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2011 AL West All-Star Team and Division Preview

March 28, 2011

The 2011 MLB season is less than 72 hours away, teams are heading north and fantasy drafts are wrapping up. That means season previews are in full spring, and I’m here to give you mine. I’ll start by listing who I think will end up being the best player at each position in his respective division, which I used to do when I was bored waiting the hour and a half between customers while I was working at Tropical Sno. Then I’ll end with projected places of finish, MVPs, Cy Youngs and a bold prediction or two.

C: Mike Napoli, Texas – Kurt Suzuki is an underrated catcher in Oakland. I’m pretty sure I could hit better than Jeff Mathis in Anaheim, and I don’t even know who Seattle’s catcher is. The Angels have a promising young catcher in Hank Conger, but Mike Scioscia is in love with Mathis so we don’t know how much time Conger will get. Napoli’s had three straight 20-homer seasons, and now he’s in Texas in a great ballpark and lineup.

1B: Mitch Moreland, Texas – Another spot with uncertainties in the West. The best first baseman, Kendrys Morales, is starting the season on the DL and it’s unknown when he’ll debut this season. Daric Barton and Justin Smoak aren’t anything special, so that leaves Moreland, who hit .348 in the playoffs last year.

2B: Ian Kinsler, Texas – Another very underwhelming position, and another Texas player taking the top spot. Kinsler has battled injuries throughout his career, but his numbers the last three years and in the playoffs last year, while inconsistent in several areas, are elite for a second baseman.

3B: Adrian Beltre, Texas – I’ll let ESPN’s David Schoenfield speak for me here: “Let’s see … Chone Figgins, Maicer Izturis and Kevin Kouzmanoff. And it’s Beltre in a unanimous vote.

SS: Cliff Pennington, Oakland – Maybe I just wanted to get out of Texas, but I think it’s more that I’m not a fan of Elvis Andrus (even though he’s only four months older than I). In fewer at-bats last year Pennington had more RBIs, doubles, triples and homers. He also stole 29 bases, only three fewer than Andrus. Andrus has plenty of potential, but so far he hasn’t shown much of it yet.

OF: Josh Hamilton, Texas – One of the most skilled players in the game.

OF: Nelson Cruz, Texas – Cruz has only averaged 118 games played the past two years, but his career 162-game averages are insane: 30 homers, 93 RBIs, 17 steals, 31 doubles. If he can ever put it all together for 140-150 games, watch out.

OF: Ichiro, Seattle – Our first Mariner and one of the two most consistent players of the past decade, Ichiro had a down year last year but that was more due to the lack of a lineup around him. Like skeletons would have helped Ichiro have a better year than Seattle’s lineup last year. But his defense and durability help keep him here. If he was in probably any other lineup his stats would be much better

SP: Felix Hernandez, Seattle – The 2010 AL Cy Young winner tops a very, very weak pitching crop in the AL West (What else is new?). But Felix would be in this spot in almost every other division, too.

SP: Jered Weaver, Los Angeles – Weaver gets the nod slightly ahead of his teammate Dan Haren. Weaver has a better career ERA and is only .02 behind Haren in career WHIP. Haren’s propensity for sucking in the second half is also a downer.

RP: Neftali Feliz, Texas – In his first 100 career innings Feliz has a 42:4 save-blown save ratio, which is better than Billy Wagner’s and Trevor Hoffman’s career ratio, and a 2.42 ERA and 0.82 WHIP, which are dynamite.

Projected standings

  1. Texas Rangers 90-72
  2. LA Angels 83-79
  3. Oakland A’s 80-82
  4. Seattle Mariners 70-92

Divison MVP – Nelson Cruz

Divison Cy Young – Felix Hernandez

Bold Predictions – Nelson Cruz stays healthy for a majority of the year and hits 35 home runs and breaks the 100-RBI barrier. … Felix Hernandez barely breaks .500 again…and finishes in the top three in Cy Young voting. … Mitch Moreland hits 25 homers. …  Neftali Feliz leads MLB in saves.

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