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MLB Season 2012 Preview: AL West Favorites, Sleepers And More

The 2012 MLB regular season begins Wednesday, as the St. Louis Cardinals visit the Miami Marlins at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN -- yeah, we don't care what Japan says, tonight is the start of the baseball season! Last week, SB Nation New York delivered its National League East preview, while today we're showcasing the whole American League.

For a complete rundown of each division, check out this AL Preview StoryStream. Meanwhile, here's a preview of the AL West:

Favorite: Anaheim Angels

It took one big, fat paycheck to make the Angels to become the favorite to win this division. The signing of first basemen Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $240 million contract quickly made Anaheim a World Series contender, especially when you can add him to a lineup that features slugger Kendrys Morales and veterans Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells.

The Angles also have loaded pitching staff with aces Jered Weaver (2.41 ERA in '11), Dan Haren (1.02 WHIP), newly acquired C.J. Wilson (16 wins, 2.19 ERA) and the always entertaining Erivin Santanta.

Not to mention that the Angels have one of the best managers in baseball, Mike Sioscia, and its almost a lock that these guys are making the playoffs this season.

In the mix: Texas Rangers

After making a trip the World Series in two straight season, the Rangers will need a lot to happen to make it a three-peat.

First, Texas needs newly acquired Japanese pitcher, Yu Darvish, and youngest Neftali Felix to fill the shoes of last year's ace C.J. Wilson ((16 wins, 2.94 ERA, 1.19 WHIP). Second, former MVP Josh Hamilton needs to shake off his off-the-field issues and, again, become a MVP candidate. Add bunch more answers to small questions, and then the Rangers could have a shot.

Sleeper: Seattle Mariners

There's no beating around the bush, the Mariners were bad last season. However, if the move of sending Michael Pineda to New York for future catching-slugger Jesus Montero works out right away, they have a shot. Its a slim one, but its a shot.

Not a chance: Oakland Athletics

Even if the signing of Manny Ramirez and Yoenis Cespedes workout, there's no way this team is winning a bunch of games with Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon as its 1-2 punch.

For a complete rundown of the American League, check out this SB Nation New York StoryStream.