4. Oakland Athletics: We don’t know how Oakland fans (What’s left of them) continue on with this team. They get good young prospects, then develop them into good ball players, then trade them away for more prospects. We saw that all too often with Billy Beane’s A’s this offseason. Gone are Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill, two of their best pitchers. They have promising young players such as 2B Jemile Weeks and their prized offseason signee, OF Yoenis Cespedes. But honestly, to expect the Oakland A’s to win anything more than 65 games is a bit much. This is a very young team, and it will be quite a while before Oakland is relevant once again.
3. Seattle Mariners: Much like Oakland, Seattle has a pretty young team. They went out and acquired C Jesus Montero from the Yankees this offseason, and also brought over SP Hisashi Iwakuma from Japan to fill a spot in their starting rotation. The M’s still have mainstays Ichiro and Felix Hernandez, but beyond that it really does not look good for them. Their rotation could be good, their bullpen is not good, and their lineup will once again be punchless. Seattle will give Oakland a run for their money for last place in this division, but Seattle gets a slight edge. And when we say slight, boy do we mean slight.
2. Texas Rangers: The Rangers made the second biggest acquisition of the offseason, when they lured Japanese starter Yu Darvish to come pitch in the big leagues. He will take the spot in the rotation left vacant by C.J. Wilson, who signed on with Anaheim. The Rangers despite losing their ace, the Rangers still boast a good rotation (Led by Derek Holland, Darvish, Scott Feldman, and Colby Lewis). Their bullpen received a boost when they signed free agent closer Joe Nathan to a two year deal, allowing incumbent closer Neftali Feliz to move to the starting rotation. And their lineup is perhaps the best in all of baseball right now (Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, and Adrian Beltre hold down the middle of the order). But, for us, they lost a bit of depth in the rotation after losing Wilson, and at this point it remains to be seen what the Rangers will get out of Darvish. If this team can pitch and hold the lead, they can play with anyone in baseball. But there is a big if right there. Look for Texas to come close to a third straight division title, but fall short to the Angels.
1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: During baseball’s winter meetings this past December, there were two teams in the running for Albert Pujols. Then out of nowhere came a mystery team. That mystery team went on to win the Pujols sweepstakes. That team was the Angels. Making the biggest splash this offseason, the Angels signed Pujols to help solidify a struggling lineup in 2010 and 2011. Also throw in the fact the Angels added former Rangers ace C.J. Wilson to their starting staff (Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, and Wilson), and this team has made themselves not only a contender for the AL West, but they should be considered a World Series contender. This will be one of the best races in all of baseball in 2012. The Rangers and Angels should make for a very fun summer out west. But ultimately, we picked the Angels on the basis of the fact that their starting rotation is far superior to that of the Rangers. It wasn’t an easy pick. But it was the right pick.