The smallest division in the major leagues, the American League West, has not been a big force in the postseason the previous few seasons. It has been five years since they even had a team in the World Series. The race to October should be good, however, because these four squads feature plenty of talent.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Reason for Hope: No team’s starting five runs as deep as this one. The Angels have assembled a very strong rotation, featuring the likes of John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar. Once opposing teams get into the bullpen, things get even better for the Angels. This is how World Series Champions are built.
The Cause for Concern: Other than Vladimir Guerrero, there isn’t much to like on the offensive side. Howie Kendrick is the second best hitter on the team, but he doesn’t have any power. Until Juan Rivera comes back around the All Star Break from a broken leg injury, pitchers might as well intentionally walk Guerrero.
Prediction: 1st place, with 96 wins
The Reason for Hope: Both Rich Harden and Bobby Crosby have stayed healthy through spring training, and if they can keep taking the field, there’s the potential for great production. Given the ball every fifth day, Harden could win 17 games, while Crosby could hit 25 home runs at the shortstop position. Remember: Peter Gammons picked Crosby as his preseason AL MVP candidate just last year.
The Cause for Concern: This past offseason, the A’s lost Barry Zito, their staff ace, and Frank Thomas, their designated hitter. That kind of production is difficult for any team to replace, especially one that doesn’t have any money to spend on offseason acquisitions.
Prediction: 2nd place, with 88 wins
The Reason for Hope: A look up and down the Mariners lineup reveals several strong hitters. Ichiro Suzuki remains one of the better leadoff hitters in the majors, while Adrian Beltre was insane in the number two slot last season. From there, potential comebacks from Jose Vidro and Jose Guillen could give this team even more power.
The Cause for Concern: The final three members of the starting rotation are no one’s idea of a strength. Horacio Ramirez and Miguel Batista all had ERAs in the high 4s, while Jeff Weaver put up a 5.76 mark in that category. There’s always the chance that one of these overpaid pitchers will earn their paycheck, of course.
Prediction: 3rd place, with 86 wins
The Reason for Hope: Over the past few seasons, the story in Arlington was the offense. Long gone are the days when the Rangers will put up 5 or 6 runs, but the duo of Mark Teixeira and Michael Young both drove in over 100 runs last season. Oh, and the new and improved Sammy Sosa has arrived.
The Cause for Concern: The entirety of the Rangers’ rotation features five guys who would be middle-of-the-rotation talents on the other three teams. The conditions of The Ballpark in Arlington make it difficult for pitchers, but the personnel is at fault, too. Kevin Millwood just isn’t an ace, and Vicente Padilla is too lazy to work, even though he has some of the best stuff in the American League.Prediction: 4th place, with 82 wins
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