• Passan: Gazing into the crystal ball
MLB Division Predictions: AL West
Team (Projected 2006 Record)
Oakland Athletics 93-69
Overview: Like the White Sox, only their lineup has a tick less punch. Still, with a rotation of Barry Zito, Rich Harden, Danny Haren, Joe Blanton and Esteban Loaiza, the A's really can't go wrong. Closer Huston Street showed his chops last year as a rookie, as did Dan Johnson and Nick Swisher, now everyday mainstays alongside new acquisitions Frank Thomas and Milton Bradley. And all this for around $60 million. Billy Beane, we continue to marvel.
Los Angeles Angels 88-74
Overview: Transitioning from old to young is a move at which only the most deft franchises succeed, and the Angels are faced with that prospect. They're already starting with 23-year-old catcher Jeff Mathis, and with two of the five best hitting prospects in the minor leagues, Howie Kendrick and Brandon Wood, on the cusp, the Angels must decide how to make a run with its current roster – which, with Bartolo Colon at the head of the rotation, can win – and not bury its youth.
Texas Rangers 80-82
Overview: In acquiring live arms, new GM Jon Daniels did what his predecessor, John Hart, never could. But, well, does an infusion of Kevin Millwood, Adam Eaton and Vicente Padilla really change things that much? Even though the Rangers will hit, and Aki Otsuka setting up for Francisco Cordero will be nice, and the DVD of pitching prospects – Thomas Diamond, Edison Volquez and John Danks – will arrive soon, it just looks like same old, same old.
Seattle Mariners 70-92
Overview: Felix Hernandez, who will turn 20 a week into the season, could become the first pitcher since Dwight Gooden to win more games than his age. Adrian Beltre and Ichiro Suzuki are poised for a comeback season, and Richie Sexson will hit his customary 40-plus home runs, and Kenji Johjima, the catcher from Japan, could be an All-Star. So what's the problem? A bullpen that could be scary bad, a middle infield with two babies in Yuniesky Betancourt and Jose Lopez, and Jarrod Washburn anchoring the rotation.