Friday, November 18, 2016

Season 36 AL West Preview

Anaheim Angels
Season 35: 70-92,
GM: kennedrj

Outlook:  A rare step backwards last year for the Angels after 17 (you read that right) straight winning seasons.  9-2 start suggests they're back on track...what did they do?

Not much, which means they didn't panic.  Turns out the Halos were victims of a rare rash of bad seasons by almost all their mainstays.

Look, their runs were WAY down last year, to 701 runs from 860 in Season 34 (and 833 in Season 33). That's a monster 18.5% drop from Season 34.  Their best hitter, Enerio Amaro, had a 175-point OPS drop. Dennis Nakajima, 78-point drop.  Lorenzo Saenz, 102-point drop.  Joakim Henriquez (since moved on to the Mets in FA), 91-point drop.  Get it?  Those are some huge downswings.

Pitching...same deal.  Team ERA was up to 4.37 last year from 3.79 in Season 34 and 3.72 in Season 33. Their best pitcher, Luis Osuna, saw his ERA jump nearly 100 points (and innings pitched dive by 70). Al Iglesias' ERA skyrocketed from 3.48 to 4.66.  Erasmo Miranda...3.93 to 4.12. of the unluckiest seasons ever (in terms of everybody having a bad year at the same time. Comeback time this year.

Seattle Mariners
Season 35:  71-91
GM: crabman26

Outlook:  No way to chronicle all crabman's off-season moves, so let's just look at his trades to try to figure out what he's up to:

Hubbard for Olmansky:  Seattle picks up a bit of a rehab project SP for an OF who won't make the Braves' ML roster.  Probably a good risk for Seattle - Hubbard's a flyball pitcher who struggled in Atlanta's neutral park...someplace like Seattle is the best place for him.

Martin & Lopez for Bravo and Crane:  Martin may end up being a Cy Young candidate in Seattle, and (barring injury) will have the longest remaining career of the 4 in this deal.  Bravo's a fascinating character coming off career highs in BA and HR (at age 30)...with his low contact and eye, he was totally misplaced in Seattle.  With declines coming soon in power, range and arm strength, he doesn't have a long career ahead of him, but certainly fits in Houston's "win now" mode.  Crane would be good anywhere...price you pay for a good SP.  I liked this trade for Houston and I like it for the Mariners too.

Grimm for Lee:  I look at Grimm and see the right kind of OF for Seattle - high contact.  Better eye and speed would help but you rarely get everything you want in 1 player.  Lee is probably not quite at the level of Hubbard - and definitely not Martins' - so this one makes sense.

OK, so far we see crabman picking up starting pitching and defense, and swapping out power hitters for the high-contact Grimm.

Odor for Clark:  Not sure I get this one.  OK, Odor is probably at best a backup OF/1B, but why pick up a 30 year-old power hitter with contact and eye ratings exactly the opposite of what you want in Safeco?

Bush for Becker:  Bush might have been a viable #5 starter or LR for Seattle, but no matter; guys like that are pretty easy to come by and Becker is at least a rare lefty-hitting 3B.

Cook and Harville for Castillo:  Once again, the right kind of hitter for Safeco with that extreme batting eye.  Cook and Castillo both could make it to the majors (IF they get closer to their projections than most prospects do).  Reasonable deal for Toronto to make in rebuild, and a good trade for Seattle.

So those trades give us a decent idea of where the Mariners are headed:  contact/batting eye hitters, good defense, and pitching that's able to get away with flyballs.  

Except that the Clark trade tells me I have no idea what I'm talking about, so we'll see as the season progresses.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Season 35: 86-76, lost to Minnesota in Round 1
GM:  drichter

Outlook:  The Division Champs only lost some aging vets in free agency, and picked up 3B Lenny Taylor and RP Dom Humphries, so the prospects for another successful season should be good.  

Arizona features a balanced power attack that plated 831 runs last year (3rd in AL).  By "balanced" I mean no less than 12 players hit double-figure HR's (Luis Mendoza led with 32), and 6 drove in 70 or more (1B Carmen Woods led with 91).  With the FA departure of D.J. Nicholson, it looks like Vince Hawkins will man CF.  I've always thought he could be an MVP contender in his best seasons...maybe playing multiple positions will get him more voter attention (if it doesn't keep him off the ballot altogether).

The Snakes have won the West 2 years straight despite having their pitching staff rank in the lower half of the AL in ERA.  Erv Daley certainly lived up to his potential last year (15-6, 2.68), but Patrick Hunter, despite winning 15 games, continued to disappoint (4.51 ERA) in his 4th full season.  If he ever puts it together (6.75 ERA so far this year, but only 3 starts), Arizona will immediately become the team nobody wants to face in a playoff series.  I also think Martin Clayton will improve in his 2nd full season, and there's no way Midre Espinosa lays another egg like that one (4.70 ERA last year was by far the worst of his career).  They certainly have yet to actually do it, but this is potentially the AL's best rotation.  

Humphries certainly won't hurt the lackluster pen, but this team's fortune will rise or fall with their starting 5.

Oakland Athletics
Season 35: 72-90
GM:  billhowell75

Outlook: Oakland continues it rebuild, letting veterans walk in free agency and filling in with almost-ready prospects.  

1B Stevie Foltynewicz (.274/22/95) and C Tony Chirinos (.282/21/86) remain their top run producers, although 3B Juio Crespo contributed 62 extra basehits last year.  The outfield is not very productive, but Andino (LF) and Torrealba (CF) should both at least draw enough walks to be respectable.  

#1 starter Al Rosado remains a top SP...I'm sure he'll be the ongoing subject of trade rumors, with only his salary delaying potential trades.  The rest of the rotation is pretty solid, and is probably the component most responsible for keeping the A's competitive.  Season 32 #1 pick (#23 overall) Greg Simmons looked pretty good as a rookie; he joins Hector Romero to form the core of their "bullpen of the future".

Divison Outlook:

The Angels will be back, but I think the Diamondbacks have surpassed them.  I like what Seattle did in the off-season, but it's not quite enough to move into the top 2.

No comments: