Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Home Stretch- AL West

The AL West is the only race in baseball that is well and truly over. In a great year for competitive baseball, every division has at least two teams with a better than one in five shot of taking the division. The AL West is the only exception, with Texas holding a 99.6% lock on the division title. To put it in perspective, the Mets, Marlins, Dodgers, and Blue Jays each have a better shot to make the playoffs than every other AL West team combined. I can tell you that none of those teams will be playing October baseball, and neither will the Mariners, A’s, or Angels.

So we’ll discuss Texas’ strange season for a bit. Despite being bankrupt at the time, the Rangers were more active than any other team in baseball at the trade deadline, gearing up for the playoffs by adding a true ace in Cliff Lee, a veteran catcher in Bengie Molina, and infielders Jorge Cantu and Christian Guzman. Jon Daniels used the fruits of an incredibly strong 2007 draft class to glean salary relief in each of these deals, acquiring not only players but the cash with which to pay them by trading away a portion of what most considered before the deadline to be one of the strongest minor league systems in the league. They also managed to do so without giving away the young pitching that continues to provide the bulk of their blue-chip prospects. First baseman Justin Smoak, who went to Seattle as the centerpiece of the Cliff Lee trade, is really the only true top prospect Daniels moved at the deadline.

The Rangers and their new ownership will look to a future flush with hard-throwing young pitchers. Neftali Feliz, Tanner Scheppers, Martin Perez, and Derek Holland all look to have what it takes to form the bulk of a fantastic rotation (unless the Rangers decide Feliz is better suited to stay in the bullpen, where he’s been lights-out this year as their closer). Rangers officials have also discussed keeping Cliff Lee around past this year, which would entrench the Rangers’ rotation as one of the best in the league for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, the Rangers offense has been led by several more young stars. Josh Hamilton has been the most valuable player in baseball this year by WAR. Nelson Cruz, Michael Young, and Ian Kinsler have all been dinged up at times, but it hasn’t stopped them from putting up fantastic seasons so far.  Vladimir Guerrero has put up a bounce-back season after a very un-Vlad 2009, and Elvis Andrus has continued to develop into one of best leadoff men in the league.

With a stacked lineup and strong young pitching, along with a true ace in Cliff Lee, this team could be poised for a run deep into October, as well as a spot atop the AL West for the next few years.

No comments:

Post a Comment