posted on Mar.23, 2012
Spring Training is long. Too Long for some of us. But it’s also the best time for gutsy, and some less gutsy, predictions for the season. So here is the first of a three part series, predictions for the divisions this coming season, starting in the west, we will hit the AL and NL West, next week is the AL and NL Central, then finally the AL and NL East just in time for opening day. And by the way, Opening day is technically five days away, March 28 in Tokyo, Felix Hernandez for the Marinersm, Brandon McCarthy for the A’s. Nothing like a 6AM first pitch. It technically is an A’s home game, since nobody goes to them in Oakland anyway. Anyway, speaking on AL West teams, let’s GET ON WITH IT!!!
Alright the AL West had some of the big ticket acquisitions of the winter, and they will probably swing some of the power in this division. That’s what the Angels are hoping for anyway. The Rangers spent some big money too, bringing in the latest “can’t miss” Japanese prospect, Yu Darvish, to anchor their rotation for the next 5 years with Derek Holland, or so they hope. I can run down plenty of Asian pitchers who flopped miserably when they crossed the Pacific, it would be nice to see the Rangers’ money be well spent. Nolan Ryan has done a good job building this team the past few years and changing the culture of the team. The Angels made two big ticket acquisitions with their new TV contract, signing former Ranger southpaw CJ Wilson and the future Hall-of-Famer Albert Pujols. The Mariners were involved in the blockbuster trade for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi, quality players who they hope will help turn around a free-falling franchise that has been downright dreadful the past few years, losing over 100 games in 2 of the past 5 years. They also need to turn the team around quickly because King Felix has options and bonuses coming in the next few years, which will hike up his salary and need ticket sales to cover. The other team that has been down, to say the least, in the past few years is the A’s. Moneyball is probably the best thing to happen in this franchise in the since 2007. They have lived in the basement of the West with the Mariners and, until recently, the Rangers. All of this should makes the AL West a very interesting race.
The NL West should be even better than the AL West. Why? Because all these teams hate each other and have pitching! The Dodgers and Giants have a rivalry dating back to their days in New York, the D-backs are the new kids in town, the Rockies are always a feisty team, and the Padres are, well, the Padres. A few fiery personalities have been added in San Diego, Carlos Quentin being the biggest hothead. The Dodgers are hoping to have new owners by the start of the season to get this ownership disaster behind them. The Giants have dominant pitching as always, and are hoping they get rebound years from Aubrey Huff and Pablo Sandoval (Big Panda). They also will get Buster Posey back following that horrific collison at home plate last year. The D-backs have a fiery mananger who turned the team around last year, winning the division with an aggressive team that almost upset the Brewers in five games. They made big additions with pitchers and have young kids coming up in the system. The Rockies, though they traded Ubaldo Jimenez last year to the Tribe, still have talent on their roster, and certainly don’t want to tank with Tulowitzski’s contract. Not that it’s a bad contract, it’s just a massive one.
Now on to predictions!
In the AL, Kendrys Morales has started to play in Spring Training games for the Angels, giving them a ray of hope that he can FINALLY come back after that freak accident at home plate in 2010. That’s right, it’s been 2 years since he played in a Major League game. However, there is a bit of a logjam of infielders, outfielders, and DH’s on this team. Morales is hoping he can make things interesting and force Mike Scioscia to find a place for him with a huge contract playing first base now. Do I think CJ Wilson is an ace? No. But, he is good enough to be a 3 in this stacked rotation behind Weaver and Haren. Ervin Santana pitches well in even-numbered years, so he should have a decent year, although he threw a no-hitter last year. Jordan Walden broke into the majors with a bang of a rookie campaign, and while he blew a few too many saves, he certainly looks like he has a ton of potential, and hopefully he realizes it this year. Yet he may be able to take his time with Weaver and Haren finishing starts like they can. Bottom line for the Angels, score runs, and they can win this division.
The team that will put up the biggest fight to the Angels is the Rangers. Yu Darvish is a HUGE question mark. As is moving Neftali Feliz to the rotation, a move that I am not for, he had a ton of success there and there is no reason to move him. But, the Rangers moved Alexei Ogando to the rotation and he had success last year, we may see the same from Feliz. This team can score runs, that’s not even a question, they can pitch and still have a relatively deep bullpen if Koji Uehara stops giving up homers like it’s candy. I personally feel Joe Nathan is going to stink in that ballpark. That’s the X-factor for this team to me. No matter who is in the lineup, this team scores runs, protecting those leads was a strong point of this team last year, they need to be able to do that again this year. I don’t know that, coming off of Tommy John, Joe Nathan will be the guy he was in Minnesota.
The other teams will continue their rebuilding processes, the Mariners being closer than the A’s, who keep wandering further and further into the abyss. I expect a big year out of young Mariners second basenmen Dustin Ackley, and I hope Cuban center fielder Yoenis Cespedes is a good pickup for the A’s, who could use the star power. But I think the Manny Ramirez signing is a disaster waiting to happen for the A’s and Billy Beane, who somehow got a contract extension this winter.
So here is the AL West standings as I see them
Maybe the Rangers vie for a Wild Card spot but we will see on that one.
On to the NL West! To me, the Diamondbacks are the team in this division, they made some major acquisitions in the winter, Trevor Cahill, Kelly Johnson is healthy, they have very promising young players in their farm system, rated with the best minor league rotation in the NL West, many of them ready to pitch-in (pun fully intended) in the majors if needed. While I think the Giants are certainly a tough team to beat with their pitching, they gave one up for Melky Cabrera. I think that Angel Pagan will be a good pickup for them, but this team still does not score runs. Hopefully the return of Buster Posey helps, a healthy Brian Wilson, and that phenomenal rotation will keep this team in contention, and possibly close enough to steal the division at the end of the year, a la 2010. Then again, any outfield production is an improvement over Andres Torres’s black hole of offense. The Rockies are in a rebuilding stage, as shown by their trade of Ubaldo Jimenez last summer, but they have Jorge de la Rosa coming back from Tommy John, and other promising youngsters, maybe Jamie Moyer makes this team. Troy Tulowitzski is still one of the best young shortstops in the game, Carlos Gonzales is a great outfielder, Todd Helton is a dangerous hitter, this team can score runs. They have a good back end of the bullpen, and also are capable of making a run at the end of the year. The Dodgers will be okay, and Don Mattingly will continue to learn as a manager, hopefully Matt Kemp continues to rake and Clayton Kershaw is a terrific lefty and one of the best, the guy to stop losing streaks for this team, and they will need him big time! The Padres are the Padres, they will fight but not get anywhere. Or they will look helpless. These teams all beat up on each other, but here are the final standings.
I could see the Rockies and Giants battling it out for 1 Wild Card spot, not both of them.
Central predictions coming next week.