by Yankee Todd
Who will the Yankees play in the playoffs?
The American League reloaded this off-season. It seemed every time one turned on ESPN another big name free agent was signing with an American League team. There are going to be some really good teams that do not make the playoffs in the American League that could do damage to the much weaker National League.
With that said, let’s take at a look at the American League West.
The American League West consists of four teams – the Texas Rangers, the Los Angeles Angels, the Oakland A’s and the Seattle Mariners.
The following season, the Houston Astros will join the AL West. The Mariners and A’s are excited that neither of them will end up in last place ever again.
The American League West sure made a ton of noise in the off season. The Angels and Rangers were both major players in the free agent market.
The Angels made a huge splash in one day, shelling out a small fortune by signing Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson.
Not to be outdone, the Rangers signed Japanese pitching star Yu Darvish.
The Seattle Mariners made a huge trade and acquired the most offensive-ready Yankee prospect in decades in Jesus Montero.
The A’s signed Manny Ramirez and Yoenis Cespedes, the Cuban defector.
Let’s take a look at each team in the order I believe they will finish.
1) Texas Rangers. 95-67
I believe that Nolan Ryan and Ron Washington will be the reason the Rangers win the ultra competitive AL West.
Have you ever seen Ron Washington manage? He is as excited as my 10-year-old son Andrew is at games. Players love to play for a guy like that.
Nolan Ryan is a beast. He has put his stamp on this team and especially this pitching staff. The fact that CJ Wilson left the Rangers tells me a lot about Nolan Ryan and CJ Wilson.
The pitching staff will again be stout for the Rangers.
Potential Cy-Young material, Derek Holland will anchor the staff. Yu Darvish will win 15 games and former closer Neftali Feliz moves to the starting rotation. I don’t think Nolan Ryan would make that gamble if he didn’t think Feliz can be an effective starter.
With Feliz moving to the starting rotation, Joe Nathan, the former Minnesota Twins closer will be given the job of closing out games. Again, Nolan Ryan is gambling on a pitcher.
If Nathan is on, the Rangers have a closer that averaged 41 saves from 2004 to 2009. Nathan is almost two years removed from Tommy John surgery.
I would not want to gamble against Nolan Ryan.
Josh Hamilton, who recently suffered a set-back in his sobriety, is one of the most feared offensive players in the game. Will this be his last year as a Ranger? My brother Sean thinks Hamilton will be a Yankee in 2013.
It isn’t just Hamilton that opposing pitchers need to fear. Mike Napoli, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and Adrian Betre make their line-up deep and feared.
Can Napoli, who hit .320 last year, smashed 30 homers and drove in 75 runs, duplicate his breakout season? If he does, the team is successful in their quest to repeat.
Napoli also has a really hot girlfriend in Selma Alameri. If chicks dig the long ball, let’s hope Napoli can continue to go yard.
The Rangers will win the division because their minor league is loaded with young talent and they have money. If they need something as they close in on trading deadline, they have the means to make it work.
2) The Los Angeles Angels. 92-70
I have to believe that most experts are picking the Angels to win the American League West. On paper, I probably should also. But I am not.
The Angels might do better in the playoff but I don’t they will beat the Rangers in the division.
The Angels added the machine, Albert Pujols to their lineup. If manager Mike Socia can pencil Pujols into his line-up 150 times a year, the entire lineup and team just got tremendously better.
Pujols is arguably the most feared hitter in the game. He broke down for the first time in his career last year and the Angels are hoping that it was a fluke.
As a die-hard Yankee fan, I was happy that CJ Wilson did not sign in the Bronx. I don’t think he has the moxie to be a big time starter. Wilson will be a 15 game winner for the Angels because their team will score runs. But I don’t think that he can win the big game in the playoffs.
Dan Haren and Jered Weaver give the Angels an excellent starting pitching staff. Some experts believe that their staff, if healthy, is the best in the bigs.
A big question mark for the Angels will be if Kendrys Morales can return from his 2010 injury.
If Vernon Wells can rebound from his terrible season in 2011, the Angles might prove me wrong and win the division.
Mike Trout, a 20-year-old outfielder, is my pick for AL Rookie of the year.
3) The Seattle Mariners 80-82
The Mariners are an improved team but they will not be able to compete against the likes of Texas and Los Angeles.
With all that said, the Mariners probably have the best player in the division in “King” Felix Hernandez. Does anyone follow him on twitter? I can’t speak Spanish so I don’t know if he is talking about me or not.
This summer, I was fired up when I learned the Yankees had made a trade with the Mariners for a pitcher. I thought surely that the King was moved.
It turns out, the Yankees best offensive prospect-maybe ever- was dealt for a pitcher not named Hernandez.
The Mariners acquired Jesus Montero. Is he the next Manny Ramirez or Bam Bam Mulens?
If he is the offensive power that the NY hype machine has made him out to be, the Mariners just found their next star for the next 12-13 years.
A huge question mark for the Mariners is Ichiro. Will he bounce back from a poor season? Has his age caught up with him? I bet Ichiro bounces back for a solid season.
If he does, and Justin Smoak gets off to the hot start he had in 2011, the M’s could make it to .500.
Dustin Ackley appears to be a young star for the Mariners.
4) Oakland A’s 75-87
You never know what to expect with the A’s. They trade Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Baileym and Trevor Cahill in the off-season and then go out and sign Manny Ramirez, Youenis Cespedas, resigned CoCo Crisp (He is still playing in the league?) and Bartolo Colon.
Manny Ramirez must serve a 50 game suspension before he returns to the team.
Jonny Gomes signed with the A’s in the off-season. The A’s hope that Gomes, who hit 14 homers and drove in 43 runs, can help their offense.
The pitching staff will be built around Dallas Braden (who will begin the year on the IR), Bartolo Colon (yikes), Brandon McCarthy, and Jarrod Parker.
Colon had a decent season for the Yanks but if the A’s are counting on him, they could be in for a long year.
The A’s hope the Jemile Weeks, who hit .321 last year with 10 stolen bases in 184 at bats can be the table setter the offense needs.