MLB Division Previews: AL Central

Miggy and the Tigers look to dominate.

Miggy and the Tigers look to dominate.

Well, pitchers and catchers are reporting all across Florida and Arizona, and with Spring Training starting soon, it’s time to start our MLB Previews.  We will preview each division weekly, and dive into each team’s chance.  Usually, these kinds of predictions don’t mean crap, and mine will probably be wrong but here goes nothing.

Standings

1 Detroit Tigers

2 Cleveland Indians

3 Kansas City Royals

4 Chicago White Sox

5 Minnesota Twins

Division Awards

MVP:  Miguel Cabrera

Cy Young:  Chris Sale

Rookie of the Year:  Jose Abreu

Breakout:  Rick Porcello

Comeback:  Billy Butler

Detroit Tigers

Projected Lineup:

Austin Jackson  OF

Ian Kinsler  2b

Miguel Cabrera  1b

Victor Martinez  DH

Torii Hunter  OF

Nick Castellanos  3b

Andy Dirks  OF

Alex Avila  C

Jose Iglesias  SS

Rotation Candidates:

Justin Verlander

Max Scherzer

Anibal Sanchez

Rick Porcello

Drew Smyly

The Tigers made possibly the splashiest move of the offseason, by trading slugger Prince Fielder for second basemen Ian Kinsler.  Overall, I like this trade for Detroit because they get better on defense by moving Miggy back to first, and they also give their lineup a little bit more versatility.  However, I’m not sure that move alone will make up for the head scratcher trade they made with Washington, when they traded Doug Fister for pennies on the dollar.  Fister is in no way an ace, but he is as good and reliable as any starter out there.  The Tigers are hoping Porcello and Smyly can make up for Fister’s absence.  I am confident they can improve, so Detroit will be the favorite, albeit with some risk involved.  The Tigers should still be capable of scoring a lot of runs, but if Hunter and Martinez start to slow down and show their age, they could be in some trouble.  Overall, the Tigers are still the class of the Central, but they gap isn’t as much as some people might think.

Cleveland Indians

Projected Lineup:

Michael Bourn  OF

Michael Brantley  OF

Jason Kipnis  2b

Carlos Santana  DH

Nick Swisher  1b

Asdrubal Cabrera  SS

David Murphy  OF

Yan Gomes  C

Lonnie Chisenhall  3b

Rotation Candidates:

Justin Masterson

Chris McAllister

Corey Kluber

Danny Salazar

Trevor Bauer

Shawn Marcum

The Tribe shocked the baseball world last year by making the playoffs as a wild card team, they ended up losing the play in-game, but that taste of success looks to propel them forward.  The lineup should be good again, as they didn’t lose any pieces and Brantley, Kipnis and Santana are all in their respective primes.  Where I see improvement coming for this squad is on the mound.  Last year the pitching was good, led by Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir (now in Baltimore and Oakland).  Losing those two should hurt the rotation, but I see Kluber and Salazar improving this season.  If the top 4 pitchers all repeat or improve from last season, and Bauer finally puts the pieces together for a full season, this should be a very good rotation, and put them in the race once again.  The other positive was getting rid of former closer Chris Perez, he had worn out his welcome in Cleveland, and his stats had faltere,d so letting him walk was a no-brainer.  Cody Allen looks like a breakout candidate, and I expect he will grab the closer job from John Axford.  This team is balance,d and I look for them to compete for the division title, and definitely be in wild card contention.

Kansas City Royals

Projected Lineup:

Norichika Aoki  OF

Alex Gordon  OF

Billy Butler  DH

Eric Hosmer  1b

Salvador Perez  C

Mike Moustakas  3b

Omar Infante  2b

Lorenzo Cain  OF

Alcides Escobar  SS

Rotation Candidates:

James Shields

Jason Vargas

Jeremy Guthrie

Bruce Chen

Danny Duffy

Yordano Ventura

Wade Davis

The Royals are in a must win situation, they have been rebuilding for years and the time to compete is now.  They traded away years of control of Wil Myers to bring in James Shields, and Shields’ contract is up after this year.  The good news is the Royals have a ton of talent, young guns Hosmer and Perez should keep getting better, while Gordon and Butler look to keep up their play.  I think Kansas City will score plenty of runs, but preventing them will be the key.  Last year the Royals allowed only 601 runs, which was tops in the American League.  I think if they use Guthrie and Chen in the rotation they will be hard pressed to repeat those numbers, I would use the young power arms in Ventura and Duffy.  Both those guys have the ability to over power hitters, and that will compliment Vargas and Shields at the top of the rotation.  All in all, I see the Royals competing for the Wild Card once again, and can be a force to be reckoned with if all goes right.

Chicago White Sox

Projected Lineup:

Adam Eaton  OF

Alejandro de Aza  OF

Jose Abreu  1b

Dunn/Konerko  DH

Alexei Ramirez  SS

Avisail Garcia  OF

Matt Davidson  3b

Marcus Semien  2b

Tyler Flowers  C

Rotation Candidates:

Chris Sale

John Danks

Jose Quintana

Felipe Paulino

Erik Johnson

I believe this Chicago team has sleeper written all over it.  This lineup has potential to be very good; with Eaton, Abreu, Garcia, Davidson and Semien all getting full time jobs and a chance to prove themselves.  Ramirez has been a consistent player for a few years at short, and both Dunn and Konerko are looking to give whatever it is they have left.  Honestly, a platoon of Dunn/Konerko could be very effective, with both put in positions to succeed.  On the mound the South siders are led by ace Chris Sale, he has it all and is a dominating lefty.  After Sale, there are some question marks.  Danks needs to prove he is healthy, and Johnson is only a rookie, albeit with a lot of potential to step in and produce.  If the Sox can find success on the mound, watch for them to surprise some people and be a stealth contender.

Minnesota Twins

Projected Lineup:

Alex Presley  OF

Brian Dozier  2b

Joe Mauer  1b

Josh Willingham  OF

Oswaldo Arcia  OF

Trevor Plouffe  3b

Jason Kubel  DH

Josmil Pinto  C

Pedro Florimon  SS

Rotation Candidates:

Ricky Nolasco

Kevin Correia

Samuel Deduno

Phil Hughes

Mike Pelfrey

Vance Worley

This is rough, not many bright spots in the lineup or rotation for this team.  Dozier, Mauer and Arcia should be the producers in this lineup, and Nolasco is the sole pitcher worth his salt in the rotation.  Unfortunately for the Twins, they have to pitch Correia, Deduno, Hughes and Pelfrey 4 out of every 5 games.  The bad news for Minnesota is that they will suck something awful this season; the good news is that help is on the way.  In the minors they have Alex Meyer, Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton all waiting their turn to make the Show.  Once those studs come up, they should be headed in the right direction; however that might not be until 2015 or 2016.

by Sean Barnet

2 comments

  1. Pingback: MLB Division Previews: AL Central | toughlovesports | Betting Baseball Club
  2. Pingback: 2014 Preview and Predictions: AL Central - Lady Loves Pinstripes

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