2009 American League West Preview

Last Updated: March 21st, 2009 by Rodney James (Bankroll Sports Contributor)

             The question at the start of Spring Training within the American League West is, can anyone compete with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? Despite being the overwhelming favorite, the Angels appear to have their share of question marks within their Tempe Arizona spring training facility. With additions to the Mariners and Athletics rosters, the American League West could turn from a blowout from start to finish in 2008 to a very competitive race in 2009.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim finished 100-62 in 2008 running away with the division, but losing in the American League Division Series. Anaheim was not able to re-sign high powered offensive machine Mark Teixeria, but they did improve their squad by signing Bobby Abreu to a year one $5 million contract. The Angels also added a veteran presence in Juan Riveria to a three-year $12.75 contract. Brian Fuentes will replace the lights out Francisco Rodriguez at the closer position. Fuentes is a three time All Star, but struggled in his final season in Colorado, losing his role at one point in the season. Who will fill Teixeria position at first base? From the start of training in Tempe, the Angels appear to be leaning the direction of Kendry Morales, a 25 year old with just 127 games of major league experience. The rest of the offensive will be surrounded by Vladmir Guerrero, who is coming off a .303 season with 27 home runs and 91 RBIs. The rest of the outfield is jammed packed with a ton of experience. Torri Hunter, Bobby Abreu, Gary Matthews Jr., Reggie Willits and Juan Riveria are all vying for positions for Mike Scioscia’s squad. Hopefully with the experience and talent flowing in Anaheim, this will give Scioscia more opportunities to allow Guerrero to pinch hit, which should aid in his ability to stay healthy. On the pitching end, Anaheim will once again be very solid with John Lackey running the show. Lackey went 12-5, starting 24 games in 2008. Ervin Santana came onto his own last season finishing with a 16-7 record, starting 32 games, with 2 of them complete games. Jered Weaver, who turns 27 years old this season, finished the 2008 season with an 11-10 record, hovering below .500 for a portion of the season. Nick Adenhart, Dustin Moseley and Anthony Ortega will be waiting in the wings if any of the rotation run into hiccups during the season.

The Oakland Athletics finished 11 games under .500 in 2008, and definitely are looking for improvement in 2009. The finish for the Athletics was their worst in ten seasons. General Manager Billy Beane made a splash this off-season by trading for former Colorado All Star Matt Holliday. Holliday, 29 years old, hit .321 and belted 25 home runs in 2008 for the Rockies. The question on Holliday is, will he be able to duplicate those numbers away from Coors Field in Denver? The Athletics also signed Jason Giambi to play in his second stint in an Oakland uniform. Giambi hit .286 in 2008, but if his power numbers can climb back to his glory day’s form, Oakland could be in business offensively. Eric Chavez only played in 23 games in 2008 hitting a measly .247 with just 2 home runs. His career numbers of .269 and 229 home runs, poise a great deal of hope for the Athletics.  Joining Holliday in the outfield will be a combination of guys such as Jack Cust, Travis Buck and Chris Denorfia. Look for youngster Aaron Cunningham to get a sniff at some point in the season. Cunningham who is just 22 years old hit .300 or above in every stop he made in 2008. Bobby Crosby looked to have the shortstop role wrapped up for Oakland, until the Athletics signed Orlando Cabrera to a contract at the beginning of the spring training. Billy Beane also recently signed Nomar Garciaparra who turns 36 years old this season Garciaparra played in just 55 games in 2008. The starting rotation will be very young. A projected rotation within their training facility in Phoenix is Justin Duchscherer, Dana Eveland, Sean Gallagher, Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Braden has just 109 starts between them. Eveland leads the group with 35 career starts, but it appears Duchscherer will be the staff ace, compiling a 31-24-career record. Out of the bullpen, Oakland picked up crafty veteran Russ Springer to go along with a young, unproven staff.

In Peoria, Arizona the Seattle Mariners new general manager Jack Zduriencik has revamped a team that finished 61-101 for fourth place in the division in 2008. The Mariners added Franklin Gutierrez and Endy Chavez in a 12-player deal. All in all, Seattle has 22 new faces on their 2009 roster. First year manager Don Wakamatsu will have a future hall of famer in the lineup in Ken Griffey Junior. The Mariners have elected to give Griffey Jr. a shot after seeing his best days in the major leagues in a Seattle uniform. Griffey spent 11 seasons in Seattle, and has played in 13 total All Star Games. Seattle hopes to use Griffey Jr. as a designated hitter, but playing in the outfield is not out of the realm of possibilities. The loss of Raul Ibanez will hurt the Seattle outfield, but Ichiro Suzuki continues to hit at the top of the lineup. The rest of the outfield will be sketchy at best with guys like Gutierrez, Endy Chavez and Mike Morse looking for roles. Behind the plate Kenji Johjima and Rob Johnson will see competition from youngster Jeff Clement. Clement was the Mariners first round draft pick in 2005. The Mariners have also added big man Russell Branyan to play first base. Ronnie Cedeno may get a chance to play full time in Chicago, after playing sparingly in Chicago in recent years. Adrian Beltre played in 143 games in 2008, hitting .266 and hitting 25 homeruns. Felix Hernandez, Erik Bedard, Brandon Morrow, Carlos Silva and Jarrod Washburn are certainly a formidable starting rotation, but health concerns continue to play a huge roll for the Mariners. Bedard has been fighting injuries, and was recently treated with an injury to his right buttocks. This injury does not give the Mariners executives much to worry about, but with his recent history, it is noteworthy.  Seattle recently signed Chad Cordero to assist in the late innings out of the bullpen. Cordero will likely miss a portion of the first half of the season as he continues rehabilitation from right shoulder surgery. The Mariners hope he is ready to help the big league club in 2009, but that could be a lofty goal.

The name of the town the Texas Rangers train in is called Surprise Arizona. The Rangers hope they can do exactly that during the 2009 season. Despite finishing in second place in the American League West, the Rangers still finished below .500 with a 79-83 record. The Rangers did not do a great deal in the off-season, but the addition of Andruw Jones could pay dividends. That of course is, if Jones can regain his former power stroke that led him to 371 career homeruns in 1750 games in an Atlanta uniform. Texas signed Jones to a $500,000 contract minor league deal. Jones has played in five All Star games. Texas also signed former Milwaukee ace Ben Sheets to a two-year deal. Sheets health continues to be questioned, but he won 86 games in 8 seasons as a Brewer. Mike Maddux was hired as the new pitching coach in Texas and will work with Sheets along with Jason Jennings, Brandon McCarthy, Kevin Milwood and Vicente Padilla. Milwood has the best career numbers winning 142 games in 352 games. Milwood’s last season above .500 was in 2006 when he finished 16-12. Padilla had a nice 2008 season finishing 14-8 with a 4.74 era in 29 starts. Jennings was signed to a minor league contract at the end of January, while McCarthy has made just 28 starts in two seasons, battling injuries. Out of the bullpen guys such as Frank Francisco, Derrick Turnbow and C.J. Wilson will all be battling for the closer role. Josh Hamilton will anchor the offense after a .302, 32 home runs and 130 runs batted in 2008 season. Assisting Hamilton in the offense will be Michael Young, who will move to third base this season. Youngster Elvis Andrus looks to get the nod at shortstop. Andrus is just 20 years old and has not seen a pitch above the AA level. If Andrus is not ready come April, Texas signed Omar Vizquel to a minor league contract. Vizquel has won 11 gold gloves in his career. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden are battling for the catching position during the spring. Saltalamacchia is 23 years old, but hit just .253 in 61 games last season. Teegarden does not have the major league experience that Saltalamacchia has, but scouts claim he has a much better ability to call the game.

Who will win the American League West in 2009?

  • Los Angeles Angels (32%, 29 Votes)
  • Texas Rangers (29%, 26 Votes)
  • Seattle Mariners (22%, 20 Votes)
  • Oakland Athletics (17%, 15 Votes)

Total Voters: 90

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Posted in MLB Baseball - Last Updated on Saturday, March 21st, 2009 @ 12:59 am (EST)
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