It was a really close race in the AL West last season. Actually, it was the closest in all of Pine Tar. 3 games separated the top 2 teams and the last place team was only 10 games out. Vancouver won the division for the second time in 3 seasons, but they won 6 less games than the previous season. Of the past 3 seasons they've won 83 games twice and won the division each time. The other season they won 89 games but missed the playoffs. It's been a pretty strange stretch for them. Los Angeles made huge strides last season and finished in second place. It was their highest finish since winning the division back in season 16. They improved by 8 games over season 23 and are on an upward trend. Salem finished in third and they improved by 14 games last season. With an improvement like that, the next step will be getting into the playoffs and ending their 4 season skid without a post season appearance. St Louis had quite possibly the most disappointing season in all of Pine Tar last season. They went from winning the World Series in season 23 to finishing with only 73 wins in season 24. They dropped 24 more games last season than the championship season and it was largely the same team.
Season 24 record- 83-79(AL West Champ)
Last 5 seasons- 389-421
In the off season, Vancouver was fairly active. Most of the moves involved re signing their own players though. I do think that the addition of Bryant Clayton through free agency is going to help the team this season. A late season promotion of Otis Evans in season 24 will also help this team out this season. This is a pretty young team and most of the talent is younger, but they do have some pretty good veterans as well. They still have a fairly low payroll and are budgeted so that they can sign a solid IFA if one comes along.
Offensively, Vancouver was above average last season. They hit .277 with a .343 obp, which were both slightly above average. They also hit 242 homers and scored 855 runs. This offense is built around young slugger Rickie Halama who hit 34 homers with 87 RBI while hitting at a .275 clip with a .336 obp. Nolan Bourn was called up after 46 minor league games last season and should have a pretty good season. He hit 32 homers with 86 RBI and .272 average with a .331 obp in just 116 games last season. Vicente Feliz is another young slugger that makes the middle of the lineup for the Canucks dangerous. He hit 30 homers with 95 RBI and .264 average with a .326 obp last season. This team has a lot of power and some good hitting. They may have one of the better offenses in the AL this season.
The defense was pretty good last season. They finished with a .985 fielding pct and 74 + plays and 31 - plays. At shortstop, Nolan Bourn has great range, a great arm and solid glove. Match that with his hitting and he's a great shortstop to have. In centerfield is Daryl McEnerney, who's coming off his worst season with 8 errors, but I'd expect him to turn that around because he has a great glove. This is a solid overall defense with some really good defenders at key positions. That puts them in the upper half of the league.
The pitching was above average last season, but not by much. They had a 4.53 ERA with a 1.43 WHIP. The rotation is led by John Rucker who went 14-6 with a 3.54 ERA last season. At 34 years old he's still a solid ace. Youngster Malik Sele is a pretty good #2. He went 12-10 with a 4.68 ERA last season, but I expect him to get that ERA down this season. Brad Porter is a solid middle rotation pitcher and he went 12-7 with a 4.18 ERA last season. The addition of Bryant Clayton is an upgrade to the middle of this rotation and the promotion of Torey Lira will add a back of the rotation starter that is solid. The bullpen is this teams strength though. A full season for Otis Evans should prove that he's a valuable middle reliever. Chico Guerrero is a reliable reliever that has become this teams closer. He saved 30 games in 39 tries last season with a 4.66 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. Phil Linton is the top reliever and he's a great setup man. He had a 3.59 ERA last season in 43 appearances, but he is better than that. I expect a much better season from him. Vancouver has a pretty good pitching staff this season.
Los Angeles Regulators
Season 24 record- 80-82
Last 5 seasons- 344-466
Los Angeles is a young team on the rise. Most of the talent on this squad is 27 years old or younger. They have worked their budget to win now and the goal for them is to over take the division lead. The promotion of Wilt Sizemore is going to help the rotation. I also like the free agent signings of Wilkin Ontiveros and Geronimo Osuna. Both are good relievers that should add some good depth to the pitching staff.
Los Angeles had a slightly below average offense last season. They hit .270 with a .343 obp, .406 slugging, 167 homers, 796 runs while stealing a league high 231 bases. This a team built on contact and speed. The top hitter on this team is Bo Long who hit .316 with a .400 obp last season while hitting 29 homers and drove in 96 runs. Yusmeiro Veras provides a great mix of speed and power as he hit 25 homers and stole 51 bases. He also hit a .283 with a .338 obp and drove in 90 runs while scoring 113 of them. This team also has a great veteran hitter in Juan Latos who hit a .329 average with a .446 obp last season between Nashville and LA. He also hit 20 homers with 96 RBI and 96 runs. This is a pretty good offense that could use a real slugger in the middle of the order to get more runs home.
Defensively this team was pretty good last season. They had a .985 fielding pct and 72 + plays with 37 - plays. Most of the minus plays came from shortstop and second base though and that hurts. The shortstop is Ernest Bailey and he's below average at the postion. He lacks the range and his glove is only decent. At second base is Bip Rodgers and he's also below average. Del Broome is a really good centerfielder though. Actually, almost every position on the field is held by players that are above average for the position except 2 of the most important. If this team falters this season, then the blame could go to that. Otherwise this is a pretty solid defense.
This team finished season 24 among the better teams in the AL when it came to pitching. They are led by ace and rookie of the year Tim Daubach. He went 14-4 with a 2.56 ERA and 1.11 WHIP last season and should only improve. Last seasons top pitcher on this staff was Magglio Figureoa as he went 19-8 with a 3.89 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. He's another really good top of the rotation pitcher. Rookie Wilt Sizemore will fit in nicely in the middle of this rotation as well. In the bullpen Todd Washington is a really good setup man. He had a 3.83 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 52 games last season. Nigel Parrish should rebound from last season when his ERA was 1.25 higher than his career 3.45. Apollo Fletcher was brought over mid season in season 24 from Nashville and he finished with a 3.64 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 75 games between the 2 teams. He only allowed 8 of 34 inherited runners to score once he came over to LA. This is a pretty good pitching staff overall and should rank among the best in the AL again this season.
Season 24 record- 77-85
Last 5 seasons- 369-441
This is a really young team here in Salem. They have just 3 players on the roster 30 or older. With a young team is going to come some inconsistency as the team figures out how the players fit. This should be an interesting season for this franchise. In the off season they added a nice hitting catcher in Aurelio Canseco. They also promoted a promising young starter F.P. Huff. In the rule V draft the Volcanoes grabbed Gerald Valentine and Jermaine Getz. Both can fit certain roles and were really nice pickups for this franchise. With a really low payroll and perfect budget for rebuilding, Salem should be able to add a big IFA this season and are positioned in the top half of the draft to get another nice prospect. This team should be able to add some pieces for the future.
Last season Salem ran out a below average offense. They batted a .267 with a .325 obp and .438 slugging. They also hit 226 homers and scored 778 runs. They have a few nice young stars in Rafael Vincente(.268 avg, .325 obp, 36 homers, 101 RBI), Pat Rocker(.264 avg, .331 obp, 29 homers, 85 RBI), and Ben Jacobsen(.273 avg, .327 obp, 31 homers, 81 RBI). They should have some decent power and averge hitting this season, but they are really only an average group.
The defense was pretty average last season. They had a .984 fielding pct with 48 + plays and 34 - plays. Jermaine Getz will add a great glove at shortstop if given the chance to start. Gio Valdez is a good third baseman. Ben Jacobsen is a pretty good secondbaseman. Russ Brown is the starting shortstop right now, but I think he's better suited for centerfield. His glove is just below average. All around though, this team has solid gloves. They should at least be average again this season.
The pitching in Salem was also average last season. They had a 4.71 ERA with a 1.43 WHIP. The rotation is led by second year man Jose Marquez, who went 11-10 with a 4.19 ERA and 1.30 WHIP last season. F.P. Huff should step right in to the #2 spot in the rotation. After those 2 the rotation just isn't very good. The bullpen looks better though. Bob Hill was a solid free agent adition and should help the bullpen out. Omar Colon is a good setup man. He had a 4.74 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 31 games last season. Alfonso Diaz is the best reliever they have and he had a 3.81 ERA, 1.42 WHIP in 105 games last season. I really like Todd Blair also. He had a 5.02 ERA and 1.45 WHIP last season, but he excelled with runners in scoring position by only allowing 10 of 42 to score. I expect an improvement from him this season. This pitching staff as a whole is slightly below average, but they have potential to be above average due to the bullpen.
St Louis Arch Angels
Season 24 record- 73-89
Last 5 seasons- 402-408
St Louis took a big step backward last season, but I expect them to rebound. They have some really good young talent on the team. In the off season they didn't make any big moves and did promote some players that should help out this season. Signing Rock Randall to an extension was the best move they could've made. Signing Sean Shipley long term as well made for a great off season. This team is budgeted to win now, so they really need to get things going in the right direction this season.
Offense was a real weakness for the Arch Angels last season. They finished near the bottom of the league with a .255 average, .322 obp and .403 slugging. They also hit 191 homers and scored 744 runs. They did steal 150 bases though, but were thrown out a league high 117 times. It's not like they don't have some players that can hit though. Calvin Pecina is a really good one and he hit .306 with a .356 obp while hitting 25 homers and driving in 93 runs. Lou Jefferies is a good hitter as well, but he had an off season hitting .259, with a .324 obp and hit 24 homers while driving 91 runs and scoring 95. He also had 33 steals. I expect Bryan Holmes to hit better than his .236 average and .331 obp. He did hit 26 homers though and drove in 76 runs. This team doesn't really have the best offense though and it's magnified by the park they play in. This is going to be a bottom of the league offense again.
They don't make up for the offense with defense either. This team was a below average defensive team. They had a .984 fielding pct with 41 + plays and 46 - plays. Stephen Salmon will be the shortstop and he should be able to handle it. He has less than ideal range, but a good glove and really good arm. In centerfield is rookie Samuel Johnston. He has good range and a solid glove. Lou Jefferies will play third and he's a pretty solid 3B. The rest of the field could use better gloves, but these guys should help this defense improve. They are at least close to being average now.
The pitching was above average last season. They had a 4.40 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. What this team does have is a great rotation. Led by Randall(9-14, 4.05 ERA and 1.33 WHIP), Sean Shipley(13-9, 3.27, 1.30), Jim Kelly(11-10, 3.42, 1.25), and Vinny Napoli(8-9, 3.61, 1.29). All of them pitched below what they are capable of last season and that could be attributed to the defense. I expect each to rebound this season and form what is one of the best rotations in the AL. Carlos Flores had a terrible season in season 24 with a 6.44 ERA and 1.75 WHIP while saving 36 games out of 45. He is able to do much better, as he has for most of his career. Phillip Crawford should rebound from his 4.58 ERA and 1.67 WHIP. The trend in St Louis last season was that all of their pitchers under performed. The only thing that stands out is the defense had to be the cause. This is a really good pitching staff, pitching in a park that helps them.
This is a tough division to predict. I really believe that this is an up and coming division with some really good teams. Vancouver is the reigning champ and they've only improved. They have a well rounded team and should be tough to knock from the top of the division. At worst they should be a wild card team. Los Angeles is on the rise and should put together a pretty good season. They have a couple weaknesses on defense, but overall this is a good team. They should challenge for the division title and if not then they'll be in the wild card hunt. Salem is a tough team to predict. I don't think they have the talent to hang with these other teams, but they aren't a bad team. They have the ability to finish at or above .500. St Louis has more weaknesses than the other teams in this division, but they have the best pitching in the division. The have a championship rotation and good bullpen. You can never count out good pitching.
2. Los Angeles
3. St Louis