1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Descendents) – Consistently gives you the same product every year: solid hitting, little power outside of Vlad Guerrero, but good pitching and enough runs produced via good base-running to get a division title, if not much further. Signing Torii Hunter wasn’t exactly the power bat needed, but with Garret Anderson and Vlad aging, is a good idea to keep the cadre of outfielders fresh. Francisco Rodriguez is in a contract year and hungry to get totals up. Problems on the pitching staff abound though, as Scot Shields is nursing a sore arm as the set-up guy and John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar will be missing some serious time with injuries. Jered Weaver, new acquisition Jon Garland, and Ervin Santana are going to need to hold down the fort. This team will also miss Orlando Cabrera at short, but it’s not going to be enough to keep them out of the post-season.
2. Seattle Mariners (The Fastbacks) – Dealing for Erik Bedard to go along with Felix Hernandez is never a bad idea and can only make you look better — especially when J.J. Putz is there to close. Offensively, Ichiro is always there, Adrian Beltre made it look like part of his giant contract paid off at times last year. I want to say it will be tougher and put Seattle third, but it’s hard to place them behind a team obviously rebuilding. Still, Richie Sexson has been a complete waste — and it wouldn’t surprise me if they finish third.
3. Oakland Athletics (Rancid) – The obvious re-building project; don’t count them out, but they won’t be winning the division. Trading away Dan Haren and placing your fortunes in the hands of Rich Harden and Joe Blanton is a risk, and hoping that a power depleted line-up will make it through the season uninjured is a major question (Eric Chavez and Mark Ellis are good to miss a few games, and Bobby Crosby, well…)
4. Texas Rangers (Butthole Surfers) – Usually a display of grotesquerie without much in the way of apparent talent, but capable of feats that belie the possibilities. They’re reloading in a sense with the trade that brought Josh Hamilton in to play center, and still have Michael Young in at SS and hopefully Jarrod Saltalamacchia will pay off. But, manager Ron Washington will have to struggle with another team that just doesn’t have enough pitching to compete with the division.
NL previews start tomorrow.