The AL Champs from last year still have plenty of that balance offensively, defensively and in the pitching staff, to win the AL West once again. But will the loss of Cliff Lee really hurt this team?
What they Have: They still have the AL MVP from last year in LF Josh Hamilton, and there is no reason to think that he won't have a similar season this time around. There is really no change in the starting offensive look from last season, sans C, where Yorvit Torrealba takes over for Bengie Molina. He's a better defensive catcher, and that should help out the Rangers plenty. The offensive lineup is as good as any in baseball overall and there are still all the offensive pieces to help the Rangers win again. Pitching wise, they did lose Cliff Lee to the Phillies, but they still have 3/4 of the rotation from the World Series. C.J Wilson will lead off the rotation, and is followed by Colby Lewis, and Tommy Hunter, who will miss the first month of the season due to injury concerns. Derek Holland and Scott Feldman will fill out the back end of the rotation. They still have one of the best rotations in the AL, but the loss of Cliff Lee obviously hurts. The bullpen is still very good as well, with closer Neftali Feliz leading a bullpen that was fourth in the league in saves. The rest of the pen has guys like Darren O'Day, veteran Darren Oliver and Alexi Ogando. The bullpen fills out a great overall pitching staff.
What they Don't Have: They are really deep with talent, so there aren't many problems with this team. The C position is not as strong as it could be, and the rotation has some very high expectations to live up to, but other than that this team just needs to stay healthy in order to win again.
Any Help Coming? What really should scare other teams is the depth of the farm system. The best prospect is Southpaw Martin Perez, who has drawn Johan Santana comparisons. He still has some issues, but remains one of the better pitching prospects in baseball. RHP Tanner Scheppers has thrown in the bullpen before, but has a high ceiling as a starter. He has a complete set of plus pitchers, and a good delivery too. SS Jurickson Profar is the youngest player in the Northwest League, but has great defensive skills, athleticism, and maturity.
Outlook: There is no reason that this team should not repeat as AL West Champions. They have the complete team, minus a few people from last season, and they still have the depth across the roster to make the World Series again. They are Boston's biggest test in the AL.