MLB Preview: AL West
1. Texas Rangers (2012: 93-69; 2nd Place)
Why they'll win: Third time is a charm? After losing in the World Series twice in the last three seasons, the Rangers lost in the first-ever Wild Card game against Baltimore in 2012. They have a stacked lineup headlined by Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler, and a deep rotation lead by Yu Darvish and let's face it, the Angels choke every year.
Why they won't win: They lost Josh Hamilton to division-rival
California Anaheim Burbank Los Angeles, and catcher Mike Napoli defected to the Red Sox. The outfield is a bit underwhelming with David Murphy in left, Leonys Martin in center and Nelson Cruz in right field. Joe Nathan has not proven he can pitch in October, either.
Stopped.Hammer Time: Josh Hamilton abandoned Arlington after a five year Ranger career. He received a ridiculous five-year, $125 million contract from the Angels and now will have a chance to face his old team with regularity. If he can stay on the field the Rangers will regret letting him go...but that is a big 'if.'
Joe Uncool: Joe Nathan has been a marvel since taking over as Twins closer in 2004. Since then, the righty has 298 saves and a 2.87 ERA with a WHIP of 1.11. In the postseason (please ask children to leave room) Nathan's ERA balloons to 9.00 and his WHIP skyrockets to 2.44. Remarkably, Nathan has just one postseason save in nine games.
2. Los Angeles Angels (2012: 89-73, 3rd Place)
Why they'll win: Steinbrenner of the West Arte Moreno finally hit on the magic mixture in the Magic Kingdom with the acquisition of outfielder Hamilton. Mike Trout is the reigning Rookie of the Year and would have won the MVP award had Miguel Cabrera not won the AL's first triple crown since 1967.
Why they won't win: They lost clubhouse leader Torii Hunter and failed to retain trade-deadline acquisition Zack Greinke. Scott Downs is slated to start the season at closer, a position that has been in flux since Francisco Rodriguez left for the Mets. There are rumblings that Jared Weaver's velocity is declining, and he is going to be relied upon heavily this season.
Angry Trout: The young outfielder was already peeved that the Halos moved him from centerfield to left field so speedster Peter Bourjos could cover center. Then, the Angels picked up his 2013 contract for $500,000, or just $20k over the MLB minimum. His agent cried foul, but Trout is taking the high road and saying all the right things. This can't bode well for the Angels in 2015 when Trout is eligible for arbitration.
3. Seattle Mariners (2012: 75-87; 4th (last) Place)
Why they'll win: Well, they probably won't, but the M's are better than the A's and especially the Astros. Seattle does boast the best pitcher in the American League in Felix Hernandez, as well as a number of exciting young players in Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak.
Why they won't win: Ackley, Montero and Smoak have all finished their initial cups of coffee and haven't really proven anything. The rest of the rotation is a work in progress and the bullpen is a bit of a mess.
4. Oakland A's (2012: 94-68; First Place)
Why they'll win: Like the Rays, the Athletics never seem to be completely out of contention, no matter how low the payroll or how dismal the roster is on paper. The outfield could be formidable if they can stay healthy, and the starting pitching does have great potential, if not this year.
Why they won't win: Because they are trotting out an infield of John Jaso at catcher, Josh Donaldson at third, Eric Sogard at shortstop, Scott Sizemore at second and Brandon Moss at first base. Not exactly a murderer's row at the plate, and just average defensively.
5. Houston Astros (2012: 55-107; 6th Place (NL Central))
Why they'll win: Bud Selig buys the team with money he found under the couch and gives them the same advantages as the Brewers. Better rivals, new(er) stadium and immunity from any relocation plans ever. Then, he wins Mike Trout in a poker game with Angels owner Arte Moreno. Finally, after a long night of karaoke, Selig wins a 'race to that light over there" against Ron Washington that spots the Astros a ten-game lead before the season begins.
Why they won't win: The entire team makes less than Alex Rodriguez. Read that sentence again. The entire team.