Monday, April 13, 2015

AL West Season 31 Preview

AL West

Season 30 Standings
Salem Volcanoes 124-38
Vancouver Canucks 95-67
Fresno Grizzlies 85-77
St Louis Arch Angels 79-83

Salem won this division for the third straight time last season and also won an amazing 124 games. In each of those seasons they've won 100+ games and made it to the ALCS with 2 World championships. They have been dominant lately and will likely be a force again this season. Vancouver finished in second and won 95 games, which is the most for them since season 9. They made the post season for the seventh time in nine seasons. With 2 AL titles in the past 5 seasons, a World chapionship is the only thing they haven't accomplished. Fresno made it back to the post season after missing it for just one season. That gives them 3 out of 4 seasons with a berth. They have not won the division since season 16, but have not had a losing season since season 24. St Louis finished in last place and missed the post season for back to back seasons. That's the first time that's happened to them since season 16. One thing to notice about this division is that over the past 5 seasons combined, no team has a losing record. The AL West has been the dominant division in the AL.

Salem Volcanoes
owner-jkenned(9th season)
Last 5 seasons- 491-319
Payroll- $73.6

Of course, Salem had the most dominant offense in the AL last season. They led in runs scored, average, obp, home runs and finished second in steals. Not only were they good, but they were well rounded. The losses of Wolf Dodd, John Satou, and David Guerrero will hurt them some. The promotion of Brian Woolf will add some power but his hitting won't compare to any of those three. MVP Ruby Prieto is the man that makes this lineup go. He is a great player that will continue to put up MVP type numbers. Harry Gibson would be the top hitter on many teams, but he's second fiddle here. Hipolito Arrendo is another guy that makes the middle of this order just downright scary. Salem might not be as good as last season, but they still look like the best offense in the AL.

Salem finished second in fielding last season. Lefty Twitchell is a dynamite shortstop and should challenge for a gold glove. Harry Rosario is the backup and is just as good. The lack players with good range to play centerfield and second base. That is the only thing that keeps them from being the top defensive team in the league. Even though they aren't the best, they still are top 5.

As you'd imagine from a team with 124 wins, they also had the best pitching in the AL. They really do have a great pitching staff. They traded for Aurelio Ozuna and that is just going to make them even tougher. The rotation features Lonny Gonzalez, Gerald Foster and Rymer Tavarez. All three are top to middle rotation starters and Ozuna is as well. The bullpen features a couple of the better relievers in the league in Dennis Coleman and Lou Lomasney. Glen Dunston and Mike Franklin are pretty good as well. This is the best pitching staff in the league, if not both leagues.

Vancouver Canucks
owner-skplayer07(14th season)
Last 5 seasons- 439-371
Payroll- $105.7

The Canucks offense was well below average last season. The addition of Rafael Unamuno in free agency should help them. The loss of Mac Braden nearly offsets that, but he's only a part time player and Unamuno should get more at bats. An offense that features Houston Graves at the top and Bo Long as another guy that can get on base shouldn't finish in the bottom half of the league. Willie Tarasco is an MVP caliber player that powers the middle of the order. There is plenty of power on this team and guys that can get on base. I think they are above average and should bounce back from a down year.

The defense for this team was above average last season. Mix that with leading the league in plus plays and the defense is an asset. Nolan Bourne has an average glove at shortstop but his range and arm make up for that. Christy Hayes is a nice backup to have. Luis Sojo is in centerfield, but his range isn't ideal. The addition of catcher Melky Torres is a boost behind the plate with one of the better defensive catchers in the league. Overall though, this team is likely to step back a bit defensively. I think they don't have the depth and the starters just aren't great. They look below average.

Pitching seems to be the name of the game in this division. The Canucks finished second to Salem in the AL last season in ERA and WHIP. They led the league in complete games and shutouts. Cy Young winner Rock Randall is coming off of an amazing season that will be tough to match. Yoshinori Zhou matches up with Randall to give this team a great top of the rotation. Alberto Rivas and Sammy Salinas are two really good mid rotation starters. This is one of the better rotations in the AL. The bullpen features Vance Pettyjohn, and Apollo Fletcher. The other pitchers are below average out of the pen. The bullpen is the weakness on the pitching staff, but if the starters pitch to their potential then the bullpen won't be needed much. This is a top 5 staff this season.

Fresno Grizzlies
owner-dlmose(3rd season)
Last 5 seasons-441-369
Payroll- $93.6

The Fresno lineup was just below average last season. They hit well, but didn't hit for power and didn't get enough runs home to be considered any higher. They didn't change much in the off season and look much the same. Benny Navarro leads the offense with his great hitting ability although he has lost much of his speed. Felipe Osoria is a great young hitter that is going to be great. Besides them the lineup isn't very strong and looks below average.

The Fresno defense was among the worst in the AL last season. Joel Reid is the shorstop and he's average. Ismael Baerga is the third baseman and he's really good in that role. This team really lack a player with the range to play centerfield and secondbase. That is why I think they are below average.

Fresno was well above average in pitching last season. The rotation features Wilt Sizemore, who can eat up innings, but he's more of a mid rotation guy. Besides him, the rotation does not look good. The bullpen is another story though. Diego Benitez, Juan Ramirez, and Mitchell Hayes are all really good relievers. The rest of the bullpen is pretty average, but those three make it a good bullpen. Overall, I don't think this is a good pitching staff. I think they are average at best, but the rotation makes me lean toward below average.

St Louis Arch Angels
owner-Flucie(17th season)
Last 5 seasons- 428-382
Payroll- $74.2

St Louis was a very average offense last season. The only move they made to improve was the promotion of Wallace Duffy and he should hit. The strength of the lineup is Willie Oropesa and Valerio Martinez. They are great all around hitters that can hit for power. Calvin Pecina can flat out hit. After those guys, this lineup drops off quick and they lack depth. That makes them an average offense with the potential to be more.

This team also was an average defensive team. Cecil Pratt is the shortstop, but he's lost the range to play the position like he once did. Enny Tejera is a good glove for centerfield, but his range is below average. Skeeter Mottola will play a really good third base. That is really all this team has though. The depth isn't there and other positions feature below average players. This defense is below average and won't likely do as well as last season.

St Louis was above average in pitching last season. I'm not sure how. The rotation looks really rough. They have a patchwork rotation of back end starters at best. The bullpen is slightly better with Phil Linton anchoring it, but they are mostly average pitchers. This pitching staff doesn't look very good to me and my guess is they finish much lower this season.

I don't think I can seriously say that Salem has a challenger this season. Salem is the most well rounded and their strengths are great and weaknesses few. I wouldn't be surprised to see them win another World Series title this season. Vancouver is a really good team that would win a few other divisions in Pine Tar, but not this one. I think it'll be a closer race than last season, but that's only because I doubt Salem can put together another season like that. Fresno is an average team and should win around 80 games this season, but I don't think they'll find a way into the post season again. St Louis is below average, but they have some really nice offensive pieces. It may be time for a full rebuild and they could use those pieces for some good prospects.

1. Salem
2. Vancouver
3. Fresno
4. St Louis

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