In part 1, I discussed the teams I project to finish 3-5 in the AL West in 2014, while also poking fun at Josh Hamilton. Part 2 is about the big dogs; the Texas Rangers and the Oakland A’s. Texas has added a lot of big names to their roster this offseason, but Oakland has quietly made some big moves as well. Both teams have made a lot of moves, so I will limit the players mentioned with the biggest impact players for 2014. Who will wind up on top? I’ll give you the information, and let you decide! (The correct answer is the A’s).
The Rangers have been busy this offseason, opening their checkbooks and writing lots of zeroes. Just this offseason, they have added Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo, got Michael Choice in a trade with the A’s,and signed J.P. Arencibia. Arencibia is a power bat who doesn’t hit for a high average. He may flourish in a hitter’s park like Arlington, or whatever they are calling it these days. Choice is a high-potential OF prospect who is on the cusp of being big-league ready. He played in Oakland for a slew of games in 2013 and compiled a .278 average.
The big pieces of the puzzle are Prince and Choo. Prince Fielder is in the best shape of his life (just like everyone else), but that shape is still a pear. He puts up respectable numbers, but has seen them take a dip recently. That is WHILE hitting behind 2-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera and in the middle of a very potent offense. Let’s not be silly, Texas’ offense is also very good, but Fielder struggles against A’s pitching. Against a projected rotation of Parker, Kazmir, Griffin and Straily (not to mention Sonny Gray) Fielder is a combined 2/19 for a wonderfully-low .105 average. Couple that with the stout Seattle rotation, and having to face Detroit 7 times, and I am guessing that with nearly half of his games now against these 3 teams, that this will be his worst season to date, Arlington and all. This leaves us with:
Biggest Addition to the 2014 Roster: Shin-Soo Choo. This guy is a getting on-base machine. He gets hit by pitches–a lot. Last year he was plunked 26 times. Jason Kendall would be proud. I think he will be Texas’ Coco Crisp. The more he gets on base in front of Beltre, Fielder, Arencibia and the rest of the potent lineup, the more crooked numbers will be put up on the scoreboard.
Entering the offseason, A’s were in a tricky position. They already knew they were good enough to make the playoffs, they just wanted to get further. Billy Beane re-tooled the club and made some subtle improvements around the diamond, but his biggest improvement was in the bullpen. Beane traded for Jim Johnson, who has had 101 saves over the past 2 seasons. He also traded for Luke Gregerson, a solid reliever, and signed Eric O’Flaherty who is recovering from Tommy John surgery. These 3 arms, added to Doolittle and Cook, shorten the game dramatically. Throw in Dan Otero, who had a great season in 2013, and the A’s can make any game a 5 or 6 inning game. At the very worst, when the A’s inevitably face Verlander in game 5 this postseason, they will be able to shut the Tigers down for as long as he is in the game and face ANYONE else late, or in extras.
As for the offense, the A’s most notably added Nick Punto, a utility infielder and Craig Gentry (in the Michael Choice trade), a utility outfielder. Gentry is a great 4th outfielder to have because he can play all 3 positions well, and brings a respectable bat as well. Punto is a grinder, and the A’s haven’t necessarily had that David Eckstein, thorn-in your-side-type player on their roster in awhile.
Biggest Addition to the 2014 Roster: Surprise, surprise, its Sonny Gray. This is partially because I couldn’t put the entire bullpen as my choice. The A’s have lacked a shutdown number one starter for awhile now. They need a guy that can go 7+ innings and only allow a couple of hits. After watching Sonny in Game 2 in the ALDS last season, he definitely has the potential to be that guy.
Of course I think that the A’s are going to win the AL West for a 3rd straight year. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. Here is my reasoning however:
The A’s were already good enough to win the past two years, and they have gotten better. The division all-around is much better as well, but the gap is too wide for this season. Texas has made adjustments, but I am not sure they are necessarily better, Especially with one of their best pitchers, Derek Holland out for a spell. Yes, they have Yu Darvish, but the A’s hit him well. This A’s team could be looking at a 100+ win season.
Who do you think will win the division and why?