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Get ready for 2010 AL West style baseball. It's going to be a shoot out in the West. Los Angeles has captured division title honors in 5 of 6 seasons. They'll be tested this year. Seattle was busy transforming their roster. Texas seemed ready to dethrone the Angels after beginning 30-19 only to falter during 100 degree sweltering Arlington temperatures. Oakland continues on the low payroll road which has led to dead ends of late.
Let's take a look at how these teams shape up. Only two weeks before Cactus League games begin.
Los Angeles Angels (97-65):
Key additions: Scott Kazmir, Hideki Matsui, Joel Piniero, Fernando Rodney, Brian Stokes.
Key losses: Chone Figgins, Kelvin Escobar, Vlad Guerrero, John Lackey, Gary Mathews Jr., Darren Oliver.
It's been a long time since the Angels dropped so many key players at once. Bad timing? Nope, not with Mike Scioscia calling the shots. LA did well replacing big salaried players. Angels have a young nucleus of talent in place. If they can play up to potential then LA will be the team to beat for quite some time.
Projected rotation: Jared Weaver, Scott Kazmir, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, Joel Piniero.
Bullpen: Rumors swirling wondering who will win the closers job this spring? Fuentes saved 48 but was often shaky. He may be challenged by Shields and newcomer Rodney. Plenty of solid arms. Bullpen should be just fine.
Forecast: Scioscia managed his butt off last season when multiple injuries nearly left this team for dead. Solid young lineup of rising stars. They do it all... speed, power, aggressiveness, defense & pitching. Repeating will not be an easy task but they have the talent and leadership to keep it going.
Texas Rangers (87-75):
Key additions: Vlad Guerrero, Rich Harden, Darren Oliver.
Key losses: Marlon Byrd, Eddie Guardado, Hank Blalock, Andruw Jones, Kevin Millwood, Ivan Rodriguez.
Rangers had a short lived great half of '09 when the led the West. Young pitchers came thru early and often before wilting in summer months. Lineup looked great at times. This team has always been able to hit. Pitching has usually been lacking. Rich Harden, if finally over arm woes, needs to become the staff leader on and off the diamond. Maybe last years' taste of winning can energize this team out of the gates? They'll only go as far as pitchers take them. Easier said than done.
Projected rotation: Rich Harden, Scott Feldman, Tommy Hunter, ???
Bullpen: Francisco Francisco will get plenty of save opp's. The rest of the pen needs to become consistent and probably won't be determined until the end of spring training.
Forecast: They'll score plenty of runs. Trick is getting pitchers to protect leads. Front office still hasn't gone hard after big time starting pitchers.
Seattle Mariners (85-77):
Key additions: Cliff Lee, Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley, Eric Byrnes, Ryan Garko and plenty of role players to compete for bench spots.
Key losses: Adrian Beltre, Kenji Johjima, Carlos Silva, Miguel Bastita.
The Mariners were one of baseball's busiest franchises this winter. They're ready for a serious run at dethroning LA. Lineup will have to manufacture runs without a bonified slugger. Pitching staff will keep them in games all year. Timely hits will be key to their success.
Projected rotation: Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee, Eric Bedard, ???
Bullpen: David Aardsma returns and needs to prove '09 was no fluke. Wide open race for middle relief and setup.
Forecast: Will they become a team to beat? Or, did they overdue it once again? Time will tell. Looking good on paper. A quick start in April is key.
Oakland Athletics (75-87):
Key additions: Ben Sheets, Coco Crisp.
Key losses: Bobby Crosby, Adam Kennedy, Scott Hairston.
Oakland is in a downward spiral. Lack of attendance hurts payroll. Lack of star power hurts attendance. GM Billy Beane had looked like a front office guru not too long ago by his ability to create playoff calibur teams on low budgets. However, back in the day he had Harden, Zito & Mulder (all long gone). Injuries to one time future star pitchers took its' toll. This is a team in transition with no immediate help in sight. AL West foes are too deep. A's lack firepower or pitching to compete anytime soon.
Projected rotation: Ben Sheets, Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden, Justin Duchscherer, ??
Bullpen: Andrew Bailey was terrific in '09 and will be again in '10. Bullpen is lone team brightspot. Giving them a lead with a weak lineup is no easy task.
Forecast: Division rivals upgraded in a big way. A's stuck with what they have. Starting rotation trying to recover from arm woes and weakest West lineup spells trouble.
NL West up next.....