Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Pre-Pre-Season Predictions: AL West

This is the fourth in a series of posts on very early predictions for the 2007 season. This post focuses on the AL West; I've already discussed the NL West, NL Central, and NL East.

AL West

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Projected Rotation

1.) John Lackey
2.) Kelvim Escobar
3.) Ervin Santana
4.) Jered Weaver
5.) Joe Saunder / Bartolo Colon

Top 5 Bullpen
Closer - Francisco Rodriguez
2.) Scott Shields
3.) Justin Speier
4.) Darren Oliver
5.) Hector Carrasco

Position Players
C - Mike Napoli / Jose Molina
1B - Casey Kotchman
2B - Howie Kendrick
3B - Chone Figgins
SS - Orlando Cabrera
LF - Garrett Anderson
CF - Gary Matthews, Jr.
RF - Vladimir Guerrero
DH - Shea Hillenbrand

The Angels are going to have a strong rotation - I'm not sold on John Lackey as an ace, but his 3.56 ERA last season was solid. Kelvim Escobar (3.61) and Ervin Santana (4.28) also put up solid number. Then, there's the most intriguing member of this rotation - Jered Weaver was downright dominant for much of his first year, going 11-2 with a 2.56 ERA in 19 starts. If Weaver had debuted before the end of May, he would have been a very, very good candidate for Rookie of the Year. At some point in the season, the club should also get Bartolo Colon back in the rotation - the only question is whether he'll be the same pitcher he was in 2005 (you remember - the year he stole the Cy Young from Johan . . . ).

The top three in the bullpen are great. Rodriguez is one of the best closers in the game, and with Shields and Speier, the Angels will often be able to turn the game into a 6 inning affair. Oliver and Carrasco have both been around forever, but their ERA's last season (3.41 and 3.44, respectively) indicate that they can still pitch, and add some useful depth to the back end of the bullpen, with the capability of making spot starts in a pinch.

I'm a little underwhelmed by the offense. Casey Kotchman has a career .227 batting average at the Major League level. Chone Figgins stole 52 bases, but had a batting average of .267 (OBP of .336) - and he struck out 100 times while drawing just 65 walks. Gary Matthews had a great season for Texas last year - but very few people believe that that was anything but an aberration (based on the money they spent on him, the Angels are obviously amongst the few true believers). While there are some potent hitters in this lineup (Vlad is always dangerous, and Garrett Anderson keeps producing), there are more question marks than answers in this lineup.

Oakland Athletics
Projected Rotation

1.) Rich Harden
2.) Dan Haren
3.) Esteban Loaiza
4.) Joe Blanton
5.) Brad Halsey?

Top 5 Bullpen
Closer - Huston Street
2.) Kiko Calero
3.) Justin Duchscherer
4.) Joe Kennedy
5.) Jay Witasick

Position Players
C - Jason Kendall
1B - Nick Swisher
2B - Mark Ellis
3B - Eric Chavez
SS - Bobby Crosby
LF - Bobby Kielty
CF - Mark Kotsay
RF - Milton Bradley
DH - Mike Piazza

What is there to say about the starting rotation? The A's constantly find players to fit into the rotation, having previously survived the departures of Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder without missing a beat. This year, they try to it again after Barry Zito moved across the Bay to pitch with the Giants. Harden and Haren will be good, but will Loaiza turn into a pumpkin? And, while I like Joe Blanton quite a bit, he needs to get that 4.82 ERA down to be effective - last year's 16 wins won't be repeated if his ERA is that high again this year. I've slotted Halsey in to the fifth spot for now, but this is going to be an open competition during spring.

The bullpen is solid, and Huston Street should continue to be solid in this role. Calero (3.41) and Duchschurer (2.91) anchor the rest of the 'pen, and Joe Kennedy (2.31) is no slouch either. In other words - the pitching shouldn't be a problem.

The A's lineup is solid, if unspectacular. Eric Chavez is a legitimate star, but the rest of this lineup is filled with guys who are pretty good (Milton Bradley), or filled with potential (Bobby Crosby, Nick Swisher). They should hit just enough to win a lot of games, IF the pitching does its job.

Seattle Mariners
Projected Rotation

1.) Felix Hernandez
2.) Jarrod Washburn
3.) Horacio Ramirez
4.) Miguel Batista
5.) Jake Woods / Cha Seung Baek

Top 5 Bullpen
Closer - J.J. Putz
2.) George Sherrill
3.) Eric O'Flaherty
4.) Chris Reitsma
5.) Arthur Rhodes

Position Players
C - Kenji Johjima
1B - Richie Sexson
2B - Jose Lopez
3B - Adrian Beltre
SS - Yuniesky Betancourt
LF - Raul Ibanez
CF - Ichiro Suzuki
RF - Jose Guillen

The Mariners have a whole lot of questions in their starting rotation. Felix Hernandez is continually touted as "King Felix," and occasionally shows flashes of his promise - but I'm not sold yet. His 4.52 ERA last season wasn't the stuff of a phenom, but he deserves a chance to see if he takes some strides forward this year. Reports are that he's about 20 pounds slimmer and ready to role - but I'm going to be skeptical until he proves that he's capable of being an All-Star caliber pitcher. For the record, I'm probably the only person in the baseball world that thinks he's never going to live up to the hype - I think he'll settle in as a number 3 type starter. Now, hopefully he proves me wrong. The rest of the rotation is really nothing to write home about - there are some solid veterans, but nobody who is going to carry the team on their back.

The bullpen is going to filled with a combination of young guys trying to bust through (Sherrill, who already has had some success, and O'Flaherty), and veterans trying to stay in the league (Reitsma and Rhodes). J.J. Putz is solid closer - but how many leads will he really have to protect?

The lineup is filled with guys who have produced at some point in their careers (Ichiro, of course, is the best of the bunch). If Sexson and Beltre can bounce back from sub-par seasons, this offense could do some damage. For the record, Jose Lopez is one of my favorite young players, and I hope he continues his progression into a legitimate offense threat at 2B. The biggest question mark is in Right Field - can Jose Guillen really hold down this job? The smart money says no . . . but we shall see.

Texas Rangers
Projected Rotation

1.) Kevin Millwood
2.) Vicente Padilla
3.) Brandon McCarthy
4.) Robinson Tejeda
5.) John Koronka

Top 5 Bullpen
Closer - Eric Gagne
2.) Akinori Otsuka
3.) Wes Littleton
4.) Rick Bauer
5.) Josh Rupe

Position Players
C - Gerald Laird
1B - Mark Teixeira
2B - Ian Kinsler
3B - Hank Blalock
SS - Michael Young
LF - Brad Wilkerson
CF - Kenny Lofton
RF - Nelson Cruz

Millwood and Padilla are more than capable of anchoring the top of this rotation, and Brandon McCarthy will be fun to watch as he becomes a starter (whether or not he was worth John Danks and Nick Masset is another question entirely) - and I think he'll be fine in the middle of this rotation. I don't know that the Rangers should expect to get too much out of Tejeda or Koronka this year, however.

The bullpen is surprisingly good, although there is no guarantee that Eric Gagne is going to be able to hold down the closer role after last year's injury. Frankly, I would have left Akinori Otsuka in that role and spent the money elsewhere - he had a 2.11 ERA last season and converted 32 out of 36 save opportunities. Beyond those two, Littleton, Bauer, and Rupe also had solid seasons, so it looks like the bullpen could be a position of strength for the Rangers this year.

Teixeira, Blalock, and Young should all produce for the Rangers, but Brad Wilkerson was a bust last year, Nelson Cruz is unproven, and Kenny Lofton (while great last year) isn't getting any younger. If Cruz and Kinsler turn into reliable fixtures in the lineup, and if Lofton produces like he did a year ago, then the Rangers have a chance to continue putting up a lot of runs. They'll probably need all of them to win with any regularity.

1.) Oakland Athletics - 90-72
2.) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - 81-81
3.) Texas Rangers - 79-83
4.) Seattle Mariners - 70-92

I find it hard to bet against the A's, EVER. And looking through this division, I see plenty of potential, but also a lot of holes. The A's seem to me to be the team best positioned to put it all together and win the division - more because of what their likely to do at the trade deadline to address their problem areas than because of how the team is constituted now. Considering that the Angels never seem to trade anybody, I find it unlikely that they'll improve themselves over what they have now - and I see a .500 team. The Rangers interest me the most here - if everything went right for them, they could win 85-87 games, and that would put them in contention for the division crown if Oakland stumbled a bit. The Mariners lineup should prevent them from losing too many games - but it's not going to be enough to get them anywhere near a winning record in 2007.



  • At Mon Jan 29, 11:35:00 AM , Blogger Marty said...


  • At Mon Feb 19, 03:30:00 AM , Blogger pjrm82 said...

    As a die hard Seattle Mariners fan, and AL west follower, I have to disagree with you on a couple of things. 1st, arthur rhodes was only offered a minor league contract, he may never even make the bullpen. how about julio mateo? you left him out, Also, you left out mark lowe and jake woods. Two very promising young guys, who will easily be in the bullpen over guys like reitsma, and o'flaherty. Regardless, your a twins fan, I wouldnt expect you to care about the M's bullpen anyways. So, I wont hold that against you. Also, the AL West, You might have the correct order, possibly swapping the A's with the Angels, but I promise you the win totals for each team will be considerably higher, A's and Angels both can reach the 95 win plateau, and the Mariners should achieve their first 500 season since 03'. also the rangers should post a solid 85 wins or so. Anyways, those are my gripes. Good luck to your twins, and hopefully Santana will be at full strength for another playoff run. Cheers,

    Pete, Seattle

  • At Mon Feb 19, 09:54:00 AM , Blogger JST said...


    Thanks for the comment, and I'm glad you wandered your way over to the blog. You're right that I don't follow the Mariners that closely, and the bullpen memebers I listed were cobbled together from guesswork and what the team had listed at the time on its website. I'll take your word for it that Mark Lowe and Jake Woods are likely to make it in.

    As for my predictions - I stand by them. They're decidedly non-scientific, but it's too late to retract them, and I like my guesswork.

    Thanks again for stopping by and dropping a comment, and good luck to the Mariners this season!


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