MLB Baseball: Best Players in AL Central

Joe WatsonCorrespondent IMarch 6, 2012

MLB Baseball: Best Players in AL Central

0 of 10

    Nobody takes more time between pitches than Jose Valverde, but whatever he's doing is working.

    Valverde converted all 49 save opportunities last season while posting a 2.24 ERA.  Jose's 49 saves led all of baseball and were a career high.

    Valverde has been a consistent closer throughout his career, averaging 32 saves per season.

    Honorable Mention: Joakim Soria, Kansas City

Catcher: Joe Mauer, Minnesota

1 of 10

    2011 was the worst season of Joe Mauer's career.  Mauer spent most of the season battling a variety of injuries.

    Injuries led Mauer to play in only 82 games and post a uncharacteristic .287 batting average.

    However, if Mauer is healthy this season, he should revert back to his All-Star form.  Mauer is a lifetime .323 hitter with an MVP award, four Silver Sluggers and three Gold Gloves.

    Honorable Mention: Alex Avila, Detroit

First Base: Prince Fielder, Detroit

2 of 10

    Detroit's acquisition of Prince Fielder was the second biggest offseason move in baseball.

    Fielder brings another proven bat to Detroit's feared lineup.  Prince averaged a .282 average, 37 home runs and 106 RBI a season in Milwaukee.

    However, Fielder's acquisition will cause Miguel Cabrera to play third base.  The consequences of this have yet to be seen.

    Honorable Mention: Paul Konerko, Chicago

Second Base: Gordon Beckham, Chicago

3 of 10

    In 2009, Gordon Beckham hit .270 with 14 home runs and 63 RBI in just 103 games for the White Sox. Since his rookie season in 2009, Beckham has failed to live up to the expectations of Sox fans.

    Last year, he posted a career low .230 batting average.  However, Beckham was a defensive wizard for Chicago, making a run at the Gold Glove Award in 2011.

    Sox fans are hoping to see Gordon Beckham return to the stellar offensive form of his rookie season.

    Even if Beckham struggles, his defensive abilities still make him the division's best second baseman.

    Honorable Mention: Jason Kipnis, Cleveland

Shortstop: Alexei Ramirez, Chicago

4 of 10

    Last year, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta shined as shortstops in the AL Central.  However, Alexei's steady play make him the best shortstop of the division.

    Ramirez has been a constant threat in the White Sox lineup since 2008.  In four seasons, Ramirez has never hit less than 15 home runs. In 2010, Ramirez won the AL Silver Slugger while hitting .282 with 18 home runs and 70 RBI.

    Ramirez is also a stellar defensive shortstop, regularly making highlight reel plays.  Alexei is paired with Gordon Beckham, giving the White Sox one of the best double play combinations in all of baseball.

    Honorable Mention: Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland


Third Base: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit

5 of 10

    Miguel Cabrera will produce runs.  He has driven in over 100 runs in each of the last eight seasons.

    The question is whether Cabrera can still play defense at third base.  Miguel has not played third base regularly since 2007 with the Marlins.  That season, Cabrera committed 23 errors at third.

    Ultimately, Cabrera's bat will outweigh his defensive abilities.  

    Honorable Mention: Mike Moustakas, Kansas City

Left Field: Alex Gordon, Kansas City

6 of 10

    Alex Gordon finally had his breakout season.  In 2011, Gordon posted career highs in home runs (23), batting average (.302), runs batted in (87), stolen bases (17) and even won a Gold Glove.

    In a division that has weak left fielders, Gordon was an easy choice.

    Honorable Mention: Delmon Young, Detroit


Center Field: Austin Jackson, Detroit

7 of 10

    Grady Sizemore is injured.  Alex Rios is coming off the worst season of his career, and Denard Span is returning from injury.

    Austin Jackson is the division's best centerfielder as a result.

    Jackson is coming off of a mediocre 2011 season.  He posted a career low .249 batting average but did notch 22 stolen bases and led the American League in triples.

    Honorable Mention: Grady Sizemore, Cleveland

Right Field: Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland

8 of 10

    Choo spent much of the 2011 season on the disabled list.

    However, Choo is a proven producer.  In 2010, Choo hit .300 with 22 homers, 90 RBI and 22 stolen bases.

    Honorable Mention: Brennan Boesch, Detroit

Starting Pitcher: Justin Verlander, Detroit

9 of 10

    No surprises here.  

    Justin Verlander was baseball's best pitcher, winning both the AL Cy Young and MVP Awards.  He recorded 24 wins and posted a 2.40 ERA.

    The Tiger ace averages 18 wins and a 3.54 ERA a year.  

    Honorable Mentions: John Danks, Chicago and Doug Fister, Detroit

Closer: Jose Valverde, Detroit

10 of 10

    Nobody takes more time between pitches than Jose Valverde, but whatever he's doing is working.

    Valverde converted all 49 save opportunities last season while posting a 2.24 ERA.  Jose's 49 saves led all of baseball and were a career high.

    Valverde has been a consistent closer throughout his career, averaging 32 saves per season.

    Honorable Mention: Joakim Soria, Kansas City