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2009 American League West Preview

A look ahead at the 2009 American League West Division:

Three storylines
  • Angels in the infirmary: Los Angeles is a resounding favorite for its fifth AL West title in six seasons, but the Angels are hit hard by injuries to their starting rotation already this season. Can their journeymen (Shane Loux, Dustin Moseley) and youngsters (Nick Adenhart) take the pressure off John Lackey, Ervin Santana and Kelvim Escobar long enough so the Angels don't have a deficit when they return?

  • Look who's back: It looks like 1999 again as Jason Giambi returns to the A's and Ken Griffey Jr. returns to the Mariners. Giambi hit 33 homers and drove in 123 that season, and Griffey hit 48 homers with 134 RBI. A decade later, I'd bet on about half of that - at the most - for both of the aging sluggers this season.
  • Beane counting the days: The A's punched up their anemic attack and acquired themselves some hitting with Matt Holliday and Giambi, but GM Billy Beane might be dangling them as trade bait in order to continue the rebuilding process come July.

Player in spotlight

Matt Holliday, A's: He's going to a new league and a bigger park, which is why fantasy owners aren't big believers in Holliday this season. And with a big payday coming in the offseason in free agency, he knows he won't be wearing green and gold in 2010. But where he goes will be an interesting sideshow come mid-summer.

Best acquisition

Bobby Abreu, Angels: The 35-year-old Abreu gets on base and hits for average (.300 in career) and some power (20 homers last season).

He also has driven in 100 or more runs in each of the last six seasons. He'll protect Vladimir Guerrero in the order, too. Abreu is also only making $5 million, a relative bargain.

Rookie to watch

Elvis Andrus, Rangers: He's just 20, but the Rangers think he's ready. And just in case he isn't quite there at the big-league level, they have Omar Vizquel in the wings as a mentor/late-inning replacement. Andrus definitely has the speed (54 SB in Double-A), but it's a big leap from the Texas League to the big leagues.

Predicted order of finish, with links to team previews:
  1. Los Angeles Angels: Just need some health.
  2. Oakland Athletics: Improved, just not enough.
  3. Texas Rangers: That starting pitching is typical Rangers material, unfortunately.
  4. Seattle Mariners: Nowhere to go but up. Just not yet.

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