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Monday, March 21, 2005

Previewing the American League West

Here is a preview of the 2005 American League West Division:

Anaheim Angels
2004 finish: 92-70 (first)

Additions: Paul Byrd, Esteban Yan, Orlando Cabrera, Steve Finley, Maicer Izturis, Juan Rivera

Losses: David Eckstein, Jose Guillen, Troy Glaus, Troy Percival, Ben Weber, Aaron Sele.

Projected Rotation:
RHP Bartolo Colon
RHP Kelvim Escobar
LHP Jarrod Washburn
RHP John Lackey
RHP Paul Byrd

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Francisco Rodriguez
RHP Scot Shields
RHP Brendan Donnelly
LHP Mark Watson (non-roster)
RHP Esteban Yan
RHP Kevin Gregg

Projected Lineup:
C Bengie Molina
1B Darin Erstad
2B Adam Kennedy
3B Rob Quinlan
SS Orlando Cabrera
LF Garrett Anderson
CF Steve Finley
RF Vladimir Guerrero
DH Juan Rivera

Projected Bench:
C Jose Molina
IF Maicer Izturis
IF Chone Figgans
IF Lou Merloni (non-roster)
OF Jeff DaVanon

Top Prospects:
1. Casey Kotchman, 1b
2. Dallas McPherson, 3b
3. Erick Aybar, ss
4. Jeff Mathis, c
5. Kendry Morales, 1b/of

Top Pitcher: Bartolo Colon
Colon is good for 200 innings and 15 wins. His biggest problem, pun intended, has been his weight but it does not appear to affect his ability to stay healthy. It is something that will have to be watched as he gets older though.

Top Hitter: Vladimir Guerrero
Quite possibly one of the top 5 players in the American League, Guerrero can change the direction of a game with his potent bat or rifle of an outfield arm. He occasionally, though, makes things interesting in the outfield with his defence and can read balls poorly at times. There aren’t many GMs who would not want him on their team, even at $15 million a season.

Breakout Player: Dallas McPherson
McPherson will likely start the season on the DL but if he can get back quickly he has the chance to be one of the top rookies in the majors this season. He possesses tape-measure power but strikes out a ton. Expect a fast start, but he may struggle once pitchers have had a chance to develop a scouting report on him.

Oakland Athletics
2004 finish: 91-71 (second)

Additions:Kiko Calero, Dan Haren, Dan Meyer, Seth Etherton, Juan Cruz, Keiichi Yabu, Jason Kendall, Keith Ginter, Charles Thomas

Losses: Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson, Arthur Rhodes, Jermaine Dye, Damian Miller, Chris Hammond, Jim Mecir. Justin Lehr.

Projected Rotation:
LHP Barry Zito
RHP Rich Harden
RHP Dan Haren
RHP Seth Etherton
RHP Joe Blanton

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Octavio Dotel
RHP Huston Street (non-roster)
RHP Kiko Calero
LHP Ricardo Rincon
RHP Juan Cruz
RHP Justin Duchscherer
RHP Keiichi Yabu

Projected Lineup:
C Jason Kendall
1B Scott Hatteberg
2B Mark Ellis
3B Eric Chavez
SS Bobby Crosby
LF Eric Byrnes
CF Mark Kotsay
RF Nick Swisher
DH Erubiel Durazo

Projected Bench:
C Adam Melhuse
IF Keith Ginter
OF Bobby Kielty
OF Charles Thomas

Top Prospects:
1. Nick Swisher, of
2. Javi Herrera, of
3. Joe Blanton, rhp
4. Dan Johnson, 1b
5. Huston Street, rhp

Top Pitcher: Barry Zito
The remaining member of the Big 3, Zito does not possess the same nasty overall stuff of his former teammates, but he has a nasty curveball and is one of the better left-handed pitchers in the American League when healthy. He will have a lot more pressure on him this season so it will be interesting to see how he responds.

Top Hitter: Eric Chavez
Chavez goes about his business so quietly that it is hard to remember that he still plays for the A’s. But he does play and he is one of the best third basemen in the game and the A’s offensive catalyst. He is capable of hitting .300 with 30 or more home runs.

Breakout Player: Rich Harden
Harden is being asked to replace either Tim Hudson or Mark Mulder. No easy task for a pitcher with about a year’s worth of major league experience under his belt. But the A’s are confident that the young prodigy is ready to blossom – and he needs to if the team has any hope of winning the division. On the plus side he has better stuff than either Tim Hudson or even Mark Mulder.

Texas Rangers
2004 finish: 89-73 (third)

Additions: Richard Hidalgo, Sandy Alomar, Greg Colbrunn, Mark DeRosa.

Losses: Brian Jordan, Jay Powell, Eric Young.

Projected Rotation:
RHP Ryan Drese
RHP Ricardo Rodriguez
LHP Kenny Rogers
RHP Chan Ho Park
RHP Chris Young

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Francisco Cordero
RHP Carlos Almanzar
RHP Doug Brocail
LHP Brian Shouse
LHP Ron Mahay
RHP Erasmo Ramirez
RHP R.A. Dickey

Projected Lineup:
C Rod Barajas
1B Mark Teixeira
2B Alfonso Soriano
3B Hank Blalock
SS Michael Young
LF Kevin Mench
CF Laynce Nix
RF Richard Hidalgo
DH David Dellucci

Projected Bench:
C Sandy Alomar
IF Mark DeRosa (non-roster)
1B Greg Colbrunn
OF Gary Matthews

Top Prospects:
1. Thomas Diamond, rhp
2. John Danks, lhp
3. Joaquin Arias, ss
4. Ian Kinsler, ss
5. Chris Young, rhp

Top Pitcher: Francisco Cordero
Cordero burst onto the closer scene last season and cemented himself as one of the most feared closers in the game. He, along with the rest of the solid relief staff, helps make up for the dismal starting pitching. If he can stay healthy and keep his composure, Cordero should be good for 40-50 saves.

Top Hitter: Michael Young
There are many great young hitters on the Rangers but so far Young has been the most consistent. Teixeira, Blalock, Mench and/or Soriano could surpass him this season though, as they all have higher offensive ceilings. Young was absolutely stolen in a trade with the Blue Jays for Esteban Loaiza.

Breakout Player: Ricardo Rodriguez
Everyone knows about the plethora of great young hitters the Rangers have, but what they really need – if they want to compete – is pitching. Rodriguez is the best of the bunch that Texas currently has that can help them at the major league level now. Obtained from Cleveland for an excess outfielder, he has the potential to be a steal if he can stay healthy, but he only appeared in five games, while battling injuries.

Seattle Mariners
2004 finish: 63-99 (fourth)

Additions: Richie Sexson, Adrian Beltre, Aaron Sele, Pokey Reese.

Losses: John Olerud, Edgar Martinez.

Projected Rotation:
LHP Jamie Moyer
RHP Joel Pineiro
LHP Bobby Madritsch
RHP Gil Meche
RHP Aaron Sele

Projected Bullpen:
RHP J.J. Putz
RHP Shigetoshi Hasegawa
RHP Cha Baek
LHP Ron Villone
LHP George Sherrill
RHP Ryan Franklin

Projected Lineup:
C Miguel Olivo
1B Richie Sexson
2B Brett Boone
3B Adrian Beltre
SS Pokey Reese
LF Randy Winn
CF Jeremy Reed
RF Ichiro Suzuki
DH Raul Ibanez

Projected Bench:
C Dan Wilson
IF Jose Lopez
IF Scott Spiezio
IF/OF Willie Bloomquist

Top Prospects:
1. Felix Hernandez, rhp
2. Jeremy Reed, of
3. Shin-Soo Choo, of
4. Clint Nageotte, rhp
5. Matt Tuiasosopo, ss

Top Pitcher: Jamie Moyer
For lack of a better supporting cast, Moyer is still the Mariners best pitcher at the age of 42. He barely throws harder than a 12-year-old but Moyer can spot any of his pitches anywhere he wants and he knows how to out-think a hitter. If he can stay healthy he should be good for 180-200 innings and 14-16 wins with an improved offence and defence.

Top Hitter: Ichiro Suzuki
Suzuki should be even better this season with Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre driving him in constantly. Quite frankly, Ichiro is probably the best hitter in the game and there is no reason he should not achieve 220 or more hits this season along with 30 stolen bases and a .320 or better average.

Breakout Player: Gil Meche
Meche battled injuries for three seasons after appearing in the major leagues for the first time at the age of 20. Since his debut, the Mariners have been waiting for the big things to happen, which have been forecasted for Meche since he was a first round pick in 1996. Meche needs to work on his confidence, command and pitching ahead.


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