AL West Preview
After a lot of turnover during the offseason do the Los Angeles Angels have what it takes to repeat as champs in the AL West? John Lackey, Chone Figgins, Vladimir Guerrero. All three departed the Angels during the offseason. Their replacements - Joel Pineiro, Brandon Wood, and Hideki Matsui - have some big shoes to fill and may not be able to do it. Without Lackey the Angels’ rotation is now led by Jered Weaver and also includes Scott Kazmir, Joe Saunders, and Ervin Santana. Not a bad set of arms, especially if Kazmir can keep striking out batters at a hefty pace. At the plate the Angels no longer have a true lead-off hitter with the departure of Figgins. Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick are a stretch to fit the bill. With Guerrero gone the Angels will need Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu to continue driving in runs at their usual pace.
While the Angels saw their talent pool dry up a little the Mariners made a big splash in the offseason to make a run at the division title. Seattle bolstered their rotation by adding former Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee. He gives the Mariners a strong start to the staff with resident ace Felix Hernandez. If Ian Snell or Erik Bedard can get things together the Mariners could be dangerous. The Mariners also pilfered the Angels by grabbing Figgins. He and Ichiro make up a speedy tandem at the top of the lineup, but they need the likes of Casey Kotchman, Jose Lopez, and Milton Bradley to also deliver to score some runs.
Also hoping to challenge in the division are the Rangers, who finished second, 10 games behind the Angels last season. Texas may still need another top-level starter to get there, though. They dispatched Kevin Millwood and replaced him with injury-prone Rich Harden. He and Scott Feldman are their best pitchers, but keep an eye on young gun Neftali Feliz, who could make a splash if given the chance to start. One thing the Rangers shouldn’t have a problem with is scoring runs. Texas boasts plenty of power led by Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Chris Davis, Ian Kinsler, and new acquisition Vladimir Guerrero. Injuries could be a problem, though, as they have struck down Hamilton, Kinsler, and Guerrero in recent years. AL West futures: L.A. Angels +180 Seattle +180 Texas +210 Oakland +850