The AL West figures to be a three team race between the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels, and Oakland A’s in 2013. The race could become more interesting if the underestimated Seattle Mariners make noise this year as well.With the Astros coming over to the AL West, the division now features five teams and now five different, talented, and highly competitive outfields.
The defending AL West champion A’s boast an incredible amount of depth in the outfield on paper, but how does their depth stack up against the rest of the divsion? Well, the purpose of this post will answer that very question.
Billy Beane is banking on his added depth to carry the A’s back into October baseball this year, but the Nelson Cruz, Mike Trout, Michael Morse, and Justin Maxwell‘s of the division will look to stop Oakland from repeating as division champs.
With that in mind, the A’s will roll out with a trio of Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, and Josh Reddick in an attempt to defend their division crown. How does Oakland’s trio rank against the rest of the west? Well, let’s take a look:
- Angels: The Angels should, barring any injuries, enter the year with the best outfield group in the AL West. The A’s may have the edge when it comes to depth, but the Halos possess a ton of talent in their outfield with the likes of Trout and newly acquired Josh Hamilton. The Angels will likely roll out with a trio that includes Trout, Peter Bourjos, and Hamilton. Bourjos, 25, is likely the only weak link in the Angels’ outfield, but even he may not be entirely bad. The young outfielder will definitely get his shot in the outfield this year with regular looks at center field, but if he should fail to build upon his .220/.291/.315 performance in 2012, the Angels could look elsewhere for help in center. The guy did, after all, have some mild success in 2011, hitting .271/.327/.438 with 12 HR and 43 RBI. Now with Trout and Hamilton, they come as advertised. Trout was named AL ROY last year for his monstrous performance and Hamilton put up powerful numbers last year as well. The Angels essentially have two guys in their two corner outfield spots who can hit 30 homers and drive in 100 runs. Trout did experience a little bit of a drop-off during the final stretch of the season, but even then he was better than most outfielders in the game. The A’s may have the depth, but when it comes to star-power and household names, the Angels have the edge.
- A’s: The A’s trail right behind the Angels when it comes to best overall outfield. The A’s will roll out with Cespedes, Crisp, and Reddick for their 2013 campaign. The A’s outfield trio will be difficult to ignore this year, especially if Cespedes and Reddick continue making strides in their young major league careers. Cespedes, 27, finished second in AL ROY voting for his .292/.356/.505 performance in 2012. The A’s outfielder managed to collect 23 HR and 82 RBI despite playing in just 129 games due to various injuries. He made adjustments throughout the regular season and many were impressed by how easy Cespedes made the game look at times. He proved he belonged from the moment he stepped into the batters’ box and the A’s $36 million investment looked like a smart one last year. With Cespedes manning left field, the A’s have the Bernie Leaning Crisp in center and Gold Glove winner Reddick out in right field. Crisp should emerge as a clubhouse leader after fellow veterans Brandon McCarthy, Jonny Gomes, Brandon Inge, and Stephen Drew moved on. In addition to his leadership, the A’s center fielder should continue to deliver speed to Oakland’s lineup in ’13. Crisp, 33, led the team in stolen bases with 39 and should be a reliable source for steals again this year. With Reddick, the A’s have an interesting player on their hands. Beane shipped Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney to Boston last year in order to acquire the talented Reddick, but no one saw Reddick‘s 32 HR or 85 RBI coming last year. The deal, in short, was a huge win last year for the A’s and Beane. Reddick‘s offense and tremendous defense helped the green-and-gold capture the division crown last year, but there remains those skeptics who doubt Reddick will be able to produce the type of numbers he did last year. Despite the skeptics, the A’s remain confident that Reddick will only continue making strides in the majors this year. The A’s have plenty of added depth with the likes of Seth Smith and the excellent defender Chris Young just in case, though.
- Rangers: Behind the Angels and A’s are the Rangers. Texas blew the division last year and are still trying to piece together what happened exactly on game 162 of last year. Still, never count out the Rangers. The boys from Arlington will roll out with Murphy, Leonys Martin, and Nelson Cruz in 2013. Murphy, who hit .304/.380/.479 with 15 HR and 61 RBI, remains an underrated player and should remain a reliable player for Texas this year. Cruz, 32, hit .260/.319/.460 with 24 HR and 90 RBI last year. There is a threat of a 50-game suspension for Cruz, who was linked to a clinic that sold performance-enhancing drugs, and so the Rangers could be without his services for a bit. The Rangers are projected to have Martin in center field to open the season with Hamilton now playing in SoCal with the Halos. Manager Ron Washington reportedly likes the idea of starting Martin in center, and the 24-year old Martin will have a lot to prove if he does get the nod to start. Last year in limited action, the young outfielder hit just .174 last year in 46 at-bats. It was early believed that Washington would have Martin in the lineup against righties and Craig Gentry in center when the team faced lefties. Martin’s decent spring start, however, seems to have played a hand in Washington’s recent reversal and faith in Martin’s potential as a starting center fielder. Bottom line, the Rangers, with the possibility of losing Nelson in the form of a suspension, don’t quite stack up against the Angels and A’s in the outfield department. Still, the Rangers figure to be a little better off than the two teams below them..
- Mariners: The Mariners could be a team that surprises a few people this year, much like the A’s did last year during the run at the playoffs. While they won’t capture the division crown or anything like that, the M’s do figure to be at least a little more competitive going forward and aren’t expected to finish in last place now that the Astros have joined the division. The Mariners will feature an outfield that includes the likes of Michael Morse, Franklin Gutierrez, Michael Saunders, and the ever persistent Jason Bay in a reserved role. The Mariners like what they have in Morse, who hit .291/.321/.470 with 18 HR and 62 RBI last year with the Nationals. A return to Seattle is a welcoming one for Morse, but the outfielder must stay healthy if he’s able to provide a spark in Seattle’s lineup. He was limited last year due to injury, but if he’s healthy this year a .300-30 campaign does seem like a possibility. The Mariners would like to see more from Gutierrez, who had his own share of injury problems in 2012. Saunders saw an increase in his power last year, but not many people out there are expecting Saunders to replicate his 2012 numbers this year. He’ll have a spot in Seattle’s revamped lineup, but I’m doubting he’ll be the same offensive player he was last year. Seattle has Bay and Raul Ibanez as potential outfield options as well.
- Astros: Houston, we have a problem. Sorry, cliche I know, but I couldn’t resist. The Astros enter baseball’s most competitive division this year and that does not bode well for the rebuilding franchise. Houston figures to be competitive in a few years, but until then the Angels, A’s, Rangers, and even Mariners should have their way with the lowly Astros in 2013. The outfield in Houston does not contain the same type of talent found in Anaheim, Oakland, or Arlington unfortunately. Instead, the Astros will likely roll out with an outfield that includes former Athletic Chris Carter, Justin Maxwell, and Fernando Martinez. Houston also has J.D. Martinez in the mix as well. Overall, though, the club’s outfield does not stack up against the rest of the division. Carter, a former top prospect in Oakland’s system, did enjoy a little success last year in a platoon-type role at first base, but it is unknown whether or not that success will carry over to his new team. Maxwell, meanwhile, remains a journeyman of sorts at the age of 29. Maxwell flashed traces of power and provided the team with some decent speed, but for the rebuilding Astros, Maxwell a viable long-term option. Compared to the rest of the division, Houston’s outfield just doesn’t stack up. Perhaps in a few years this will change.