As the Houston Astros get set to embark on their new adventure in the the mighty American League West, I feel it is important to know your enemy. The A.L. West has the best collection of talent in baseball, so I would like to take a look at each team’s best player so we can see what our Astros will be up against during the 2013 season.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM
Last season Mike Trout was called the best player in all of baseball…and he was only a rookie. At 21 years old, he put up numbers that are unheard of while catching the attention of the ladies by looking strikingly similar to Channing Tatum. He hit to the tune of a .326/.399/.564 line last season and ended with 30 HR and 83 RBI, and wasn’t even called up until the end of April. He had a great OPS of .963 and led all of baseball in runs scored (129), stolen bases (49) and Base Running Runs Above Average with 12.0. Trout also led the world with a WAR of 10, which was the first time that a player had reached double-digits in that category since Barry Bonds did it in 2004. Mike Trout is not solely an offensive juggernaut either; the guy is one of the best defensive outfielders in the league as well. He was ninth in the American League with a .936 Revised Zone Rating and made 78 plays outside of his zone. Trout also put up a 11.0 UZR/150 which was 7th best in the A.L. My goal in writing this article was to try to find at least one weakness of each player…I’ve yet to find one with this beast.
While there is no clear-cut stud on the 2012 American League West Champions, Josh Reddick probably stands out the most. Reddick was traded to the A’s before the start of the 2012 season and made quite the impact on the team. He spent most of his time in right field and put up a career high 4.8 WAR. Reddick had 32 HR, 85 RBI and 85 runs scored in his first opportunity to be an everyday player. He is best known for his play in the field, specifically his cannon for an arm. Last season Reddick was third among major league outfielders in both UZR/150 and outfield assists with 15. He also made plays on 93 balls outside his zone which was seventh best in baseball. A couple of the things that the Athletics would like to see Reddick improve upon would be his .305 on-base percentage and his 85.3% zone-contact percentage, which ranked 103rd in baseball.
One of the best pitchers in the league, “King” Felix Hernandez, is coming off of one of the best seasons of his 8-year career. He went 13-9 in 33 starts in 2012 while putting up a 6.1 WAR, which was second among major league starting pitchers. He pitched over 230 innings for the fourth straight season and averaged a career high in K/9 innings with 8.65 and a career low in BB/9 innings with 2.17. Hernandez also had a career high in complete game shutouts with five, one of which was the 23rd perfect game in MLB history. He had a career low in FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching on an ERA scale), which was second best in the league last season. King Felix is another guy that is difficult to find a weakness in, but one cause for concern could be his decrease in velocity, which was down an average of over 1 MPH from the 2011 season. Of course, he also struck out more hitters, walked less hitters and gave up fewer hits than he did in 2011, so it could be that his decrease in velocity is a blessing in disguise, as it allows his fastball to have more movement.
One of the best free agent signings in Texas Rangers’ history came in 2011 when they signed Adrian Beltre. At 33 years old, the 13-year vet had an impressive .321/.359/.561 line in 2012. Beltre had a 6.5 WAR and hit 36 HR (probably half of those from his knee) and 102 RBI. He also put up an impressive .921 OPS, and only struck out in 12.5% of his plate appearances. He is among the league’s best defensive third basemen with a 15.1 UZR/150 and .728 RZR. I’m sure the Rangers would not mind seeing Beltre walk a little more, as his 5.5% base on ball percentage is among the lowest of all major league third basemen. One problem that Beltre may not be able to fix so easily is his base running ability. He cost his team 2.2 runs over the average base runner in 2012 and only had one stolen base. Of course, if he can ever figure out how to not run so long in the same place that could help.
Even if the Astros aren’t competitive this season, watching the best players the A.L. West has to offer should be a treat to any baseball fan. We can watch and hope that Mike Foltynewicz develops into the next Felix Hernandez or that Rio Ruiz is the next Adrian Beltre. If nothing else, these stars will help to fill Minute Maid Park for years to come, and who knows? Maybe the Astros will spend some of that money on players one day!