Last year, I thought the Mariners would win a close division race with the A's. They didn't win the division - missed by a half game - but lasted longer in the playoffs. This year, it's not going to be close. Unless the A's suffer significant injuries to most of their players, they will win the West by at least 10 games. The un-recouped loss of ARod and their dependence on numerous aging players make the Mariners a gamble to even finish second in the division. If the Rangers could play this game on paper and use each of it's player's best years, they might have the best offense ever. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Whereas the Mariners will be trying to figure out how to score runs, the Rangers will be trying to figure out how to prevent them. The Angels have some young players who look on the verge of stardom this spring. Their chances of respectability depend largely on their front office's ability to fill some holes in the rotation.
Unlike their division foes, the A's don't have any glaring weakness. They will probably have the division well in hand by the first of September and have the luxury of setting up their team and rotation for the playoffs well in advance. The fact that they didn't have that opportunity last year most certainly cost them a shot at their first World Championship in a decade. Even if the Rangers' offense can stay healthy, there are big question marks surrounding their entire pitching situation. If they get any pitching, they should finish second. Even so, it's hard to imagine this team finishing more than 3 or 4 games ahead of the Angels and Mariners. Each of these three teams will likely finish around .500.
1) Oakland A's
2) Anaheim Angels
3) Texas Rangers
4) Seattle Mariners