Previewing the AL West
Buster Olney [ARCHIVE]
ESPN The Magazine
March 29, 2012
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Editor's note: ESPN.com has teamed with ESPN The Magazine and the SweetSpot Blog Network to produce this year's preview capsules. Buster Olney and Tim Kurkjian examined the American League and the National League, respectively. They ordered the teams based on how they think they'll finish, while also breaking down each team's best- and worst-case scenarios.
The SweetSpot bloggers provided the projected lineups, pitching rotations and bullpens, which are mostly approximations based on the latest information. In most cases they don't include players who will open the season on the disabled list. The lineups reflect the most likely batting order against a right-handed starter and are subject to change.
Texas Rangers
PROJECTED LINEUP
2011: AL runs (3rd)
PLAYER POS
Ian Kinsler 2B
Elvis Andrus SS
Josh Hamilton* LF
Adrian Beltre 3B
Michael Young DH
Mike Napoli C
Nelson Cruz RF
Mitch Moreland* 1B
Craig Gentry CF
BENCH POS
David Murphy* OF
Yorvit Torrealba C
PITCHING
2011: AL ERA (5th)
ROTATION POS
Colby Lewis SP1
Derek Holland* SP2
Yu Darvish SP3
Matt Harrison* SP4
Neftali Feliz SP5
BULLPEN POS
Mike Adams RP
Alexi Ogando RP
Joe Nathan CL
* -- left-handed
# -- switch-hitter
Information courtesy of Baseball Time In Arlington
THE PICK
1st Place Best-case scenario: Somehow, the Rangers put the ghosts of Game 6 behind them, Yu Darvish makes a smooth transition to the majors and replaces C.J. Wilson at the top of the rotation, Josh Hamilton stays sober and productive and Texas cruises to its third straight AL West title, Albert Pujols be damned.
Worst-case scenario: Wilson's leadership is missed badly, and the Rangers fade in the grueling August heat when none of their young starters steps up to replace his production. Hamilton has an unhappy season, which carries over into his negotiations on a long-term deal, and he leaves Texas.
Los Angeles Angels
PROJECTED LINEUP
2011: AL runs (10th)
PLAYER POS
Erick Aybar# SS
Howard Kendrick 2B
Albert Pujols 1B
Kendrys Morales# DH
Torii Hunter RF
Vernon Wells LF
Alberto Callaspo# 3B
Chris Iannetta C
Peter Bourjos CF
BENCH POS
Mark Trumbo 3B
Bobby Abreu* OF
PITCHING
2011: AL ERA (1st)
ROTATION POS
Jered Weaver SP1
Dan Haren SP2
C.J. Wilson* SP3
Ervin Santana SP4
Garrett Richards SP5
BULLPEN POS
Scott Downs* RP
LaTroy Hawkins RP
Jordan Walden CL
* -- left-handed
# -- switch-hitter
Information courtesy of Halos Daily
THE PICK
2nd Place
Best-case scenario: Top prospect Mike Trout wins AL Rookie of the Year, and switch-hitter Kendrys Morales, fully recovered from the ankle injury that cost him almost two seasons, is again a force, balancing out the very right-handed Angels lineup. With free-agent pickup C.J. Wilson, the scary-deep rotation overwhelms the Rangers, and the Halos recapture the division they dominated for much of the last decade.
Worst-case scenario: Albert Pujols, whose OPS has dropped for three straight years, continues his decline in his first season in the AL, and his monster 10-year deal begins to look endless. Morales doesn't recover, and Vernon Wells plays just well enough not to get benched but hurts the team in the process. The Angels' offseason spending spree is all but forgotten as fans realize the Rangers have the division on lockdown.
Seattle Mariners
PROJECTED LINEUP
2011: AL runs (14th)
PLAYER POS
Chone Figgins# LF
Dustin Ackley* 2B
Ichiro Suzuki* RF
Justin Smoak# 1B
Jesus Montero DH
Kyle Seager* 3B
Miguel Olivo C
Michael Saunders* CF
Brendan Ryan SS
BENCH POS
Mike Carp* (DL) LF
Franklin Gutierrez (DL) CF
PITCHING
2011: AL ERA (6th)
ROTATION POS
Felix Hernandez SP1
Jason Vargas* SP2
Hector Noesi SP3
Blake Beavan SP4
Kevin Millwood SP5
BULLPEN POS
Tom Wilhelmsen* RP
Hisashi Iwakuma RP
Brandon League CL
* -- left-handed
# -- switch-hitter
Information courtesy of Pro Ball NW
THE PICK
3rd Place
Best-case scenario: By season's end, the Mariners have the pieces in place for a dynamic rotation going forward, with left-hander Danny Hultzen and flame-throwing righty Taijuan Walker ready to step in behind Felix Hernandez. The young hitters gain from their 2012 experience, with Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley poised to become Seattle's most formidable offensive core in a decade.
Worst-case scenario: At age 38, Ichiro finally sees his production fall off completely, and Chone Figgins is again a nonfactor. A lack of position prospects haunts the Mariners, as Smoak doesn't hit well enough to be the every-day first baseman and C Montero proves he's really a DH. The club finishes last in the AL in runs for the fourth straight year, and the front office has to go back to square one with the lineup.
Oakland Athletics
PROJECTED LINEUP
2011: AL runs (12th)
PLAYER POS
Jemile Weeks# 2B
Cliff Pennington# SS
Coco Crisp# LF
Seth Smith* DH
Kurt Suzuki C
Josh Reddick* RF
Yoenis Cespedes CF
Brandon Allen* 1B
Josh Donaldson 3B
BENCH POS
Jonny Gomes OF
Eric Sogard INF
PITCHING
2011: AL ERA (3rd)
ROTATION POS
Brandon McCarthy SP1
Bartolo Colon SP2
Dallas Braden* SP3
Tommy Milone* SP4
Tyson Ross SP5
BULLPEN POS
Brian Fuentes* RP
Grant Balfour CL
* -- left-handed
# -- switch-hitter
Information courtesy of Beaneball
THE PICK
4th Place
Best-case scenario: Early in the season, Oakland ownership gets word that the move to San Jose is a done deal, and the Athletics funnel all their efforts into building the team for 2015-16. Brandon McCarthy and Kurt Suzuki are traded for prospects, bolstering an already-deep farm system, and fans begin to rally around a promising young rotation of Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Brad Peacock and Sonny Gray.
Worst-case scenario: McCarthy's 2011 breakout is a fluke, Anderson is slow to recover from Tommy John surgery and Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes turns out to be a lemon as the A's score the fewest runs in the AL. The San Jose plan falls apart, and the team -- its dreams of a new park dashed -- rots from the inside. GM Billy Beane decides to pursue overtures from other organizations after two decades with Oakland.

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