American League West capsules
Capsules of American League West teams, listed in order of finish last year:
Los Angeles Angels
2014: 98-64, 1st place, lost to Kansas City in Division Series.
Manager: Mike Scioscia (16th season).
He’s Here: LF Matt Joyce, 2B Josh Rutledge, LHP Andrew Heaney, C Drew Butera, LHP Cesar Ramos, LF Daniel Robertson, RHP Nick Tropeano, SS Roberto Baldoquin.
He’s Outta Here: 2B Howie Kendrick, 2B Gordon Beckham, C Hank Conger, RF Brennan Boesch, RHP Yoslan Herrera, 3B John McDonald.
Projected Lineup: RF Kole Calhoun (.272, 17, 58, 5 SBs), CF Mike Trout (.287, 36, 111, 184 Ks), 1B Albert Pujols (.272, 28, 105), LF Matt Joyce (.254, 9, 52 with Tampa Bay), 3B David Freese (.260, 10, 55), DH C.J. Cron (.256, 11, 37), SS Erick Aybar (.278, 7, 68), 2B Josh Rutledge (.269, 4, 33 with Colorado), C Chris Iannetta (.252, 7, 43).
Rotation: RH Jered Weaver (18-9, 3.59), LH C.J. Wilson (13-10, 4.51), RH Garrett Richards (13-4, 2.61), RH Matt Shoemaker (16-4, 3.04), LH Andrew Heaney (5-4, 3.87 for Triple-A New Orleans).
Key Relievers: RH Huston Street (1-2, 1.71, 17/19 saves), RH Joe Smith (7-2, 1.81, 15), LH Hector Santiago (6-9, 3.75), RH Mike Morin (4-4, 2.90), RH Fernando Salas (5-0, 3.38), LH Cesar Ramos (2-6, 3.70 with Tampa Bay).
Hot Spots: Left field and second base. The Angels have no idea how long they’ll be without troubled outfielder Josh Hamilton, who is both injured and facing a suspension for an apparent drug relapse. The bright side is that their $125 million former MVP really hasn’t contributed much even when healthy for the last two seasons, and Joyce is a capable veteran who likely can hold down the position. Filling in for Kendrick is much more problematic. The Angels traded their longtime starting second baseman without a clear plan to replace their 2014 hits leader (that’s right, more than MVP Mike Trout), and none of the spring training candidates has been particularly impressive. With both problems combined, Los Angeles’ lineup seems likely to take a step back.
Outlook: The Angels persevered through numerous setbacks and put up the majors’ best record last year, but their return to the playoffs lasted only three games. That’s probably why they’re not a popular pick to build on the 2014 success of this big-budget patchwork roster built around Trout, Pujols and resilient ace Weaver. Yet there’s still plenty to like in Orange County, starting with the superstar center fielder who is determined to cut down on his strikeouts to become a more complete player, if that’s even possible. Pujols has looked dangerous in the spring, and their rotation is downright deep if Richards returns strong in mid-April from his lengthy injury rehab. Scioscia, the majors’ longest-tenured manager by a long shot, seems confident the Angels can play in October again.
2014: 88-74, 2nd place, lost to Kansas City in wild-card game.
Manager: Bob Melvin (fifth season).
He’s Here: INF Ben Zobrist, 3B Brett Lawrie, RHP Tyler Clippard, 1B Billy Butler, INF Marcus Semien, RHP Jesse Hahn, RHP Kendall Graveman, 1B Ike Davis, C Josh Phegley, RHP R.J. Alvarez, LHP Barry Zito, RHP Chris Bassitt.
He’s Outta Here: 3B Josh Donaldson, LHP Jon Lester, RHP Jeff Samardzija, SS Jed Lowrie, C Derek Norris, 1B-OF Brandon Moss, C John Jaso, RHP Luke Gregerson, RHP Jason Hammel, DH Adam Dunn, INF Alberto Callaspo, C Geovany Soto, INF Nick Punto, OF Jonny Gomes.
Projected Lineup: Coco Crisp (.246, 9 HRs, 47 RBIs, 19 SBs), CF Craig Gentry (.254, 0, 12), 2B Ben Zobrist (.272, 10, 52, 34 2Bs with Tampa Bay), DH Billy Butler (.271, 9, 66 with Kansas City), 3B Brett Lawrie (.247, 12, 38 with Toronto), 1B Ike Davis (.233, 11, 51 with Pittsburgh and Mets) or Mark Canha (.303, 20, 82 at Triple-A with Miami), RF Josh Reddick (.264, 12, 54), C Stephen Vogt (.279, 9, 35) or Josh Phegley (.274, 23, 75 in Triple-A with White Sox), SS Marcus Semien (.234, 6, 28 with Chicago White Sox).
Rotation: RH Sonny Gray (14-10, 3.08), LH Scott Kazmir (15-9, 3.55), RH Jesse Hahn (7-4, 3.07 with San Diego), RH Kendall Graveman (14-6, 1.83 at Class-A, Double-A, Triple-A for Toronto), RH Jesse Chavez (8-8, 3.45) or LH Drew Pomeranz (5-4, 2.35).
Key Relievers: LH Sean Doolittle (2-4, 2.73, 22/26 saves, 89/8 K/BB ratio), RH Tyler Clippard (7-4, 2.18, 1 save with Washington), LH Eric O’Flaherty (1-0, 2.25, 1 save), RH Dan Otero (8-2, 2.28, 1 save), RH Evan Scribner (1-0, 4.63).
Hot Spots: Power outage. After dealing away Yoenis Cespedes, Moss and Donaldson over the past year, the A’s have a serious lack of power in their lineup. Crisp is the only player on the projected opening-day roster to hit as many as 20 homers in a season the past two years. The A’s will likely need Reddick to return to his 2012 form and Butler and Davis to provide a power platoon at first base and DH if they want to generate enough offense to make it back to the playoffs.
Outlook: It was another busy offseason in Oakland after the team’s third straight postseason berth ended in a wild-card loss to Kansas City. Key players such as Donaldson, Samardzija, Norris and Moss were traded while Lester, Lowrie and Gregerson left as free agents. Oakland has dealt away five of its seven All-Stars from last year. In all, GM Billy Beane made nine trades this offseason involving 27 players. A staggering 28 of the 40 players on Oakland’s major league roster were acquired by trades. The most important additions are Zobrist, who will solidify second base and provide a middle-of-the-lineup hitter, and Clippard, who can close until Sean Doolittle recovers from a shoulder injury. The A’s also hope Graveman, acquired in the Donaldson deal, can fill a rotation spot at least until Jarrod Parker or A.J. Griffin are healthy enough to make it back to the rotation after missing all of last season with injuries.
2014: 87-75, 3rd place.
Manager: Lloyd McClendon (second season).
He’s Here: LHP J.A. Happ, C John Baker, DH Nelson Cruz, OF Justin Ruggiano, OF Seth Smith, OF-INF Rickie Weeks.
He’s Outta Here: OF Michael Saunders, DH Kendrys Morales, OF Corey Hart, RHP Chris Young, 1B Justin Smoak, RHP Brandon Maurer, OF Chris Denorfia.
Projected Lineup: CF Austin Jackson (.229, 0, 14 in 54 games with Seattle), RF Seth Smith (.266, 12, 48 with San Diego) or RF Justin Ruggiano (.281, 6, 28 in 81 games with Cubs), 2B Robinson Cano (.314, 14, 82), DH Nelson Cruz (.271, MLB leading 40 HR, 104 with Baltimore), 3B Kyle Seager (.268, 25, 96), 1B Logan Morrison (.262, 11, 38 in 99 games), LF Dustin Ackley (.245, 14, 65) or LF Rickie Weeks (.274, 8, 29 with Milwaukee), C Mike Zunino (.199, 22, 60, 158 Ks), SS Brad Miller (.221, 10, 36).
Rotation: RH Felix Hernandez (15-6, 2.14, 248 Ks, second in Cy Young voting), RH Hisashi Iwakuma (15-9, 3.52), LH James Paxton (6-4, 3.04 in 13 starts), LH J.A. Happ (11-11, 4.22 with Toronto), RH Taijuan Walker (2-3, 2.61, 5 starts), LH Roenis Elias (10-12, 3.89).
Key Relievers: LH Charlie Furbush (1-5, 3.61, 67 appearances), RH Tom Wilhelmsen (3-2, 2.27), RH Yoervis Medina (5-3 2.68), RH Fernando Rodney (1-6, 2.85, 48/51 saves).
Hot Spots: The outfield. The Mariners are pretty well set in the infield, although shortstop will be a position to watch with Chris Taylor expected to return in late April or May after breaking a bone in his right wrist. How McClendon manages the options he has in the outfield will be a curiosity early on. Will it be a true platoon with Smith against right-handed pitching and Ruggiano against lefties? Will it be the same in left field with Ackley and Weeks? No matter how left and right field play out, Jackson will always be in the lineup and holding down center field but must be better at the top of the batting order.
Outlook: It’s not World Series or bust in Seattle, but anything less than a spot in the postseason will certainly be a disappointment. The additions of Cruz, Smith, Ruggiano and Weeks have appeared to solve the concerns about Seattle’s offensive production and while the Mariners pitching might not match last year’s performance, coming close should be good enough with the offensive improvement. Hernandez is driven by missing the postseason by one game last year and finishing second in the AL Cy Young Award voting, and Paxton and Walker give Seattle two dynamic young arms in the rotation. At least heading into opening day, there is not a more complete team in the AL West, which is a start to getting Seattle back to the postseason for the first time since 2011.
2014: 70-92, fourth place.
Manager: A.J. Hinch (first season).
He’s Here: SS Jed Lowrie, OF-C-DH Evan Gattis, OF Colby Rasmus, C Hank Conger, RHP Dan Straily, RHP Luke Gregerson, RHP Pat Neshek, 3B Luis Valbuena.
He’s Outta Here: Managers Bo Porter and Tom Lawless, OF Dexter Fowler, C Carlos Corporan, RHP Michael Foltynewicz.
Projected Lineup: CF Colby Rasmus (.225, 18, 40, 21 2Bs for Toronto), 2B Jose Aluve (.341, 7, 59, 47 2Bs, 56 SBs), 3B Luis Valbuena (.249, 16, 51, 33 2Bs for Chicago Cubs), SS Jed Lowrie (.249, 6, 50, 29 2Bs for Oakland), LF Evan Gattis (.263, 22, 52 for Atlanta), 1B Jon Singleton (.168, 13, 44 in 95 games), RF George Springer (.231, 20, 51 in 78 games), DH Chris Carter (.227, 37, 88), C Jason Castro (.222, 14, 56).
Rotation: LH Dallas Keuchel (12-9, 2.93, 5 CGs), RH Scott Feldman (8-12, 3.74), RH Collin McHugh (11-9, 2.73), LH Brett Oberholtzer (5-13, 4.39), RH Roberto Hernandez (8-11, 4.10 for Philadelphia and Los Angeles Dodgers) or RH Asher Wojciechowski(4-4, 4.74 in Triple-A).
Key Relievers: RH Luke Gregerson (5-5, 2.12 for Oakland), RH Chad Qualls (1-5, 3.33, 19/25 saves), RH Pat Neshek (7-2, 1.87 for St. Louis), LH Tony Sipp (4-3, 3.38), RH Josh Fields (4-6, 4.45).
Hot Spots: Starting rotation. Keuchel and McHugh had breakout seasons in 2014, but it’s unclear if they can perform at that level again to help lead the rotation. Keuchel posted ERAs of over 5.00 in both of his first two seasons before moving into the top spot in the rotation with his work last year, and McHugh had ERAs of 7.59 and 10.04 in his first two years before finding success in 2014. Strikeouts could be another problem on a team filled with power but also has the propensity to strike out a ton.
Outlook: The Astros made a 19-game improvement to win 70 games last year and end a streak of three straight 100-loss seasons. They added Gregerson and Neshek to beef up a bullpen that was one of their biggest problems in 2014 and added more power to a lineup that hit among the most homers in the majors. A batting order with that power and Altuve, who won last year’s batting title, should be tough to deal with. If their pitching holds up, the Astros will definitely be better in 2015 and could have an outside shot of reaching the postseason for the first time since their only trip to the World Series in 2005.
2014: 67-95, last place.
Manager: Jeff Banister (first season).
He’s Here: Manager Jeff Banister, LHP Ross Detwiler, RHP Kyuji Fujikawa, RHP Yovani Gallardo, RHP Anthony Ranaudo, C Carlos Corporan, OF Delino DeShields.
He’s Outta Here: Manager Ron Washington, OF Alex Rio, OF Daniel Robertson, C, J.P. Arencibia, LHP Scott Baker, RHP Robbie Ross Jr., INF Luis Sardinas, RHP Alexi Ogando, LHP Neal Cotts.
Projected Lineup: CF Leonys Martin (.274, 7, 40, 31 SBs), SS Elvis Andrus (.263, 2, 41, 27 SBs), RF Shin-Soo Choo (.242, 13, 40), 3B Adrian Beltre (.324, 19, 77), 1B Prince Fielder (.247, 3, 16), DH Mitch Moreland (.246, 2, 23), C Robinson Chirinos (.239, 13, 40), LF Jake Smolinksi (.349, 3, 12 in 24 games) or Ryan Rua (.295, 2, 14 in 28 games), 2B Rougned Odor (.259, 9, 48).
Rotation: RH Yovani Gallardo (8-11, 3.51 with Milwaukee), RH Colby Lewis (10-14, 5.18), LH Ross Detwiler (2-3, 4.00 as reliever for Washington), LH Derek Holland (2-0, 1.46 ERA in six games/five starts), RH Nick Martinez (5-12, 4.55).
Key Relievers: RH Neftali Feliz (2-1, 1.99, 13/14 saves), RH Tanner Scheppers (0-1, 9.00), RH Shawn Tolleson (3-1, 2.76), LF Alex Claudio (0-0, 2.92 in 15 games), RH Jamey Wright (5-4, 4.35 ERA in 61 relief appearances for Los Angeles Dodgers), RH Phil Klein (1-2, 2.84).
Hot Spot: Left field. Smolinksi and Rua both showed promising glimpses in short stints in their major league debuts the second half of last season. But are either ready for a full season? Rua stumbled early in the spring. Maybe Carlos Pegurero with a ton of power — and strikeouts can earn a spot. Michael Choice was the early man out, optioned to the minors in mid-March. Choo, the primary left fielder last year, moved to right after Rios departed in free agency.
Outlook: After finishing with the AL’s most losses and their most since 1985, the Rangers go into the season with a new manager and without ace Yu Darvish. Darvish missed the last seven weeks a season ago because of elbow inflammation, then pitched only one inning this spring before having Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery. If the Rangers have any chance to get back into playoff contention — they went to two World Series and won at least 90 games four straight years before last season — they need some surprises in the back of the rotation and get the kind of help anticipated from Fielder and Choo when they were the big-money additions last season before getting hurt. Gallardo, who is now pitching at home, became a more important addition without Darvish. Holland was limited early in the spring by shoulder soreness and likely won’t pitch until the home opener. But the fifth game of the season is much sooner than last year, when he didn’t debut until September after knee surgery.