Unlike NCAA sports, pro sports don’t come out with pre-season 1st and 2nd teams, but if the AL West had it’s pre-season team, this is how I think it would shake out. My selection process looks at last year’s performance, as well as potential this upcoming year. That’s why a guy like Brett Anderson is a 1st teamer in my eyes, because of his ace potential. Erik Bedard has ace potential as well, but he hasn’t pitched since 2009. Some of the picks are obvious, but many could go either way. Cliff Pennington, for example, ranked 2nd in WAR among all AL shortstops last year. Elvis Andrus was 5th, but potential, and the fact that Andrus seemed to flourish in the playoffs, are reasons why I see him as a 1st team guy. 2nd base is a toss up too, between Howie Kendrick and Mark Ellis. Is Dallas Braden one of the 10 best starting pitchers in the division? Last year he certainly was, but projecting to 2011, who do you bump off the list? Needless to say, this list is up for debate, which is why I’d love to hear your comments!
Texas Rangers: 11 total – 7 positions, 2 pitching
Texas has the best offense, far and away, and while this is not breaking news, it is impressive to see the Rangers covering 7 out of 10 first team positions. Their pitching isn’t bad either, but the rotation will depend largely on sustained success by Wilson, Lewis, Hunter, and a healthy Brandon Webb.
BIGGEST ADDITIONS: Adrian Beltre, Arthur Rhodes, Mike Napoli, Brandon Webb, Yorvit Torrealba
BIGGEST SUBTRACTIONS: Cliff Lee, Vladimir Guerrero, Bengie Molina, Jeff Francoeur,
OFFSEASON GRADE: B-
Oakland Athletics: 10 total – 4 positions, 6 pitching
Oakland looks strong all around and it is tough to identify a real weakness. If the core can stay healthy, and all the new faces gel, they could be really good. Betting on an Oakland team to stay healthy is like asking Rob Johnson to stop a ball in the dirt, but the A’s managed to finish 81-81 last year, and no one can dispute the improvements Billy Beane made to the roster.
BIGGEST ADDITIONS: Josh Willingham, David DeJesus, Brian Fuentes, Grant Balfour, Hideki Matsui
BIGGEST SUBTRACTIONS: Justin Duchscherer, Jack Cust, Vin Mazzaro, Eric Chavez
OFFSEASON GRADE: A
LA Angels of Anaheim: 10 total – 5 positions, 4 pitching, 1 mngr.
Anaheim will benefit from getting Kendry Morales back, and Vernon Wells should give them a boost offensively. Haren finished strong last year and seems poised to have a big year in his first full season with the Angels. Hunter and Abreu are getting up in years, and a shaky bullpen could frustrate Angel fans all year. LAA is below average at catcher (Mathis), 3B (Izturis), and LF (Bourjos), but a strong rotation from top to bottom should keep Anaheim in the mix.
BIGGEST ADDITIONS: Vernon Wells, Scott Downs, Hisanori Takahashi
BIGGEST SUBTRACTIONS: Hideki Matsui, Mike Napoli, Scot Shields, Juan Rivera
OFFSEASON GRADE: D
Seattle Mariners: 7 total – 4 positions, 2 pitching, 1 mngr.
Seattle clearly has the most questions marks, but they also have a lot of players with something to prove. The M’s are in a youth movement, and young guys are tough to project. However, if a few guys can mature quickly, a .500 season is not out of the realm of possibility. In just a couple minor moves, Seattle upgraded at catcher, 2nd base, third base DH, and certainly manager. Eric Wedge seems like the perfect fit for this team and he may have more impact in 2011 than any manager in the division.
BIGGEST ADDITIONS: Miguel Olivo, Jack Cust, Nate Robertson, Brendan Ryan, Adam Kennedy
BIGGEST SUBTRACTIONS: Russell Branyan, Jose Lopez, Ryan Rowland-Smith
OFFSEASON GRADE: B-