Comprehensive 2013 AL West Projections

In 2012, the AL West was expected to primarily be a dog fight between the Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Angels. The Rangers were coming off of their second consecutive trip to the World Series and also boasted the newly signed Japanese superstar, Yu Darvish. The Angels were coming off of an offseason that saw them sign both Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, which in the eyes of many media pundits, made them the immediate favorites to win the 2012 World Series. As we all very well know by now, none of that happened. The Oakland A’s ended up shocking the baseball world to make a run for the AL West division crown. The A’s, led by a young pitching staff and offseason additions such as Yoenis Céspedes and Josh Reddick, were an unlikely force, but a force to be reckoned with nonetheless.

Heading into 2013, the landscape of the AL West has yet again changed dramatically. For the second consecutive offseason, the Angels have signed the best position player available on the free agent market in Josh Hamilton. The Texas Rangers, in surprising fashion, decided to essentially stand idle during the offseason by forgoing a widely assumed trade target in Justin Upton, trading away franchise cornerstone, Michael Young, and also deciding not to resign players such as Mike Napoli, Mike Adams, or Koji Uehara. The Seattle Mariners have improved their offense with the additions of Mike Morse and Kendrys Morales, and are also moving the fences in at Safeco (we’ll see what affect that ends up having), the A’s have yet again made some very underestimated offseason moves, and lastly the Houston Astros are, well, finally joining the party.

For these projections, I will be comparing and thusly ranking each team’s starting rotation and expected starting position players. By ranking each AL West starter per his position, an assessment will be made, evaluating how the AL West should finish, based on these currently constructed rosters.

We’ll begin our positional rankings with each team’s starting rotation.

#1.) The Oakland A’s

Projected rotation:

  1. Brett Anderson (1.0 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.3 WAR for 2013)
  2. Jarrod Parker (3.7 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 3.8 WAR for 2013)
  3. Tommy Milone (2.7 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 3.5 WAR for 2013)
  4. A.J. Griffin (1.3 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.9 WAR for 2013)
  5. Dan Straily (-0.5 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.4 WAR for 2013)

 

Oct 6, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Jarrod Parker (11) delivers a pitch during the third inning of game one of the 2012 ALDS against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland A’s were selected as having the No. 1 starting rotation in the AL West for a handful of reasons. Strangely enough, the A’s don’t really possess a true ace, but if Brett Anderson can stay healthy, expect him to post around 4.0 fWAR in 2013. This is a deep, balanced, and very young rotation that has solid, consistent pitchers and production from top-to-bottom, which is why it was ranked No. 1 in the AL West.

#2.) The Texas Rangers

Projected rotation:

  1. Yu Darvish (5.1 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 4.5 WAR for 2013)
  2. Matt Harrison (3.8 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 2.3 WAR for 2013)
  3. Derek Holland (1.7 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.3 WAR for 2013)
  4. Alexi Ogando (3.7 fWAR in 2011 / ZiPS projects 2.0 WAR for 2013)
  5. Nick Tepesch (Steamer projects 0.2 WAR for 2013)

 

Feb 26, 2013; Surprise, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Yu Darvish (11) pitches during the second inning against the Chicago White Sox at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Rangers were a close favorite for the No. 1 starting rotation in the AL West, but too much uncertainty rides upon what Derek Holland can do in 2013, whether or not Matt Harrison can continue to defy his peripherals and whether or not Colby Lewis can successfully return from injury (Colby Lewis should end up sliding Tepesch from the No. 5 spot in the rotation). That said, Yu Darvish has looked excellent this Spring, and if the end of the 2012 season was any indication, Darvish could be one of the frontrunners for the Cy Young award come season’s end.

#3.) The Los Angeles Angels

Projected rotation:

  1. Jered Weaver (3.0 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 4.4 WAR for 2013)
  2. C.J. Wilson (2.5 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 3.4 WAR for 2013)
  3. Joe Blanton (2.4 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.6 WAR in 2013)
  4. Tommy Hanson (1.0 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 2.1 WAR for 2013)
  5. Jason Vargas(0.8 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.7 WAR for 2013)

    March 26, 2013; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver (36) throws in the first inning during a spring training game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Angels were selected as the No. 3 starting rotation in the AL West part in due to concerns over the team’s lack of depth. If, for example, Tommy Hanson, who is another shoulder injury waiting to happen, goes down with injury, the Angels’ best option would be Jerome Williams. And to go along with this point, the Angels’ minor league system lacks any difference-making prospects to use as internal options in the case of an injury or for trades to acquire players in such an event. Also, it remains unclear if Jered Weaver, like Matt Harrison, can continue to defy his peripherals. That said, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson should still provide solid production at the top of the rotation, but Blanton, Hanson and Vargas obviously still pose question marks at the bottom.

#4.) The Seattle Mariners

Projected rotation:

  1. Félix Hernández (6.1 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 6.1 WAR for 2013)
  2. Joe Saunders (2.5 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.3 WAR for 2013)
  3. Hisashi Iwakuma (0.8 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.4 WAR for 2013)
  4. Erasmo Ramírez (0.9 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.6 WAR for 2013)
  5. Blake Beavan(0.3 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.3 WAR for 2013)

    Mar. 27, 2013; Peoria, AZ, USA: Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez throws reacts in the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

 

Don’t expect many wins for King Felix in 2013 (not that they have ever really mattered), as even with the additions to their lineup, the Mariners are still a below-average team offensively. Félix Hernández aside, this is a solid starting rotation—nothing worth writing home about, but it should keep Seattle in ballgames, particularly in Safeco, as many of the Mariners’ pitchers are flyball pitchers. The Mariners also possess many top-rated arms in the minor leagues, so depth is surely not an issue.

#5.) The Houston Astros

Projected rotation:

  1. Bud Norris (1.5 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 2.0 WAR for 2013)
  2. Lucas Harrell (2.8 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.5 WAR for 2013)
  3. Philip Humber (-0.2 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 0.3 WAR for 2013)
  4. Erik Bedard (1.3 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 0.7 WAR for 2013)
  5. Brad Peacock (0.1 fWAR in 2011/ ZiPS projects -0.3 WAR for 2013)

 

September 02, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros pitcher Bud Norris (20) pitches in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros will be having a tough inaugural season in the American League, there’s no question about that. The lineup for the Astros is rather suspect, as is the rotation, and come mid-season, expect rumors to be swirling of the Astros’ intent to trade Bud Norris. That said, it will be interesting to see if Lucas Harrell can continue to build upon his solid 2012 season.

 

Catchers:

  1. TEX-A.J. Pierzynski (3.4 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 2.3 WAR for 2013)
  2. OAK-John Jaso (2.7 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 2.0 WAR for 2013)
  3. SEA-Jesús Montero (-0.2 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.9 WAR for 2013)
  4. LAA-Chris Iannetta (1.3 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.7 WAR for 2013)
  5. HOU-Jason Castro (1.1 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.3 WAR for 2013)

 

Feb. 20, 2013; Surprise, AZ, USA: Texas Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski poses for a portrait during photo day at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

A.J. Pierzynski leads the pack of AL West catchers. Pierzynski, who is 36, is coming off of his career-best offensive season, which saw him post a wRC+ of 118. It’s unlikely that Pierzynski will replicate his 2012 numbers, but having a hitter’s park to call home will certainly help. Second on the list is perhaps the most underrated catcher in all of baseball, John Jaso. Like Pierzynski, Jaso is coming off of a career-best offensive season, which saw him post a wRC+ of 143. Jaso is a plus-hitter, especially for a catcher, and here’s an interesting statistical fact for you: In 2012, Jaso drew more walks (56) than strikeouts (51). Third on the list is the 23-year old, Jesús Montero. In 2012, Montero was below average offensively (wRC+ 90), and that should come as a surprise, as Montero has always been highly touted for his bat. This could be attributed to the fact that it was Montero’s first full season in MLB, so looking forward to 2013, it will be interesting to see if some of the promise that scouts saw in Montero’s bat will begin to come into fruition. Fourth on the list is Chris Iannetta. Iannetta has always been a solid, all-around backstop with issues of making contact, as evidenced by his career K% of 22.1. Looking forward to 2013, expect Iannetta to post solid power numbers for a catcher, with decent defense behind the plate, along with a handful of strikeouts. Last on the list is Jason Castro of the Astros. Castro is a solid backstop, but on many other teams, he would most likely serve as the primary back-up catcher.

First Basemen:

  1. LAA-Albert Pujols (3.9 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 4.1 WAR for 2013)
  2. TEX-Mitch Moreland (0.6 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.1 WAR for 2013)
  3. OAK-Brandon Moss (2.4 fWAR in 2012/ ZiPS projects 1.3 WAR for 2013)
  4. SEA-Justin Smoak (-0.3 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 0.4 WAR for 2013)
  5. HOU-Brett Wallace (0.0 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 0.2 WAR for 2013)

 

March 5, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols (5) stretches before a spring training game against the Cincinnati Reds at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The first base position isn’t entirely strong in the AL West, but heading the list is without a doubt, Albert Pujols. In 2012, Pujols had a disappointing season by his career standards, which is probably due to a combination of age/skill decline and also facing many unknown pitchers in the American League. Even with another slight regression in 2013, Pujols still projects to be the best first baseman in the AL West. Second on the list is Mitch Moreland. Coming into Spring training, Moreland was assured by manager, Ron Washington, that the first baseman’s job in Texas was his. Also, Moreland came into Spring looking to be in considerably better shape, and his Spring numbers are giving an indication that this could be Moreland’s breakout season (much of this depends on whether or not Moreland can hit LHPs). Third on the list, coming off of a breakout year, is Brandon Moss. In 2012, Moss posted an incredibly strong wRC+ of 160 in his 296 PAs, but also a high K% of 30.4. Whether or not Moss can continue his power-hitting pace remains unclear, so it is due to this uncertainty that Moss is ranked third on the list. Ranked fourth amongst the AL West first basemen is Justin Smoak. Smoak was well-regarded as a top prospect, with many comparisons to Chipper Jones and Mark Teixeira, but Smoak’s career thus far has been anything but. This season is widely regarded as being Smoak’s last chance to prove himself, and if he can’t, the Mariners will probably look to give him a change of scenery. Last on the list is Brett Wallace. Brett Wallace is a well-below average hitter for a first baseman thus far in his career (wRC+ of 92 for career), and I’m not expecting a breakout season by any means, which is why Wallace is ranked last amongst the AL West first basemen.

Second Basemen:

  1. TEX-Ian Kinsler (3.2 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 4.5 WAR for 2013)
  2. LAA-Howie Kendrick (2.8 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 2.4 WAR for 2013)
  3. SEA-Dustin Ackley (1.5 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 2.8 WAR for 2013)
  4. HOU-José Altuve (1.8 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 2.4 WAR for 2013)
  5. OAK-Eric Sogard (0.0 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 0.7 WAR for 2013)

 

March 19, 2013; Mesa, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler (5) hits in the first inning during a spring training game against the Chicago Cubs at HoHoKam Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Heading the list to very little surprise is Ian Kinsler. In 2012, Kinsler had a down year as compared to his 2011 campaign, which saw him post a career best fWAR of 7.5. Kinsler is definitely one of the more unique baseball players in the league: A second baseman capable of a 30/30 season with solid OBP skills, above average range at 2B (career UZR of 5.0), and lastly, he’s one of the best baserunners in all of baseball. Looking forward to 2013, I would anticipate a bounceback year for Kinsler, something along the lines of 5 fWAR or more. Second on the last is the Angels’ Howie Kendrick. Kendrick had a career-best year in 2011, posting 6.0 fWAR, so 2012 came with raised expectations, and Kendrick definitely regressed. That said, Kendrick is a very solid hitter for a second baseman, and it would be no surprise to see him post a 4.0 fWAR season in 2013. Third on the list is Dustin Ackley of the Mariners. Ackley took a step back in 2012 from his 2011 debut, but I fully expect Ackley’s bat to take a step forward in 2013, so it would be no shock to see Ackley post a 4.0 fWAR season this year. Ackley needs to have a big year in order for the Mariners to make any noise in 2013. Fourth on the list is the Astros’ José Altuve. In 2012, Altuve showed a solid combination of speed and contact. 2013 should prove to be an interesting season for Altuve, as he moves to a new league, and if Altuve can continue to cement himself amongst his peers, the Astros should have a very solid trade chip on their hands in the near future. Last on this ranking of the AL West’s second basemen is Eric Sogard. Sogard has never been much of a hitter, but he’s an average defender and I’m sure that Oakland will evaluate other options to upgrade the position.

Third Basemen:

  1. TEX-Adrián Beltré (6.5 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 5.2 WAR for 2013)
  2. SEA-Kyle Seager (3.6 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 2.2 WAR for 2013)
  3. LAA-Alberto Callaspo (2.7 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 2.2 WAR for 2013)
  4. OAK-Josh Donaldson (1.8 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.5 WAR for 2013)
  5. HOU-Matt Dominguez (0.5 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.8 WAR for 2013)

 

Sep 25, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre (29) throws to first during the game against the Oakland Athletics at Rangers Ballpark. Oakland won 3-2. . Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

There should be very little doubt as to which player is the best third baseman in the AL West. Of course I’m referring to Adrián Beltré. In his two seasons in Texas, Beltré has amassed a total fWAR of 11.6, which is second in all of MLB to only Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers, whom posted a total of 13.6 fWAR during that span. Beltré is already considered by many to be one of the greatest defensive third basemen of all time, and in Texas, Beltré’s bat has proven that his monster 2010 season in Boston was no fluke. Looking forward to 2013, expect Beltré to post another MVP-caliber season, and also, keep watch of Beltré’s nagging leg injuries, which are seeming to becoming more and more worrisome. Second on the list is Kyle Seager of the Seattle Mariners. Seager was one of the only true bright spots in the Mariner lineup in 2012, posting a 108 wRC+, and also leading all of the team’s position players in fWAR. It’ll will be interesting to see if the changes to Safeco’s dimensions will have any affect on Seager’s power numbers. In 2013, I would project Seager to have a very similar season to his 2012 campaign, meaning a very solid third baseman who doesn’t get enough recognition. Third on the list is Alberto Callaspo of the Angels. Callaspo is a very adept with the glove at third base, but his bat was below average last season. If Callaspo can replicate his offensive numbers from his 2009 season with the Royals, he could very well post a 3.5 fWAR season in 2013. Fourth on the list is Josh Donaldson of the A’s. Donaldson was somewhat of a surprise to Oakland fans, as he was the essential replacement when Brandon Inge was lost to injury. Offensively, Donaldson’s bat isn’t anything to write home about, but he did get hot towards the end of the season during the A’s memorable run to the playoffs, so we’ll see if Donaldson can replicate any of that short success. Defensively, Donaldson is a dependable third baseman, which is why Billy Beane and company are relatively trusting of the 27-year old. Last on the list is Matt Dominguez of the Astros. During his days as a prospect in the Marlins’ system, Dominguez was already very well renowned for his glove at third base, but the bat has always been suspect. In 2013, I anticipate Dominguez making some strides offensively, and he may even have a surprise season in Houston, but like I said before, this all depends on whether or not Dominguez can hit MLB pitching.

Shortstops:

  1. TEX-Elvis Andrus (3.9 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 3.8 WAR for 2013)
  2. LAA-Erick Aybar (3.4 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 2.7 WAR for 2013)
  3. OAK-Jed Lowrie (2.5 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.5 WAR for 2013)
  4. SEA-Brendan Ryan (1.7 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.5 WAR for 2013)
  5. HOU-Ronny Cedeño (0.6 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 0.4 WAR for 2013)

 

Feb 25, 2013; Salt River Pima-Maricopa, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus (1) smiles in the field during the third inning against the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Heading the list of the AL West’s shortstops is Elvis Andrus of the Rangers. Andrus is one of the premier defensive shortstops in all of baseball, and offensively, Andrus has never displayed much power, but he has always shown a propensity to get on base and score runs. In 2012, Andrus had his best offensive season to date, posting career highs in wRC+ (95), OBP (.349), SLG (.378) and AVG (.286). That said, Andrus’ bat is still considered to be below league average, but if he can continue to improve his offensive game in 2013, Andrus has the ability to post a career season in the lines of 5 fWAR or higher. Second on the list of AL West shortstops is Erick Aybar of the Angels. Aybar has always been a very solid shortstop, with a decent bat and glove for his position. In 2013, expect Aybar to post another solid season, along the lines of 3.5 fWAR. Third on the list is Jed Lowrie of the A’s. Jed Lowrie was acquired during an offseason trade with the Astros, and in his injury-shortened 2012 season in Houston, Lowire displayed more power than anybody really expected. It remains unclear if Lowrie will actually be the starting shortstop in Oakland in 2013, but if he can remain healthy and continue squaring up the baseball like he did in his brief time in Houston, Lowrie could be a strong catalyst behind what Oakland accomplishes in 2013. Fourth on the list is Brendan Ryan of the Mariners. Ryan is somewhat of a defensive wizard at shortstop, posting a cumulative UZR of 49.2 at the position, but his bat has always been much below average. In 2013, expect Ryan to continue his wizardry at shortstop, while also struggling at the plate.

Left Fielders:

  1. LAA-Mike Trout (10.0 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 7.4 WAR for 2013)
  2. OAK-Yoenis Céspedes (2.9 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 3.3 WAR for 2013)
  3. TEX-David Murphy (3.8 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 2.1 WAR for 2013)
  4. SEA-Mike Morse (0.0 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 0.4 WAR for 2013)
  5. HOU-Chris Carter (1.0 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.6 WAR for 2013)

 

September 30, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) reacts to third base umpire Jim Reynolds (right) after getting tagged out at third base by Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre (left) during the first inning at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

Number one amongst AL West left fielders is without a doubt, Mike Trout of the Angels. Trout had an historic rookie season in 2012, perhaps even the greatest rookie season of all time. The phenom has the sort of talent to post 30/50 seasons annually, along with fantastic defense in the outfield. In 2013, I wouldn’t quite project Trout to replicate his 2012 numbers, but nonetheless he will more-than-likely be one of the favorites by season’s end to win the AL MVP award. Second on the list is Yoenis Céspedes of the Oakland A’s. Prior to signing with the A’s, Céspedes was considered to be an unbelievable athlete, but it was unclear if his baseball skills were refined enough to merit success in MLB. But Céspedes certainly made a name for himself with his 2012 campaign, and given his skill set, I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised to see him post a 5 fWAR season in 2013. That said, if Céspedes does indeed regress in 2013, that wouldn’t surprise me much either. Third on the list of AL West left fielders is David Murphy of the Texas Rangers. Murphy had a career year in 2012, posting career highs in wRC+ (127), OBP (.380), SLG (.479), and AVG (.304), so looking forward to 2013, it will be interesting to see if Murphy’s 2012 campaign was anything more than a bleep on the radar (much of this relies on Murphy’s ability or lack thereof to hit LHP). Fourth on the list is Mike Morse of the Seattle Mariners. Morse was acquired during the offseason in a 3-team trade with the Washington Nationals. Morse is essentially a one-dimensional player: He does not draw walks, he strikes out quite a bit, he isn’t speedy nor is he good with the glove in left field, but his one true calling card is his ability to hit homeruns. In 2013, expect Morse to be somewhat of a butcher in the outfield, with a handful of strikeouts at the plate and very few walks, but a healthy amount of homeruns. Last on the list of AL West left fielders is Chris Carter of the Houston Astros. Carter experienced his first taste of success at the MLB level while still in Oakland last season. In the minor leagues, Carter has always displayed plus power, and in his 260 PAs in 2012, Carter clubbed a healthy 16 homers. In 2013, I’m not too sure of what to expect from Carter. His 2013 season could go two ways: Either Carter cements himself as a legitimate power-hitter, slugging 30-plus homers for the Astros, or he simply doesn’t, and is defined as somewhat of a AAAA player.

 

Center Fielders:

  1. LAA-Peter Bourjos (1.9 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 2.6 WAR for 2013)
  2. OAK-Chris Young (2.4 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 2.5 WAR for 2013)
  3. SEA-Franklin Gutiérrez (-0.3 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.3 WAR for 2013)
  4. TEX-Leonys Martín (-0.4 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.7 WAR for 2013)
  5. HOU-Justin Maxwell (2.0 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.4 WAR for 2013)

 

March 1, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos (25) hits a three run triple in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during a spring training game at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps to some surprise, Peter Bourjos of the Angels heads the list of AL West center fielders. Bourjos is one of the fastest players in all of baseball, along with being perhaps the best defensive center fielder in the entire game. If Bourjos can somehow raise his offensive game in 2013, he can easily become a 4 to 5 fWAR player. Second on the list is Chris Young of the Oakland A’s. It remains unclear as to if the A’s intend on using Coco Crisp in center field, but nonetheless, he is still second on the list of AL West center fielders. Like Bourjos, Young is a fantastic defensive center fielder with plus speed, but with much better power. Looking forward 2013, I’d expect young to have a very productive season in Oakland, something along the lines of 4 fWAR. Third on the list is Franklin Gutiérrez of the Mariners. Gutiérrez has had his share of troubles staying on the field for the past couple of seasons, but in 2009, Gutiérrez was easily one of the best center fielders in all of baseball, posting a ridiculous UZR of 31.0 If Gutiérrez can remain healthy in 2013, look for him to return to form with solid bounce back year. Fourth on the list is the Cuban defector, Leonys Martín. The Rangers signed Martín to a somewhat surprising contract in 2011, and he rose rather quickly through the lower-minor leagues in that same year. Martín really doesn’t have much else to prove in the minors, so the Rangers are finally giving the 25-year old first true chance to prove himself on the MLB stage in 2013. Martín is essentially a solid player in all facets of the game, with no tools that truly stand out as being elite, other than his arm. In 2013, look for Martín to surprise some people, because if his offensive game can ever carry over to MLB, he has the kind of talent to become a perennial All-Star center fielder. Last on the list is Justin Maxwell of the Houston Astros. Maxwell was somewhat of a surprise for the Astros in 2012, by displaying some solid homerun power and well-above average defense in center field. If Maxwell can continue to improve his offensive game, look for him to rise on these positional rankings in the near future.

 

Right Fielders:

  1. LAA-Josh Hamilton (4.1 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 3.2 WAR for 2013)
  2. OAK-Josh Reddick (4.5 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 2.0 WAR  for 2013)
  3. TEX-Nelson Cruz (1.0 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 2.5 WAR for 2013)
  4. SEA-Michael Saunders (2.1 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.0 WAR for 2013)
  5. HOU-Fernando Martínez (0.6 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 0.9 WAR for 2013)

 

March 28, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels left fielder Josh Hamilton (32) at bat in the second inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

First on the list amongst AL West right fielders is the Angels’ newly-singed megastar, Josh Hamilton. In Texas, Hamilton was known for his incredible stretches of utter domination on a baseball field, followed by complete stretches of putridity. Although Hamilton did come with more than a fair share of off-the-field distractions, he was one of the primary driving forces behind the Rangers’ consecutive runs to the World Series. In 2013, I’d look for Hamilton to return to his 2010 form, meaning a leading MVP candidate, but in seasons past 2013, I’d be a little more than leery of Hamilton’s inevitable decline. Second on the list of AL West right fielders is Josh Reddick of the Oakland A’s. Reddick had a very surprising year for the A’s in 2012, perhaps mainly because he showed more power than anyone truly expected. It was a tough decision to rank Reddick just ahead of Nelson Cruz on the list, but Reddick’s superb defense in right field was the deciding factor, along with Nelson Cruz’s continuous skill declination. Third on the list is the aforementioned, Nelson Cruz. In 2012, Cruz had the worst offensive season of his MLB career (min. 400 PA). There’s not much doubting Cruz’s light-tower power, but his defense in right field has continuously declined along with his plate selection. Given the fact that 2013 is a contract year for Cruz, I’m truly expecting a big year. Fourth on the list is Michael Saunders of the Mariners. Saunders had a breakthrough season for the Mariners in 2012. Saunders is fairly decent across the board, meaning that he won’t get much critical appraise, but he’s a solid player who should provide some marginal value for his team.

Designated Hitters:

  1. LAA-Mark Trumbo (2.2 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.8 WAR for 2013)
  2. TEX-Lance Berkman (0.3 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.4 WAR for 2013)
  3. SEA-Kendrys Morales (1.6 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 0.7 WAR for 2013)
  4. HOU-Carlos Peña (0.7 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 1.6 WAR for 2013)
  5. OAK-Seth Smith (1.2 fWAR in 2012 / ZiPS projects 0.8 WAR for 2013)

 

March 28, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels left fielder Mark Trumbo (44) at bat during the fifth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Heading the ranks of the AL West’s designated hitters is Mark Trumbo of the Angels. Thus far in his career, Trumbo has struggled with pitch selection and plate discipline, which is the only true reason why he isn’t a perennial 40 HR hitter. That said, moving forward to 2013, I would project Trumbo to post great power numbers (35-40 HR), along with a handful of face-palm-inducing strikeouts. Second on the list is the Rangers’ newly signed veteran, Lance Berkman. In 2012 with the Cardinals, Berkman missed nearly the entirety of the season due to injury, but in 2011, Berkman delivered a truly fantastic offensive season (163 wRC+). In 2013, it remains unclear as to how long Berkman’s legs will hold up and what affect his legs will have on his production (which is the main reason why Berkman isn’t ranked No. 1 on this list), but nonetheless, Berkman is a true artist at the plate and knows how to take a walk, which will undoubtedly have a big impact on what the Rangers can do offensively. Third on the list is Kendrys Morales of the Mariners. Morales was acquired in an offseason trade with the Angels. In 2009, Morales had the best season of his career (3.0 fWAR / 136 wRC+), but later suffered from an extended time on the DL due to a freak injury. In 2013, expect Morales to be solid with the bat, much like his 2012 season, meaning a marginal boost to the Mariner offense. Fourth on the list is Carlos Peña of the Astros. In 2012, Peña seemed to lose his power (SLG .354), which was strange for such a notorious power hitter. Peña has always had a propensity to draw walks, but also rack up a handful of strikeouts. In 2013, I expect Peña to revert back to having a season much like his 2011 season with the Cubs, which is exactly what the Astros are hoping for.

Expected AL West Standings, Based on Positional Rankings:

  1. Texas Rangers
  2. Los Angeles Angels
  3. Oakland A’s
  4. Seattle Mariners
  5. Houston Astros                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
This isn’t an exact science, but based on these positional rankings, the Rangers and Angels will be going neck-to-neck for the division crown in 2013, with the A’s not too distant in the rear-view mirror, based on the strength of their team pitching and defense. I don’t anticipate Seattle making any sort of a surprise run in 2013, as even with the additions to their lineup, the overall offense is still very below-average. As mentioned before, the Astros will be having a very tough inaugural season in the American League, there’s no mistaking that. Perhaps what these rankings reveal more than anything is that despite the Rangers’ uneventful offseason, this is still a top-tier team, more than capable of winning a very competitive division.
Do you have any disagreements with these positional rankings? If so, what would you change? Be sure to comment with rankings of your own.

Topics: 2013, Adrian Beltre, AL West, Albert Pujols, Brett Anderson, C. J. Wilson, Elvis Andrus, Felix Hernandez, Houston Astros, Ian Kinsler, Jarrod Parker, Jered Weaver, Jose Altuve, Josh Hamilton, Josh Reddick, Jurickson Profar, Justin Upton, Los Angeles Angels, Mike Morse, Mike Trout, Oakland A's, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, Yoenis Cespedes, Yu Darvish, Zack Greinke

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