Examining what the rash of injuries in the AL West means for the division title race

The AL West is going to be one of the more interesting divisions to watch in the MLB this year, and it’s not because of the how talented all of the teams are — and they are. No, it’s mostly because of the fact that all of the teams have been decimated by injuries and the division is predicted to be a wide open race until the end — well, except for the Astros.

The question quickly becomes, how these injuries — and how the depth of each team — are going to impact the wide open race in the division. That is the topic of this post, we will layout all the injuries that each team is dealing with and then try to figure out how these injuries will impact said team’s chances of capturing the division’s title.*

*All injury information is from this ESPN link

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

15-DAY DISABLED LIST

Josh Hamilton (LF): Hamilton injured his thumb by sliding head first into first base on Tue. April 8th during the Angels’ 3-5 loss to the Seattle Mariners in Seattle, Wa. The Angels placed Hamilton on the 15-day DL on Wed. April 9th. With the loss of Hamilton, the Angels are going to be debuting two young (and relatively untested) outfielders into their every day line-up. And that has to be nerve-wracking for Angels fans, depsite the fact that Hamilton is a mediocrere defender — he posted -0.6 UZR in 2013.

There currently is no time-table for his return to the line-up.

 Dane De Le Rosa (RP): De La Rosa opened up the season on the 15-day DL and has made a couple of rehab appearneces for Class A Inland Empire since the regular season started back on March 31st. The Angels definitely missed De La Rosa in the first three games of the season, as their bullpen’s epic meltdowns led to a Mariners sweep. But there is good news regarding his health, as his last rehab appearance for Inland Empire was on Wed. April 9th.

Sean Burnett (SP): Burnett has struggled with injuries since he joined the Angels, he only pitched in 9.2 innings in 2013, and those struggles have continued into this season. Burnett landed on the 15-day DL prior to Opening Day and he his healing process/rehabilitation has been slow. He last threw in a simulated game on Sat. April 5th…and he hasn’t thrown since.

Oakland Athletics

15-DAY DISABLED LIST

A.J. Griffin (SP): Griffin’s injury is one that would have caused a panic among A’s fans…if the team wasn’t so deep with starting pitching. He was placed on the 15-day DL prior to Opening Day with elbow tendonitis; and he is alsoset to begin strengthening exercises for his elbow this week. According to CSN Bay Area, Griffin is expected to start throwing again in the next one to two weeks.

Texas Rangers

15-DAY DISABLED LIST

Matt Harrison (SP): Harrison is one of three Rangers starting pitchers sitting on the 15-day DL. His back injury put him on the DL prior to the start of the season, and he has already had a couple of rehab starts. In fact, his last rehab start was on Tues. April 8th; he gave up one run, and three hits while striking out three batters in 4.2 innings.

Joe Saunders (SP): Saunders is barely a mediocre pitcher, so it shouldn’t be too upsetting for Rangers’ fans that he ended up on the 15-day DL, retroactively, on April 5th. While this isn’t any great loss in terms of production, the Rangers are going from a known entity to an unknown entity, and that should make the franchise’s fans feel nervous.

Seattle Mariners

15-DAY DISABLED LIST

Taijuan Walker (SP): Walker is a young fireballer that the M’s were relying on to be the No. 3 starter coming out of Spring Training. Then he hurt his throwing shoulder, because Mariners’ fans can’t have nice things, and he was placed on the 15-day DL . The good news for M’s fans is that Walker is quickly working his way through his rehab starts and could be back with the big league club before the end of the month.

Hisashi Iwakuma (SP): Iwakuma hurt his middle finger on his pitching hand early on in Spring Training and was quickly put on the 15-day DL. While he hasn’t pitched in a rehab start — or even from the pitcher’s mound, yet — Iwakuma’s long toss sessions have been going well, and he is on track to rejoin the club sometime in early May.

James Paxton (SP): Paxton headed into Spring Training as the anticipated No. 4 starter, but he ended up as the No. 2 starter after Walker and Iwakuma went down with injuries. His first two starts were down right dominate, outside of a three run blast in the home opener against the Angels; so of course he strained his Lat muscle midway through the sixth inning. Hopefully he will be back by the end of May…but Mariners.

Houston Astros

15-DAY DISABLED LIST

Jesse Crain (RP): Crain injured his bicep muscles early on in Spring Training and was placed on the 15-day DL. Fortunately for the Astros, Crain is continuing his rehab and he is back in Fl. for some workouts.

What this means

The AL West is rediscovering why having depth in the minors is really, really important. Since the injuries are pretty widely spread out among the teams that still can win the division crown — no, not you Astros — the divisions race is going to come down to who gets healthier quicker, and stays relatively healthy throughout the season. And I think that the Seattle Mariners are the dark horse here.

When Walker and Iwakuma return, the M’s rotation looks like this:

  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Hisashi Iwakuma
  3. Taijuan Walker (Rookie, technically)
  4. Roenis Elias (Rookie)
  5. Chris Young/James Paxton (whenever he returns)

That’s not a terrible rotation by any means, especially once Paxton is back and Young can fill in as long relief. It might even give the Athletics a run for their money.The biggest question for the M’s is how their young bats (Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley in particular) are able to maintain their current rate of production. Because if they can, than the M’s have a chance to win the AL West.

That being said, this is still the A’s division, until it isn’t.

 

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  1. Speaking of injuries, the Rays may have lost Matt Moore for the year.

    That’s a huge blow to the team.

    Ugh!

    1. That’s a major blow to the Rays…but I think that there front office is smart enough to be able to overcome it.

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