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MLB 2009 Division-by-Division Preview, Pt. 2: AL Central

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MLB 2009 Division-by-Division Preview, Pt. 2: AL Central

American League Central Division 2009 Breakdown 
No. 2 of 7

1. Detroit Tigers
Key Addition(s): Gerald Laird, Juan Rincon, Brandon Lyon and Edwin Jackson. 
Key Loss(s): Matt Joyce, Edgar Renteria and Kenny Rogers  
Off-Season Grade: B+ 
 
Projected Lineup: 
Curtis Granderson CF 
Placido Polanco 2B 
Magglio Ordonez RF 
Miguel Cabrera 1B 
Carlos Guillen LF 
Gary Sheffield DH
Gerald Laird C 
Adam Everett SS 
Brandon Inge 3B 

Key Backups: Marcus Thames and Ramon Santiago 
 
Top Pitchers: 
SP: Justin Verlander 
SP: Jeremy Bonderman 
SP: Armando Galarraga

RP: Joel Zumaya 
SU: Fernando Rodney 
CL: Brandon Lyon

Young Player to Keep an Eye On: Rick Porcello, P 


Notes

The Tigers definitely addressed some necessary needs this offseason, as they went and got not one, but two major league catchers (Laird and Treanor), a few relievers, a starter and a shortstop.

But are the players good enough to make a difference? A big question is at shortstop with the addition of Adam Everett. Will he start, or will Leyland turn to Ramon Santiago?

The lineup was slightly bolstered with Laird added, a catcher with a decent bat, but may have lost a little going from Edgar Renteria to the aforementioned Everett.

Miguel Cabrera, last season’s AL home run champ, will most likely return to that great form again as he settles more into first base everyday.

Watch Magglio Ordonez. If he doesn’t produce in the first few months, don’t be surprised if he is shipped away.

Jeremy Bonderman will return to the rotation this season after missing most of 2008 with an injury.

Edwin Jackson will be the four and Nate Robertson or Dontrelle Willis will round out the rotation.

Dave Dombrowski went out and made a few moves to help a struggling bullpen. Detroit signed closer Brandon Lyon, set-up man Juan Rincon to a minor league deal, and reliever Scott Williamson also to a minor league deal.

 
2. Cleveland Indians 
Key Addition(s):
Kerry Wood, Mark DeRosa and Joe Smith 
Key Loss(s): Franklin Gutierrez 
Off-Season Grade: A- 
 
Projected Lineup: 
Grady Sizemore CF 
Jhonny Peralta SS 
Victor Martinez C 
Travis Hafner DH
Ryan Garko 1B 
Ben Francisco LF 
Mark DeRosa 3B 
Shin-Soo Choo RF 
Asdrubal Cabrera 2B 

Key Backups: Kelly Shoppach and Jamie Carroll 
 
Top Pitchers: 
SP: Cliff Lee 
SP: Fausto Carmona 
SP: Jeremy Sowers

RP: Rafael Perez 
SU: Rafael Betancourt 
CL: Kerry Wood

Young Player to Keep an Eye On: Matt LaPorta, OF

Notes

A few very key moves may make the Indians a contender once again.

Adding Kerry Wood to close out games will be huge as Betancourt struggled last season. Mark DeRosa had a great season in Chicago last year and can add great defense and a pretty good bat to the lineup.

The loss of Franklin Gutierrez will hurt the Tribe though, as he was a starting corner outfielder. Cleveland will start Shin-Soo Choo and Ben Francisco in his place on a normal basis.

Cleveland will sport a powerful lineup, to say the least.

Hitters 1-6 can put a ball out of the park on an everyday basis, while hitters 7-9 can get some clutch hits when needed.

With Hafner back this season, a re-established sense of fear comes back to the Tribe’s lineup. Expect Jhonny Peralta to thrive in the two hole, as some pressure is released from him with the return of “Pronk” and the addition of DeRosa.

If either Francisco or Choo go down to injury, look for top prospect Matt LaPorta to get a shot.

I doubt Cliff Lee will repeat last year’s great numbers, and other then Carmona this rotation is very weak.

Expect to see many young pitchers to start for Cleveland this season and who knows, Aaron Laffey might have a break out year. If Rafael Betancourt can get back to 2007 form (1.47 ERA, 80 K, 9 BB), the backend of the ‘pen will be stacked and nearly un-hittable. 

 
3. Chicago White Sox 
Key Addition(s):
Wilson Betemit, Bartolo Colon and Brent Lillibridge 
Key Loss(s): Nick Swisher, Javier Vasquez and Boone Logan 
Off-Season Grade: C-  
 
Projected Lineup: 
Alexei Ramirez SS 
Carlos Quentin LF 
Jermaine Dye RF 
Jim Thome DH 
Paul Konerko 1B 
A.J. Pierzynski C 
Josh Fields 3B 
Brent Lillibridge 2B 
Jerry Owens CF 

Key Backups: Wilson Betemit and Brian Anderson 
 
Top Pitchers: 
SP: Mark Buerhle 
SP: John Danks 
SP: Gavin Floyd

RP: Scott Linebrink 
SU: Octavio Dotel 
CL: Bobby Jenks

Young Player to Keep an Eye On: Jayson Nix, 2B

Notes

An “iffy” offseason to say the least for the Chicago White Sox.

Kenny Williams gave up an all-star hitter, and two decent pitchers to in return on have a “washed up” pitcher and hitter and a middle infielder with a bit of potential. Brent Lillibridge was their best move of the winter and that is pretty sad.

The White Sox have a very strong lineup that is all but set. Expect second base and center field battles that will happen in Spring Training.

Second base is a toss-up between Brent Lillibridge and prospect Jayson Nix, and in center, either Jerry Owens or Brian Anderson.

Josh Fields should start at third this season for Chicago after spending most of last season in the minor leagues.

Two premier pitchers emerged in 2008 for Chicago: Dominant lefty John Danks, and Gavin Floyd.

Mark Buerhle needs to get at least 16 wins this season for the Sox to be competing for the AL Central crown. I expect Danks and Floyd to combine for at least 30 wins for Chicago this season as well.


4. Kansas City Royals 
Key Addition(s):
Mike Jacobs, Coco Crisp and Kyle Farnsworth 
Key Loss(s): Leo Nunez 
Off-Season Grade: B+  
 
Projected Lineup: 
Coco Crisp CF 
David DeJesus LF
Mike Jacobs 1B 
Jose Guillen RF 
Billy Butler DH 
Alex Gordon 3B 
Mark Teahen 2B 
John Buck C 
Mike Aviles SS 

Key Backups: Tony Pena Jr. and Ross Gload  
 
Top Pitchers: 
SP: Zack Greinke 
SP: Brian Bannister 
SP: Luke Hochevar

RP: Jimmy Gobble 
SU: Kyle Farnsworth 
CL: Joakim Soria

Young Player to Keep an Eye On: Kila Ka'aihue, 1B

Notes

I was very highly debating putting Kansas City finishing third in the division. A great job by KC’s front office to bring in quality players with minimal cash to work with.

Maybe the best move in the AL Central was the addition of first baseman Mike Jacobs. A big loss of Leo Nunez will help that young bullpen, but if Kyle Farnsworth can get at least 65 solid innings this season all Royal fans will forget Nunez.

What a young, talented lineup put up by the Royals.

I’m thinking this team could be last season’s Tampa Bay Rays. Speed at the top of order, solid power from the 3-6 hitters and a few decent bats near the bottom. With veteran Jose Guillen leading this young club, don’t be surprised if their hitting finishes them in third.

A young pitching staff is led by recently re-signed Zack Grienke.

Luke Hochevar had a decent season last year as a rookie although his 6-12 record doesn’t relay that message.

Jimmy Gobble, a converted starter, will need to hold down a ton of innings for to get the ball to amazing closer Joakim Soria. 

5. Minnesota Twins 
Key Addition(s):
n/a 
Key Loss(s): n/a 
Off-Season Grade: F  
 
Projected Lineup: 
Carlos Gomez CF
Alexei Casilla 2B 
Joe Mauer C 
Justin Morneau 1B 
Michael Cuddyer DH 
Delmon Young LF 
Denard Span RF 
Nick Punto 3B 
Brendan Harris SS 
Key Backups: Jason Kubel and Brian Buscher 
 
Top Pitchers: 
SP: Francisco Liriano 
SP: Scott Baker 
SP: Nick Blackburn

RP: Craig Breslow 
SU: Matt Guerrier 
CL: Joe Nathan

Young Player to Keep an Eye On: Trevor Plouffe, 2B

Notes: The pesky, pesky Twins. What to say? What to say? Well for starters, they made not a single move this off-season. That is not good, as every other team in their division upgraded in a big way.

Minnesota will have to rely on the speed of Carlos Gomez and Alexei Casilla at the top of the order again, to wreak havoc on the basepaths.

With those two previously mentioned speed demons on the bases, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau could potentially have yet another outstanding season. They’ll need to produce again, because from what I can see, not many other players will unless Delmon Young can live up to the hype this season. 

Minnesota will put out a very good, young pitching staff again this season, anchored by Liriano, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey, who all emerged phenomenally last season.

The Twins are looking at a weakened bullpen with the loss of Juan Rincon to Detroit, soMatt Guerrier will need to eat some big innings for the Twins. The rest of the team will hope and pray that Joe Nathan has yet another quality season. 

 
Next up…American League West Division 

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