AL WEST PREVIEW
The AL West was one of the toughest divisions in Wrigleyville last season. The last place team was 80-82. Well we have some surprising predictions for you this season. The whole division has gained and lost valuable players during the off season.
SANTA CRUZ WILDCATS
Santa Cruz is fresh off the move from Cheyenne this season. The move and the added players will make this team a favorite to go from worst to first. Santa Cruz was not afraid to spend money in the off season. They acquired starting pitching in Borbon. He was 17-9 last season with 217 innings under his belt. They also picked up Wilfredo who went 8-7 pitching over 160 innings as well. Last season Coleman went 13-11 (216 innings) Haney 11-10 (182 innings) Limon 13-11(233 innings) and with the additions of Borbon and Wilfredo it makes it even better. The wild card in the bullpen will be Slick Allen. I think he is the sleeper at the end of the bullpen. The offense got a HUGE boost in the signing of Guerra. Guerra hit 43 HR'S and drove in 116 last season. The team moved to an even friendlier pitchers park. That may hurt some of the offensive stats, but there are 81 games aways as well. With slugging catcher Maduro anchoring the rotation behind the plate (21 homers 68 RBI'S last season) Grover Robinson coming off his rookie season. Grover is a stud prospect with only one way to go (up up up). He hit 21 homers last season....and would not be surprised to see 40 in a healthy season. Hartley is a defensive wizard to go along with hitting 18 homers and driving in 84 runs. Paulino hit 27 homers and drove in 79 runs as well last season. Jordan 22 homers 91 RBI'S and Ziegler 27 homer and 80 RBI'S round out the lineup. All I can say is that the team move to Santa Cruz will not only bring joy to the city, but a division title as well.
PREDICTION 92-70 FIRST PLACE
Vancouver won the division last season with a 94-68 record. Vancouver is going to slug it out with Santa Cruz this season til the end. The offense is very good in Vancouver. Edwards hit 30 homers drove in 106 last season, Flores 41 homers 120 run batted in, Nakamura 29 homers and 103 runs batted in, Sanchez hit 26 homers drove in 88. The offense will carry the team. You add Santana 31 homers 82 RBI'S, Sierra 24 homers 82 RBI'S and Webber's 26 homers and 86 RBI'S and you have a very high scoring team. They lost Strickland to free agency 9-9 with 200 innings pitched). They did sign Sojo and Wood to fill his shoes. Combined last season they went 17-16 with about 300 innings between them. Santiago will again anchor the rotation (20-6 last season). He will have Gibbons, Amaro and Lopez behind him. Patrick was 19 for 23 in saves last season as the closer. I again repeat that it will come down to the last series of the season to decide the division.
PREDICTION 90-72 SECOND PLACE
Arizona finished last season with a 85-77 record. This seasons should be a little better I think. They did trade away 2 good players (Canseco and Below) to Minnesota. Combine they hit 58 homers and drove in 184 runs. They did manage to get Suarez in the deal for them. Suarez hit 38 homers and drove in 125 for Minn/Phl last season. English also hit 26 homers and drove in 107 for them last season. Morris hit 32 homers and Sugawara had 31 and drove in 89 himself. They have some very good young pitcher on the team. Sierra (16-10) Perez (9-15) and Wesson (12-12) all pitched well over 200 inning last season. If you add Balboa's 180 and Wood's 182 the bullpen was really saved from over use. I think Mariano Rivera and Tavarez will be the key to the bullpen. They both are very durable and can pitch successive days. If they perform like they are able....Arizona will be tough to beat as well in the division.
PREDICTION 88-74 THIRD PLACE!
Salem had a record last season of 89-73 record. I think the loss of some key players will hurt Salem this year. Salem's pitching staff is anchored by Al "Bull Dog" Benitez. Last season Benitez was 15-10 while throwing 212 innings. They also have Donatello who was 15-10 (206 innings) and Mariena who was 13-8(202 innings) as well. They lost Franco in a trade with Minnesota. Franco was 1--16 and threw almost 190 innings for them last season. The biggest loss will be on offense, where they traded away the MVP and Silver Slugging 1b Ramiro James. James hit 48 homers and drove in 154 last season. That will be hard to replace. Now we add the fact they lost Hernandez (50 homers 118 runs batted in) and Ozuna (28 homers and 91 runs batted in) as well. The bullpen took a hit as well, as they lost set-up/closer stud Soriano to free agency. He was only 8-9 and 15 for 19 in saves. His durability and ability to eat up some innings will hurt them. I have nothing personal against Salem , but the loss of all that offense will hurt them a bunch. The Salmonbellies hopefully enjoyed their trip to the playoffs last season. They did make it to the 2nd round, more than many other teams can say.
PREDICTION 80-82 FOURTH PLACE!