Mar 25, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics pitcher Sonny Gray against the Cincinnati Reds at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Now that opening day is finally finding itself upon us soon, it would be a good time to take a look around the AL West and see what things are shaping up to look like. Who will win the division? What place will everyone end up in? And how have things changed after Spring Training? Take a look.
5th Place- Houston Astros
This one is easy to see coming. The Astros are still a couple of years away from being contenders. They are still building the team that they want to have through prospects in their farm system. In another division, they might have ended up in 4th place, maybe even 3rd in some, but they are in arguably the hardest division in baseball, if not one of the best. They have to go up against improved teams from last year, so their luck won’t change much this season.
That being said, they won’t be as easy to beat as last season. I’m going to make a bold prediction here and say that the Astros will not lose 100 games this season. They will win at least 63. Not a lot more, but right on that line. Patience is key for Astros fans, because in a few years they will be a top notch team, led by their first round draft pick in 2013, Mark Appel.
4th Place- Seattle Mariners
The Mariners have some elite players going into the 2014 season. They’ve got King Felix, Hisashi Iwakuma, and now Robinson Cano. This team is a good one, but with an improved division all around, they’re going to need more than just a couple of amazing pitchers and an elite hitter. They need more balance all around on their team. They need more consistency up and down the lineup. Maybe in a year or two they can come out on top or close to it, but right now they don’t have the balance throughout the roster to get past the other 3 teams. I think their record will end up being at around the 75-80 win mark. They’ll end up just right below a .500 season.
3rd Place- Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers would have been chosen for second place again, but they have been plagued with unfortunate injuries. They lost Derek Holland, their number 2 guy in the rotation. Yu Darvish and Holland were the only two great pitchers that they had. The rest of their rotation just hovers around average. In the 2013 season, they had a lot of guys jumping back and forth between the rotation and bullpen. Alexi Ogando is a good example of that. They even had former Athletics pitcher Travis Blackley start a game for them. So with questions in the rotation as to how the final 3 pitchers in the rotation will perform, it’s fair to say that losing Holland deeply hurts the team.
Then Spring Training came around, and the Rangers lost Jurickson Profar, who was to be Ian Kinsler‘s full time replacement. He’s out for half the season with a muscle tear in his right shoulder. They lost their catcher Geovany Soto for three months as well, with a torn meniscus. They lost Colby Lewis, one of their rotation pitchers who isn’t ready to go after a hip replacement surgery, and he will start the season off in the minor leagues.
And oh yeah, did I mention Yu Darvish, the ace of the staff, will start off on the DL list? It’s nothing serious and he’ll be back in a week or two, but he will be gone nonetheless with stiff neck issues. So now their rotation is a big piled up mess of replacements, including a guy named Nick Martinez, who only has 4 starts above class-A minor league baseball. They will slowly begin to recover guys they’ve lost along the way, and in the second half they will make a push but still in end up in 3rd place. Their strong lineup will keep them alive, but they will ultimately do worse than last year and be between 84 and 89 wins.
2nd Place- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
This is a strong team that has been under performing the past two seasons. They made a good push at the end of last season, and showed that they were capable of being a winning team. This upcoming season, the Angels will finally perform like a winning team, and be in a tight race with the Oakland Athletics for the division. They will be the biggest threat to the Oakland Athletics division champions title. The ultimate downfall for the Angels will be their rotation. They have C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver, but past that there are a lot of question marks in the rotation. Overall, the Angels will fall just short of the Athletics and win about 90 games.
1st Place- Oakland Athletics
The Oakland Athletics have had their fair share of injuries, losing Jarrod Parker for the season and A.J. Griffin until May. They won’t have Ryan Cook or Craig Gentry in the opening series, but are on track to return when the Athletics face the Mariners. The reason the Athletics will win the division again is their depth. They lost two rotation pitchers, and had two guys who can still compete to replace them. Jesse Chavez had one bad outing where he allowed runs to score, but besides that one outing, he has shut down every team he has faced. He was honestly doing so well that he may have made the rotation regardless of injuries. Tommy Milone seems to be getting his 2012 form back and may also have made the rotation even without the injuries. The rotation stays strong, and they have an even better offense this season than the last. Gentry is a major upgrade over Chris Young. This team was built to win and built to last, and they will do just that. They will end up about the same as last two seasons, winning between 94 and 98 games.