2011 MLB Picks & Predictions: AL West Preview

Oakland A’s (81-81, 2nd place AL West in 2010): General manager Billy Beane seems to find ways to push all the right buttons in the offseason, and though he didn’t really do any of those.” Wow!” moves this year, he certainly made some cautious calls. Bringing in Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham should add some stability to a rather questionable lineup from last year, and David DeJesus should thrive now that he has some real bats around him. This is a young pitching staff through and through, but many think this could be a big year for this team.

Strengths: We know there are all kinds of high hopes for this starting rotation in 2011, but the real reason this team is going to be successful this year is their bullpen. Andrew Bailey and Brad Ziegler were great last season, and now they’re joined by Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour, who have had incredible seasons over the course of the last two years. Sure, these are more moves that didn’t really show up on the radar over the course of the offseason, but they’re big moves that should help the A’s nail down more games down the road.

Weaknesses: There is simply no glitz and glamor in this team. There are probably no 30+ homer hitters, and there may also be no men with 100+ RBIs or scoring runs. You know on most other teams there’s a guy in the lineup that you have to throw to. Oakland doesn’t have it, and it could be expensive.

It’s been a lot of seasons, but this bullpen is just what the doctor ordered this year. Dallas Braden, Gio Gonzalez and Brett Anderson could be the newest trio of pitchers you never heard of a few years ago who turn out to be absolute stars this year.

Oakland A’s 2011 Prediction: 1st Place AL West

Texas Rangers (90-72, 1st place AL West in 2010): Last season, the Rangers built deer antlers and bear claws all the way to the World Series, proving that heart, hustle and a trade in the right time can really Realize your entire franchise. Don’t get us wrong. Even without Cliff Lee, Vladdy Guerrero and Bengie Molina, this is still a fantastic team. However, it’s just a division and wild-card contender without those three, and not a legitimate World Series player.

Strengths: There is speed up and down in this lineup, and manager Ron Washington isn’t afraid to use it. Elvis Andrus is one of the fastest men in all of baseball, while four others stole at least 14 bases last year. A healthier Josh Hamilton also has 30/30 capabilities this year, and that could make a real difference in how this lineup not only plays in terms of running the bases, but in terms of being able to make runs in tight games.

Weaknesses: There is no longer a No. 1 in this rotation. We’re just not so sure that names like CJ Wilson and Tommy Hunter can do this on their own, as without Lee, this team wouldn’t have survived challenging the Tampa Bay Rays in the first round of the playoffs unless Nolan Ryan. and company are making a big move on the horizon, that lack of an ace is really going to hurt this team again.

MLB picks and predictions: Texas will be one of these teams that barely ends up missing out on season two. The Rangers, as we said before, are good enough to compete, but they’re not good enough to pick the best teams in this league on a regular basis.

2011 Texas Rangers Prediction: 2nd place in the American League West

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (80-82, 3rd AL West in 2010): It was a tough year for the Halos last season, as they really aren’t used to finishing third in the division, nor are they used to didn’t even finish .500, especially after years of dominance in the AL West. However, they really had to rebuild last year, even more so after losing Kendry Morales earlier in the season. The pieces were supposed to fall into place this year with Carl Crawford in the offseason, but instead he headed to the Boston Red Sox. Manager Mike Scioscia has a lot of work to do.

Strengths: Of course, Scioscia is really the reason this team competes year after year. Sure, Anaheim fell short last year. That won’t tarnish the spirit of this list. Players love playing for Scioscia, and he tends to get the best of them. He will run and run and run some more, and he preaches the fundamentals of baseball. That’s exactly what this team will have to return to this year to win games.

Weaknesses: The pop that used to be in this lineup with Vladimir Guerrero and Morales is gone. Morales is still sore and will start the year on the disabled list, and who knows what shape this team will be in if he comes back. Torii Hunter can’t carry all this gear. He really needed Crawford to help him.

Baseball picks and predictions: Every once in a while, this team comes out of nowhere and wins a division title.

Baseball picks and predictions: There’s no way Anaheim will go back to a losing record this year, but we’re not so sure 82-85 wins will actually see this club contend until the final weekend of the season. Halos will hit bad teams, but they won’t be able to get into the dance when all is said and done.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 2011 Prediction: 3rd place in AL West

Seattle Mariners (61-101, 4th in AL West in 2010): The Mariners can’t go anywhere but from here. Sure, they had the Cy Young Award winner on his team in the form of Felix Hernandez … but so did the Kansas City Royals when they had Zack Greinke. How did it work? This is a team with some beautiful stars and a beautiful stadium, but a few good apples among a bunch of bad apples is still usually just a bunch of bad apples.

Strengths: This team’s starting pitching is actually a little deeper than King Felix. Jason Vargas has some talent, and Doug Fister has shown he can play, but the wild card is actually Erik Bedard, a guy the Ms opened their wallets for a few offseasons ago. If this staff binds, it can be lethal, but…

Weaknesses: …Boy, this lineup sucks. There’s Ichiro Suzuki, Chone Figgins, and… Somehow, naming Miguel Olivo, Justin Smoak, Brendan Ryan, Jack Wilson, Franklin Gutierrez, and Milton Bradley just doesn’t give us that warm, fuzzy feeling inside. There’s a reason this team ranked in the bottom five of virtually every offensive category last year despite the fact that Ichiro had another 200-plus hit year.

MLB picks and predictions: Ichiro could have 400 hits this year and it won’t make a difference. There are simply no other pieces to this puzzle that are worth it. Hernandez will win his 16 or more games, but the rest of the team might not combine for 50 wins.

2011 Seattle Mariners Prediction: 4th place in the American League West

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