Capsules of American League West teams, listed in order of finish last year:
2011: 96-66, AL champions (lost to St. Louis in World Series).
MANAGER: Ron Washington (6th season).
HE'S HERE: RHP Yu Darvish, RHP Joe Nathan.
HE'S OUTTA HERE: LHP C.J. Wilson, INF Andres Blanco, LHP Darren Oliver.
PROJECTED LINEUP: 2B Ian Kinsler (.255, 32 HRs, 77 RBIs, 121 runs, 30 SB, .355 on-base percentage), SS Elvis Andrus (.279, 5, 60, 37 SB), CF Josh Hamilton (.298, 25, 94), 3B Adrian Beltre (.296, 32, 105), DH Michael Young (.338, 11, 106), RF Nelson Cruz (.263, 29, 87), C Mike Napoli (.320, 30, 75), LF David Murphy (.275, 11, 46), 1B Mitch Moreland (.259, 16, 51).
ROTATION: RH Colby Lewis (14-10, 4.40 ERA), LH Derek Holland (16-5, 3.95), RH Yu Darvish (18-6, 1.44, 276 Ks/36 walks in 232 IP in Japan), RH Neftali Feliz (2-3, 2.74, 32/38 saves as closer), LH Matt Harrison (14-9, 3.39) or RH Scott Feldman (2-1, 3.94 in 11 games/2 starts in return from microfracture surgery on right knee).
KEY RELIEVERS: RH Joe Nathan (2-1, 4.84, 14 saves in 48 games with Minnesota), RH Mike Adams (2-3, 2.10 in 27 games after acquired from San Diego), RH Alexi Ogando (13-8, 3.51 in 31 games/29 starts), RH Mark Lowe (2-3, 3.80, 1), RH Yoshinori Tateyama (2-0, 4.50), LH Michael Kirkman (1-1, 6.59).
HOT SPOTS:Feliz in rotation, OF positions. This time, Feliz is going into the rotation. The hard-throwing righty was stretched out last spring for that possibility, but was needed more as a closer. The back end of the bullpen was bolstered this winter with the signing of Nathan, four-time All-Star who appears fully healthy again after elbow surgery in 2010. Feliz's final appearance last season was in Game 6 of the World Series, when he was within a strike of a championship-clinching victory before allowing a tying two-out, two-run triple in the ninth inning of an 11-inning loss. Cruz is set in right field, but the rest of the outfield depends on if Hamilton plays center or more in left, which the Rangers did last season and seem to prefer. Murphy has gotten more than 400 at-bats in each of the past four years as primarily the fourth OF. Julio Borbon could get another shot as the starting CF, while Craig Gentry and Cuban standout Leonys Martin are also option.
OUTLOOK: For the second year in a row, the Rangers lost their No. 1 pitcher in free agency after losing in the World Series. Wilson had moved up in the rotation when fellow lefty Cliff Lee departed after 2010, but then last December took a five-year deal from the AL West rival Los Angeles Angels. The Rangers countered by signing Darvish, Japan's top pitcher, to a six-year contract that cost them more than $107 million. The 6-foot-5 right-hander had a 1.99 ERA over the past seven seasons in the Pacific League, and he's only 25. The top-hitting lineup in the majors is basically unchanged, though Hamilton is going into the final season of his contract. After facing Albert Pujols in last year's World Series, Texas will have to get by him this year to win another AL West title. Pujols is now with the Angels, making it tougher, but that hasn't changed the confidence of the Rangers to pursue their third consecutive AL pennant.
Los Angeles Angels
2011: 86-76, 2nd place.
MANAGER: Mike Scioscia (13th season).
HE'S HERE: 1B Albert Pujols, LHP C.J. Wilson, C Chris Iannetta, RHP LaTroy Hawkins, INF Jorge Cantu, OF Ryan Langerhans, LHP Brad Mills.
HE'S OUTTA HERE: C Jeff Mathis, RHP Joel Pineiro, RHP Tyler Chatwood, INF Russell Branyan, OF Reggie Willits.
PROJECTED LINEUP: SS Erick Aybar (.279, 10, 59, 30 SB), DH Bobby Abreu (.253, 8, 60, .365 slugging), 1B Albert Pujols (.299, 37, 99 with St. Louis), RF Torii Hunter (.262, 23, 82), 2B Howie Kendrick (.285, 18, 63), 3B Alberto Callaspo (.288, 6, 46), LF Vernon Wells (.218, 25, 66), C Chris Iannetta (.238, 14, 55 with Colorado), CF Peter Bourjos (.271, 12, 43, 22 SB).
ROTATION: RH Jered Weaver (18-8, 2.41, 198 Ks), RH Dan Haren (16-10, 3.17, 192 Ks), LH C.J. Wilson (16-7, 2.94, 206 Ks with Texas), RH Ervin Santana (11-12, 3.38, 1 no-hitter), RH Jerome Williams (4-0, 3.68, 6 starts).
KEY RELIEVERS: RH Jordan Walden (5-5, 2.98, 32 saves in 42 chances), RH LaTroy Hawkins (3-1, 2.42 ERA with Milwaukee), RH Hisanori Takahashi (4-3, 3.44), RH Scott Downs (6-3, 1.34), RH Jason Isringhausen (3-3, 4.05 with New York Mets).
HOT SPOTS:With Pujols taking over at first base, 2011 rookie sensation Mark Trumbo has been learning third base in spring training. Although he's still working on his defense, the Angels' leader in homers and RBIs last year could be sharp enough to take over from Callaspo early. Abreu also might be fighting for at-bats if Kendrys Morales stays on course for a healthy return from a near two-year absence with an injured ankle. Promising young OFs Bourjos and Mike Trout could fight for playing time if Trout makes the roster out of Arizona. The fifth spot in the rotation is up for grabs with Williams slowed by spring hamstring troubles, so Garrett Richards, Trevor Bell, Brad Mills and Eric Hurley all have a shot.
OUTLOOK: The Angels might have the AL's best rotation led by Cy Young runner-up Weaver, and their lineup looks good around Pujols, arguably the game's best hitter, a three-time NL MVP and last fall's World Series slugger. Anything less than a good playoff run will be a major disappointment in Orange County, and the Angels' veteran core isn't shying away from expectations. Keep an eye on Iannetta, who will attempt to shore up the Angels' awful offensive production at that position last season while learning his new pitching staff. If he stumbles, Hank Conger might get a chance to build on his strong spring after failing to seize the position in 2011. Scioscia is quietly confident Los Angeles has all the ingredients of a championship ballclub that can knock two-time league champion Texas off its perch atop the AL West — and new right-hander Wilson added fuel to the rivalry this month when he tweeted Rangers C Mike Napoli's phone number. The Angels are ready to roll into the most anticipated season in franchise history.
2011: 74-88, 3rd place.
MANAGER: Bob Melvin (2nd season).
HE'S HERE: OF Manny Ramirez, OF Yoenis Cespedes, RHP Bartolo Colon, LF Seth Smith, RF Josh Reddick, OF Jonny Gomes, RHP Jarrod Parker, LHP Tom Milone, RHP Brad Peacock, OF Collin Cowgill, RHP Ryan Cook.
HE'S OUTTA HERE: RHP Trevor Cahill, LHP Gio Gonzalez, RHP Andrew Bailey, OF Ryan Sweeney, LHP Craig Breslow, RHP Guillermo Moscoso, LHP Josh Outman, C Landon Powell.
PROJECTED LINEUP: 2B Jemile Weeks (.303, 2, 36, 22 SB), SS Cliff Pennington (.264, 8, 58), LF Coco Crisp (.264, 8, 54, 49 SB), CF Yoenis Cespedes (.458, 2, 5 in 6 games in 2009 World Baseball Classic for Cuba), DH Seth Smith (.284, 15, 59, 32 2Bs for Colorado), C Kurt Suzuki (.237, 14, 44), RF Josh Reddick (.280, 7, 28 for Boston), 1B Brandon Allen (.205, 3, 11), 3B Josh Donaldson (.261, 17. 70 in Triple-A).
ROTATION: RH Brandon McCarthy (9-9, 3.32, 4.92 K/BB), RH Bartolo Colon (8-10, 4.00), LH Tom Milone (1-0, 3.81 in 5 starts with Washington; 12-6, 3.22, 9.69 K/BB in Triple-A), RH Tyson Ross (3-3, 2.75), RH Graham Godfrey (1-2, 3.95 in 5 games; 14-3, 2.68 in minors) or RH Brad Peacock (2-0, 0.75 in 3 games with Washington; 15-3, 2.39 in minors).
KEY RELIEVERS: RH Grant Balfour (5-2, 2.47, 2/7), LH Brian Fuentes (2-8, 3.70, 12/15), RH Joey Devine (1-1, 3.52), RH Fautino De Los Santos (3-2, 4.32).
HOT SPOTS:Third base. The already depleted A's lost starting 3B Scott Sizemore to a torn ACL in his left knee early in spring training. That forced Oakland to turn to Donaldson, a converted catcher who last regularly played third base as a junior at Auburn.
OUTLOOK: After trading away top starters Gonzalez and Cahill and closer Bailey in the offseason, it looked as if there would be little excitement surrounding the A's until they found out whether they could move to San Jose. Then general manager Billy Beane outbid the competition to sign Cuban defector Cespedes to a $36 million, four-year contract that immediately injected some life into the team. Beane also signed Ramirez, who must sit out the first 50 games for a second violation of baseball's drug policy. The mostly unproven rotation could get a boost when Dallas Braden (shoulder) and Brett Anderson (elbow) return from injuries. But the good news the A's really want to get is for Major League Baseball to allow them to move to San Jose, where a new stadium will help them compete with big spenders in their division like Texas and the Los Angeles Angels.
2011: 67-95, 4th place.
MANAGER: Eric Wedge (2nd season).
HE'S HERE: C/DH Jesus Montero, RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP Kevin Millwood, RHP Hector Noesi, LHP George Sherrill, C John Jaso.
HE'S OUTTA HERE: RHP Michael Pineda, RHP David Aardsma, INF Adam Kennedy.
PROJECTED LINEUP: 3B Chone Figgins (.188, 1, 15 in 81 games), 2B Dustin Ackley (.273, 6, 36 in 90 games), RF Ichiro Suzuki (.272, 5, 47, 40 SB), 1B Justin Smoak (.234, 15, 55), DH Jesus Montero (.328, 4, 12 in 18 regular season games with New York Yankees), LF Mike Carp (.276, 12, 46 in 79 games), C Miguel Olivo (.224, 19, 62), CF Michael Saunders (.149, 2, 8 in 58 games), SS Brendan Ryan (.248, 3, 39).
ROTATION: RH Felix Hernandez (14-14, 3.47), LH Jason Vargas (10-13, 4.25, 3 shutouts), RH Blake Beavan (5-6, 4.27), LH Charlie Furbush (4-10, 5.48 — 3-7, 6.62 with Seattle), RH Hisashi Iwakuma (6-7, 2.42 in 17 starts with Rakuten in Japanese League).
KEY RELIEVERS: RH Brandon League (1-5, 2.79, 37/42), LH George Sherrill (3-1, 3.00 in 51 games for Atlanta), RH Shawn Kelley (0-0, 0.00 in 10 appearances coming back from arm surgery).
HOT SPOTS:Moving Suzuki out of the leadoff spot is a risk/reward decision by Wedge. The reward comes if Figgins can revitalize his career and be more like the Figgins that was in Anaheim and not the one who struggled the past two seasons in Seattle. Ackley and Carp face the expectation of trying to back up the promise each showed last year. Smoak is under significant pressure to prove that last year was more about major distractions that hounded him all season and that he can return to being a power-hitting prospect the Mariners got when they gave up Cliff Lee.
OUTLOOK: Wedge admittedly was tightlipped with criticism as some of his youngsters struggled through his first season. But after a year of learning the organization, Wedge says he now has a baseline for expectations and will be more likely to call out his players when they're not performing. Seattle was unable to solve its offensive problems in free agency, so it's clear its future will be built around Montero, Smoak, Ackley and Carp in the hopes that foursome can anchor Seattle's batting order for years to come. Hernandez again leads the pitching staff, but what has Seattle excited is the prospects of pairing the former AL Cy Young winner with a foursome of young arms — Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Erasmo Ramirez — that are all likely a year away. With Texas and the Angels both making huge offseason moves, Seattle's ceiling is probably third place in this division, but it needs to be progressive improvement from a year ago if the expectation of contending in '13 and '14 is to remain realistic.