2012 Record: 55 – 107 (6th in the NL Central)
Burning Questions: Will the Astros win less than 60 games?? Will Carlos Pena hit above .215??Will the highlight of the season be their new/old retro look?? Do the Astros have ANY chance of finishing higher than 5th? Do they really have to face the Angels 19 times? Will MLB have to implement a mercy rule for the upcoming season? How much longer can we wait on Brett Wallace and Chris Carter to realize their immense potential?
Offseason Additions: 1B/OF Chris Carter, DH Carlos Pena, OF Rick Ankiel, SP Phil Humber, SP Erik Bedard, SP Alex White, SP John Ely, SP Brad Peacock , RP Jose Veras, C Max Stassi
Offseason Subtractions: SS Jed Lowrie, RP Wilton Lopez, RP Fernando Rodriguez, RP Rob Rasmussen, C Chris Snyder
Prospect Outlook: The Astros could have 3 top prospects impact their lineup at some point in 2013. Jonathan Singleton was the best bet to crack the major league lineup out of spring training. However the ‘stros will have to wait 50 games for Singleton to make an appearance. The 6’2 235lb power hitting first basemen will sit out the first 50 games due to an MLB suspension for a banned substance – aka the Chronic. The Astros could also see an improvement to their pitching rotation with the arrival of both Jarrod Cosart and Brad Peacock. Cosart, acquired from the Phillies for Roy Oswalt, is a power pitcher who the Astros hope will project as a frontline starter for years to come. Peacock was acquired from the A’s this past offseason for 2012 breakout Jed Lowrie and is the only one of the three to have made their Major League debut.
Best Fantasy Option: The Astros are a virtual fantasy graveyard when it comes to fantasy options. They have no “sexy” option. The only name that is actually worth drafting (depending on how deep your league is) is Jose Altuve. Last year Altuve produced the following stat line in 147 games (576 AB) – .290 • 7HR • 37RBI • 33SB – and even THAT isn’t that impressive. The reason he will be drafted says more about the thin options at 2B and less about Altuve’s resume. If you are desperate for home runs in a deep league Carlos Pena is always an option. Bank on 20-25 homers from the big man, but also bank on an average that may be below .200.
Worst Case Scenario: The Astros leave the safe haven of the NL Central for the perils of the AL West… wait this already happened?? Whoops… It’s not going to be a pretty season by any means Astros fans. Seeing as the ‘stros already slated to challenge the 1962 New York Mets and 2003 Detroit Tigers for worst team ever… no really… not a whole lot can go right this season. The only thing that could be a bigger slap in the face to the Astros would be if their young prospects are rushed to the majors and completely smacked around thus resulting in them losing confidence and flaming out.
Best Case Scenario: The MLB reverts to slo-pitch softball rules and mashers like Pena and Chris Carter clobber 100+ homers a piece leading the Astros to win games by 21-18 scores. Realistically though, even in a an ABSOLUTE BEST CASE SCENARIO, the Astros will have to have ABSOLUTELY everything click the right way just to finish ahead of the Mariners for the 4th spot in the AL West.
2013 AL West Final Standing: 5th
2012 Record: 75 – 87 (4th in the AL West)
Burning Questions: Will the Mariners flourish offensively with the outfield walls moved in at Safeco? Will the trio of young pitchers make the jump to the majors? Is Jesus Montero a capable everyday catcher? Has anyone ever actually seen Raul Ibanez’s birth certificate?
Offseason Additions: 1B/DH Kendrys Morales, 1B/OF Michael Morse, SP Joe Saunders, OF Raul Ibanez, OF Jason Bay, C Kelly Shoppach, IF Robert Andino, C Ronny Paulino, P Jeremy Bonderman, P Jon Garland, 1B Mike Jacobs
Offseason Subtractions: SP Jason Vargas, C John Jaso, IF Chone Figgins, C Miguel Olivo, SP Kevin Millwood, RP George Sherrill, OF Trayvon Robinson
Prospect Outlook: Finishing at or near the bottom of the Major League standings for the past couple years does have its benefits. In lieu of stockpiling W’s in the win column, what the Mariners have done is create a stockpile of high ceiling prospects throughout their minor league system. None come more heralded than the big three: Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen, and James Paxton. All three project as frontline starters for the foreseeable future and, paired with the new $175 million dollar man (Felix Hernandez), give the Mariners a fearsome four man rotation for years to come. The most major league ready is Taijuan Walker, a supplemental first rounder (43rd) in 2010. Walker has torn through the minors and is now knock, knock, knocking on Safeco’s door. Walker may not be the only member of the big three making his debut in 2013. James Paxton (a supplemental first rounder picked by Toronto in 2009, only to re-enter the draft in 2010 where he fell to the Mariners in the 4th round) may also make an appearance sometime this season. Hultzen, the 2nd overall pick in 2011, may be at least another year from making the big league club.
Best Fantasy Option: For the past decade there have always been two Mariners that you could count on being drafted at your fantasy draft – Ichiro and Felix Hernandez. With Ichiro’s trade to the Yankees, that leaves King Felix as the remaining member of that dynamic duo. King Felix is a definite contender for “Best Pitcher in the Game Today,” and seeing as he is both 27 and signed through 2019, it looks as if he will be around for the foreseeable future. Although he may not dominate in the win column – averaging just 14 wins per season – where he does dominate is in the strikeout department. Hernandez is looking to strikeout 200 for the 5th straight season, and his season average over 8 years is 212. The one thing to be mindful of is an apparent elbow issue that caused some concern during negotiations of his 7yr/$175million extension.
If you’re in desperate need for HR’s, or need to fill a 1B/DH position, it may be worth taking a look at some of the Mariners power threats. With the fences being moved in at Safeco, the hope is that more balls will be flying out. Offseason acquisitions Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales were brought in to add some pop to the Mariners lineup. Add those two names to a lineup already consisting of Jesus Montero and that’s a pretty scary 3-4-5, not to mention 2012 surprise Kyle Seager. The only thing that can derail Morales and Morse from producing in Seattle this season are injuries. Both have had a hard time staying in the everyday lineup in the past 2 seasons.
Worst Case Scenario: The apparent elbow issue becomes more apparent as King Felix feels a pop in his elbow prompting the always feared trip to Dr. James Andrews. In his absence, the Mariners rush their trio of young prospects to the big leagues where they are exposed and smacked around by big league hitters bruising both their ERA’s and confidences alike. Is this likely? Probably not… but as someone who saw 3 of his team’s pitchers go down with season or near season ending injuries in the span of a week last season, I believe everybody’s UCL’s are at risk. It should also be noted that King Felix has never spent any significant time on the DL (cue ominous music). Injuries will need to be at a minimum if the Mariners hope to compete in the AL West, but given some of their player’s injury track record, it may be easier said than done.
Best Case Scenario: New acquisitions Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales stay injury-free and pair up with Jesus Montero to wreak havoc on AL pitching staffs. King Felix leads a revamped Mariners rotation through the regular season, earning his second career Cy Young. The Mariners receive a spark when Taijuan Walker and James Paxton debut after the all-star break, and help lead the Mariners into the hunt for the Wild Card. Could the Mariners be 2013’s version of the Oakland A’s?? It’s definitely in play…
2013 AL West Final Standing: 4th
2012 Record: 94 – 68 (1st in the AL West)
Burning Questions: Can the A’s prove last year wasn’t a fluke? Does Brett Anderson have what it takes to be an ace? Can the trio of A.J Griffin, Tom Milone, and Jarrod Parker repeat their success from 2012? How sure are we that Bartolo Colon is off PED/HGH? Will Josh Reddick put up similar numbers to 2012? What will Yoenis Cespedes do in his sophomore season?
Offseason Additions: SS/3B Jed Lowrie, CF Chris Young, SS Hiroyuki Nakajima, C John Jaso, RP Chris Resop, RP Fernando Rodriguez, SP Andrew Werner
Offseason Subtractions: SP Brandon McCarthy, 1B/OF Chris Carter, LF Jonny Gomes, SS Stephen Drew, SS Cliff Pennington, 3B Brandon Inge, SP Tyson Ross, C George Kottaras, OF Collin Cowgill, UT Brandon Hicks, SP Graham Godfrey, SP A.J. Cole (P), SP Brad Peacock
Prospect Outlook: In 2012, a 24th round pick (723 overall) in the 2009 MLB Draft surprised everybody by tearing up the minor leagues and striking out anybody who stepped in the box against him. His name: Dan Straily. Straily really wasn’t on anybody’s radar going into the 2012 season, as he was behind the likes of Jarrod Parker, Tom Milone, AJ Griffin, and AJ Cole on the depth chart. With Parker, Milone, and Griffin pressed into fulltime major league service, that left Straily open to dominate the minors. In 25 minor league starts, Straily went 9-7 and struck out 190 batters in 152 innings all while holding batters to a .202 batting average… absurd! Straily earned a late season call up and continued to impress as he went 2-1 in 7 starts and struck out 32 in 39 innings. Straily looks to factor into the A’s rotation at some point this season. He is most likely to start the season with the big club, as Bartolo Colon sits out the first 5 games for PED use. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Grant Green up with the A’s in 2013. Green, who was drafted as a SS, converted to CF, and is now a 2B, has always proven that he has the bat and athleticism to play in the majors. If Scott Sizemore and Jemile Weeks can’t perform, don’t be surprised to see Green get the nod.
Best Fantasy Option: Going into 2012, it looked like Jemile Weeks was the man to beat when it came to identifying the A’ best fantasy option. Unfortunately, 2012 would be anything but a season to remember for the A’s, Weeks, and fantasy owners alike. Weeks went from hitting .303 in 2011, to hitting a dismal .221 in 2012. Hopefully Weeks can rebound and regain his confidence this season, especially with rumours of management souring on the young 2B, and prospect Grant Green knocking on the door. For fantasy options in 2013, it comes down to two outfielders: Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick. Both players had superb debut seasons in Oakland in 2012. Yoenis Cespedes, who may be MLB’s version of “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” put up a stat line of .292, 23HR, 82RBI, and 16SB. Now remember… Cespedes was a rookie last year. That being said, it may be Josh Reddick who had the more impressive debut though. Reddick, who was acquired for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney, produced the following stat line: .242, 32HR, and 85RBI. Not bad for someone playing in their first full Major League season. Of the two, I believe that Cespedes is more likely to reproduce, or better, his numbers from 2012. That being said, I still think that Reddick will have a productive season. While I can’t guarantee you that Reddick hits 30+ homers again this season, it is in play. What I can tell you is that he definitely needs to start being more selective at the plate (151 K’s in 610 at bats) if he wishes to get that batting average above .250.
Worst Case Scenario: When a team lacks that big name bat or the proverbial ace, they must rely on players stepping up and going above and beyond expectations. That’s exactly what happened in 2012, and is a key reason why the A’s won the AL West. Well, that and a collapse by Texas. A nightmare situation would see the young starters (Parker, Milone, and Griffin) regress. Factor that in with miserable seasons from Brandon Moss, Cespedes, and Reddick, and one could see the A’s finishing 4th, behind the upstart Mariners. Will this happen? Probably not. But anything is possible when you’re built around such a young nucleus of talent.
Best Case Scenario: Led by a fully healthy Brett Anderson, the young A’s starters continue to impress and develop all season long. Prospect Dan Straily spends the entire season with the big club and flourishes as a long man/spot starter, eventually filling the 5th rotation spot for the injured/suspended Bartolo Colon. The young 3-4-5 of Cespedes, Moss and Reddick continue to mash AL pitching, with Reddick compiling 30+ for a second straight season. Jemile Weeks rebounds from a dismal 2012 campaign to regain the starting 2B job, and pairs with Coco Crisp to wreak havoc on the base paths. Even in an ABSOLUTE best case scenario, I don’t believe that the A’s will win the AL West title, but I do believe that a Wild Card berth could be in the cards.
2013 AL West Final Standing: 3rd
2012 Record: 93 – 69 (2nd in the AL West)
Burning Questions: Can the Rangers overcome the late season collapse of 2012? Can their offense flourish without Josh Hamilton? Will the inability to land Justin Upton or Zack Greinke come back to haunt them? Will Neftali Feliz be relevant following Tommy John surgery? Will Yu Darvish suffer a sophomore slump? Will the link to a Miami youth clinic overshadow Nelson Cruz’s 2013 season? How much does AJ Pierzynski have left in the tank? What kind of an impact will uber prospects Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar have?
Offseason Additions: C A.J. Pierzynski, DH Lance Berkman, RP Jason Frasor, RP Joakim Soria, RP Josh Lindblom, C Geovany Soto, RP Kyle McClellan, UT Jeff Baker, SP Randy Wells, RP Cory Burns, RP Evan Meek, RP Collin Balester, RP Jeff Beliveau, C Eli Whiteside, 1B/OF Brandon Allen, P Nate Robertson
Offseason Subtractions: CF Josh Hamilton, C Mike Napoli, 3B Michael Young, SP Ryan Dempster, RP Mike Adams, RP Koji Uehara, SP Scott Feldman, RP Mark Lowe, P Roy Oswalt
Prospect Outlook: Following an offseason that had the Rangers linked to every big name free agent on the market, as well as being one of the key players in the Justin Upton sweepstakes, the Rangers go into the 2013 with their farm system still intact. Having missed out on Justin Upton, the Rangers were able to keep both top position prospects Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar, as well as pitcher Martin Perez. All three may be knocking on the big leagues door as sometime in 2013. Although both Profar and Olt both project to have higher upside, it may be Perez who has the most impact in 2013. Olt is road-blocked by both Adrian “don’t rub my head” Beltre at 3B and newly signed FA Lance Berkman at 1B. Profar is in a similar situation, having both Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler ahead of him at SS and 2B respectively. Seeing as how the Rangers rotation is already slated to be missing both Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz, it could be Martin Perez who steps in and shines for the Rangers this season. With no real competition behind him, the job of the 4th or 5th starter is Perez’s to lose.
Best Fantasy Option: For almost five seasons, one Ranger you could count on being in high demand come draft day was Josh Hamilton. Even with the Hammer’s departure for the division-rival Angels, the Rangers are fairly stacked, top to bottom, and so to say they have a few fantasy options is a bit of an understatement. Both Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus are elite players at their respective positions. Kinsler may be a more valuable fantasy option because of the lack of elite 2B in the majors, not to mention the perennial threat of a 30/30 season. Andrus is a speed merchant who can hurt you with both his legs and his bat, and the possibility of a .300 season is always on the table. The trio of Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison may be attractive for those of you in need of an arm or two. Holland has been looking to break out for the past two seasons, and Harrison has been a splendid surprise in his first two big league campaigns. Darvish could be the wild card here, as he heads into his sophomore season. The Rangers also feature two former All-Star and 40+ save closers in Joe Nathan and Joakim Soria. Nathan, who turns 38, is coming off a 37 save season, and one has to wonder how much gas is left in the tank. Soria, on the other hand, missed all of last year as he recovered from Tommy John surgery.
Worst Case Scenario: The loss of Josh Hamilton and inability to replace his bat proves to be too overwhelming for the Rangers. Nelson Cruz struggles all season following PED allegations, and the aging combo of Lance Berkman and AJ Pierzynski finally break down, causing a miserable season all around. Yu Darvish follows up his rookie season with a ho-hum sophomore season, immediately causing Rangers fans to call him Dice K 2.0. The rest of the Rangers starters falter, showing Texas’ lack of depth in the starting rotation. Pierzynski, frustrated at his season and the dry heat, gets into a physical confrontation with Ron Washington in the locker room, thus forcing Derek Holland to do his Harry Carry impression to break the tension.
Best Case Scenario: The revamped lineup doesn’t miss a beat despite Hamilton’s absence. Pierzynski picks up where he left off last season in Chicago. Lance Berkman is reinvigorated in his return to Texas, and flourishes in a part 1B/part DH role with the rookie Olt. Nelson Cruz shrugs off the PED/HGH speculation by having a near career year. Yu Darvish takes the next step in both stardom and ace-hood, as he produces an impressive encore to his rookie season. Derek Holland finally has the breakout season that people have been predicting for the past 2+ seasons. The rest of the Rangers usual suspects – Andrus, Kinsler and Beltre – continue to lead the team both on and off the field. Everything clicks and the Rangers not only compete for the Wild Card, but also the AL West division crown.
2013 AL West Final Standing: 2nd
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2012 Record: 89 – 73 (3rd in AL West)
Burning Questions: When did the Yankees move to Anaheim? Is this the scariest lineup in baseball? Is this the best 3-4-5 in baseball? What does Mike Trout do as a follow up to his historic 2012 season? Will Josh Hamilton rebound from his late season letdown? How strong is the starting rotation? Will Jered Weaver continue to baffle batters with high 80’s heat and Bugs Bunny curveball? Will Tommy Hanson make a smooth transition from NL to AL? What happens if this team fails to win the World Series?
Offseason Additions: RF Josh Hamilton, SP Tommy Hanson, SP Jason Vargas, SP Joe Blanton, RP Ryan Madson, RP Sean Burnett, IF/OF Bill Hall
Offseason Subtractions: SP Zack Greinke, RF Torii Hunter, SP Dan Haren, SP Ervin Santana, 1B/DH Kendrys Morales, IF Maicer Izturis, RP Jordan Walden, RP LaTroy Hawkins, RP Jason Isringhausen
Prospect Outlook: In 2009, the Angels had back-to-back selections in the first round. They used the picks to select two high school outfielders: Randall Grichuk and Mike Trout. In 2011, Trout made his MLB debut. In 2012, he made a statement. Despite his tender age of 21, Trout is no longer considered a prospect, and may be the last prospect to graduate for a season or two. The Angels current top prospect, Kaleb Cowart, looks to be at least one full season away from manning the hot corner at Angel Stadium. Cowart is a switch hitter and has gap pop from both sides of the plate, not to mention a great amount of raw power. The former High School two-way star earned serious first round consideration as a pitcher, and possesses one of the best infield arms in the minor leagues. The Angels are in no rush to hurry him to the majors as they have Alberto Callaspo and Mark Trumbo slotted at 3B. The one prospect who may get a look out of spring training is LHP Nick Maronde. The Angels have Maronde pegged as a future starter, but his stuff may force their hand and lead to a spot in the bullpen to start the season.
Best Fantasy Option: Where to begin? This is an absolute embarrassment of riches. The Angels have a straight-up ignorant lineup. They possess three of the best players in the game today (Trout, Pujols, and Hamilton), a bona fide ace (Jered Weaver), PLUS a potential franchise 1B who isn’t allowed to play 1B (Mark Trumbo)! The funny thing is that the Angels really have FIVE top fantasy players on their roster, and the youngest (Trout) might be the best of them all. Trout is the ABSOLUTE definition of a five tool player, in that he will hit for power and average, swipe 40+ bags, and play gold-glove calibre defense. He realistically could/will produce multiple 40/40 seasons in the course of his career. Hell, a 50/50 season isn’t that much of a stretch. In all honesty, if you could only take one player from this team (or any team for that) it would be incredibly difficult not to take Trout.
However, as I mentioned above, the Angels are STACKED with talent. Let’s see the 2012 lines from a few of the other notable names:
Albert Pujols – .285 AVG • 30 HR • 105 RBI
Josh Hamilton – .285 AVG • 43 HR • 128 RBI
Mark Trumbo – .268 AVG • 32 HR • 95 RBI
Jered Weaver – 20-5 • 2.81 ERA • 142 K’s
CJ Wilson – 13-10 • 3.83 ERA • 173 K’S
Yeah, I know, it’s not a fair lineup at all. It’s still amazing to think that the Angels currently employ ARGUABLY the current best player in baseball (Trout), the best player in the past 5 years (Hamilton), and the best player of the past decade (Pujols). Absolutely ludicrous! Personally, I would invest in either Trout or Trumbo before committing to Hamilton or Pujols. I honestly believe that Pujols and Hamilton are on the decline, whereas Trout and Trumbo are just beginning to enter their primes.
Worst Case Scenario: Expectations are at an all-time high in Orange County. It truly seems that anything other than a World Series will be considered a failure. The only thing that could top that would be for the Angels to miss the playoffs altogether and for uber-phenom Mike Trout to come crashing back down to earth. I do wonder if Mike Sciosia will still be employed if the Angels fail to win it all. Then again, Ron Washington is still managing the Rangers.
Best Case Scenario: You will be able to lure two of the best players in baseball to your team, and manage to draft and develop a kid who may or may not be Mickey Mantle reincarnate. Oh wait a minute… this happened already? My apologies, Mr. Moreno. It’s difficult to envision a scenario that bests the one currently enjoyed by the Angels. Hold on! I’ve got one… How about moving the WORST team in baseball into their division so they essentially get 19 freebies a season? What do you mean the Astros are now in the AL West?? Cue facepalm.
2013 AL West Final Standing: 1st