AL West - January Update

This division should be a battle between the Angels and the Rangers.  Myworld still likes the Angels despite the Rangers acquisition of Yu Darvish.  Yu may put up ERAs under 2.00 in the NPB, but in the small environment and thin air of Texas Japanese fans should be prepared to see an ERA more at 3.68.  This won’t mean he had a bad year.  It is nice to have two powerhouse teams that do not call the AL East their home.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Angels (1) - World Series Winner

January Transactions - No transactions of any significance that will have an impact on their major league roster.  They did all their damage in December.

Non-Roster Prospect to make Roster - With a good spring we like the non-K-Rod Francisco Rodriguez (Mexican variety) to make the team.  The Angels are very familiar with him since he has pitched out of the bullpen for them in past.  We’d like to see Loek Van Mil make the team to become the tallest player ever to play baseball.  Myworld thinks the Netherland’s native will have a better shot as a mid-season callup.  Ryan Langerhans still hangs around because of his defensive ability, but the Angels outfield is too strong and does not have any real defensive weaknesses to make him a good fit.

Texan Rangers (2) - Wild Card

January Transaction - The biggest splash they made was spending $100 million to sign Yu Darvish.  Now their biggest challenge is to figure out who will make the rotation from the seven pitchers that are available.  Myworld is certain about one thing - Yu Darvish will be one pitcher in that starting rotation.  They may have a surplus of AAA first basemen with the minor league signings of Brad Nelson and Brad Hawpe and the acquisition of Brandon Snyder from the Orioles.  The problem with Snyder is he is not a strength on defense and his bat is not strong enough to make up for that inefficiency.  Brad is more than happy to escape Petco and swing in a more hitter friendly park.  They also acquired Greg Reynolds from the Rockies.  Greg was a number one pick in 2006 from Stanford who has never reached his hype.

Non-Roster Invitee - Conor Jackson was a February signing that would give the Rangers depth in the outfield and at first base, though he fits better at first.  Joe Beimel has an excellent chance of making the rotation as a situational lefty.  Prior to last year he had three 71 game appearances and before that an 83 game performance, all with ERAs under 4.00.  Perhaps last year was just a flameout after all that use.  If his arm is healthy he will make the pen.  Myworld likes Tanner Scheppers to make the team.  We’ll see if his spring performance can make Ron Washington like him as well.  It is Ron Washington whose decision counts.

Seattle Mariners (3)

Significant Transactions - Hisashi Iwakuma is myworld’s favorite pitcher from Japan.  We hope his shoulder is healthy and he pitches well.  We will predict that Hisashi will have a lower ERA than Darvish when the season ends, but only because the park he pitches in is larger.  The Mariners also improved their offense by trading for Jesus Montero, as well as adding a future rotation piece in Hector Noesi.  They did have to give up potential number one starter Michael Pineda and future fireballer Jose Campos.  In the long run myworld believes that Jesus Montero will hit for more offense than Pineda pitches.  The signing of Oliver Perez could be interesting.  In the Mexican League his role was to get lefthanded hitters out.  If that is the plan the Mariners have for him he could have some success in the bullpen.

Non-Roster Invitee - Oliver Perez had some success in the Mexican League as a lefthanded specialist.  He may make the Mariners filling that role.  He must show in spring training that he can get lefthander hitters out.  Forest Snow had some success in the AFL.  At 6′6″ he can be a pretty imposing pitcher.  If he can carry that success to spring he could make the Mariners bullpen.  Myworld was impressed with Munenori Kawasaki and his ability to play short in the Asia series.  He should make the Mariners team in a utility capacity.  In the long run he will do no worse than Brendan Ryan if they should give him a starting role.

Oakland Athletics (4)

January Transactions - The Athletics did a good job of filling their centerfield hole with the signing of Coco Crisp.  We think that when spring training ends the Athletics will not feel that February signing Yoenis Cespedes is the demi-god that will move Coco from center and Cespedes will shift to right.  They also acquired Seth Smith in a trade with the Rockies, giving up pitchers Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso.  Seth will continue his platoon role, sitting against lefthanders but playing left field against most right handers.  Another free agent signing, Johnny Gomes will get the starts in left field against lefthanded pitching.  So in 2012 the Athletics addressed all their outfield needs.  They also signed free agent pitcher Bartolo Colon, who looked like an ace in spring training last year and won a starting job for the Yankees.  The Athletics can only hope that he repeats that performance in 2012.

Non-Roster Invitee - Brandon Moss had a hot playoff run in the Mexican League, showing some unusual power.  If he can translate that to the spring he seems like a perfect fit for a fourth outfielder.  Travis Schlichting needs to show better command, but despite the high number of walks he still had a decent ERA (3.55) in 16 relief appearances.  He could make it as a bullpen piece.  The Athletics did trade away a lot of their better pitchers so opportunities also exist for Merkin Valdez, Eric Threets and Edgar Gonzalez with good springs.

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