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.
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 .