Previewing the AL West
Editor's note: ESPN.com has teamed with ESPN The Magazine and the SweetSpot Blog Network to produce this year's preview capsules. Buster Olney and Tim Kurkjian examined the American League and the National League, respectively. They ordered the teams based on how they think they'll finish, while also breaking down each team's best- and worst-case scenarios.
The SweetSpot bloggers provided the projected lineups, pitching rotations and bullpens, which are mostly approximations based on the latest information. In most cases they don't include players who will open the season on the disabled list. The lineups reflect the most likely batting order against a right-handed starter and are subject to change.
Click on the links below to go directly to a capsule for each American League West team:
- Best-case scenario: Somehow, the Rangers put the ghosts of Game 6 behind them, Yu Darvish makes a smooth transition to the majors and replaces C.J. Wilson at the top of the rotation, Josh Hamilton stays sober and productive and Texas cruises to its third straight AL West title, Albert Pujols be damned.
- Worst-case scenario: Wilson's leadership is missed badly, and the Rangers fade in the grueling August heat when none of their young starters steps up to replace his production. Hamilton has an unhappy season, which carries over into his negotiations on a long-term deal, and he leaves Texas.
- Best-case scenario: Top prospect Mike Trout wins AL Rookie of the Year, and switch-hitter Kendrys Morales, fully recovered from the ankle injury that cost him almost two seasons, is again a force, balancing out the very right-handed Angels lineup. With free-agent pickup C.J. Wilson, the scary-deep rotation overwhelms the Rangers, and the Halos recapture the division they dominated for much of the last decade.
- Worst-case scenario: Albert Pujols, whose OPS has dropped for three straight years, continues his decline in his first season in the AL, and his monster 10-year deal begins to look endless. Morales doesn't recover, and Vernon Wells plays just well enough not to get benched but hurts the team in the process. The Angels' offseason spending spree is all but forgotten as fans realize the Rangers have the division on lockdown.
- Best-case scenario: By season's end, the Mariners have the pieces in place for a dynamic rotation going forward, with left-hander Danny Hultzen and flame-throwing righty Taijuan Walker ready to step in behind Felix Hernandez. The young hitters gain from their 2012 experience, with Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley poised to become Seattle's most formidable offensive core in a decade.
- Worst-case scenario: At age 38, Ichiro finally sees his production fall off completely, and Chone Figgins is again a nonfactor. A lack of position prospects haunts the Mariners, as Smoak doesn't hit well enough to be the every-day first baseman and C Montero proves he's really a DH. The club finishes last in the AL in runs for the fourth straight year, and the front office has to go back to square one with the lineup.
- Best-case scenario: Early in the season, Oakland ownership gets word that the move to San Jose is a done deal, and the Athletics funnel all their efforts into building the team for 2015-16. Brandon McCarthy and Kurt Suzuki are traded for prospects, bolstering an already-deep farm system, and fans begin to rally around a promising young rotation of Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Brad Peacock and Sonny Gray.
- Worst-case scenario: McCarthy's 2011 breakout is a fluke, Anderson is slow to recover from Tommy John surgery and Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes turns out to be a lemon as the A's score the fewest runs in the AL. The San Jose plan falls apart, and the team -- its dreams of a new park dashed -- rots from the inside. GM Billy Beane decides to pursue overtures from other organizations after two decades with Oakland.
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