American League West forecast 2014

Oakland Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson fields a Oakland Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson fields a ball hit by Cincinnati Reds' Neftali Soto during the fifth inning of a spring training game in Phoenix on Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Photo Credit: AP / Chris Carlson

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1. OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Manager: Bob Melvin, fourth season, 237-186, .560

GM: Billy Beane, 17th season

2013: First (96-66); lost ALDS to Detroit, 3-2

The A's are an organization that constantly seems to be in motion, with an ever-changing roster and a lineup that is reshuffled on a daily basis. But the most important piece is the one that has been in the same place since 1998, and that's general manager Billy Beane.

Operating with a payroll that stays consistently in the bottom third among the 30 teams, the A's have won two straight AL West titles, but their degree of difficulty skyrocketed this month with the loss of Jarrod Parker, who is out for the season due to a second Tommy John surgery since 2009. Parker was penciled in as the Opening Day starter, but the key to the A's success has been Beane's ability to cover up those holes, and he'll need the $22-million gamble on Scott Kazmir to pay off quickly.

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Bartolo Colon also put up a Cy Young caliber season (18-6, 2.65 ERA) for Oakland a year ago and he's now with the Mets. Cue Sonny Gray, an ace-in-the-making who had a 2.67 ERA in 10 starts and two relief appearances last season. The 24-year-old righthander then impressed during his pair of playoff starts with a 2.08 ERA and 12 strikeouts over 13 innings.

Beane spent the little money he does have on lefty reliever Eric O'Flaherty ($7 million) -- who won't be back from Tommy John surgery until June or so -- and Jim Johnson ($10 million), who was signed to replace Grant Balfour. The former Orioles closer had 50 and 51 saves the past two seasons.

Offensively, the A's got a breakout performance from third baseman Josh Donaldson, who finished fourth in the MVP voting (24 HRs, .883 OPS), and they have virtually the same lineup that finished third in the AL in runs scored (767) a year ago. Even in cavernous O.Co coliseum, the A's finished third in the AL with 186 home runs.

2. TEXAS RANGERS

Manager: Ron Washington, eighth season, 611-524, .538

GM: Jon Daniels, ninth season

2013: Second (91-72)

Outlook: Texas traded for Prince Fielder, gave $130 million to Shin-Soo Choo and even extended the contract of manager Ron Washington, who has lost two World Series as well as last season's play-in for the wild-card game. Should be a bounce-back year.

3. LOS ANGELES ANGELS

Manager: Mike Scioscia, 15th season, 1,233-1,035, .544

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GM: Jerry Dipoto, third season

2013: Tie-third (78-84)

Outlook: Aside from Mike Trout, the best player to never win an MVP -- yet -- the Angels have a big-name roster that keeps coming up small. Loading up on Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton at a total cost of $365 million hasn't paid off, but if the rotation continues to struggle, it won't matter when those two sluggers finally do start earning their money -- if ever.

4. SEATTLE MARINERS

Manager: Lloyd McClendon, first season (replaces Eric Wedge)

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GM: Jack Zduriencik, sixth season

2013: Fourth (71-91)

Outlook: Any team that has both Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez can't be all bad, but those two -- along with third-place Cy Young finisher Hisashi Iwakuma -- aren't nearly enough to make the Mariners a contender in the AL West. The over/ under on Cano's stay in Seattle is probably 21/2 seasons.

5. HOUSTON ASTROS

Manager: Bo Porter, second season, 51-111, .315

GM: Jeff Luhnow, third season

2013: Fifth (51-111)

Outlook: Three consecutive seasons of triple-digit losses? The Astros should be done mailing it in this year with a handful of highly-touted prospects on the way, so that's something. But .500 still feels out of reach.

LENNON'S BEST OF THE AL WEST

Best everyday lineup: Rangers

Best player: Mike Trout

Best power hitter: Mike Trout

Best overall Hitter: Mike Trout

Best in the clutch: Josh Donaldson

Best baserunner: Mike Trout

Best infielder: Robinson Cano

Best outfielder: Mike Trout

Best catcher: Jason Castro

Best starting pitcher: Felix Hernandez

Best reliever: Neal Cotts

Best closer: Jim Johnson

Best pitch: Hisashi Iwakuma's splitter

Manager: Ron Washington

General manager: Billy Beane

Stadium: Safeco Field

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