Editor’s Note: I got really busy with my day job and was not able to put this out yesterday. But it is still opening weekend and the season is young. Baseball Odyssey will be covering the White Sox this season. He is a huge Sox fan and will have some in depth coverage throughout the season. Here is the last preview of this season: The AL Central.
Finally, we have made it to my favorite division, the AL Central, where my Chicago White Sox take residence and hope to preside over in a couple of years. Unfortunately, that means not this year, but if I’ve learned anything from my Cub friend-base it would be patience when it comes to baseball. After a surprising wild card slot last year, I believe the Twins will do so again by taking the division home to Minnesota. The Indians will give them a run for their money however, as they are still going to be a great team this year.
1st Place – Minnesota Twins
The Twins made some moves this offseason, with the acquisition of Logan Morrison, Jake Odorizzi, and Lance Lynn. With their impressive stint last year landing them a wild card spot, the Twins have only gotten stronger. Ervin Santana however, has had a bit of a setback with his injury and likely won’t be seen until May. Around the field the Twins have some impressive power with the big bat of Miguel Sano who can hit 40 home runs this year if he stays in the majors and stays healthy. Eduardo Escobar showed some unseen power last year by hitting 21 home runs over 129 games, something I don’t think can be expected out of him again. Brian Dozier one of the hardest hitting second basemen in the game is averaging 38 home runs, 96 RBIs, and a .270 average over the last 2 years, I do expect much of the same out of him this year. Add to that the steady vet Joe Mauer who is a career .308 hitter, who is pretty consistent at the plate when he is healthy. Add to that mix Morrison, who somehow managed to knock 38 out of the park last year, a respectable .246 average, and you get a very solid infield. Their outfield consists of Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler, and Ryan LaMarre. Buxton and Rosario have had a few seasons to get settled in the outfield but LaMarre is a wild card who hasn’t seen more than a few games in the majors and hasn’t done anything with that time. Their rotation with Jose Berrios, Odorizzi, Lynn, and Kyle Gibson, should be able to hold things together while Santana makes his way back to the mound, hopefully sooner than expected. Overall their team might not seem like a division leader, but I believe they will be a well put together machine that somehow functions just right.
2nd Place – Cleveland Indians
The clear favorites to win the division, the Indians are looking to get back to the post season and the World Series. They have a formidable infield with Yonder Alonso, Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindo, and Jose Ramirez, with slugger Edwin Encarnacion at the DH spot who will play some games at first. However, their outfield is a bit more worrying. None of Tyler Naquin, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Bradley Zimmer are all that impressive, although Naquin and Zimmer are young and can still break out as more formidable players. Their rotation is what will carry the Indians to success this year. Corey Kluber grabbed 18 wins, 265 strikeouts, and had an impressive 2.25 ERA last year earning him the AL Cy Young award. Carlos Carrasco, once healthy, makes for a solid second starter with a 18 win, 3.29 ERA and 226 strikeout year last year. The depth continues with Trevor Bauer who had a higher ERA with 4.19 but had just under 200 strikeouts and took home 17 wins for the Tribe. Josh Tomlin has room for improvement, but Mike Clevinger had a solid 12 wins with 3.11 ERA to round out the rotations. Cody Allen didn’t have a great year last year with only 30 saves, however has the potential to pick up another 5 this year. In all the Indians will be a very good team, however I’m not quite sure they will reach the expectations set out for them.
3rd Place – Chicago White Sox
Now I am absolutely biased, but I think the Sox have a chance to run for a wild card spot this year. Their young offense is impressive to say the least, and their younger arms being brought up this year will be hard to match. With one of the best farm systems in the MLB, the White Sox have finally created a true rebuild that is yielding great young talent. At first they have their Captain, Jose Abreu who is one of 3 players to start off their career with 4 straight years with at least 25 home runs and 100 RBIs (the only other two being Albert Pujols and Joe DiMaggio). At second, they have Yoan Moncada who had an injury in his stint in the majors last year, but a hot end to the season looks to make a great leadoff man for the rest of the team to follow. At short we have Tim Anderson, who had a rough season last year, but is expected to turn it around and rival the bigger names at short around the league. Third will be split between Yolmer Sanchez and Matt Davidson who are very different players, Sanchez who is a good defender and has the potential to hit a lot higher in average than he has been, whereas Davidson has pure power, hitting 26 home runs in 118 games last year and looks to hit 30-40 this year with more plate appearances. With the addition of Welling Castillo behind the plate joining Omar Narvaez, the Sox look to get production out of one of the least productive spots on most rosters. Their big weakness this year is their starting rotation with James Shields as their lead man, who has posted 5+ ERAs the last two years, but hopefully the Sox offense can pull out some wins for the vet. Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Carson Fulmer look to add youth to the rotation, with big expectations out of Giolito who may make a case for a Cy Young in a year or two. The back end had Miguel Gonzalez, who has not had an easy career in the bigs, but has the potential to be a solid inning eater at the back end of the rotation. Honestly, I’m not sure what to expect out of the bullpen although Joakin Soria and Nate Jones look to lead the charge as pretty effective late relief, assuming Jones can stay healthy. All in all, I expect big things out of the Sox this year, but most importantly the development of the young team to carry us onward to the playoffs and even a World Series in the next few years.
4th Place – Kansas City Royals
Salvador Perez with an MCL injury will be out for a month and a half which is not the way the Royals wanted to start. Eric Hosmer also went out west and Lucas Duda is his replacement who has a bit more pop but much less consistency at the plate. The rest of the infield filled out with Whit Merrifield, a young guy that can hit consistently with some power, Alcides Escobar who hits a consistent .250 with around 5 home runs every year, and Mike Moustakas who hit 38 bombs last year, unlikely to repeat however as he hasn’t hit over 22 in any past season. Chester Cuthbert picks up the DH spot and will probably be splitting some time at third, hasn’t had much time in the MLB and with the time he has had hasn’t done much. He may not last much of this season before being sent back down, barring some sort of hot streak. Their outfield definitely more impressive with Jon Jay, gloveman Alex Gordon, and Jorge Soler. Although individually none are impressive at the plate, Jay has consistency, Gordon the glove, and Soler the surprise factor that I believe we will see this year with the potential to do much better than his career .244 average. Their rotation is mediocre at best with their “Ace” as Danny Duffy who had a losing record, 3.81 ERA and only 130 strikeouts. There isn’t any improvement from there as Jakob Junis is the only one to have a winning record last year with a 4.30 ERA with less than 100 innings under his major league belt. Their bullpen isn’t any help with their closer only taking home 26 saves in 31 opportunities with a 4.25 ERA. The Royals will not surprise this year, and certainly not be good.
5th Place – Detroit Tigers
It seems like kind of a waste to even write about the league’s worst team last year (tied with the Giants for last) who did nothing to improve their roster for this year, in fact may have only made themselves worse getting rid of Ian Kinsler and Justin Verlander. Their best vets, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez are at the ends of their careers, and have only fallen off the wagon over the last few years. Cabrera, a .317 career hitter posted a .249 average last year with only 16 home runs, and Martinez who has a .298 career average only batted .255 with 10 home runs. Look for the Tigers to be at the bottom of the Central, AL, and possibly the MLB this year yet again.