AL Central Preview: Can Detroit Bounce Back into Contention?

Anthony SerioContributor IMarch 7, 2008

American League Central  

Cleveland Indians

The Indians are coming off a 96-66 season in which they won the AL Central by eight games, only to lose to Boston in the ALCS.
C.C Sabathia contributed a career-high 19 wins with seven losses, while he posted a career best 3.21 ERA and 209 strikeouts. Sabathia was key to the Indians success in 2007, and will be key to getting to the World Series.

Another gem in the Indians starting rotation is Fausto Carmona, who went 19-8 last year, posting a .308 ERA. Look for big things from this possible All-Star. He can easily win 20 games this season no doubt.

If Paul Byrd can have another solid season and Jake Westbrook can get back to his former self, this could be a really solid rotation. Aaron Laffey is also a good young pitcher. Who I look for big thing from in the future.
Solid middle relief with Rafael Betancourt, Rafael Perez, Japanese newcomer Masahide Kobayashi, with a solid closer in Joe Borowski, who closed 45 games last year.
Grady Sizemore, 2007 All-Star, will start in center with David Dellucci on his left and Franklin Gutierrez on his right. If Sizemore can have another solid year, he can easily pass career-high numbers for a breakout year.

If Jhonny Peralta, Ryan Garko, and Travis Hafner can continue to hit the ball and knock in runs Cleveland will be a serious contender, it’s hitting is one of the strongest in the AL, and is only going to get better.

Casey Blake will have to contribute much greater, as I felt his performance last year was not what he is capable of. He is a player that could put up big numbers if he plays to the level he is capable of. 

I can’t forget about catcher Victor Martinez who hit a career high 25 home runs, while knocking in 114 runs with a solid .301 average (which has remained around .300 for the past three seasons).
The only negative is the loss of veteran Kenny Lofton, the team will lose speed and experience, but is very capable of clinching the Central Division again, but will they be able to challenge the Red Sox?

Detroit Tigers

Detroit boasts the strongest offence in the Central, by far. The Tigers were 88-74 last season, six games out of the Wild Card. Pitching is above average, but bullpen drags down credibility and may cause the Tigers to have a less than desirable results.

Look for big things from ace Justin Verlander who went 18-6 last year with a 3.66 ERA, striking out 183 batters. Verlander, although young, has shown he knows what it takes to win and will be key to the Detroit pitching staff.
This is do or die for Kenny Rogers who will show if he still has what it takes to play ball. Rogers has shown if he can stay healthy he can still be one of the most exciting pitchers in baseball.
Jeremy Bonderman, Dontrelle Willis, and Nate Robertson round out a strong rotation.
Bullpen is the team's weak spot. Look for Todd Jones to get closing duties.
Batting competes with, and perhaps even outdoes, the Indians with Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen, Edgar Renteria, Gary Sheffield, Miguel Cabrera, Placido Polanco, Pudge Rodriguez, and Curtis Granderson—who are all superstars in their own right and can hurt pitchers all night.
Look for serious competition with the Indians this year.

Minnesota Twins

Went 79–83 last year, but also made some major changes in the off-season including the Johan Santana trade and the departure of Torii Hunter.
Rebuilding process boasts an almost entirely new infield with the acquisitions of Brendan Harris at second, Adam Everett at shortstop, and Mike Lamb at third base who are all projected starters.

Justin Morneau is probably the best player in baseball on the worst team in baseball. He has hit 30 plus home runs with a 100 plus RBI for the past two seasons. Big numbers will come from Morneau, even if it will more than likely be for a losing cause.
Craig Monroe and Delmon Young need to step up their game and put up numbers that will help the club. They are two players, who can break out if playing up their potential.
Hopefully the change of scenery will be good for Young who will put up career numbers if he plays the game he’s been showing sign of for the last two years in Tampa Bay.
Pitching rotation is weak, bullpen isn’t much better. Kevin Slowey is the bright spot in a sea of darkness.

Boof Bonser isn't going to win 10 games. Did forget Francisco Liriano though..  Will be the ace of this staff most definatly. Posisble All Star who had a 13-5 rookie season with a 2.74 ERA.

Liriano can win more games if offence can come through with the run support that they are capable of.

Minnesota more than likely won’t contend this year, but look for steps towards rebuilding for the next few years. With Morneau showing no signs of slowing down, this team will be back in the running in a few years time if the right changes continue to get made.

Chicago White Sox

2007 is a season Chicago probably would like to forget. They went 72-90. They finished 24 games back. Rebuilding is probably necessary but the ChiSox decided to see if they could fix some of the problems and contend for a playoff spot again.
The addition of Nick Swisher has added some boom to their offense. The ChiSox dropped three key prospects to get Swisher, so they are relying heavily on his performance this season.
Jim Thome needs to put up big numbers like usual for the White Sox to even have a chance of competing.
Jermaine Dye’s numbers dropped significantly from 2006. He needs to get his game back on track. He can provide power, but can he return to his career high numbers of 2006?

Probably not, but will prove useful if he can come up solid.

Orlando Cabrera provides some strong defense, which will hopefully help this pitching staff that really did struggle getting outs all last year.
Sox are lead by inconsistent pitchers in Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras, and Javier Vazquez. Over worked, they may prove to be costly in September. The pitching staff isn’t too solid—look for this to be the downfall.
Horrid bullpen, with the exception of All-Star Bobby Jenks, who retired a record 41 straight batters in 2007.
Overall Chicago’s changes may not be enough for them to compete, let alone take the division. Look for a repeat of last year, and possibly the dismantling of the roster.

Kansas City Royals

Can they make it out of the bottom?
The Royals are caught in a mess, they are in the middle of a rebuilding process that may bring them to glory in years to come, but definitely not this year.

The offense lacks power at this point.
Gil Meche may have only won nine games last year, but that cannot be blamed on him, in the least. Meche is a premier pitcher with no run support. If he can get some steady run support, Meche can put up some respectable numbers. Sadly I don’t see that happening.
Young talent will come up in the next few years, but for now Jose Guillen and Mark Grudzielanek just wont due in any serious competition.
The bullpen is slightly above average but will not be a key factor.
The Royals are most definitely in the cellar again this year; the best they can hope for is their rebuilding to continue going along smoothly.

Predictions for the Central
Cleveland can walk away with the AL Central again if Detroit slumps or Chicago can’t rebound. If Detroit can back up their offense, look for them to make a serious run. Minnesota and Kansas City’s chances are almost non-existent, and will be when the playoff race comes around.

  1.  Cleveland Indians
  2.  Detroit Tigers
  3.  Chicago White Sox
  4.  Minnesota Twins
  5.  Kansas City Royals


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