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A.L. West Fantasy Preview

Ichiro

With all due respect to the A.L. West, most of the offense you want is on Texas. Now, don’t take that as a sign that talent isn’t elsewhere in the division. Oakland seems to have the market cornered on the best starting pitching, but don’t go there for first choice offense. The Angels have both young stars and dependable veterans. Then Seattle has a team of All Star talent from top-to-bottom. oh sorry, I thought this was 2001.

Texas Rangers

The A.L. champions come to the table with quite the offense led by A.L. MVP Josh Hamilton, young slugger Nelson Cruz, and newly signed Adrian Beltre. But hey, it isn’t all offense in the Lone Star State. The Rangers also feature some young starting pitching as well as a stud closer.

Josh Hamilton (LF, CF)

The reigning MVP and batting champion looks to keep on keepin’ on (Joe Dirt reference anyone?). In this lineup, batting in front of Cruz and Beltre should be great, but just remember that Hamilton is injury prone and hasn’t played in more than 133 games since ’08. Obviously he’s a beast and a first rounder if healthy. Remember, IF healthy.

Adrian Beltre (3B)

How much did Fenway Park help Beltre’s numbers? Well, not as much as you might think. Beltre posted better numbers away from Boston, including a .953 OPS. He also boasts a career .526 SLG in Texas and he improved hitting against righties in 2010. Is he just a contract year stud? The first year in Texas should tell us.

Nelson Cruz (RF)

There is no doubt to his power, but there is serious doubt to his ability to stay healthy. Hey, that seems to be a common theme in Texas, huh? Cruz may end up only hitting in the .260′s, but you want him for power. Cruz hit the DL three different times last season for hamstring issues which really halted his production (108 games played). Take the risk, but you’ve been warned. Oh, but the reward would be so worth it.

Other Hitters

  • Ian Kinsler (2B) -Again with these injured studs! Kinsler is another healthy risk, but 20-20 from a 2B is too tempting to pass up.
  • Michael Young (3B) - Home/Road splits tell the story. If only he could play 162 games in Texas. However, probably won’t hit the DL this season like half the Rangers lineup.
  • Elvis Andrus (SS) – Hitting died down as season went on, but is sure thing for 30 SB…and nothing else.

C.J. Wilson (SP)

Welcome to the rotation Mr. Wilson! Starting for the first time since ’05, Wilson put in 204 IP and a 3.35 ERA. The 94 walks are a concern, but the 49% GB rate eases those concerns. After quite the breakout, some may be hung up on his considerably heavier workload, but he is entering a contract year, which could motivate Wilson for one more big season.

Colby Lewis (SP)

A few years in Japan were what the doctor ordered as Lewis posted a 3.72 ERA and 196 K. His 49% FB is scary, especially in Texas, but his ability to shut down opposing batters at the plate should ease your minds. Skills are legit, so expect another solid season.

Other Pitchers

  • Neftali Feliz (RP) - A.L. Rookie of the Year racked up rookie record 40 saves and didn’t allow a run in all of September. Rumors of possible return to rotation still loom.
  • Tommy Hunter (SP) -68 K in 128 IP doesn’t set my world on fire, neither does 40% FB rate. Rise in ERA looks imminent.

Oakland A’s

Oakland is not an overpowering, run-producing team. It is however based around its starting pitching, which is what you will be targeting in drafts. Does that mean there is no offense to be had? Well, that’s a gray area.

Hitters

I’m sorry, but it is hard to (fully) endorse one single hitter from this team. There is no real power threat, and this is a team centered on getting on base. Coco Crisp is overvalued because of his speed (27 of 32 SB came after break). Josh Willingham could add some decent pop, but he never stays healthy. Daric Barton had over 100 walks, but he won’t hit and Hideki Matsui will be a ripe 37-years-old this season.

Gio Gonzalez (SP)

Gonzalez had a breakout season with a 3.23 ERA and 171 K to go with 15 wins. He combines two things I love: groundballs and strikeouts. His only hangup is his walks, which he had 94 of last season. This may end up hurting him in 2011, but wth his skill at inducing grounders, he will look to have a nice follow-up.

Trevor Cahill (SP)

The 18 wins and 2.97 ERA were quite the shocker. This won’t happen in 2011, so I will caution you from overpaying. The 5.4 K/9 and 1.9 K/BB prove he can’t get it done at the plate. Not to mention, the .236 BABIP shows that the mysterious aura of luck was a big boost to his stats.

Dallas Braden (SP)

Another guy with a low K/9 (5.28), but he allows less free passes than teammate Cahill. Mr. Perfect Game will only continue success is he continues excellent control. If not, then low strikeout total and high walks will equal poor results.

Other Pitchers

  • Brett Anderson (SP) - Same as the other starters, but with more strikeouts than any of them.
  • Andrew Bailey (RP) - Elbow troubles slowed him last season, but should be good to go. 1.70 ERA in two seasons in majors.

Los Angeles Angels

On paper, the Angels have quite the talent pool. They are one of the more interesting blends of both old fantasy offense and new fantasy offense. Not to mention, there are some notable names in their rotation.

Kendrys Morales (1B)

Before breaking his ankle while celebrating a walk off home run (idiot), Morales was having a decent follow-up to his breakout ’09 season with .290/11/39 through 51 games. He stopped hitting lefties (.208) and he started hitting more grounders. Still in his prime, Morales is still an upper tier player at 1B.

Vernon Wells (CF)

Wells eclipsed the 30 HR mark for the first time since 2006 with his 31 HR and 88 RBI. Can we expect a repeat? I won’t take the risk on a guy with a career .226 avg at Angels Stadium and who has never had consecutive 30 HR seasons in his career.

Other Hitters

  • Torii Hunter (CF) - Usually a lock for 20-15, but speed is declining and only swiped 9 bags last season (caught 12 times).
  • Bobby Abreu (LF, RF) - Set career lows in BA, OBP, and SLG. Decline has begun, but still stays relevant with 20+ SB potential.
  • Howie Kendrick (2B) - O-VER-RA-TED. Clap-Clap, Clap-Clap-Clap. Many said he was future batting champ if he ever got a full season. Well, first full season and a line of .279/.313./409 doesn’t give much hope.

Dan Haren (SP)

Coming over from the Diamondbacks, Haren finished the season strong with a 2.87 ERA in 94.0 IP. Of course, finishing strong is relatively unknown to Haren, who’s ERA usually jumps two full runs after the All-Star break. However, he is a workhorse who has tossed at least 216 IP in 6 straight seasons with a K/9 that hovers around 8.0.

Jered Weaver (SP)

Sometimes, it all just comes together. Weaver took home the strikeout title with 233 K’s to lead the majors. He’s usually been a middle of the road, dependable starter, but with his new fondness for strikeouts, Weaver is now a legit ace for your team.

Other Pitchers

  • Ervin Santana (SP) - His ’08 season was a fluke. Elbow concerns popped up again in 2nd half where he posted awful 1.8 K/BB.
  • Joel Piniero (SP) -Just a solid groundball pitcher with decent ERA. Great for wins and high 3.00 ERA.
  • Fernando Rodney (RP) - He’ll start the season as the closer, but he won’t end the season as the closer. I smell a dreaded committee situation.

Seattle Mariners

When it comes to Seattle, we know two names: one on offense, and one pitcher. The Mariners were at the bottom of the heap with 513 runs scored last season, and 2011 doesn’t look encouraging either.

Ichiro Suzuki (RF)

When you draft Ichiro, you know exactly what you’re getting. Ichiro once again reached 200+ hits for the 10th straight season and swiped 42 bases. The only complaint from me is his run scoring (74 in ’10), but you blame that on his supporting cast, and not on the man himself. Draft this guarantee and don’t look back.

Other Hitters

  • Chone Figgins (2B, 3B) - Despite overall numbers, hit .286 after the break and still steals bases.

Felix Hernandez (SP)

The A.L. Cy Young winner led the majors with a 2.27 ERA and was 2nd with 232 K’s in 249 IP. The number of wins will still be in question thanks to poor run support, but all skills are there for an encore in 2011.

Other Pitchers

  • Erik Bedard (SP) - Spring is looking good and when he’s healthy, he is great source of ERA and strikeouts.
  • David Aardsma (RP) -Will the real David Aardsma please stand up? 5.40 ERA before break and 0.84 ERA after break.

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