Spring Training Primer: AL West
The Angels remain the team to beat, but their offense is still underwhelming
Texas's potent offense and Seattle's formidable pitching staff will thicken the plot
Will Oakland's young rotation, led by oft injured Justin Duchscherer, hold up?
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will always be Disneyland's team and should expect nothing but another fairy-tale in the AL West this season. This year, however, the division's leading team has its share of vulnerabilities (protection for Vladimir Guerrero, anyone?), while Texas's potent offense and Seattle's formidable pitching staff will thicken the plot.
Los Angeles Angels
Location: Tempe, Ariz. (Cactus League)
2008 record: 100-62 (1st, AL West); Lost in ALDS
Winter grade: B
Brian Fuentes (two years, $17.5 million) replaces single-season saves record holder Francisco Rodriguez, who departed to the Mets via free agency. Fuentes, who went from being a three-time All-Star to losing his job as the closer during the Rockies' 2007 World Series run, should benefit from leaving the hitters' haven that is Coors Field.
Key question: Who will replace Mark Teixeira?
Prospect to watch: Nick Adenhart, SP
Position battle to follow: Outfield
Scout's take: "They're still the class of the American League West. They have the best manager in the division. They will have trouble replacing the power Teixeira provided at the end of the season, but they have an ownership that's willing to do what they can to win. They won't be sellers. If there are any holes, they will do what they can to fill them. Their biggest issue is finding at-bats in the outfield. They're going to have to trade one of those guys (most likely Gary Matthews Jr.) and try to do it in spring training."
Location: Phoenix, Ariz. (Cactus League)
2008 record: 75-86 (3rd, AL West)
Winter grade: B-
Key question: Will Oakland's young rotation hold up?
Prospect to watch: Aaron Cunningham, OF
Position battle to follow: Shortstop
Scout's take: "I don't like the club they're sending out there. I like the Matt Holliday deal, but I can't imagine him wanting to sign there long term. Did they grab him as a chip to get more pieces [in the future]? Their starting pitching is unproven. Some people think Duchscherer is a better reliever than starter. He doesn't possess great stuff. He's been able to start because he developed such a good cutter, but the more looks you get at him during a game gives the offense a chance to figure him out. I like the Russ Springer signing in the bullpen. He brings a veteran arm to the pen."
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