Lastly we come to the AL West, which is home to the current AL champs, the Seattle Killer Whales. Seattle took the division by 19 games over a good Helena team and an improving Boise squad. Can either of the latter teams make a move on the Killer Whales, or will the Orcas win another division title? And what about Anaheim's chances?
Seattle (last season-2nd in AL) is loaded with multi-talented players, as LF Jacque Puffer went 40-40 and 3B Denny Moss hit 50 HRs and stole 30 bases; those two along with RF Pete Duvall and 2B Jack Hunt (who should hit better than .235 this season) all scored 100 runs. A full season of former MVP 1B Osvaldo Johnson makes this lineup even scarier for opposing pitchers. This team could lead the league in runs even if CF Henry Canizaro doesn't hit to his potential.
Boise (last season- 1st in AL) has talented young position players, but lost a few table setters in the offseason. Losing RF Abdullah Dillon (Houston) and CF Hideo Nakano (Vancouver) knocks down the potential of the offense a bit, but it's still potent, with speedsters 2B Hal Ball, IF Victor Flores, and IF/OF B.C. Stone (who needs to cut down on his strikeouts a bit). The power in the lineup is mostly on the bats of DH Santiago Martin and IF Ryan Hamill. Expect to see super prospect LF Barry McEnroe at some point to add to the middle of the order.
Helena (last season- 6th in AL) will be led by its veteran outfield. The 3 leaders in RBI for the team last season were RF Wally Harvey, CF Will Weston, and LF Jeremy Glover- all three will be back this season. SS Kevin Kim is the speedster table setter for the Grotto Gottos. They could use speedy infielders Paul Ingram and Jay Hegan to get on base more.
Anaheim (last season- 11th in AL) isn't devoid of offensive talent- they're just in a loaded division. 3B James Dixon fell one homer short of a 40-40 season- he's been around so long it's hard to believe he's only 27. LF Pedro Candelaria had a monster season (.312-41-127), and power hitting 2B Bob Spencer finished one RBI short of 100. They'll be the middle of the order, with IF/OF George Spencer. They're hoping free-agent signing Bob Owens (from Toronto, now KC) will add depth.
Seattle (last season- 2nd in AL) has one of the best top 3 in the rotation in the AL. Kane Grahe, Junior Bennett, and Miguel Benitez are very good- Benitez is not at the Cy Young form he was a few seasons back, but he doesn't have to be- he can be a good #3 guy behind the ace Grahe and Bennett at #2. Marty Lane pitched better in Seattle than he did in Chicago, but how much he can give the Killer Whales is a bit of a question. What's not in question is that Quilvio Sanchez, despite blowing 6 saves last season, is an elite closer- he did save 44 with a 2.35 ERA. Lefties Frank Lightenberg and Larry Carasone, along with righty Trent Bollea, help form a fairly deep relief crew.
Anaheim (last season- 4th in AL) pitched better than their run total suggests, as they gave up a lot of unearned runs. They'll go with youngsters Mateo Batista and Peaches Thompson along with veteran Andy Ramsey to head the rotation. They'll give rookie Gaylord Matthewson a shot at the the last spot in the rotation. The closer's role is up for grabs, as last season's closer Vic Trevino, former Syracuse closer Jared McMahon, and the capable Andres Rivera are all on the roster.
I'd rate Helena (last season-6th in AL) very close to Anaheim- you could have a pretty good argument over which staff is better. Helena will be led by ace Louie Martin, who backed up his best season ever with an even better one at 17-5. York Burnett, Bob Delaney, and Anthony Hall are all decent pitchers. Veteran Dave Stewart will close, so Coco Hines will be paid $6.1 million to set up.
Boise (last season- last in AL) still has to get this part figured out to be a contender. One piece is in place in starter Pedro Limon, but the rest of the staff is in flux. Mitch Foster and Philip Crane aren't great starters- they're OK. Last season's closer, Alex Cornejo, will set up Don Wang this season- that might be a bullpen that blows some games.
1. I like Seattle to win the division and maybe the AL again.
2. Helena is the second place team in this division and should compete for a wild card spot.
3. Boise is maybe a season or two away- I know they made great strides, but they need to figure out the pitching staff before they take the next step to legitimate playoff/division contender.
4. Anaheim is not a bad team, but they're just behind the other three. I think this is the only AL division in which they would finish last.
5. Not sure who would be traded in or out- this is an odd division, with each team following its own plan.