By Zack Odell
With the season nearing closer, I’m going to break down the five players in the AL West that you must keep your eye out for, and who can have a huge impact on the upcoming season.
Josh Hamilton, Angels Outfielder
As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Hamilton met with the new commissioner about a relapse that occurred in his recent struggle with drugs. As fans, we are hoping Hamilton can get better and return to form on the field as well, but his personal health is the first concern.
Nelson Cruz, Mariners Designated Hitter
Cruz leaves the Baltimore Orioles where he led the team to the playoffs with his slugging. He led the MLB with 40 home runs, and will provide much needed protection for Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano.
Sonny Gray, Athletics Pitcher
The 25 year old righty has a lot of talent, and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports Gray will be the opening day starter this year. This shouldn’t be much of a surprise as the former first rounder was a very strong pitcher, and has been getting a lot of buzz heading into the season.
Now time for the REAL list…
5. Adrien Beltre – Texas Rangers Third BasemanEmbed from Getty Images
Beltre is still performing. The 35 year old led the Rangers in just about every statistical category last season (ESPN). Granted, this was for the team with the worst record in the American League (ESPN) but that argument goes both ways because you could argue that pitchers are already focusing on him and he still continues to deliver. Beltre should continue to destroy the ball, but it probably will not yield enough wins for them to have a shot at the playoffs. He is definitely entering the twilight of his career and he has been an afterthought and underrated player for a long time. Enjoy Beltre while you can. He is one of the best third baseman in the league. Hopefully, we are able to witness his patented homerun swing where he drops to a knee as he ball soars over the fence a few more times.
4. Jose Altuve- Houston Astros Second BasemanEmbed from Getty Images
Jose Altuve may look more like a jockey than a baseball player, but his diminutive size (5”6 165 lbs) certainly doesn’t affect his production. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in many other areas, and is a bright spot on a young Astros squad. He averaged an incredible league-leading .341 batting average. (ESPN). He doesn’t provide a whole lot of power, but he sets the table well, and can utilize his speed on the base path. At just 24 years of age, he is one of the centerpieces that the Astros can build upon in the future.
3. Robinson Cano- Seattle Mariners Second BasemanEmbed from Getty Images
In his first season with the Mariners, Robinson Cano put together another good year hitting .314 and driving in 82 runs (ESPN). His power numbers took a slight dip last season, possibly due to the absence of the short porch in right field that Yankee Stadium provided for the lefty. Cano still possesses the pretty swing and has consistently be one of the best hitters in the MLB. Cano has posted a WAR of above 5 in each of the last 5 seasons (ESPN). Watch that sweet lefty swing this year, and he will likely come through for the Mariners again this year, especially with the protection from Cruz, and third baseman Kyle Seager.
2. Felix Hernandez- Seattle Mariners PitcherEmbed from Getty Images
Whenever “King Felix” is on the mound, it is must see TV. Hernandez can just dominate games and will his team to victory on many occasions. One of the best pitchers in the game, Hernandez posted a career-low ERA of 2.14, and was barely edged out by Indians pitcher Corey Kluber in the Cy Young race. Nonetheless, the supremacy of Hernandez is something to look for again this season. He often dominates games and is capable of striking out double-digit hitters on any given night.
1. Mike Trout – Los Angeles Angles OutfielderEmbed from Getty Images
What is there to say? The guy is a stud. Mike Trout continues to prove he is a true five-tool player. At just 23, he has taken the league by storm and last season won the MVP in the American League after finishing second the two previous years. He led the AL in both runs and RBI’s, and was third in homeruns (ESPN). He can hit for power, is a plus defender, and has speed. He is an elite talent, and a catalyst for a team with World Series aspirations. Widely regarded as the best player in baseball, you will want to watch Trout as you never know what kind of ridiculous thing he will do next.