I am concerned the Mariners have passed the Angels as the favorite to win the American League West. Below I break down each team and show why the Angels will have their hands full with the M's this year.
Mariners - Closer (Aardsma) I would definitely take him over Fuentes or Rodney. Mark Lowe is an excellent set-up man and closer in waiting. Rowland-Smith could end up back in the pen if Bedard earns a slot in the rotation.
Angels - Major question marks at closer. Rodney and Fuentes are not the answer. However, I love Jepsen... Shields will be back and will be more than adequate, and Bulger provides additional depth. We will sorely miss Darren Oliver.
Starting Pitching: Slight Advantage to Seattle
Mariners - Obviously the Mariners have two studs at the top of their rotation in King Felix and Cliff Lee, but don't sleep on the rest of their rotation. The signing of Erik Bedard is definitely one which could yield significant benefits. Imagine a healthy Bedard as your 3rd starter! If Bedard does not return to his prior success, you still have Brandon Morrow, Ryan Rowland-Smith and Ian Snell to fill your rotation.
Angels - We lack the firepower in the front of the rotation, but I feel we are stronger in the back-end. Weaver is still unproven as an ace and may struggle in that role. Scott Kazmir is a big question mark in my opinion; however, I expect 14+ wins and a sub-4 ERA. Ervin Santana is the key to our season (IMO). If we get the 15 win season and the confident, aggressive Santana we win the West. Saunders and Piniero are a nice way to round out the rotation.
Lineup: Advantage Angels
Mariners - Ichiro and Figgy form an electric pair at the top of the order. They should score a ton of runs IF (and it's a big one), Milton Bradley can keep his head on straight, Jose Lopez and Franklin Gutierrez continue to improve, and Ken Griffey can pull a healthy, productive season out of his behind. Bill Hall is a sleeper on this team who could contribute in a big way if he starts hot and earns playing time. He is a guy who is capable of huge numbers; however, is terribly inconsistent.
Angels: Questions... questions.... questions... However, I am optimistic we will have an above average offense. First of all I love Abreu, just wish we could find a way for him to hit in the 2-hole. So on to the questions...
#1 - Age, Matsui, Abreu and Hunter are all over 35. Experience? Yes. Decline? Possible
#2 - Will the real Kendry Morales please stand up? Sophomore slump or another .300, 30+, 100+ season. I would be on the later.
#3 - Is this Howie's breakout year? All signs point to yes. A huge second half and a #2 slot in the order.
#4 - Who will hit leadoff? Aybar? Izzy? Abreu?
#5 - Does Brandon Wood earn a starting role at 3B? If so, does that force Aybar in the leadoff role?a
#6 - Will Napoli's playing time be cut by the need to DH Matsui?
Prediction - We have six guys who will hit 20+ HRs (Abreu, Hunter, Morales, Rivera, Matsui and Naps), maybe 7 if Wood can breakout and get enough AB's. We have Howie Kendrick on the verge of a breakout season - 50 doubles and a .320+ average is not out of the question, our defense is solid as ever, and we have a great blend of veteran leadership and youthful energy.
I still say we are the favorite, but the M's are scary.