TMS Baseball Preview: AL West

12:30 PM | Comments (0) | by Jake the Terrible Cubs Fan

In the weeks preceding Opening Day, we here at the Saloon will be previewing each major league division and giving a brief rundown of the in's and out's of each team heading into the 2007 season. Last week, we finished covering the National League, so now we move our attention to that other league, where pitchers are too sissy to bat. Coming in completely down to the wire, it's the AL West, the division I know and care the least about. Given that and my incredibly shrinking deadline I gave myself, forgive me if this preview seems a little more abbreviated than the others.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

1. OAKLAND ATHLETICS
2006: 93-69 (1st)

So Long: OF Jay Payton, DH Frank Thomas, P Jerome Williams, P Barry Zito

Welcome: P Alan Embree, OF Ricky Ledee, DH Mike Piazza, OF Shannon Stewart, 1B Todd Walker

PROJECTED LINEUP
C - Jason Kendall
1B - Todd Walker
2B - Mark Ellis
SS - Bobby Crosby
3B - Eric Chavez
LF - Shannon Stewart
CF - Milton Bradley
RF - Nick Swisher
DH - Mike Piazza

Starting Rotation - Dan Haren, Rich Harden, Joe Blanton, Esteban Loaiza, Joe Kennedy
Setup - Kiko Calero, Justin Duchscherer
Closer - Huston Street

There's been all this talk about the NL Central not having any real standout team that will easily take the division. I think the same can be said for the AL West as well. None of these four teams really have that great of an advantage over the other. Thus seeing how things appear fairly even, I've decided to go with Oakland for the top spot.

Billy Beane's Moneyball approach has been well-documented and imitated elsewhere, and while it hasn't garnered his team any World Series trophies, it certainly keeps them in the playoff mix season after season.

Three new acquisitions factor into the offense immediately. Mike Piazza has joined the A's, and will likely be taking on a full-time DH role now since he's pretty much established his status as the greatest-hitting catcher of all-time. Instead, Oakland will have Jason Kendall as their defensive liability behind the plate. Shannon Stewart has been thrust into a starting OF gig with the loss of Mark Kotsay to back surgery. Away from the horrible turf of the Metrodome, Stewart's plantar fasciitis that has plagued him ever since he arrived in Minnesota appears to be a thing of the past. And let's not forget last-minute pickup Todd Walker, who will fill in at 1B while Dan Johnson recovers from a cartilage-tear in his hip.

While their rotation has some question marks, most notably whether Rich Harden will be able to pitch a full season, they should be good enough to carry this team and have tremendous support from a solid bullpen.

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time: DH Mike Piazza - Not dealing with the rigors of catching any more, most are expecting some big power numbers from Mikey this season.

Well it ain't for your winning personality!: OF Milton Bradley - Filling the role of "Ornery Bastard" that was vacated by Jose Guillen, Uncle Milty didn't disappoint with immature outbursts that would make Albert Belle proud. But last season, he appeared to finally grow up, thanks in part to Frank Thomas' mentoring. Will see if a calmer, gentler Milton will equate into a big year for him.

Really? This Guy?: SP Joe Kennedy - Kennedy will be Oakland's #5 starter, and before everyone poo-poo's him, let's consider a few things. The guy will be only 28 this year, and has spent the bulk of his early career in Tampa Bay and Colorado, not exactly pitching hotbeds. If there's any place that can make a decent starter out of him it'll probably be Oakland. Of course I could be completely talking out of my ass here. Remember the "know and care least" comment in the introduction?

FOR MORE READING
Athletic Supporters
Condition Oakland
Catfish Stew


2. SEATTLE MARINERS
2006: 78-84 (4th)

SO LONG: P Gil Meche, 1B Eduardo Perez, P Joel Pineiro, OF Chris Snelling, P Rafael Soriano

WELCOME: P Miguel Batista, OF Jose Guillen, P Horacio Ramirez, P Chris Reitsma, P Arthur Rhodes, DH Jose Vidro, P Jeff Weaver

PROJECTED LINEUP
C - Kenji Johjima
1B - Richie Sexson
2B - Jose Lopez
SS - Yuniesky Betancourt
3B - Adrian Beltre
LF - Raul Ibanez
CF - Ichiro Suzuki
RF - Jose Guillen
DH - Jose Vidro

Starting Rotation - Felix Hernandez, Jarrod Washburn, Miguel Batista, Jeff Weaver, Horacio Ramirez
Setup - Arthur Rhodes, Chris Reitsma
Closer - J.J. Putz

This probably shows how little I know about the West more than anything. Seattle fans are not overly enthused about the offseason moves and seem to be readying their torches and pitchforks to run GM Bill Bavasi and manager Mike Hargrove out of town.

Here's the thing. Looking at this team "on paper" they don't look that bad. Of course the same could be said about last year's Cubs, and we all know how that played out. I guess I'll play the optimist to Seattle fan's pessimist.

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time: SP Felix Hernandez - Two seasons ago, Felix Hernandez wowed everyone, and proved to be an incredible bright spot for Seattle. He then showed up in 2006 fat and rather unimpressive, having a disappointing up and down year. This offseason, it appears Felix dropped the grilled-stuffed burrito and picked up some exercise equipment. Slimmed down and focused, the 20 year old phenom looks poised to bring back the magic he showed us in 2005.

The WTF?! Stat of 2006: OF Raul Ibanez - Raul had 123 RBI last season. How the hell did that happen? What I do know is that it inflated his fantasy value something fierce this preseason. Good luck to the roto manager expecting the same out of him again.

Lost in Translation: - You want diversity? The Mariner starting lineup features 2 Japanese, 2 Americans, 2 Dominicans, 1 Cuban, 1 Puerto Rican, and 1 Venezuelan.

FOR MORE READING
Caffeinated Confines
Mariners Revolution
Evening Perambulations


3. CALIFORNIA ANGELS
2006: 89-73 (2nd)

SO LONG: OF Darin Erstad, 2B Adam Kennedy, P J.C. Romero

WELCOME: 1B Shea Hillenbrand, OF Gary Matthews, P Darren Oliver, P Justin Speier

PROJECTED LINEUP
C - Mike Napoli
1B - Casey Kotchman
2B - Howie Kendrick
SS - Orlando Cabrera
3B - Maicer Izturis (Chone Figgins DL)
LF - Garret Anderson
CF - Gary Matthews
RF - Vladimir Guerrero
DH - Shea Hillenbrand

Starting Rotation - John Lackey, Jered Weaver (15-Day DL), Kelvim Escobar, Ervin Santana, Dustin Moseley (Bartolo Colon DL)
Setup - Justin Speier, Scot Shields
Closer - Francisco Rodriguez

Screw it. I'm tired of this Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim garbage. I'm reverting back to my childhood days and calling these clowns the California Angels from now on.

I don't much to say about these guys. They're good, but so are the rest of these teams. They've got Vlad and probably the best bullpen. Do they still have the Rally Monkey? I got nothin'. I should've left this writeup to one of the two TMS bartenders that actually live out there. I do know the Angels have instituted a ban on kissing each other so no one comes down with mono this year.

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time: 2B Howie Kendrick - Howie personifies what this award is all about. The baseball pundits are drooling all over this youngster. He should hit for a good average, which equates to winning 6 batting titles before it's all said and done, according to the over-excited guy I heard on MLB Radio on XM.

Some People Don't Handle Canada Well: DH Shea Hillenbrand - Shea had to be reassured that he was in fact over a 1,000 miles away from Canada before agreeing to play in Anaheim. Last year's fight with Toronto manager John Gibbons can probably be attributed to too much Molson.

We Thought You Were Dead!: OF Garret Anderson - Has this guy ever smiled? Seriously. Anyway, never mind that, I couldn't believe he was still playing. I can safely say that the last time I saw Garret in action was back when he won the Home Run Derby a few years ago. Hell, that may have been the last time he smiled too.

FOR MORE READING
Big 'A' Baseball
Halo Hotline
Angelblog


4. TEXAS RANGERS
2006: 80-82 (3rd)

SO LONG: C Rod Barajas, P John Danks, 2B Mark DeRosa, P Adam Eaton, OF Carlos Lee, OF Gary Matthews, P Kip Wells, OF Eric Young

WELCOME: OF Marlon Byrd, OF Frank Catalanotto, P Bruce Chen, P Willie Eyre, P Eric Gagne, OF Kenny Lofton, P Brandon McCarthy, OF Sammy Sosa, P Jamey Wright

PROJECTED LINEUP
C - Gerald Laird
1B - Mark Teixeira
2B - Ian Kinsler
SS - Michael Young
3B - Hank Blalock
LF - Brad Wilkerson
CF - Kenny Lofton
RF - Nelson Cruz
DH - Frank Catalanotto/Sammy Sosa

Starting Rotation - Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Robinson Tejeda, Brandon McCarthy, Jamey Wright
Setup - Joaquin Benoit
Closer - Akinori Otsuka (Eric Gagne DL)

Oh Texas. When will you have a decent rotation? Sure Millwood isn't bad, but his stats tell a possible tale of the "I pitch well when it's time to get paid" theory. Beyond Millwood, you have a group of guys that probably will never be considered "difference-makers".

On the other hand their offense looks pretty decent, at least the infield that is. Teixeira, Young, Kinsler and Blalock should be tough. The outfield on the other hand.... I mean Lofton fills an obvious niche but Wilkerson and Cruz are brutal.

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time: OF Sammy Sosa - Slammin' Sammy is back! In one last attempt to eclipse 600 homers and possibly regain some credibility before his name comes up on the HOF ballot, Sosa will be swinging the lumber in Texas.

Mark Prior Award: RP Eric Gagne - Brace yourself Texas fans. This little DL stint to give Eric "a little more time" is just the beginning. He'll come back and throw a few innings, looking "OK". You'll chalk it up to him being rusty, but then he'll say he felt a twinge and then he's shelved for a few days to rest. But just as it appears he's rested, here comes another DL stint. The MRI didn't look too bad so it should only be a couple of weeks. Oh wait, the second MRI caught something the first one didn't. Looks like he's done for the season....

Just sayin', be prepared. At least you got Otsuka.

Finally!
: Me - Finally I'm done with the TMS Preview. Next year I'll remember to start it a little sooner, so I don't short change the AL West again.

FOR MORE READING
Los Rangers
Rangerfans.com
Baseball Time in Arlington

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