The Champ is back again with yet another MLB Division preview to get you hard for this upcoming baseball season. It’s the AL Central today. Feast on my knowledge.
Chicago White Sox
The ChiSox have slowly regressed from one of the best teams in all of baseball to a decrepit corpse of a baseball team. Weighed down with hefty contracts of old, regressing veterans like A.J. Pierzynsky, Adam Dunn and Alex Rios, the Sox are at a crossroads. There’s still some bright spots in their lineup and rotation though. The ageless wonder, Paul Konerko, continues to put up MVP caliber numbers at first base and Jake Peavy seems to finally be healthy this spring, but stay tuned on that. The ChiSox are going to have a tough time competing in the ever-improving AL Central for the foreseeable future. But they still have a decent enough rotation even with the departure of Mark Buerhle and might have enough of that to stick with Detroit through the dog days. Don’t count on it though. Kenny Williams has his hands full with resurrecting a team that dominated the Central in the middle part of the last decade. At least he doesn’t have to deal with Ozzie Guillen anymore.
76-86, 4th in the AL Central
The grounds crew at Progressive Field are going to have their hands full this season with all of the ground ball inducing pitchers the Indians have this season. Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson, Derek Lowe and the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona are among the best ground ball pitchers in baseball, and that should play well in the confines of the Tribe’s home ballpark. Shin-Soo Choo is one of the best outfielders no one ever talks about, probably because his name cannot be taken seriously. He’s been steady as the only star player on the damn team that can stay healthy as Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore go to the DL about as often as Jerry Sandusky goes to Chuck E. Cheese. Outside of that, the Indians are a pretty damn good team for the AL Central. Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana might be the best defenders in the league at their position and Jason Kipnis is one of the best slugging second basemen in the league. Vegas has set the over/under for Cleveland wins at 78.5 this season. Bet the over. Bet it hard. Cleveland rocks.
84-78, 2nd in the AL Central
Not only are they Karl Welzein’s favorite team (Follow @DadBoner on Twitter and then thank me in two weeks for changing your life), they’re also an odds on favorite to take the whole goddamn thing down this year. Detroit shocked everyone when they signed Prince Fielder this offseason. What will also be shocking is Detroit’s infield defense. At first base, you have Fielder, who is actually a decent defender. But then you start to look around the diamond. Miguel Cabrera (A 1B/DH) is at third, Jhonny Peralta (a third baseman who can’t spell his name right) at shortstop and Ryan Raburn (a left fielder) at second base. It doesn’t matter Justin Verlander is your ace, that defense is atrocious. It could cost the Tigers upwards of 25-30 runs this season, which in turn could cost them four or five wins in the long run. Don’t bet on the Tigers infield defense to stay like that all season. Jimmy Leyland doesn’t fuck around. But the Tigers rotation just might be good enough to overshadow the afterbirth that is the Tigers’ defense.
Justin Verlander trying to get in on Kate Upton. TFM.
92-70, 1st in the AL Central
Kansas City Royals
Look out. There’s a superpower growing in the Heartland. The Royals may not yet have what it takes to be considered among the elite of Major League Baseball, but the pieces were put in place last season with the debuts of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy and a slew of nasty relievers and they still have one of the best minor league systems in the game. The Royals also saw career resurgences of outfielders Alex Gordon and Jeff Francouer, adding to their potent offense. Hosmer has what it takes to be an MVP-caliber player and the Royals boast one of the most athletic defenses in all of baseball with Francouer, Gordon and Lorenzo Cain in the outfield and defensive wizard Alcides Escobar at short. GM Dayton Moore flipped a breakout season from Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez to try and aid their lackluster rotation this offseason. It all hinges on the five starters for the Royals this season. The rotation is full of wild cards like Luke Hochevar, Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy. The offense will be first class, but injuries to young catcher Sal Perez and All-Star closer Joakim Soria this spring have some folks in KC wondering if this really is the year the Boys in Blue turn it around and shed 26 years of god-awful baseball. If the rotation can put it all together, the Royals are going to make things very, very interesting in the AL Central this year and years to come.
82-80, 3rd in the AL Central
Oh boy. The one-time powerhouse of the AL Central is in a heap of trouble. Minnesota has over $200 million tied up in perennial 60-day DLers Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau and an offense only a mother could love. Outside of Mauer and Morneau, the Twins really only have Josh Willingham. Then you go through the gauntlet of offensive terribleness that is Jamey Carroll, Denard Span, Alexi Casilla and Ben Revere. The Twins rotation is a patchwork bunch, filled with journeymen and the proverbial “innings eaters”. A healthy Francisco Liriano may be the only thing to save the Twins rotation from being truly awful. Someone in the land of 10,000 lakes better get Gordon Bombay a couple of boilermakers. The Twinkies are in desperate need of the Minnesota Miracle Man.
67-95, 5th in the AL Central