1) Texas Rangers – I am a huge believer in Yu Darvish. He is unlike any Japanese pitcher that has come to an American club. He has a very minimal hitch in his pitching motion, unlike other Japanese pitchers who have very odd windups. He also attacks the strike zone. He will be a bona-fide ace by the end of the season. Colby Lewis and Derek Holland are solid pitchers, Feliz has great stuff, will see how his transition to the starting lineup goes. And the fifth starter spot is between two guys who could easily be number four guys on contending squads. They also have one of the best lineups on baseball. Hamilton, Beltre, Cruz, Napoli make for an incredible middle of the lineup. Kinsler and Andrus are a solid front of the lineup. Michael Young will either bat in the top two of the order, or fall to seven or eight. Anytime a hitter like Young can fit into a lineup in the back third, that is a sign of a dangerous lineup. I do have concerns with their center field options, which I believe will lead to a rookie taking the job by mid-season, but I will reserve that for my under the radar prospect to watch for each team Smear later this month.
2) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – Pujols and Wilson were certainly excellent additions, but I don’t see what all the fuss is about. I still think the Angels have glaring weaknesses. They may battle for a Wild Card bid this season, but that is because they get almost 40 games against the awful A’s and Mariners. Trumbo and Morales have both only had one full year of production, and Morales is coming off a year and a half ankle injury. Mike Trout, the best outfielder the Angels have, will likely start the season at AAA. Torii Hunter is good, but on the downside of his career. Abreu and Wells are horrible at this point. Howard Kendrick is ok, and the SS combination of Aybar and Izturis isn’t exactly scary either. The Angels have four fantastic starters, and the fifth spot might as well be a combination of Torsten and I. And the back end of the bullpen is ugly with Walden being one of the most overrated closers in baseball.
3) Seattle Mariners – Chone Figgins will be leading off for the Mariners to start the season. And I thought it wasn’t possible to make a worse decision than the Angels keeping Vernon Wells anywhere near their roster. Ichiro will bat third, maybe he will change to a power hitter. Mike Carp and Smoak are ok at best. The Montero-Pineda trade will prove to be a winner for the Mariners, but not for the reasons you may think. Montero will be a career DH, and Pineda is already showing a loss of velocity on his fastball. I believe the best player in the trade was the one nobody paid any attention to. Hector Noesi has an outside chance of making the opening day roster, and will make an immediate impact. Brandon League will likely be traded during the season to a contender. If they are able to get a shortstop or third baseman, they would be making great strides for the organization. This team has some upside, not near as much as the A’s, but are in a better position to not be horrible this year. I could see them making a Pirates or Indians type push and be in contention at the All-Star break, but you can pretty much count on them losing 90 games by the end of the year.
4) Oakland A’s – The A’s traded just about every decent player they had this off-season. Then Scott Sizemore goes out, gets injured, and will be out all year. I do like the prospects they received, love Cespedes, but don’t get the Manny signing. I do believe Cowgill can be a future all-star, as will Peacock and Parker. You probably all know already that I am biased when it comes to Tommy Milone, but he did show the ability to be successful late last year. He can be a back of the rotation innings eater for a team that desperately needs it. The A’s have about 346 first baseman in camp, overshadowed only by their 695 outfielders. At some point, they need to figure out if Brandon Allen, career 4A guy Kila Ka’aihue, Chris Carter, and Barton can actually play. I expect the Fuentes experiment to end very early this season, and De Los Santos should be the closer of the future. Love Jermile Weeks, and do think the A’s have some excellent young talent, they are just a few years away from even being considered a relevant team.