseball right here. Closer and reigning AL Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey is great, I like Kurt Suzuki behind the plate, and third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff was a nice acquisition. That’s pretty much it, though. Ben Sheets, who signed a $10 million contract and put up an 11.20 ERA in Grapefruit League play, was lights out from 2004-08 but is now overpaid. Too many questionable, unproven — possibly incapable — guys in the bullpen, the rotation and sprinkled all over that lineup. Sorry, A’s fans, not yet, and not even close. But perhaps Eric Chavez — now the designated hitter — can finally bounce back.
AL West champion: Rangers
— Alden Gonzalez