Spring Training: One Thing to Watch From All 30 Teams - AL West

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As our weekly series covering Spring Training rolls on, this week we head out West.  As expected, a year ago the then reigning World Series Champion Houston Astros won the division.  But they did have some surprising company along the way with the Oakland A's chasing close behind most of the second half of the season and ultimately snagging the second Wild Card spot.  As we enter March, lets see whats happening this season in the AL West.



Houston Astros

The Astros got very close to returning to their second straight World Series a year ago, despite down years from two of their young sluggers.  George Springer saw a noticeable dip in his stats across the board.  An 18 point drop in average, 12 less home runs, and 14 less RBI's.  Granted, batting .265 with 22 home runs and 71 RBI's out of the leadoff spot is nothing to sneeze at, he still left a lot more to be desired clearly.

Carlos Correa, who appeared to be a budding superstar, also took massive hits across the board, albeit his downfall was from injuries.  But these were injuries that parlayed over from years before.  Injury prone may officially be a label that Carlos Correa is going to carry.  Apparently, Correa has incorporated yoga into his routine (something this writer is doing for the same reasons...) to help fight off the lingering oblique and back issues he has experienced for a few years now.  Should be interesting to see if Springer comes out the gate hot this spring, and if Correa gets through it healthy.

Oakland Athletics

If watching baseball in the cavernous Oakland Coliseum doesn't get your needle moving, then hopefully watching the top two southpaw pitchers in the Major Leagues does.  Oakland has its hands on AJ Puk and Jesus Luzardo.  While Puk will spend his Spring Training, still only throwing bullpen sessions and rehabbing, he is worth keeping an eye on to make sure his rehab continues to move along without a hitch.  Less than a year ago Puk had Tommy John surgery, but has appeared to recover quicker than expected.  Still, Oakland has no plans to rush their prized top prospect, and you may not see his plus 90's fastball and wipeout slider on a Major League mound until mid-summer.  Oakland also has Jesus Luzardo, who came over from Washington a couple years ago in the Gio Gonzalez trade.  Luzardo has blown through all three levels of the Minor Leagues, and with a good spring showing will find himself in the A's rotation come Opening Day.


Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Of course the easy and obvious answer would be Mike Trout.  You should watch him any chance you get.  As a baseball lover, I know I do.  But there has to be SOMETHING else going on in Anaheim's camp.  Matt Harvey is there now.  Or as I like to call him, the Angels new Jered Weaver.  Justin Upton and even Albert Pujols are still hanging around.  But how about we focus on their new closer Cody Allen.  Cody Allen had quietly been one of the better closers in the game for the last few years.  Even after with a shaky season last year, he still managed to lock down 27 saves.  Some attributed his struggles a year ago (4.70 ERA) to the fact Andrew Miller, then Brad Hand were breathing down his neck.  Now with a fresh start out West, Allen has the job to himself.  Look to see if he comes out looking a lot more comfortable this Spring.  I see Allen has a rebound candidate as it pertains to closers and can see him reaching at least 35 saves for the Angels.

Texas Rangers

There is no question about this one, the storyline to focus on at Rangers Spring Training is their pitching staff.  Their entire staff, that's right, entire as in all 5 starters, have all had Tommy John surgery.  This has to be a first for a team.  Their current rotation appears to lineup as Mike Minor, Lance Lynn, Drew Smyly, Edison Volquez, and Shelby Miller.  Drew Smyly is the most recent surgery recipient, and typically the first year back for recipients is the roughest.  But he also has the most potential out of any of these Ranger starters.  In the Texas heat, mixed with down velocity, the results may be quite displeasing for Rangers fans.  Should be interesting to see how these arms look early in the Spring.

Seattle Mariners 

Seattle is in full rebuilding mode as James Paxton, Nelson Cruz, and Robinson Cano have all left town.  Yet they turned around and paid Yusei Kikuchi, a Japanese left handed pitcher, a 4 year, 56 million dollar contract.  As it goes with any of these pitchers who come to the states from Asia, it should be interesting to see if he becomes another Yu Darvish or Masahiro Tanaka, or if he is more of a Daisuke Matsuzaka or Kei Igawa.

Be on the lookout for NL East edition next week.


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Boston Sports Syndicate: Spring Training: One Thing to Watch From All 30 Teams - AL West
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