A.L. West 2015 Preview (less the Angels who were previewed in another post)

Posted: March 12, 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Seattle

Ramble:  A relatively quiet winter.  However, the season will be return to splendor for long-suffering Mariners’ fans.

Outfield.  Probably a rotation in left.  Choose from Dustin Ackley (hit in 2015 or move on) or James Jones or Stefen Romero (their best outfield prospect).  Austin Jackson gets center while the former Padre Seth Smith takes right.

Infield:  Logan Morrison at first.  Robinson Cano and Brad Miller handle the middle.  Kyle Seager takes third.  Willy Blooomquist and Rickie Weeks are the utility guys with Chris Taylor waiting for an extended chance.

Catching:  I’m choosing John Hicks in a race for catcher with most of the competition coming from fellow prospect Jesus Sucre.   John Baker will stick around to teach and for the sake of just in case.

DH:  Nelson Cruz (the buy of the year in 2014) continues to annihilate baseballs.

Starting Pitching:  Felix Hernandez leads a formidable rotation.  He, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton are a quality first three.  If Taijuan Walker takes a season long step towards his potential, this is a tough group.

Relief:  Sure, he should be fined millions of dollars for wearing his hat at a weird, half intoxicated angle, but Fernando Rodney is a fine closer.  Danny Farquhar, Yoervis Medina, Tom Wilhelmsen, Carson Smith (much like Walker, the M’s must offer a full year to determine true ability) and Charlie Furbush are an excellent group coming out of the ‘pen.

AAA/AA Help:  Steve Baron (c), Chris Taylor (ss), D.J. Petersen (3b), Tyler Olson (starter), Stephen Kohlscheen (relief) and Mayckol Guaipe (relief).

Prediction:  First in a highly competitive division.

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Houston (stop laughing)

Ramble:  The Astros have been loaded with system talent for two solid years.  The players they scout, draft, sign and develop are good.  This year, for no apparent reason, I choose as the year of the Astros or the Kansas City Royals, II (without the improbable run to the Series).  Acquiring Evan Gattis and Hank Conger make the Astros deep at not only catcher, but first and the dh spot as well.

Outfield:  As for the mavens suggesting Evan Gattis serve as the starting left fielder, I’m not one of those.  Jake Marisnick needs at bats to determine potential.  Robbie Grossman needs the same attention.  Colby Rasmus in center and George Springer in right complete the outfield.

Infield:  Jon Singleton shares more time with Gattis than he might like.  Chris Carter makes an occasional appearance as well.  Jose Altuve (a fine ballplayer) anchors the middle with Jed Lowrie.  Luis Valbuena battles Matt Dominguez for third, though Marwin Gonzalez might be the best choice.

Catching:  Deep.  Jason Castro and Hank Conger strive to gain the starting staff’s confidence with Evan Gattis appearing on the weekend.

DH:  Carter, Gattis and Singleton, i.e., whomever is not playing first base on a given night.

Starting Pitching:  Scott Feldman followed by Colin McHugh, Dan Straily, Dallas Keuchel and either Brett Olberholtzer or Brad Peacock.  For a surprising 2015, McHugh, Straily and Keuchel must reach the sixth inning more often than not.

Relief:  This group needs to produce a closer.  Luke Gregerson, Tony Sipp or Chad Qualls rotate through until a winner is found.  The other two become quality 7th and 8th inning guys.  Pat Neshek, Josh Fields, Kevin Chapman, Joe Thatcher and Samuel Deduno battle for appearances.

AAA/AA Help:  Matt Duffy (1b), Joe Sciafani (2b), Colin Moran (3b), Gregorio Petit (ss), Domingo Santana (of) and Thomas Shirley (starter).

Prediction:  A close second, a wild card spot, an advance, then the balloon is burst.  But, fun will be had.

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Angels (see a the Southern California MLB post from 3/3/15)

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Oakland

Ramble:  Lots of people left during the winter.  Not good.

Outfield:  Coco Crisp (did ever a finer name exist?) and Josh Reddick in the corners.  Center is who knows?  I love Sam Fuld as much as the next Fuld-man, but Sam as a starter does nothing for confidence.  Billy Burns was a rush job in 2014.  Perhaps sharing the spot with Fuld may ease him into MLB.  If both those two fold, Craig Gentry waits.

Infield:  Ike Davis (ouch) at first with the occasional appearance by Country Breakfast.  Billy does lessen the sting of so many departed.  Ben Zobrist at second.  Eric Sogard or Marcus Semien at short.  Brett Lawrie at third.

Catching:  Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley until one of them is hurt, then Luis Exposito finally gets a shot (assuming he’s still with Oakland on a minor league deal).

DH:  The aforementioned Country Breakfast Butler.  Ike Davis and Fuld on occasion.  If Ike tanks, again (re:  His days as a Met), Nate Freiman takes his spot.

Starting Pitching:  Sonny Gray followed by a large dose of unknown.  Scott Kazmir as the #2 starter does for that spot as Sam Fuld does for center.  Jesse Hahn (if he can pitch a quality 200+ innings, the A’s might surprise), Jesse Chavez and the long championed Drew Pomeranz complete the rotation.

Relief:  Thank goodness for Sean Doolittle.  He does a lot (sorry, couldn’t resist).  Ty Cliparrd was a quality addition.  Fernando Abad, Dan Otero, Ryan Cook, Evan Scribner and Eric O’Flaherty will sooth any waters before getting to Doolittle.

AAA/AA Help.  Depends on the plethora of quality A+ kids from ’14, where they land in the A’s system and how they play.

Prediction:  Unless the starting pitching overcomes the anemic hitting, fourth.

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Texas

Ramble:  Acquiring Yovani Gallardo was smart, but a lot more was needed.

Outfield:  Center (Leonys  Martin) and right (Shin-Soo Choo) are set.  Left is a toss-up.  I’m choosing Jake  Smolinski in an upset.  Ryan Ludwick would be a smart inclusion given experience and clubhouse attitude, but Michael Choice is a lot less expensive and the Rangers need to know if he can hit MLB pitching.

Infield:  Adrian Beltre (though Ryan Rua awaits) and Elvis Andrus form a strong left side. Rougned Odor is the next big, can’t-miss guy in Texas.  Remember Mike Olt?  Thought so.  Prince Fielder occupies first.  Mitch Moreland backs him up (dh as well).  Adam Rosales is the other utility guy.

Catching:  Untested.  Tomas Telis is the best of the lot.  Robinson Chirinos and Carlos Corporan offer experience, but little offense.

DH:  Moreland and Ludwick with Fielder once in a while.  If Ludwick doesn’t make the team, look for Michael Choice to get a few at bats.

Starting Pitching:  Derek Holland, Yu Darvish (currently injured, thus a large hole in the Rangers’ rotation), Yovani Gallardo, Colby Lewis and either Ross Detwiler or Nick Tepesh (their best system prospect) form a bleak rotation.  Pray for the relievers, especially the long guys.

Relief:  Neftali Perez closes, but he spent 24 games at AAA last year, so nothing is sure.  Spencer Patton might compete for the closing spot.  Tanner Scheppers, Alex Claudio, Shawn Tolleson, Roman Mendez, Phil Klein and Kyuji Fujikawa are most likely to see too many innings as the starters reality becomes the relief corps’ nightmare.

AAA/AA Help:  Tomas Telis (c), Doubel Herrera (2b), Ryan Rua (3b), Nomar Mazara (of) and Alec Asher (starter).

Prediction:  Last in the A.L. West.  Perhaps 2015 should be referred to as a transition year.

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