AL Central Preview

AL Central Preview

Photo courtesy of Bryce Edwards of Flickr.com

Unless you are from Kansas City, I’m betting you did not have the Royals winning the World Series in 2015.  However, their lockdown bullpen was just that, their offense stepped up when it was needed, and their defense was only one of the best in the AL last year. Believe it or not, Chicago’s other team, the White Sox, put together a pretty decent off-season. Acquiring Todd Frazier is a needed addition, and pitcher Carlos Rodon looks to continue his development into becoming one of the best lefty pitchers in baseball. Teammate and fellow southpaw Chris Sale is a low-key gifted for a guy his frame and build. Cleveland has quietly put together one of the best rotations in baseball and manager Terry Francona will always have his guys competing. Detroit has a loaded offense — arguably the best in baseball — and if Justin Verlander can re-capture his Cy Young form, then look at Detroit as a frontline World Series contender. Minnesota is filled with highly touted prospects, headlined by Byron Buxton — who seems to be a prospect every year — and Miguel Sano.  This division is going to be fun.

 

  1. Detroit Tigers

As previously mentioned, the Tigers offense is stacked and the addition of Justin Upton only figures to help the offense get that much better. J.D. Martinez is looking to finally break out of Miguel Cabrera’s shadow and assert his dominance. Cabrera will put up huge numbers again and be a major aspect of this team’s success. The Tigers also bolstered their rotation by signing Jordan Zimmerman and closer Francisco (K-Rod) Rodríguez. If injury-prone Víctor Martínez, no relation to J.D., and Justin Verlander can stay somewhat healthy, then Detroit is going to be a tough team to beat.

 

  1. Kansas City Royals

One thing we should know about Kansas City is to never write them off. Last year, they weren’t overly talented on paper, so people dismissed them early.  Except, they only went on to win it all last year.  Re-signing Alex Gordon was huge, and if Jarrod Dyson returns from injury early then their outfield could be one of the best. Their bullpen will be nasty per usual, and Salvador Perez will challenge the St. Louis Cardinals’ Yadier Molina for best defensive catcher in baseball. The rotation needs seasoning, but this team is very capable of winning in the postseason.

 

  1. Cleveland Indians

Cleveland gets the nod for third because of one thing: pitching.  Just like how defense wins in football, pitching wins come October in baseball. Corey Kluber is only one year removed from his Cy Young season, Carlos Carrasco is a really good #2 pitcher, and Danny Salazar might have some of the best pure ability in baseball. Francisco Lindor should have won the AL Rookie of the Year award last season, and Mike Napoli will bring much needed veteran leadership to this club.  Can they have sustained offense for 162 games though?  I’m a believer in no.

 

  1. Chicago White Sox

Chicago’s season starts, ends and depends on the arm of Chris Sale.  He’s right behind Clayton Kershaw for best lefty in the MLB. Carlos Rodon and Jose Quintana give this team a nice rotation. Todd Frazier will give help take focus off of Cuban slugger Jose Abreu and Brett Lawrie gives the middle infield stability. This team is buying its time until their top prospects, shortstop Tim Anderson and pitcher Carson Fulmer, get the call to the big leagues.

 

  1. Minnesota Twins

It’s the same motto every year: lots of young talent, no real veteran presence.  Byron Buxton will finally be a full-time major leaguer, Miguel Sano might homer 40 times — might also strikeout 150 — but Korean import Byung Ho Park is a complete unknown. Ervin Santana is hopefully PED free, as he headlines a boring yet effective rotation that needs to be a lot better, but in actuality it’s not the worst rotation around. Minnesota needs top pitching prospect Jose Berrios to come up to the majors soon in order to compete in this division.