MLB: American League West Preview

Kyle Scudilla


2006 Record: 89-73

The Angels added to an already stable lineup by picking up All-Star center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. and designated hitter Shea Hillenbrand. Their starting rotation appears to be up-and-coming as starters John Lackey, Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver are on the verge of super-stardom. As long as the Angels play to their potential, they appear to be in prime position to make the playoffs.

Key Additions: OF Gary Matthews Jr., DH Shea Hillenbrand, RP Justin Speier

Key Losses: 1B Darin Erstad, 2B Adam Kennedy, RP Brendan Donnelly

X-Factor: RP Francisco Rodriguez. K-Rod is the anchor behind one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball. He has established himself as one of the top five closers in the game with his 47 saves and 1.73 ERA last season. It will be interesting to see how well this young stud at just 25 years old develops.

Don’t be surprised if … the Angels represent the AL in the World Series.

2007 Outlook: RF Vladimir Guerrero powers a lineup that is as potent as any in its division. With third baseman Chone Figgins and shortstop Orlando Cabrera, the Angels have speed to match their power. With their excellent starting pitching and bullpen, Los Angeles seems ready for a World Series run. — T.R.


2006 Record: 93-69

Coming off another year in the postseason, the Athletics will rely on their starting pitching to lead them. Starters Rich Harden, Dan Haren and Joe Blanton will all look to become among the elite pitchers in the Major Leagues. With a speedy lineup, featuring newly acquired Shannon Steward, the A’s expect to return to the Promised Land.

Key Additions: C Mike Piazza, OF Shannon Stewart, RP Alan Embree

Key Losses: SP Barry Zito, 1B Frank Thomas, OF Jay Payton

X-Factor: RP Huston Street. Street established himself as one of the elite closers last season by racking up 37 saves. The young Texan now looks to put together his third full season in the majors by leading one of the best bullpens in baseball.

Don’t be surprised if … the A’s playoff fate is decided in the last week of the season.

2007 Outlook: Third baseman Eric Chavez, shortstop Bobby Crosby and outfielder Milton Bradley all had sub-par seasons last year in the middle of the Athletics’ order. Piazza and Stewart do not offer enough help to support the pitching staff towards the end of the season. As a result, they will fall short of the playoffs. — T.R.


2006 Record: 80-82

The Rangers return to action poised to establish themselves in the top half of their division. Featuring one of the more dangerous and powerful lineups in the American League, the Rangers have the weapons to move forward. The addition of closer Eric Gagne should boost this squad that was without a consistent finisher for most of 2006.

Key Additions: RP Eric Gagne, OF Sammy Sosa, OF Kenny Lofton

Key Losses: OF Carlos Lee, OF Gary Matthews, SP Adam Eaton

X-Factor: OF Sammy Sosa. In this already dangerous lineup, Sosa returns from a year off 12 homeruns shy of 600 for his career. It should be interesting to see whether or not the aging slugger will be able to provide the Rangers with an offensive boost.

Don’t be surprised if … the Rangers make a run at the division title.

2007 Outlook: Shortstop Michael Young and first baseman Mark Teixiera will be able to produce enough runs to keep the Rangers within striking distance of the AL West crown. Gagne’s addition is sure to help preserve victories at the end of games; however, the team’s lack of a first-rate starting pitcher and depth in the rotation will eventually lead to Texas missing the postseason once again. — T.R


2006 Record: 78-84

The Mariners biggest concern headed into 2007 may be winning just enough to hold on to its franchise player, Ichiro Suzuki, who’s playing in the final year of his contract and moving to center field this season to help fill in a major hole in the lineup. While the Ms didn’t finish far from .500 last year, the team is far from the success it experienced in Ichiro’s earlier years with the club, and manager Mike Hargrove is already on the hot seat. The addition of a couple of veteran bats and a revamped pitching staff give the Mariners some hope to compete in the wild AL West and resign their most prized possession.

Key Additions: OF Jose Guillen, 2B Jose Vidro, SP Jeff Weaver, SP Miguel Batista

Key Departures: SP Gil Meche, SP Joel Pineiro, RP Rafael Soriano

X-Factor: SP Jeff Weaver. Like many American League teams, Seattle has enough hitters to compete, but the questions lie in the team’s ability to defend against the offensive juggernauts it will encounter during the course of the season. The success of its rotation hinges, in part, on one of the biggest tossups in the league in Weaver. Are the Mariners getting the guy who got knocked around and subsequently released by the Angels, or the pitcher who dominated in five October starts with the World Champion Cardinals en route to three postseason wins and an ERA of 2.43?

Don’t be surprised if … the Mariners finish above .500 and show enough improvement to retain Ichiro at season’s end.

2007 Outlook: The moves Seattle made in the offseason make it markedly better, but with how stacked the AL looks this year, it would likely take a run at the division title to get the Mariners into the postseason picture. The lineup is loaded and should end 2007 as one of the highest-scoring orders in the game, with the likes of Adrian Beltre, Guillen, Kenji Johjima, Jose Lopez Richie Sexson, Vidro, and the highly underrated Raul Ibanez just waiting to bring Ichiro home. If the pitching experiences the best-scenario case (Felix Hernandez becomes the ace, Weaver and Miguel Batista contribute their share of innings and wins, etc.), this team could compete. But, as with many teams, it’s a big if. — K.S.