MLB Spring Training Report: Watch out for the West (minus the Padres)

Posted By Horizon Staff March 5th, 2013 in Sports : 3 COMMENTS

Andrew Boyd
Staff Writer

It’s an amazing time of year for a baseball fan. It’s that special time when we can see light at the end of tunnel, realizing that soon there will be no NASCAR highlights on ESPN. Baseball is finally back (well, in central Arizona and southern Florida). That’s right — Spring Training is underway.

So far, there has been nothing but surprise as the Kansas City Royals remain unbeaten in the Cactus League (Arizona) and the Baltimore Orioles dominate the Grapefruit League (Florida). The Mariners, Rays and Astros have also been shocking the baseball world with spring training records well above .500. Any true baseball fan could tell you, however, that there is rarely a correlation between Spring Training performance and end-of-season results. Nevertheless, fans of these teams remain hopeful as opening day approaches.

No team from the west has been winning many spring training contests. In fact, the Giants, A’s, Angels, Dodgers and Padres all fall toward the middle or the bottom of the Cactus and Grapefruit league standings. Regardless, there are four powerhouse teams from the west that could very likely win it all in October.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have been the talk of baseball since they picked up first basemen Albert Pujols one year ago. After a disappointing 2012 season, the Angels went right back to their checkbooks, purchasing star center fielder Josh Hamilton. Hamilton and Pujols will combine with last year’s rookie of the year, Mike Trout. An explosive offense united with an ace pitching staff (led by Jered Weaver) will make the Angels a tough opponent in any team’s schedule.

Last year, the Oakland Athletics amazed even their most hopeful fans by winning 19 of 23 in July; they even took their last four games, snatching the division title from the yearlong-favorite Rangers. This scrappy team, which operates on the smallest payroll in the show ($49 Million), hopes to make the playoffs again in 2013 and certain offseason moves provide a whole lot of optimism. The A’s have re-signed their entire pitching rotation and their outfielding core, consisting of Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes, while signing Japanese star Hiroyuki Nakajima to fill the gap at shortstop. As the Angels and A’s will likely fight for playoff spots, we may see an East Bay-Orange County rivalry develop into something comparable to their National League West counterparts.

In the NL West, the Los Angeles Dodgers look to avenge their latter half of the previous season. After maintaining the best record in the National League for the first few months of the season, the Dodgers made a few crucial trades to fend off the red-hot Giants. The Dodgers picked up Hanley Ramirez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzales to join Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Clayton Kershaw. However, even with a star-studded lineup, the Dodgers barely finished at .500. The organization hopes that through a long offseason, which thus far has added right-hander Zack Greinke, the Dodgers will develop better team chemistry and win the division. The team has not won a title since 1988.

Also competing in the NL West are the San Francisco Giants; they have been turning heads since their dramatic playoff ride last October. In early November, the Giants were cruising down Market Street atop convertibles, waving to ecstatic fans after taking their second crown in three years. The Giants have made very little changes to their world-champion roster and hopefully await the return of two-time Cy Young Pitcher Tim Lincecum.  Look for a classic rivalry battle between the Giants and the Dodgers all season long as they battle for the division title.

As Spring Training wraps up, watch out for teams like these in the AL and NL West Divisions beginning on Sunday, March 31st, Major League Baseball’s official opening day.

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