Saturday, February 13, 2016

Season 33 AL West Preview

The Angels keep the powder dry ...Mariners get a table-setter ...Diamondbacks gear up to lead the league in runs...A's hope for a pitching rebound

Anaheim Angels
Season 32:  93-69
GM: kennedrj

"Breakthrough" Means:  Winning 2 of the next 5 World Series.  They've done everything else - 15 straight winning seasons, 13 of those in the playoffs, 5 WS trips but just 1 win.

To Do That They Have To:  Round up a monster setup man (or 2) to fill the gap between the starters and closer Felipe Jose.  They had a couple of very short relievers have decent seasons, but for the most part their RP's disappointed...they're losing some games in the 7th and 8th innings.  

This Team Is Built On:  Power Bats :  250 HR's last year and 8 hitters had 20+ (DH Amaro with 40 and LF Acosta with 33 led); Starting pitchers that go deep into games :  their 5 primary starters all had 10+ wins in Season 32.

Player to Watch:  Emmanuel Prieto moves in as the CF starter.  Incredible range - the Angels could add 25 "+" plays to the ledger from him alone.  Will botch the occasional easy catch, but his range far overshadows that.

Seattle Mariners
Season 32:  89-73
GM: captain10a

"Breakthrough" Means:  getting to the World Series.  captain10a has been piloting the Mariners to (almost all) winning seasons for 15 years, but the trip to the Big Dance has eluded him.

To Do That They Have To:  Get on base much, much better.   Despite leading the AL with 267 HR's (in a difficult park to boot), the M's were 14th in runs scored with 724.  The culprit: a league-low .299 OBP.  Their pitching is always in the top 5 (watch Eswalin Camacho this year at age 38) and they have a nice core of power hitters (1B Paul Stock, RF Gerald Crane and rookie C Deven Carter.

This Team Is Built On:  The 1-run homer rather than (unfortunately) the 3-run homer, and tough pitching top-to-bottom.

Player to Watch:  Larry Sewell could be the table-setter (or at least one of them) they desperately need.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Season 32:  80-82
GM:  drichter

"Breakthrough" Means:  Cracking 90 wins and challenging for the Division.  They've done it twice (made the playoffs) during drichter's tenure, and there were positive signs last year with an 11-win improvement.

To Do That They Have To:  Get some pitching!  That 4.86 ERA won't cut it for contenders. Some defense wouldn't hurt, either - 93 unearned runs, a .980 fielding % (15th), and 15/61 +/- plays are not the numbers of playoff teams.  To be fair, they did make some moves on the pitching front in FA.

This Team Is Built On:  Scoring runs!  They led the AL with 897 runs in Season 31 and tied for 2nd with 864 last year.  They hit all kinds of ways: HR's:  Andrelczyk, Sodowski and Hawkins had 30+ and 10 players were in double figures; walks - 7 players over 50; triples: their 41 led the league.  Their SS (Sodowsky) went .302/32/104 when most teams' SS's are hitting .237/3/35.

Player to Watch:  2nd-year SP Patrick Hunter.  The Snakes had high hopes for the 7th pick of the Season 29 draft, but he was a huge disappointment as a rookie, going 8-14 with a monster 5.85 ERA.  He'll improve, possibly by a lot.

Oakland Athletics
Season 32:  71-91
GM:  billhowell75

"Breakthrough" Means:  Get to the playoffs.  They've made it 3 times in the last 16 seasons, and not since Season 28.

To Do That They Have To:  Get some pitching, pitching PITCHING!  Their team ERA was dead last at 5.54 last year.  But that was a bit deceptive. They actually have some very good bullpen arms - Castillo, Canseco, De Aza, Aldridge, Buxton. They had 2  starters - Russ Hiljus and Al Rosado - who had their worst years as a major leaguers.  They should recover to ERA's around 3.50 (Hiljus) and 4.00 (Rosado).  Rookie Pete Stoddard (Season 29 #27) should be better than most of starters were last year.

This Team Is Built On:  Getting on base - their .347 OBP led the AL (C Tony Chirinos and 1B Stevie Foltynewicz paced the team at .389 and .382).  The offseason trade acquisition of Shawn Quinn should help drive home more of those baserunners.

Player to Watch:  SP Edgmer Cervelli.  A throw-in in the Max Mullens-Shawn Quinn trade, Cervelli has major league juice but as Harry Doyle might say, "occasionally has a little trouble finding the plate" (Cervelli broke Nuke Laloosh's Class A season record for hit mascots).  Will he be the phenom who posted a .539 OPS-against in 26 innings for Tampa Bay in Season 31?  Or will he be the Cervelli who walked 53 in 71 innings en route to a 6.78 ERA last year?  The answer may determine Oakland's season outcome.

Divison Outlook:

For my one crazy prediction, I'm saying Oakland goes worst-to-first and wins the division, with the Angels nosing out Seattle for 2nd.

Awards Watch:

Angels:  SP Luis Osuna has everything needed for a CY: good stuff, stamina, run support. It just hasn't happened yet.

Mariners: watch for C Deven Carter in the ROY competition, IF he can hit RHP a little

Diamondbacks:  Gil Sodowsky would be an MVP candidate - IF he moved to 3B, where he'd be winning Gold Gloves.  

A's:  Russ Hiljus is a good enough P to win a CY, especially with the home-ballpark help Oakland affords.

No comments: