Our 2012 MLB preview places the eyeball on the best players by position in each division. Find out how the AL West shakes out and don’t forget to check out our MLB Preview Center.
C – Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers: Napoli has always had some thump in his bat, having hit 20 or more homers in each of the 3 seasons preceding 2011. However, he never hit .300 before. In 2011 he smacked a career-high 30 homers and he bloated his average all the up to a surprising .320.
1B – Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels: Pujols had nothing left to accomplish in the National League. So he jumped ship and will now try to conquer the American League. He is a career .320 hitter who averages 40 homers and 120 RBI per season. His mere presence in the Angels lineup makes everybody else better.
2B – Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers: He is a two-time All Star and has twice gone for 30 homers and 30 steals in a season. The only downside to Kinsler is his extensive injury history. Last season he avoided spending any time on the DL and the result was 121 runs, 32 homers, 77 RBI, and 30 stolen bases.
SS – Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers: Andrus has finished in the AL Top 10 for stolen bases in each of his 3 seasons. He was a 2010 All-Star and posted a career-high .279 average last year. He has been caught stealing an eye-popping 27 times in the last two seasons, but there is no doubt that he causes the opposition stress when he gets on base.
3B – Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers: It’s hard to believe, but Beltre is entering his 15th season. He is a stalwart at the hot corner, having collected 3 Gold Gloves in his career (2007, 2008, 2011). He is also a beast at the plate and has claimed 3 Silver Slugger Awards, with two of them coming in the past two seasons.
Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers: Hamilton has played 5 full seasons in the majors and has racked up awards at a staggering pace. He was the 2010 AL MVP, he is a 4-time All-Star and has 2 Silver Slugger Awards in his trophy case. Last season he played in 121 games, posted a .298 average and swatted 25 homers. Like his teammate Kinsler, his big bugaboo has been a long injury history.
Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers: Cruz wields a very powerful bat that he showcased in the 2011 ALCS where he crushed 6 homers and drove in 13 runs on his way to becoming the MVP of the ALCS. 2012 could be a breakout campaign for the hard-hitting outfielder.
Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners: After hitting .352 in 2009, Suzuki’s average has declined to .315 in 2010 and a career low .272 last season. Last season was also the first time in his 11 year career that he failed to register 200 hits. He still managed to swipe 40 bases and score 80 runs for an offensively challenged Mariners club in 2011. Additionally, Suzuki is still a premiere defensive player with a cannon for an arm. He will hit 3rd in 2012, which should be interesting.
Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners: King Felix is the cream of the AL West’s pitching crop. He is a two-time All-Star and has the 2011 AL Cy Young trophy on his mantle. Hernandez has fanned over 200 batters in each of the past 3 seasons and has a career ERA of 3.24. He is just 25-years old and his best years are ahead.
Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels: The two-time All-Star finished second in the balloting for the 2011 Cy Young Award. He recorded a career-best 18 wins and 2.41 ERA last year. He also notched 198 punch outs. Weaver will anchor what is going to be a very good pitching staff for the Angels.
Dan Haren, Los Angeles Angels: Haren has been a model of consistency throughout his 9-year career. He’s averaged 12 wins and a 3.59 ERA with 160 Ks. Haren has made 3 appearances in the All-Star game, most recently in 2009.
CJ Wilson, Los Angeles Angels: Wilson was 16-7 last year with a 2.94 ERA and 206 strike outs. He didn’t fare so well in the playoffs going 0-3 with a 5.79 ERA. During the offseason he decided to bolt Texas and play for their division rival in Los Angeles. 2012 will be just his 3rd campaign as a starter.
Ervin Santana, Los Angeles Angels: Santana was just 11-12 last season, but had a 3.28 ERA with 178 Ks. In his 7-year career, he was won 16 games twice and had a career-high 17 wins in 2010.
Brandon League, Seattle Mariners: League posted what is one of the more bizarre stat lines during the 2010 season when he appeared in 70 games, all as a reliever, and was 9-7 with 16 holds and 5 saves. He followed that up with an All-Star campaign in 2011 with 45 saves and a 2.79 ERA.