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2015 MLB preview: the AL West

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After exhausting the National League, we put on our shift, and head over to the American League.

A true five tool player, Mike Trout
A true five tool player, Mike Trout
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Previous entries:

We've covered that the Tribe plays 20 interleague games. Next we turn our attention to the AL West, which we will play a total of 33 times.

Astros: Road (4/6, 8-9); Home (7/6-9)

Rangers: Road (5/15-17); Home (5/25-27)

Mariners: Road (5/28-31); Home (6/9-11)

Athletics: Home (7/10-12); Road (7/30-8/2)

Angels: Road (8/2-4); Home (8/28-30)

The A's maintained their lead over this division for much of the summer, but after making some huge deadline deals (Jeff Samardzija, Jon Lester, Jason Hammel), they slumped badly in August and September. Based on a hot July and August, the Angels then ran away with the division, coasting to a ten game cushion. The A's slump almost let the Mariners catch them for the second Wild Card spot. The Rangers, a preseason darling, battled injury after injury (using 64 players total and 40(!!!) pitchers last year) to finish last. The Astros, after three straight 100 loss seasons, finally moved out of the basement.

Texas Rangers (67-95, 5th)

Key Losses: J.P. Arencibia (C), Neal Cotts (RP), Alex Rios (RF), Alexi Ogando (RP), Luis Sardinas (IF), Robbie Ross (SP)

Key Adds: Ross Detwiler (SP), Yovani Gallardo (SP), Carlos Corpran (C), Anthony Ranaudo (SP), Ryan Ludwick (LF), Nate Schierholtz (OF)

Injuries: Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Martin Perez, Jurickson Profar

Projected Position Players: Robinson Chirinos, Prince Fielder, Rougned Odor, Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre, Ryan Rua, Leonys Martin, Shin-Soo Choo, Mitch Moreland

Projected Rotation: Holland, Gallardo, Colby Lewis, Detwiler, Nick Tepesch, Nick Martinez

Projected Fire Squad: Neftali Feliz, Tanner Scheppers, Alex Claudio, Shawn Tolleson

I felt really bad for the Rangers fans last year after each and every injury was announced. At one point, I think four of the top 5 starters were all out and both Fielder and Choo were shut down as well. Manager Ron Washington stepped down just before the end of the season.

GM Jon Daniels had to decide if the injured players would make a difference in 2015, or go out and make more deals. He focused on pitching due to the extreme number of pitching injuries suffered the year prior. Unfortunately, I don't think it is going to help now that Darvish is done for 2015. The lineup isn't all that special and unless Holland and Harrison return to form, this could be the worst rotation in the AL. I am calling for a 100 loss season at 62-100. ZIPS has them at 74-88 (but that was prior to the Darvish injury I believe).

Houston Astros (70-92, 4th)

Key Losses: Matt Albers (RP), Jesse Crain, (RP), Jose Veras (RP), Anthony Bass (RP), Michael Foltynewisz (RP), Dexter Fowler (CF), Carlos Corporan (C)

Key Adds: Hank Conger (C), Luke Gregerson (CL), Pat Neshek (RP), Jed Lowrie (SS), Evan Gattis (LF), Dan Straily (SP), Luis Valbuena (3B), Colby Rasmus (OF), Roberto Hernandez/Fausto (SP)

Injuries: Brett Oberholtzer, Brad Peacock, Vincent Velasquez

Projected Position Players: Juan Castro, Jon Singleton, Jose Altuve, Lowrie, Valbuena, Gattis, Jake Marisnick, George Springer, Chris Carter

Projected Rotation: Dallas Keuchel, Scott Feldman, Collin McHugh, Oberholtzer, Hernandez

Projected Fire Squad: Gregerson, Chad Qualls, Neshek, Tony Sipp

After an infusion of young talent the last couple of years (Castro, Altuve, Springer), GM Jeff Luhnow made some additional moves to continue the forward progression. The lineup looks improved with Lowrie and Gattis added in.

The rotation made a positive jump forward as well and has some top arms coming through the system for the next couple of years. Gregerson should fortify the back end of the bullpen. I'd love to see the Astros compete for a playoff spot this year, but that would mean over a 15 game swing from last year. What the heck, I'll make them my surprise team at 85-77. ZIPS isn't quite as bullish but sees a decent jump to 79-83.

Seattle Mariners (87-75, 3rd)

Key Losses: Corey Hart (DH), Justin Smoak (1B), Joe Biemel (RP), Kendrys Morales (DH), Chris Young (SP), Michael Saunders (RF), Brandon Maurer (RP)

Key Adds: J.A. Happ (SP), Nelson Cruz (DH), Justin Ruggiano (OF), Seth Smith (RF), Rickie Weeks (2B)

Injuries: Christopher Taylor (SS)

Projected Position Players: Mike Zunino, Logan Morrison, Robinson Cano, Brad Miller, Kyle Seager, Dustin Ackley, Austin Jackson, Smith, Cruz

Projected Rotation: Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Happ, Tijuan Walker

Projected Fire Squad: Fernando Rodney, Danny Farquhar, Charlie Furbush, Tom Wilhelmsen

After years of a very poor offense, there were signs of life for the Mariners last year. Adding Cano helped a bunch and the breakout of Seager and Zunino were pleasant surprises. Even Ackley looked much improved. This offseason, GM Jack Zduriencik went out and added Cruz for another big bopper.

The rotation, led by perennial Cy Young candidate King Felix was superb again. I believe both Paxton and Walker are primed for breakout years now that have gotten their feet wet. I don't trust Rodney all that much, but the rest of the pen looks very solid. Most pundits are calling them to win the division this year. I'd like to as well, but I have a hunch something goes wrong this year and they finish around 83-79. Nothing to base it on, it is just a feeling. ZIPS calls them at 89-73, or third overall.

Oakland A's (88-74, 2nd, Wild Card)

Key Losses: Adam Dunn (DH), Alberto Callaspo (IF), Jonny Gomes (OF), Luke Gregerson (CL), Jason Hammel (SP), Jon Lester (SP), Jed Lowrie (SS), Josh Donaldson (3B), Brandon Moss (1B), Jeff Samardzija (SP), Derek Norris (C), Nick Punto (IF), John Jaso (C)

Key Adds: Billy Butler (DH), Ike Davis (1B), Brett Lawrie (3B), Chris Bassitt (SP), Josh Phegley (C), Marcus Semien (SS), Jesse Hahn (SP), Ben Zobrist (2B), Tyler Clippard (RP)

Injuries: Sean Doolittle, Nathan Frieman, A.J. Griffin, Sean Nolin, Jarrod Parker, Josh Reddick, Taylor Thompson

Projected Position Players: Stephen Vogt, Davis, Zobrist, Semien, Lawrie, Coco Crisp, Sam Fuld, Reddick, Butler

Projected Rotation: Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Hahn, Jesse Chavez, Drew Pomeranz, Bassitt

Projected Fire Squad: Doolittle, Clippard, Ed O'Flaherty, Dan Otero

After reviewing the multitude of changes the Padres and Dodgers did, I didn't expect to find another team to come close to that huge of an overhaul. But here we are with GM Billy Beane, and he outdid both of them. The only holdovers in the lineup from last year are Crisp and Reddick. Sure Fuld and Vogt were around last year, but neither were big players.

The biggest issue here is likely going to be the rotation. Losing three key starters like Samardzija, Lester and Hammel does not bode well. Gray is fine, but Kazmir slumped badly late last year. Hahn and Bassitt are pegged to be in the rotation, but neither has a track record yet. This is one time where I think Moneyball fails Beane and the A's stumble to a 72-90 finish. ZIPS is in complete conflict with me, having them at 84-78.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (98-64, 1st)

Key Losses: Brennan Boesch (OF), Ian Stewart (3B), John McDonald (IF), Jason Grilli (RP), Hank Conger (C), Howie Kendrick (2B), Kevin Jepsen (RP)

Key Adds: Cesar Ramos (RP), Nick Tropeano (SP), Drew Butera (C), Andrew Heaney (SP), Josh Rutledge (IF), Matthew Joyce (DH), Johnny Giavotella (2B)

Injuries: Josh Hamilton (likely suspension), Cory Rasmus, Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs

Projected Position Players: Chris Ianetta, Albert Pujols, Giavotella, Erick Aybar, David Freese, Collin Cowgill, Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun, Joyce

Projected Rotation: Jered Weaver, Richards, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker, Hector Santiago, Heaney

Projected Fire Squad: Huston Street, Joe Smith, Mike Morin, Fernando Salas

As long as Trout keeps doing his thing, this team has an excellent shot of competing for the flag, and even a championship. GM Jerry Dipoto didn't make a ton of moves as he didn't really need to. The lineup will be dangerous with Trout, Freese and Cowgill, but each year, Pujols bat is slowing down. Not to mention, the potential loss of Hamilton is scary. I didn't like the swap of Kendrick for Giovatella either.

I did like the pickup of Heaney though as I think it will take time for Richards to get back to himself. But both Wilson and Santiago need to step it up this year. The bullpen should be above average as well. I doubt they approach 100 wins again, and if there is any serious dip in the rotation, they could plummet into the high 80s, but I'll tab them for a 91-71 record. ZIPS has even less faith than I do, calling for a 82-80 record.

Conclusion:

The Angels should win this division. But even though I am slightly down on the Mariners, they definitely have a shot to beat them out. I like the Astros to surprise while the A's and Rangers finish in the bottom of the division.

So what say you? Put your rankings below.