Major League Baseball’s regular season is drawing closer every single day. With Opening Day April 5, comes a plethora of previews, and this edition will cover the American League West and the National League West.
Coming off 98 wins one season ago, the Los Angeles Angels lead the American League West heading into 2015. Led by the best player in the Major Leagues, Mike Trout, the Angels are returning a strong team again this year. The lineup also features Albert Pujols and will consistently produce runs all year. Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson headline a rotation that expects to return to the postseason.
The Oakland Athletics enter 2015 with many questions about their roster. They traded away third baseman Josh Donaldson, flipped shortstop Yunel Escobar to Washington, and sent Jeff Samardzija to the Chicago White Sox. Despite the drastic changes to the roster, the Athletics look to improve on their Wild Card performance a year ago. Newly acquired Ben Zobrist will lead the lineup on the team’s quest for a postseason run in Oakland.
Watch for the Seattle Mariners this year, as they continue to get better. Robinson Cano leads the lineup that is loaded with talent, and “King” Félix Hernández leads a good starting rotation. If the veterans can stay healthy, this team will contend in 2015.
The Texas Rangers cannot catch a break. Coming off an injury-riddled 2014 campaign, they just got news that ace Yu Darvish could be done for the year after injuring his elbow. For the Rangers to contend this year, they will have to rely on healthy seasons from Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo and Adrian Beltre.
In Houston, the Astros are beginning to turn the corner from a decade of losing to capitalize on their exciting potential. The young team is led this season by second baseman José Altuve. Newly-acquired Evan Gattis joins George Springer, Chris Carter and company as they look to contend for a playoff spot for the first time since 2005.
Over in the National League West, the San Francisco Giants, the World Series champions last season, did little to improve their team this offseason. Although they have Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain in their rotation, the Giants will struggle to return to the playoffs this year thanks to the Dodgers and the Padres. Behind Buster Posey, the lineup is not very deep, and the mountain the Giants must climb to claim a postseason berth is quite high.
In Los Angeles, the Dodgers are now under the analytic leadership of Andrew Friedman and look to reclaim the division title. Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and newly-acquired Jimmy Rollins support Yasiel Puig in the lineup. Their rotation boasts 2014 Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, as well as Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu. This team has the potential to make a deep postseason run.
No team in baseball made more offseason transactions than the San Diego Padres. New General Manager A.J. Preller traded for Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Derek Norris and Justin Upton. The team also picked up free agent James Shields to support a rotation that already had Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross. Despite all of the high-profile additions, many critics question whether the Padres will be able to compete for a full season. To do so, Matt Kemp’s arthritic hips must stay healthy, and the pitching staff must repeat their strong 2014 campaign.
The Colorado Rockies will, as always, score a lot of runs in the Mile High City. Even though they led the National League in runs last year, they also gave up the most runs, leading to only 66 wins in 2014. They have two outstanding players in Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos González, but the great lineup will have to stay healthy for the Rockies to even sniff the postseason.
At the back of the NL West is the Arizona Diamondbacks. They added Cuban Yasmany Tomas to a lineup with Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo, but the rest of the lineup, rotation and bullpen are lagging behind in production and potential. Arizona is several seasons away from serious contention in the NL West.