In just two short days, the Major League Baseball season will be underway when the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros begin life as division rivals in a nationally televised game on ESPN before the rest of the league gets going on Monday. The Rangers are undoubtedly one of a few teams who could win the AL West, while the Astros definitely aren't.
It's a great time of year, folks, now let's take a look at how the AL West should shake out, with really any one of three teams being capable of winning the thing.
1. Texas Rangers — The Rangers are still a really good team, they'll just take on a new look and a new approach in 2013. Gone are power hitters Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli. Also gone is Michael Young, who was flat-out awful last season but remained in the lineup on a nightly basis. New hitting coach Dave Magadan and the addition of veteran Lance Berkman in the 3-hole should bring a new plate approach to a speedy lineup. If Berkman stays healthy, the Rangers won't miss Hamilton as much as people might think. The big question mark here is the bullpen and what comes of it.
2. Los Angeles Angels — There's no question where the best lineup in the division — possibly in baseball — lies, and it's in Anaheim. The addition of Hamilton to an already stout lineup featuring Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, as well as Mark Trumbo, is enough to scare any pitcher. But Hamilton is always an injury concern, and Pujols is bound to break down sooner rather than later. The real question here is in the starting rotation, which has always been the strength of the team in the past. An injury to Hamilton or Pujols, or both, could kill this team.
3. Oakland A's — A notch below the Rangers and Angels, the A's are the defending division champs after running down the Rangers last September and finally catching them on the season's final day. You have to think the A's will take a small step back from their unexpected 2012 campaign, and a big reason for that could be the fact that several young pitchers were overworked last season, most notably Jarrod Parker.
4. Seattle Mariners — The Mariners aren't a threat to win the division, but they will be a much improved squad. They've added some pop and offense to their stable of pitchers and brought in the fences at Safeco to accommodate guys like Kendrys Morales. They could find themselves in third place if any of the above teams slip up.
5. Houston Astros — This is basically a Triple-A lineup playing big-league competition on a nightly basis. It's really not fair. The Astros do have one of the best farm systems in baseball now. At least they have that to be excited about. I guess.