SCOUTING THE A.L. WEST
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
You have to respect a club that adds Josh Hamilton to a lineup that already includes Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo and the most exciting rookie player in years in Mike Trout. The Angels also deal at the top of their rotation with Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, and Jason Vargas adds more depth. But what about the other 18 guys? Red flag: Joe Blanton is the No. 3 starter. Another red flag: The Angels were scavenging for relievers at the end of spring training.
Even after losing Hamilton, Michael Young and catcher Mike Napoli, the Rangers still boast a strong lineup with Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus and newcomers Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski. The word is that right-hander Yu Darvish is primed to have a great year as the Rangers' ace. But questions abound about the depth of the rotation and strength of the bullpen. Plus there's a power struggle going on in Arlington with Nolan Ryan being stripped of his team president title. Never a good sign.
The first full year of the post-Ichiro era features a lineup withf potentially good young hitters such as Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders, Jesus Montero and Kyle Seager. Offensive-minded additions Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales add to the lineup. The youngsters didn't exactly take hold last year as the Mariners hit .234 as a team, but with the fences having been brought in closer to home plate at Safeco Field, homers and runs should increase. Seattle has Felix Hernandez re-signed for the long term, but the rotation and bullpen (aside from closer Tom Wilhelmsen) are a mish-mash after King Felix. Trading 14-game winner and innings eater Vargas to the Angels for Morales might prove foolish.
The A's are no longer the bargain basement club with the A.L. West's new addition. The Astros project to have a $25 million payroll and perhaps as long a year as 2012, when they lost 107 games. It will offer intrigue for Oakland fans, though, with a projected 2-3-4 of Brett Wallace, Carlos Pena and Chris Carter -- three former A's -- plus a rotation that includes Brad Peacock, who was shipped to Houston with Carter for Jed Lowrie. Houston has a Moneyball strategy of building through trades and draft picks. But do they have a Billy Beane?