Season 12 Recap: The A's improved by 5 wins (to 112) en route to their 5th straight west title and 6th in 7 years. Anaheim dropped 6 wins to 76, Portland dropped 4 to 73, and Seattle fell off 1 game to 56 wins. Oakland survived a 2nd-round playoff scare by Texas to go on to its first Kinsella Championship. Among the major awards, Oakland's Javier Valdes took home the Rookie Of The Year.
Season 12 Rankings: Runs - 1st, Team ERA - 1st, Fielding % - 3rd
Sayonara: OF Aaron Holiday, DH Darryl Whitaker, CF Enrique Pena (free agency)
New Faces: none via trade or free agency
Rookie Possibilities: Ugueth Ontiveros (originally a Season 8 IFA by Toronto) go into 9 games last year and appears set to start at 2B. Season 6 supplemental pick Willie Unamuno appeared in 14 games last year and could open the season in a long relief role. Season 10 IFA Juan Palacios got 8 starts last year and could claim a SP job. Season 5 supplemenatal pick Raul Aguilar and 2nd-rounder Hipolito Hernandez could land a relief jobs.
No holes anywhere in this lineup: 1B Castillo, SS Chang and C Simms set the table; then the Murderers' Row of Carpenter, Stewart, Valdes and Suzuki drive 'em in. Javier Gonzalez will win a Cy Young one of these years; he heads a rotation that from top to bottom, is probably the AL's best. There's no "probably" about the status of the bullpen, it is the best in Kinsella with F.P. Cambridge, Enrique Cordero and Gerardo Rodriguez getting the bulk of work.
Season 12 Rankings: Runs -5th, Team ERA - 12th, Fielding % - 16th
Sayonara: SP Patrick Rivera, IF Javier Arias, C Kid Barfield, RP Stan Blauser, SP Moe Reynolds (free agency)
New Faces: SP Brad Woodall (trade); CF Enrique Pena, SP Frank Reagan (free agency)
Rookie Possibilities: C Dutch Anderson (Rule V pick - originally a 9th-rounder by Toronto) has made the roster as a backup. Season 10's 1st-rounder (#11 overall) Rico Mendoza could help soon, maybe not this year.
Pena adds some on-base skill to the top of the lineup; Travis Murphy's RBI totals should see a corresponding jump. Francisco Beltre, Brad Jackson, Lonny Chavez and Dingo Holbert provide lineup protection for Murphy. The Angels will score plenty of runs, but the fate of their season resides with the staff. Luis Pineiro is reliable, but Frank Reagan is a step down from Patrick Rivera and the rest of the rotation is a conflagration in progress. The short relievers have struggled in recent seasons - they'll need to improve (and they all can), for they're sure to get a lot of work.
Season 12 Rankings: Runs - 11th, Team ERA - 15th, Fielding % - T 9th
Sayonara: OF Les Graham, SP Al Kennedy (free agency); OF Roberto Molina, OF Richard Satou, OF Juan Pulido, SP Davey Aquino (released); SP Miguel Rosario (trade)
New Faces: SP Roy Whiteside (trade), 2B Julian Hernandez, RP Branch Crosby, RP Shane Bradley (free agency)
Rookie Possibilities: Rule V pickup Dario Lawrence (Season 9 supplemental pick by Milwaukee) has made the team as the starting RF. Another Rule V'er, Sherman Redding (Season 8 supplemental pick by Texas), has made the team but is out for a couple of weeks with a broken wrist. Yet a third Rule V'er, LR Michael Lewis (Season 9 2nd rounder by Kansas City), has made the bullpen. AAA 1B Patrick Kipling (Season 9 1st-rounder of Tampa Bay) is ready to contribute, but it's unclear when he'll get the call. Same story for IF Brad Carlson, the team's first pick in Season 10, and IF Benji Castro, a Season 10 IFA.
Portland's lineup was adequate last year and is improving. Harold Benson and Tom Tucker may not be prototype top-of-the-order hitters, but they'll get the job done. Patrick Kipling has the look of a ROY contender, and Jerry Grieve and Louie Mercedes are capable run producers. Pitching needs more attention. Recent waiver pickup Brant Tebeau isn't the answer. Nor is FA Roy Whiteside. Keep an eye on Bip Wilkinson, a Season 6 supplemental pick who pitched well in 13 starts last year and already has 5 wind this season. Paulie Winn is a top-flight closer but the rest of the 'pen is sketchy.
Season 12 Rankings: Runs - 15th, Team ERA - 16th, Fielding % - 15th
Sayonara: OF Bernie Rosa, RP Haywood Charles, IF Guillermo Cortez, 2B Alfredo Gonzalez, RP Sparky Graham, IF Nash Ruffin (free agency)
New Faces: CF Jackson Shuey, IF Brian Grey, RF Vic Frias (free agency)
Rookie Possibilities: Rule V draftee Dicky Cyr (Season 9 3rd-rounder by the Giants) has made the team as a long reliever. Dicky Watson (Season 11's first-rounder) starts in AAA but could get the call early on.
Seattle struggled to score last year and is likely to do so again. DH James Hunter and 2B Craig Frazier are certainly ML hitters, but they don't have a lot of company in that designation. Don't be surprised if Hunter has a new address by mid-season. The Mariners didn't do a lot to the staff in the off-season, but there appears to be new life on the hill. Starters Ted Dirks (1.94 ERA) and Carter Torres (2.96 ERA) are off to torrid starts, and 4 relievers are under a 3.60 ERA. Nice to get that kind of pitching, but the bats are really going to have to pick up for the Mariners to make any kind of noise.
Anaheim is off to a great start at 18-8, but I can't see them standing up to the Oakland juggernaut for long. The A's will win going away and get the AL's #1 seed again. Watch Anaheim's pitching and especially the bullpen - if they can keep up anywhere near the current level (for example, closer Howie Voight is 10-for-10 in saves and has allowed 0 earned runs) they'll make Oakland work and will be a wild card favorite. Portland should be improved but will still be third; Seattle brings up the rear again.