The American League West features the reigning AL champions (Rangers), a franchise in rebuilding mode (Mariners), a team with many aging veteran pieces (Angels) and a young team with an under the radar pitching staff (A’s).
TWHS brings you its AL West preview, set wilth statistics, analysis, breakdowns, Fantasy Baseball breakout candidates and more:
KP’s 2011 American League West Preview
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Offense: The Angels tried to make significant additions to the roster, but the biggest move on offense wound up being a deal for OF Vernon Wells. The success of the offense will be on a handful of aging veterans, mainly the aforementioned Wells, Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu. 1B Kendrys Morales also has yet to resume baseball activities and is a much needed piece.
Defense: Teams under Mike Scioscia are normally well disciplined on defense and around the basepaths. But last year’s team ranked near the bottom in all of baseball (24th in fielding percentage). The Angels need to improve upon this in 2011.
Pitching: The starting rotation has some talented arms, especially Jered Weaver and Dan Haren, who recovered from a down year with a solid second half. But the likes of Pineiro, Santana and Kazmir have all been streaky in recent seasons. The bullpen also will be relying on shaky guys like Fernando Rodney at the back end. Plenty of question marks, here.
Fantasy Breakout Candidate: Mark Trumbo – Here’s a name many haven’t heard of. The 25-year old is set to replace the injured Morales at first base, and Trumbo has likely cemented himself in that spot with a solid spring (5 HR and a .300+ average as of a few days ago). He’s comfortable with the area (born in Anaheim) and could provide significant power if he settles in.
KP’s Take: The Angels have a lot of question marks heading into 2011. There is potential for a very solid one-two punch in Weaver and Haren, but the other streaky starters could be mediocre at best. The offense features a number of aging veterans who could see a decline in statistics, and Fernando Rodney’s ERA and WHIP have been very high for a closer. The result is likely to be a team struggling to keep up in the division race.
Offense: The Oakland offense had next to no pop last season, amassing just 109 HR’s – third lowest in baseball. A few subtle improvements were made in the offseason, when the A’s brought in impact bats such as Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui. Neither should be considered a superstar, but each could help improve an offense that lacked some pop.
Defense: The A’s played pretty solid defense in 2010, being a part of approximately half the league that allowed less than 100 errors on the season. As a team, Oakland was 12th in fielding percentage, and has most of its players back in 2011.
Pitching: Oakland’s staff is the most under the radar group in the American League. Look at last season’s overall pitching stats, and you will see MLB’s top 7 teams in ERA, six of which were from the NL. The lone AL team is the A’s (4th in baseball with a 3.56 ERA). The staff consists of a number of young arms that many don’t know much about now, but they will. Among the starters include 23-year old Trevor Cahill (18-8, 2.97 ERA in 2010), 27-year old Dallas Braden (3.50 ERA in 2010) and 23-year old Brett Anderson (2.80 ERA in 2010).
Fantasy Breakout Candidate: Brett Anderson – The biggest key to Anderson’s success is his health. Last season, Anderson managed a 2.80 ERA over 19 starts, but dealt with multiple elbow injuries. He’s a steal late in a fantasy draft, assuming he can manage to stay healthy for most or all of the season.
KP’s Take: The A’s had great pitching last year, much better than most people realized. The young rotation was dynamite in 2010, and will need to keep that momentum and stay healthy in 2011. With some minor improvements on the offense, there’s no reason to believe that Oakland can’t find a way to surprise in the AL West. In fact, I’m counting on it.
Offense: Last year’s Mariners were last in home runs (101) and last in team batting average (.236). Aside from Ichiro, this is mostly an inexperienced offense, and guys like Justin Smoak will need to step up and prove their worth.
Defense: Seattle’s 110 errors in 2010 were the 10th most in all of baseball. With a mostly inexperienced staff, the defense will need to step up.
Pitching: Last year’s Cy Young award winner Felix Hernandez is the obvious gem here, but there’s not much depth behind him in the rotation. Erik Bedard had the stuff in his prime, but can’t stay healthy. Overall, the Mariners actually managed a top ten ERA in the majors (3.93).
Fantasy Breakout Candidate: Justin Smoak – His .218 average and 13 HR in 348 at-bats were a major disappointment in 2010, but Smoak is only 24-years old, and has had limited time in the majors. Hitting at Safeco won’t help, and the lack of protection in the lineup won’t either, but the kid has the talent to break out and hit 20+ HR in 2011.
KP’s Take: The Mariners are clearly in a rebuilding phase, and the key going forward in 2011 will be to get some growth out of some of its talented young players. Ichiro will still be great in the leadoff spot, and King Felix will likely be nasty as the team’s ace, but there’s little else to get excited about. Expect the M’s to finish in last place this season.
Offense: The offense is potent, and led all of baseball last year, batting .276. There’s plenty of depth in the lineup, from Josh Hamilton, to Nelson Cruz, to Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler and the newly signed Adrian Beltre. But Beltre is very much a contract year guy, and there was chatter around Michael Young being shopped, but he’s currently still in Texas.
Defense: This was a group that finished in the bottom half in fielding percentage last season. The addition of Adrian Beltre should add some flashy defense at third base.
Pitching: The Rangers lost out to the Phillies on the Cliff Lee sweepstakes, which hurts the rotation. Worse, the rotation has taken more hits, as C.J. Wilson is battling a hamstring issue, while Tommy Hunter is out six weeks or more with a groin strain. Brandon Webb was brought in, but he’s likely not going to be ready ‘til at least May.
Fantasy Breakout Candidate: Derek Holland – With the recent injuries to the rotation, the Rangers are going to rely more on Holland, who had ten starts last year. Having nearly a strikeout an inning, and an ERA near 4, Holland could wind up a breakout fantasy surprise. Mitch Moreland is another good option here, too.
KP’s Take: The Rangers have one of the most potent offenses in all of baseball, and there’s clearly no issue there, though I believe bringing in Beltre was a mistake. His best years are his contract years, and his defense is flashy, but still error filled. That, plus ticking off Michael Young during the offseason could potentially tweak team chemistry. But the biggest issue is the injuries in the rotation. In the end, while the offense is great, it’ll be too much for Texas to outslug everyone on a daily basis. The Rangers go from World Series runner-up to missing the playoffs.
THE FINAL WORD
The AL West will be a tight race throughout the season, with only the Mariners falling out of the chase in the early going. The Rangers will have the offense, but pitching questions and injuries will derail them down the stretch. That leaves the Angels and the A’s – and Oakland with its strong, young pitching staff and improved offense, will shock many and make it to the playoffs.
KP’s Division Winner: Oakland Athletics
KP’s Overall 2011 MLB Season and Playoff Predictions will be posted in the next few days…
Who Will Win The American League West Division in 2011?
- Texas Rangers (53%, 9 Votes)
- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (35%, 6 Votes)
- Oakland Athletics (6%, 1 Votes)
- Seattle Mariners (6%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 17