February 3rd, 2015

“Unfinished Business-Part 2-AL West”

I haven’t ever seen a perfect team. Some, however, are more balanced than others. Today I share my thoughts about some unfinished business with the AL West.

I really believe the Astros helped themselves by improving their bullpen. The additions of Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek and Will Harris help stabilize the pen. But, when it’s all said and done I think they are still short on starting pitching. It may take eight starters to get through the season, and I don’t see the depth. While I like the offense, there are a ton of strikeout in the middle of the order with Springer, Carter, Rasmus and Gattis. But they should put up plenty of runs to cover high scoring games. Still, while I think they have improved, the pitching is worrisome.

The Angels won 98 games last year-ten more than the second place Athletics. But my concern is that they may have eaten into that advantage with the departure of Howie Kendrick. I have been and still am a huge Kendrick believer. The guy is a natural hitter with gap power and an ability to drive in big runs. He now yields second base to Josh Rutledge. I think the difference is dramatic. Yes, the team now has a good lefty pitching prospect in Andrew Heaney. I really like him. But he is untested. The team is still good, but a return to health from Garrett Richards is really important. They also need a bounce back from C.J. Wilson. For me, another pitcher, second base depth and more playing time for C.J. Cron would all work well.

Cespedes-gone. Moss-gone. Donaldson-gone. Jaso-gone. Norris-gone. Not to mention Samardzija and Lester. I’m probably missing some. This isn’t tinkering. This is a complete surgical reconstruction in Oakland. I think home runs in Oakland will go the way of the public pay telephone-few and far between. Yes, I like the young pitching received in return. I like Ben Zobrist. But the last I looked, Zobrist can only play one position at a time. They need him at second base, shortstop, in the outfield and selling programs with the names of the players. I think there are some holes in the lineup, to say the least. But here’s the but. But the Oakland front office always seems to know what they are doing. They should pitch well. Defense and power may be a thing of the past. I don’t think they’re done. I think they’ll find middle infield depth and maybe try to find some power somewhere. Then again, maybe not.

The Mariners are one of the few teams in the big leagues about which I have few, if any, questions. The are a balanced club of good starting pitching, good relief pitching, power, speed, and a good farm system to support the Major League club if needed. I love the fact the opposition has to navigate through Jackson, Smith, Cano, Cruz, and Seager. Will Brad Miller be able to keep the job at shortstop? That may be the only question. I look for huge offensive seasons from these M’s. The bench could use a boost, but that’s picking nits. I don’t like picking nits. This is a good team that should challenge for the top spot in the AL West-at least that’s what I think today at the beginning of February when we haven’t even started Spring Training.

The Rangers. I look for the greatest increase in wins in all of baseball to come from the Rangers. If…if Prince Fielder is healthy and can hit like he should. If Shin-Soo-Choo returns to health and his previous form of setting the table from the top of the order. If..if Yu Darvish stays healthy and limits his repertoire from eight pitches to maybe four or five. I really like Rougned Odor. Having him around can allow Jurickson Profar to get completely healthy before his return. But the Rangers need at least one more new starter beyond Yovani Gallardo. And I’m concerned Gallardo will get a stiff neck from turning around and watching balls fly out of his home park. Matt Harrison and Martin Perez may-and I mean may-offer late season help. They need to get that unfinished business finished. They need more starting pitching.

The AL West will be really fun to watch because every team seems solid and competitive. No 100 game losers. I don’t think. But business remains to be done regarding starting pitching throughout the division, with the exception of Seattle. I think they are the most settled at that crucial winning component. They have pitching depth, balance and a hunger to win.

And my favorite words?…”The equipment trucks have left for Arizona and Florida.”
Spring Training is within reach.

Thanks for reading my “On The Cusp” series on MLBPipeline.com and my Top 40 Relief Pitchers for 2015 on MLB.com and MLBPipeline.com.

That’s it. I’m done.