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August 26, 2010

Future Shock

Org Watch: Angels, Athletics, Mariners

by Kevin Goldstein

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The Rangers are currently running away with the American League West; according to BP's Playoff Odds Report, they have a 95.4 percent chance of winning the division.

The Rangers do seem loaded for bear: Josh Hamilton is on fire, the pitching is good regardless of what happens with Cliff Lee this winter, and the farm system is generally solid. It begs the question: What about the other three squads in the AL West? Can they win this division in the near future? The Angels, Athletics and Mariners have all been very competitive between 2000-10—what's the future look like?

Here now, a look at those three organizations.

Angels: This Might Take Some Time

Free agent losses have left the Angels with a middle-of-the-road team. There are no glaring holes on the big-league roster, but at the same time, few obvious strengths. Further complicating matters is a farm system that is currently going through the weak part of a cycle. Most of their top prospects reside in the lower levels of the organization. With Peter Bourjos up (and struggling), and catcher Hank Conger continuing to scuffle behind the plate while seeing his offense slide, first baseman Mark Trumbo might be the only position player at the high levels who is ready to make an impact in the pros. He's batting .294/.362/.556 in 126 games for Triple-A Salt Lake after a power explosion last season (32 homers). A healthy Kendry Morales leaves no obvious spot for Trumbo, but he could certainly match the production of designated hitter Hideki Matsui for a fraction of Matsui's $6 million price tag.

Mike Trout is projected as a top prospect, but he's still at the low levels—and all the young pitchers, like Tyler Chatwood, Fabio Martinez and Garrett Richards, are still a few years off.

Athletics: The Power Outage

The A's lead the American League in ERA— their staff has evolved into being very good—but they're 12th in runs scored. As a result, they play about .500 ball overall.

The worst part is, they have 73 homers as a team—Jose Bautista has more than half that—meaning they get one out of the yard once every 57 at-bats. That needs to change, and there are four guys in the system who could help make dingers more frequent.

Chris Carter, a first baseman/outfielder, has averaged 40 home runs per 162 games over the past three years. The A's will find a way to get him at-bats in 2011. He did go 0-for-19 during a recent call-up, but still projects well in the bigs. Another outfielder, Michael Choice (a 2010 first-round pick) has five home runs in his first 16 Northwest League games. His home park in Vancouver is notoriously pitcher friendly— and he's making it look small. Last year's first-round pick, shortstop Grant Green, isn't a pure power hitter, but with 35 doubles and 16 home runs in 118 games, he provides well above-average pop for a middle infielder. Third baseman Stephen Parker has added 34 doubles and 18 home runs at High-A Stockton. Plus defense adds to the package, but it's the bat that has been a surprise.

Mariners: Get Us Some Runs

As a team, the Mariners are hitting the rough equivalent of a backup catcher—.237/.302/.343. Anything would be an upgrade.

Scouts continue to debate wildly over 2009 top pick Dustin Ackley, who is hitting .290/.356/.452 in 39 games at Triple-A. Still, much like his time in Double-A, he's struggled against left-handers, shown little power, and the defensive progress at his new position of second base has been minimal. Ackley is going to hit, and he's going to draw walks. The problem is this: When he's ready, Seattle needs to find something to do with Chone Figgins. That might not be easy.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

16 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Bill N

This is a "players are emotionless robots" analysis, but seems like they'd dump Jose Lopez, move Figgins back to 3rd, and put Ackley at 2nd.

Aug 26, 2010 08:29 AM
rating: 0

Kevin - I know that PECOTA didn't like Brandon Wood, but with his minor league numbers shouldn't the Angels at least have expected Jay Buhner-ish numbers? Also, tell me that Smoak isn't going down the same path?

Aug 26, 2010 08:31 AM
rating: 0

"As a team, the Mariners are hitting the rough equivalent of a backup catcher—.237/.302/.343"

Is that the worst team line in the live-ball era? In any era? That just looks awful.

Aug 26, 2010 08:40 AM
rating: 2

Tyler Chatwood is a Diamondback now.

Aug 26, 2010 09:05 AM
rating: 0

Can't the Mariner's stick Figgins back at 3B with the occasional start at 2B and even OF? Assuming he gets back to numbers closer to .290/.370/.400, his bat should be at least servicable at 3B and his defense, if I recall correctly was a plus as well.

I can't see anything wrong with having Figgins(.370 obp), Ackley(.380+?) and Ichiro at the top of the lineup - they just have to hire a masher or two to drive them home.

Aug 26, 2010 09:10 AM
rating: 0

Speakng of Ackley, how about a Brian Roberts comp? They seem similar in a lot of ways and though Ackley is far from a complete player, his skill set upside reeks of a .300/.380/.420 hitter with 40 doubles, some steals and a dozen dingers.

Aug 26, 2010 09:12 AM
rating: 0

Having an issue posting a reply, but...

RE: Bailey's comment. Tyler Skaggs was the Tyler traded to the D-Backs.

Aug 26, 2010 10:31 AM
rating: 0

Brutal, no mention of Taylor under the Athletics. Has his stock fallen that far?

Aug 26, 2010 11:22 AM
rating: 4

Any thoughts of moving Lopez to 1B? It seems I heard tlk of that last year. It might make sense, as the Mariners have not much power there anyways.

Aug 26, 2010 19:19 PM
rating: 0

What's the deal with Greg Halman?

Aug 27, 2010 06:46 AM
rating: 0
G. Guest

Same as it ever was.

Aug 30, 2010 09:55 AM
rating: 0

Kevin, thank you for the Org Watch series. I like that this one treats three division rivals, and hope that there's one coming for the exciting young aspirants to the NL East crown.

Aug 27, 2010 09:16 AM
rating: 0
John Carter

Thinking of Trout, it seems that most teams are taking significantly more time to bring along their top notch prospects. One can only suspect this has to do with delaying arbitration and free agency in order to maximize the player's best years for the least cost. This is more clearly true with position players as waiting too long with pitchers could mean getting nothing out of them as it is more difficult to predict when they will have a career debilitating injury. I haven't made a careful study of this, but off hand I'd say the best position prospects are taking an extra year and a half to reach the Majors than they were before free agency.

Am I wrong about anything here? Would someone there at BP address this issue in a full blown article?

Aug 27, 2010 11:29 AM
rating: 0
John Carter

"Seattle needs to find something to do with Chone Figgins. That might not be easy."

I'm not sure what you mean by that. He will be 33 next year. He is certainly versatile enough to be a terrific back-up - that's if he would accept such a role with a good attitude. I know of no reason why he wouldn't.

Aug 27, 2010 11:40 AM
rating: -1
Drew Miller

Figgins already demonstrated a bad attitude once publicly this. SSS, of course, but it does make you wonder.

Aug 27, 2010 13:28 PM
rating: 0
Drew Miller

This may be nitpickery, but 31 doubles, 7 triples, and 5 homers in 534 PA, from a middle infielder without great speed, probably isn't "little power". Granted, Ackley's hit most of his XBHs after being promoted to AAA. Also granted, Ackley's D has been lousy at 2B. If he wants to live up to that Figgins comp, he'd better be able to play at least one skill position well.

Aug 27, 2010 13:28 PM
rating: 1
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