With the Major League Baseball season right around the corner, it is looking like it could be another exciting race in the American League Central. After last season, when the White Sox and Twins ended the regular season in a tie, they needed a one game play-in game to see who would be representing the AL Central in the playoffs, and the Sox pulled through. This year however, I believe the outcome will be somewhat different. Here is where I believe the teams will be ranked at the end of the season.
1. Minnesota Twins
Although the Twins have not made any huge offseason moves, they find a way to be in the playoff race every year. The biggest question mark in my opinion will be how well the young starting pitchers will be able to improve off of last season’s success. If the experience they got last year really helped, then they will be exciting to watch. But we must remember that even Boof Bonser had a good year in his first year of starting, so as a Twins fan I have reason to be nervous.
I think the lineup of the Twins is very well rounded. Every player has shown they can get the job done. Barring any injuries, I expect Carlos Gomez to see the field less and have a reduced role because I don’t see his bat improving as well as it should when competing with Delmon Young, Denard Span, and Michael Cuddyer. A drop in production from Nick Punto is expected because he is Nick Punto. Alexi Casilla won’t have as much success at the plate as he did last year, but will still hold his own at second base. As fans we know what we expect from Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer and don’t expect anything less.
As for the bullpen, I think Gardy won’t be overworking Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain as much as they fell off at the end last season. With them still rested and healthy in the second half of the season, the call to the pen shouldn’t be as depressing to fans as it ended up being last year.
I have a ton of confidence in this Twins team heading into the season and its very fun to watch a legitimate Minnesota franchise instead of having to watch teams that disgrace our state (Twolves, Vikings).
2. Chicago White Sox
Of course the Sox will be there trying to crush Twins fan’s dreams all year; we have come to expect that from this team. Although they are a slightly different team from last year, there is no reason to believe they won’t be competing for the division title this year. With players like Jermaine Dye and Carlos Quentin in their lineup, you can never count them out. However, they also have positions where they will literally get no help from. I am of course talking about third base and Josh Fields, he could not be anymore worthless to any team.
Their first three starters in the rotation are solid and all dominate the Twins at will, so they will at least get wins there. The last two spots in the rotation are questionable. They were desperate enough to sign Bartolo Colon, but I don’t think the White Sox think he will be doing anything this year.
One player to look at this year to be an “X” factor on the team will be Alexei Ramirez. He came into the league with a bang last year and made an immediate impact for the Sox. Although I am the same height and weight as this young player, he can probably hit the ball three times farther than I ever could. He has amazing power for his size and I think pitchers often underestimate the kid.
3. Detroit Tigers
Although the Tigers had a pathetic season last year, I think they will bounce back and be a legitimate team in the division despite signing Adam Everett.
In my opinion, take out Everett and Inge from their lineup, and they still have one of the best in the league. With Curtis Granderson being patient at the plate, healthy, and with the newly acquired ability to bat over .200 against lefties, I think he might have one of his best seasons offensively. Miguel Cabrera is an absolute stud at the plate and posted career highs in home runs and RBIs last season, so there is no reason to worry about that part of the team.
The thing Tigers fans should be nervous about is their starting rotation, especially Justin Verlander. He had a miserable season last year after posting amazing numbers in his first two years in the league. Armando Galarraga will have to improve on his numbers last year to help this rotation if they expect to keep up with the Sox or Twins.
4. Cleveland Indians
The Tribe basically gets this position by default as the Royals are expected to be last every year. Unlike the Tigers, the Tribe can have a little more faith in their rotation as it is held down by Cy Young winner Cliff Lee, followed by Fausto Carmona. I will make a bold prediction and say Carl Pavano will actually have moderate success with the Tribe this season; he is away from the Yankees after stealing all their money and has no reason not to actually play now.
The lineup of the Tribe will be held down by Grady Sizemore and Victor Martinez. After that, it gets pretty questionable; no other hitters are too promising. Although Travis Hafner won’t bat under .200 this year, he will still be terrible because running to first base is much too difficult for him these days.
5. Kansas City Royals
Even though the Royals impressed me by making a nice little run of their own in September, they still didn’t impress me enough to move up on this list.
Their “big” signings were Coco Crisp and Mike Jacobs. I put big in quotes because Crisp is a solid player, but nothing special, and Jacobs can hit home runs and absolutely nothing else.
Their rotation isn’t terrible, but it certainly isn’t anything to be afraid of. Zach Greinke and Gil Meche are their only legitimate threats in their rotation and Joakim Soria holds it down as closer. We have no reason to expect anything but another typical Royals season.
I have high hopes for this year’s playoff race in the AL Central because it has been exciting for many years now. I know it is the job of Minnesota franchises to let down their fans, but let’s just hope this year our baseball team slacks at that part of their job.