PTBN’s 2014 American League West Preview

This is Part Three of Place to Be Nation’s Major League Baseball division previews, focused on the American League West.

To read Part One, the A.L. East, click here. For the A.L. Central, click here.

Two quick catches before we begin. In my A.L. Central preview, I noted that top prospect Miguel Sano could join the big league club sometime this season. I did not remember that Sano is likely out for the season with an elbow injury and surgery.

Also, I neglected to include a “Bold, but unlikely Prediction” for Cleveland, so here goes: Masterson and Kluber combine to win 35 games and the team overtakes Detroit to win the division.

Now, let us Go West … ahem, preview the American League West.

Just as before, teams are listed in predicted order of finish.

osh Donaldson aims to keep the A's swinging all year long.
Josh Donaldson aims to keep the A’s swinging all year long.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

2013: 96-66, won A.L. West

Key additions: SP Scott Kazmir, Luke Gregorson, RP Jim Johnson, OF Craig Gentry, IF Nick Punto

Key losses: SP Bartolo Colon, RP Grant Balfour, SP Brett Anderson, OF Michael Choice

Projected lineup, rotation, bullpen (with key 2013 stats) — Division Rank in [brackets]

Lineup [2]

Rotation [1]

Bullpen [1]

CF Coco Crisp (S)

93 R, 22 HR, 21 SB

Sonny Gray (R)

5-3, 2.67 ERA, 67 K in 64 IP

Jim Johnson (R)

3-8, 2.94 ERA, 50 SV

DH John Jaso (L)

.271 BA, .387 OBP in 70 games

Scott Kazmir (L)

10-9, 4.04 ERA, 162 K in 158 IP

Luke Gregerson (R)

6-8, 2.71 ERA, 64 K in 66 ⅓ IP

3B Josh Donaldson (R)

.301 BA, 37 2B, 24 HR

A.J. Griffin (R)

14-10, 3.83 ERA, 171 K in 200 IP

will begin season on DL

Ryan Cook (R)

6-4, 2.54 ERA, 67 K in 67 ⅓ IP

LF Yoenis Cespedes (R)

.240 BA, 26 HR, 80 RBI, Gold Glove finalist

Dan Straily (R)

10-8, 3.96 ERA, 124 K in 152 ⅓ IP

Sean Doolittle (L)

5-5, 3.13 ERA, 60 K in 69 IP

1B Brandon Moss (L)

.256 BA, 30 HR, 87 RBI

Tommy Milone (L) /Drew Pomeranz (L)

12-9, 4.14 ERA (Milone); 19 K in 21 ⅔ IP (Pomeranz)

Dan Otero (R)

2-0, 1.38 ERA, 27-6 K/BB ratio in 39 IP

RF Josh Reddick (L)

12 HR, 56 RBI in 114 games, Gold Glove finalist

SS Jed Lowrie (S)

.290 BA, 45 2B, 15 HR, 75 RBI

C Derek Norris (R)

.246 BA, 9 HR in 98 games

2B Alberto Callaspo (S) /Eric Sogard (L)

.252 BA, 13 2B in 86 games (Callaspo); .266 BA, 24 2B, 10 SB in 130 games (Sogard)

Strengths: Offense, bullpen, starting pitching

Weakness: Lack of speed, defense, starting pitching depth

Best case scenario: The starting pitching clicks like it did last season, when the A’s were second in the A.L. with a 3.72 ERA; Sonny Gray Real Estate builds on (See what I did there?) his strong rookie season and leads the staff in the absence of Jarrod Parker (out all year with Tommy John surgery); the bullpen posts another stellar campaign (3.22 ERA, 3rd in A.L.); the offense sparks behind MVP candidate Josh Donaldson and a healthy Josh Reddick; Brandon Moss builds on his career-best 2013 and becomes a fixture at 1B; Jim Johnson saves 50 for the third consecutive season; the team wins the West convincingly.

Worst case scenario: Moss, Donaldson, and Lowrie all regress; Cespedes continues to swing at anything with half a wrinkle on it; injuries continue to plague the young starting staff; Johnson’s low strikeout rate (6.0/9 for his career) catches up to him in a big way; the rest of the bullpen folds; the team misses a third straight playoff berth by 10 games-plus.

Bold, but unlikely prediction: Josh Donaldson wins the American League MVP award, becoming the first Oakland A’s player to do so since Miguel Tejada in 2002 (who was portrayed by Royce Clayton in Moneyball, which starred Brad Pitt, who was in Sleepers with … Kevin Bacon).

Princer Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo are big additions to the Rangers
Princer Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo are big additions to the Rangers

TEXAS RANGERS

2013: 91-72, 2nd in A.L. West

Key additions: 1B Prince Fielder, OF Shin-Soo Choo, C J.P. Arencibia, OF Michael Choice

Key losses: 2B Ian Kinsler, RP Joe Nathan, OF Craig Gentry

Projected lineup, rotation, bullpen (with key 2013 stats) — Division Rank in [brackets]

Lineup [1]

Rotation [2]

Bullpen [2]

SS Elvis Andrus (R)

.271 BA, 91 R, 42 SB

Yu Darvish (R)

13-9, 2.83 ERA, 277 K in 209 ⅔ IP

will begin season on DL

Joakim Soria (R)

1-0, 3.80 ERA, 28 K in 23 ⅔ IP

LF Shin-Soo Choo (L)

107 R, .423 OBP, 21 HR, 20 SB

Martin Perez (L)

10-6, 3.62 ERA, 84 K in 124 ⅓ IP

Neal Cotts (L)

8-3, 1.11 ERA, 65 K in 57 IP

3B Adrian Beltre (R)

.315 BA, 32 2B, 30 HR, Gold Glove finalist

Colby Lewis (R)

Did not pitch in 2013

Robbie Ross (L)

4-2, 3.03 ERA, 58 K in 62 ⅓ IP

1B Prince Fielder (L)

25 HR, 106 RBI

Matt Harrison (L)

0-2 in 2 starts

will begin season on DL

Alexi Ogando (R)

7-4, 3.11 ERA in 18 starts

RF Alex Rios (R)

33 2B, 18 HR, 42 SB

Tanner Scheppers (R)

6-2, 1.88 ERA in 76 relief appearances in 2013

Nick Tepesch (R)

4-6, 4.84 ERA in 93 IP

DH Mitch Moreland (L)

.232 BA, 24 2B, 23 HR

Derek Holland (L) 10-9, 3.42 ERA

will begin season on DL

2B Jurickson Profar (S)

.234 BA, 11 2B, 6 HR in 85 games

will begin season on DL

C J.P. Arencibia (R)

.194 BA, 21 HR

CF Leonys Martin (L)

.260 BA, 36 SB

Strengths: Top of the lineup, top of the rotation, bullpen

Weakness: Health concerns, bottom of the lineup, bottom of the rotation

Best case scenario: Everyone gets healthy; new acquisitions Prince Fielder and Shin-Shoo Choo are worth every penny; Yu Darvish strikes out 280+; After coming off the DL, Jurickson Profar becomes the player the Rangers think he can be; Elvis Andrus packs 30 points onto his 2013 on-base percentage (.328) and becomes an elite shortstop; the bottom third of the lineup produces; the bullpen is led by a resurgent Soria, who saves more games than the man he replaced (Joe Nathan); the team topples Oakland for the division title, while the loser settles for a Wild Card spot.

Worst case scenario: The injuries that have hit the team this spring (Profar, second catcher Geovany Soto, pitchers Harrison and Darvish) continue all year long; Fielder’s a bust; Choo’s a bust; Andrus loses 30 points from his 2013 OBP and becomes a liability; the bullpen regresses as a shaky rotation forces the ‘pen into overload; the team fails to win 90 games for the first time in five years.

Bold, but unlikely prediction: Choo scores 150 runs, the first player to do so since Jeff Bagwell (152) in 2000, and the first American League player to hit that mark since Ted Williams (150) in 1949.

Mike Trout aims to dominate the basepaths (and batter's box) again in 2014.
Mike Trout aims to dominate the basepaths (and batter’s box) again in 2014.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM

2013: 78-84, 3rd in A.L. West

Key additions: SP Hector Santiago, SP Tyler Skaggs, 3B David Freese, RP Joe Smith

Key losses: OF Mark Trumbo, OF Peter Bourjos, SP Jerome Williams

Projected lineup, rotation, bullpen (with key 2013 stats) — Division Rank in [brackets]

Lineup [3]

Rotation [4]

Bullpen [3]

RF Kole Calhoun (L)

.282 BA, .347 OBP, 8 HR in 58 games

Jered Weaver (R)

11-8, 3.27 ERA, 117 K in 154 ⅓ IP

Ernesto Frieri (R)

2-4, 3.80 ERA, 37 SV, 98 K in 68 ⅔ IP

CF Mike Trout (R)

.323 BA, 109 R, 39 2B, 27 HR, 33 SB

C.J. Wilson (L)

17-7, 3.39 ERA, 188 K in 212 ⅓ IP

Joe Smith (R)

6-2, 2.29 ERA, 54 K in 63 IP

1B Albert Pujols (R)

.258 BA, 17 HR, 64 RBI in 99 games

Garrett Richards (R)

7-8, 4.16 ERA, 101 K in 145 IP

Sean Burnett (L)

0.93 ERA in 13 games

RF Josh Hamilton (L)

.250 BA, 21 HR, 79 RBI

Hector Santiago (L)

4-9, 3.56 ERA, 137 K in 149 IP (23 starts)

Kevin Jepsen (R)

1-3, 4.50 ERA, 36 K in 36 IP

3B David Freese (R)

.262 BA, 26 2B, 60 RBI

Tyler Skaggs (L)

2-3, 5.12 ERA, 36 K in 38 ⅔ IP

Michael Kohn (R)

1.4, 3.74 ERA, 52 K in 53 IP

2B Howie Kendrick (R)

.297 BA, 13 HR, 54 RBI

C Chris Iannetta (R)

.225 BA, 11 HR in 115 games

DH J.B. Shuck (L)

.293 BA, 20 2B, 8 SB

SS Erick Aybar (S)

.271 BA, 33 2B, 12 SB

Strengths: Mike Trout, Mike Trout, Mike Trout

Weakness: Defense, starting pitching, declining major stars

Best case scenario: Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton party like it’s 2009 (and 2010, respectively); Kole Calhoun and J.B. Shuck build on their impressive first full seasons and give Trout some help in the outfield; David Freese solidifies third base both offensively and defensively; Skaggs and Santiago become the best bottom two starters in baseball; the team contends all year for the West.

Worst case scenario: Pujols and Hamilton cannot rebound; the starters struggle all year long; the bullpen suffers due to a lack of rest; the defense (21st in MLB with a .699 defensive efficiency rating) continues to hurt the team; the team misses the playoffs, finishes under .500 and team owner fires manager Mike Scioscia in the aftermath. Scioscia returns to his acting career.

Bold, but unlikely prediction: Kole Calhoun builds on his 2013 (.354/.431/.617 in Triple-A; .282/.347/.462 in 222 MLB plate appearances) and is one of the five best right fielders in all of baseball.

Robinson Cano hopes to lead the Mariners into a new era, but there's not much immediate help.
Robinson Cano hopes to lead the Mariners into a new era, but there’s not much immediate help.

SEATTLE MARINERS

2013: 71-91, 4th in A.L. West

Key additions: 2B Robinson Cano, 1B/OF Corey Hart, 1B/OF Logan Morrison, C John Buck, SP Chris Young

Key losses: LHP Joe Saunders, RP Carter Capps

Projected lineup, rotation, bullpen (with key 2013 stats) — Division Rank in [brackets]

Lineup [4]

Rotation [2]

Bullpen [4]

SS Brad Miller (L)

.265 BA, 41 R, 6 3B, 8 HR in 76 games

Felix Hernandez (R)

12-10, 3.04 ERA, 216 K in 204 ⅓ IP

Fernando Rodney (R)

5-4, 3.38 ERA, 37 SV, 82 K in 66 ⅔ IP

3B Kyle Seager (L)

.260 BA, 32 2B, 22 HR

Hisashi Iwakuma (R)

14-6, 2.66 ERA, 185 K in 219 ⅔ IP

Danny Farquhar (R)

0-3, 4.20 ERA, 16 SV, 79 K in 55 ⅔  IP

2B Robinson Cano (L)

.314 BA, 41 2B, 27 HR, 107 RBI

Chris Young (R)

Did not pitch in 2013

Charlie Furbush (L)

2-6, 3.74 ERA, 80 K in 65 IP

RF Corey Hart (R)

Did not play in 2013

Taijuan Walker (R)

9-10, 2.93 ERA, 160 K in 141 ⅓ IP in Minor Leagues

Yoervis Medina (R)

4-6, 2.91 ERA, 71 K in 68 IP

1B Justin Smoak (S)

.238 BA, 20 HR, 50 RBI

Erasmo Ramirez (R) /James Paxton (L)

5-3, 4.98 ERA (Ramirez)/3-0, 1.50 ERA (Paxton)

Tom Wilhelmsen (R)

0-3, 4.12 ERA, 45 K in 59 IP

DH Logan Morrison (L)

.242 BA, 6 HR, 36 RBI in 85 games

CF Michael Saunders (L)

.236 BA, 12 HR, 13 SB

C Mike Zunino (R)

.214 BA, 5 HR in 52 games

LF Dustin Ackley (L)

.253 BA, 18 2B

Strengths: Top of the rotation, power, a handful of talented youngsters (Miller, Seager, Walker, Paxton)

Weakness: Limited roster flexibility, no star power beyond Cano & King Felix, speed, defense

Best case scenario: Cano continues to hit like he did in New York; Miller builds on his rookie performance; Seager becomes a star; Ackley, Zunino, and Saunders turn in career years; Paxton and Walker both live up to the hype; the team teases contention for most of the season and finishes above .500.

Worst case scenario: Cano pouts early and often about being the only credible offensive threat; the roster inflexibility (3 DH/1B types on a roster that needs fewer) slows everything down; the dysfunction reported in the offseason shows on the field; Walker and Paxton fail to live up to the hype and/or get hurt; Ackley, Zunino, and Miller get worse instead of better; the team finishes last in the division and is the worst team in the league.

Bold, but unlikely prediction: It’s really tough to be positive when looking at this team, so let’s keep things simple: Corey Hart wins Comeback Player of the Year.

Catcher Jason Castro leads an young-and-coming Astros squad.
Catcher Jason Castro leads an young-and-coming Astros squad.

HOUSTON ASTROS

2013: 51-111, 5th in A.L. West

Key additions: OF Dexter Fowler, SP Scott Feldman, RP Chad Qualls, RP Jesse Crain

Key losses: SP Jordan Lyles, OF Brandon Barnes

Projected lineup, rotation, bullpen (with key 2013 stats) — Division Rank in [brackets]

Lineup [5]

Rotation [5]

Bullpen [5]

CF Dexter Fowler (S)

.263 BA, 12 HR, 19 SB

Scott Feldman (R)

12-12, 3.86 ERA, 132 K in 181 ⅔ IP

Chad Qualls (R)

5-2, 2.61 ERA, 49 K in 62 IP

2B Jose Altuve (R)

.283 BA, 31 2B, 35 SB

Jarred Cosart (R)

1-1, 1.95 ERA in 10 starts

Jesse Crain (R)

2-3, 0.74 ERA, 46 K in 36 ⅔ IP

C Jason Castro (L)

.276 BA, 35 2B, 18 HR

Brett Oberholtzer (L)

4-5, 2.76 ERA in 10 starts

Darin Downs (L)

0-2, 4.84 ERA, 37 K in 35 ⅓ IP

DH Chris Carter (R)

.223 BA, 29 HR, 82 RBI

Dallas Keuchel (L)

6-10, 5.15 ERA, 123 K in 153 ⅔ IP

Matt Albers (R)

3-1, 3.14 ERA

3B Matt Dominguez (R)

.241 BA, 25 2B, 21 HR

Lucas Harrell (R)

6-17, 5.86 ERA

Anthony Bass (R)

5.36 ERA in 24 games

LF Robbie Grossman (S)

.268 BA, 14 2B, 4 HR in 257 at-bats

1B Jesus Guzman (R)

.226 BA, 9 HR in 288 ab-bats

RF L.J. Hoes (R)

.287 BA, 10 extra-base hits in 46 games, 7 SB

SS Jonathan Villar (S)

.243 BA, 18 SB in 58 games

Strengths: Rebuilding done the right way

Weakness: Everything else

Best case scenario: Some of the established young talent (Dominguez, Castro) continues to progress, while farmhands (P Mark Appel, SS Carlos Correa, and OF George Springer) see some time with the big club and impress; All five of those guys should be a part of the next good Astros team; the pitching is good enough for a few mid-season deals where GM Jeff Luhnow acquires more young talent; the team finishes in last again, but wins a few more.

Worst case scenario: Injuries and/or growing pains strike the top prospects. There’s really nowhere for this team to go but up.

Bold, but unlikely prediction: OF George Springer wins Rookie of the Year.

We’ll move onto the National League next, so stay tuned for the Senior Circuit!

Author: Joel Barnhart

A big-time baseball nerd, Joel is currently teaching English as a Second Language in San Antonio, Texas. In addition to his MLB passion, he enjoys good whiskey, good music, good movies, and good friends. He is currently engaged in an ongoing 12-year online debate over the merits of bubble wrap.