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The 5 most interesting players in the AL West

Every player has a story. Some of those stories are far more interesting than others.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Every baseball player is a unique snowflake, a thumbprint, a story that takes them from their first tee-ball game through their teen years, into their first professional experience, hundreds or thousands of miles from home, surrounded by peers who would all garrote each other to make the big leagues. It's a harrowing, unlikely journey for every player who plays in a single Major League Baseball game, and they all have a tale to tell.

Also, there sure are a lot of boring baseball players. There will be, like, a thousand of them in the majors next year. Just one guy with a hat after another.

These players that you're going to read about, though? Oh, ho, ho, these players. These are the most interesting players in baseball. Every team has one. And we'll go division by division to find the most interesting player on all 30 teams. We'll start with the American League West.

Houston Astros - Carlos Gomez

Gomez is a moving target of a baseball player. He was a failed prospect, your typical over-hyped New York product. Then he was electricity, pure and unrestricted, one of the most exciting players in the game. Then he languished on some post-contending Milwaukee teams, and his possible return to the Mets as a prodigal son was scuttled by a mysterious hip ailment. When he finally arrived in Houston, he didn't look like the same player, which suggested the Mets were being ... practical? What a whirlwind.

Even if you don't believe in the eight-win player that Baseball-Reference says he was in 2013, he's still the kind a team could build around. The Astros sat free agency out, one-year deal for Doug Fister aside, and that's partially because they figure they already made their big play last July. Gomez just turned 30, and he's a year removed from MVP votes and All-Star appearances. He cost a bounty of prospects to acquire, and he's a middle-of-the-order centerpiece of what might be the American League's best team.

Unless his hip really is molten porridge. That would mess with his offensive production. It would mess with his normally superlative defense in center. And it would mess with the Astros something fierce.

I'll take the over on Gomez, though. To the point where I'll guess that a half-dozen teams will be kicking themselves for not pursuing him further at the deadline last year. Mets included.

Los Angeles Angels - C.J. Wilson

Wilson is 35, and he's followed two pretty-okay years in an Angels uniform with two disappointing years that aren't up to his 200-inning standards. He also has a chance to be just about the best non-Strasburg free agent pitcher on the market.

And it so happens that the Angels are really, really counting on him. He's the number two starter, a key cog in the machinery that will ostensibly help a mostly weak lineup. The Angels are flipping a coin between him and Jered Weaver, secretly hoping the coin lands on its side, but more practically hoping that at least one of them is something more than a mix of frustrating and competent. Frustrompetent.

There are other paths to success for the rotation -- a Garrett Richards All-Star season, an Andrew Heaney breakout, for example -- but Wilson's salary is one of the reasons the Angels have to use a slapdash platoon in left and an uninspiring incumbent player at second. So it would be pretty cool if he could pitch as well as the Angels have hoped for four seasons now.

More than how he fits with the Angels, though, he's an interesting player because of his pending free agency. Will we be in this spot in eight months, wondering who will give him the three-year, $75 million contract that he's demanding? Or will be on the one-year shuttle for the rest of his career?

The real answer is probably somewhere in between, and that's not exciting. But of all the pending free agent pitchers, Wilson is one of the few with the ability to have a truly outstanding season. He's pitching in the right park for a team that will need every last scrap of help.

Oakland Athletics - Josh Reddick

Years ago, the A's had to choose between Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada as their franchise player. They could lock up only one on their budget, and they made the choice I would have made at the time. They chose poorly.

The A's don't exactly have that same kind of choice, but they do have to figure out if Reddick qualifies for that same sort of building-block status that Chavez did because he would probably take up a similar chunk of the budget. He's a nice player, a very good player, a very, very, very good player, but is he the kind of player that should take up 25 percent of a small-market team's budget?

Perhaps! But if he has the kind of season that proves he's that kind of player, the A's probably wouldn't be able to keep him. They're trying to thread a tiny needle, so Reddick's performance becomes the most interesting part of their 2016 season. Do they just ride out the season with him if they're contending? Do they keep working on an extension through October? Have they already committed to dealing him in July?

He's fascinating if he hits. He's fascinating if he doesn't. He's fascinating if he sticks with the A's. He's fascinating if he's someone's big deadline prize. Josh Reddick is probably on the short list of the most interesting players in the entire game, much less the A's.

Second place: Rich Hill, of course. There were 85 pitchers who threw more innings last year than Hill threw from 2008 through 2014 combined, but for four starts, he was vintage Cliff Lee. There's no way it's real, right?


Aw, heck, I don't know.

Seattle Mariners - Ketel Marte

The only reason I joke about the Safeco Death Fog is because I fear it. For years, it swallowed prospects like Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak, leaving nothing but an Uncle Owen-sized stain smoldering in foul territory. It was unsettling, and I don't even follow the team.

Then Kyle Seager arrived and became one of the better third basemen in the league. Either he was the exception to the rule, or maybe, just maybe, those other prospects had problems that extended beyond their home park. Maybe other prospects could thrive if given the opportunity.

Enter Marte, who did everything you would have wanted from a 21-year-old last year. His statistics would have been impressive in Double-A at that age, but he showed preternatural bat control in Triple-A and hit .283/.351/.402 in the majors. For the Mariners. Who play at Safeco Field. Where there is a Death Fog.

Think about the Mariners' history at shortstop in the post-Carlos Guillen era. Ronny Cedeno. Yuniesky Betancourt. Jack Wilson. Josh Wilson. Jake Wilson. Jorp Wilson. Their steadiest shortstop was Brendan Ryan, and he hit under the Mendoza Line for his last two seasons there.

Named after Mariners shortstop Mario Mendoza, of course.

So you have the general organizational failures with prospects butting up against specific organizational failures when it comes to shortstops. And you also have the most promising rookie season from any Mariners youngster in years, with a player young enough to be a junior at LSU. It's a compelling cocktail, and I'm rooting against the Death Fog.

(Please do not tell the Death Fog.)

Texas Rangers - Ian Desmond

Three straight Silver Slugger awards at short. Gold Glove nominations. Power. Speed. This should be a rare player. A rare, in-demand player that teams should fight over. Instead, he's a left fielder for a team that figured, whatever, I guess we'll sign you to a one-year deal if no one else wants you, and they only did that much after Josh Hamilton's knees told them they should do something.

Desmond's first half really was that awful, and not just at the plate. He had some glitches at short, serious enough to ward off every three-, four- or five-year contract he was having dreams of before the season started. No team wanted to commit to him as a long-term shortstop (and give up a draft pick for the privilege), and you absolutely can't blame them.

That doesn't mean it doesn't stink in 547 different ways for Desmond, who probably deserved (and turned down) better.

The spectrum is so, so broad for Desmond. He's at a park that should play to his strengths, and a 30-homer season doesn't seem too far-fetched. At the same time, he has about 15 innings of outfield experience as a professional. It seems logical that a shortstop should be able to transition seamlessly to left field. Just ask the Red Sox about that, though.

Or maybe Desmond is going to be an Alex Gordon-like savant in left, using that speed and his baseball instincts to cover way more ground than anyone has a right to expect. And he'll use his Arlington-kissed numbers to become the darling of next year's thin outfield market.

Or maybe he'll be Hanley Ramirez out there, and he'll have to sell himself as a shortstop again, a year removed from playing the position. That's a tough sell.

Desmond's a compelling story as a baseball player alone -- everyone likes more dingers -- but the added intrigue of Desmond as a commodity makes him the easiest choice in the division.