Cleveland Indians 90-72
Detroit Tigers 89-73
Minnesota Twins 81-81
Kansas City Royals 79-83
Chicago White Sox 71-91
The Indians were quiet in the offseason, and Joe Borowski just went on the DL, but I think they are still the favorite in this division. Rafael Betancourt will be a worthy fill-in, and I wouldn't be surprised if his move to closer isn't temporary.
And any lineup with Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, and Victor Martinez anchoring it will put up runs. Cleveland's starting rotation is better than you think, and I like them to repeat as Central division champs.
The Tigers were anything but quiet during the offseason and may have assembled a dream team of a lineup. The bats in that lineup are scary (in a good way,) but their pitching is scary (in a bad way.)
Justin Verlander is a legitimate Cy Young candidate when he's on his game, but Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson, and Kenny Rogers have left big question marks. Also, Dontrelle Willis is hurt—although he didn't look to be effective before he went down with an injury. The bullpen misses Joel Zumaya, as usual, and I wonder how many years Todd Jones has left.
Still, their offense could carry them to the playoffs.
The Twins get my vote to finish third in a tough division. There may be a little bias here, because they are my hometown team, and I'm a huge fan. But they have a legitimate shot to factor into the race.
Yes, they lost Tori Hunter and Johan Santana in the offseason... but they picked up a blur of speed in Carlos Gomez and their pitching will keep them in games. When healthy, they may have one of the best defensive outfields in the game with Michael Cuddyer, Gomez, and Delmon Young from right to left.
Also, they locked up Joe Nathan and Justin Morneau, two important cornerstones... and are still waiting on Joe Mauer to become an offensive threat.
The Royals are the surprise team in this division after years of cellar-dwelling. Their young talent might finally be ready to contend, for third place.
Brian Bannister, Zack Greinke, and Gil Meche have all turned in impressive outings, and Joakim Soria looks to be a legit closer. They added Jose Guillen in the offseason, and, while he should provide some pop, it's the emergence of Billy Butler and Alex Gordon that baseball fans are buzzing about.
The White Sox may put up a better fight than I expect them too, but an aging lineup that failed to produce big numbers last year will have the same troubles this year.
They added a good shortstop in Orlando Cabrera, and a great bat in Nick Swisher, but I'm not sure they did enough.
They don't have much team speed, even though Jerry Owens should be back soon, but now they have a crowded outfield with Nick Swisher, Jermaine Dye, Carlos Quentin(a great acquisition), Owens, and Alexei Ramirez, not to mention a demoted Josh Fields who couldn't grab a roster spot in the outfield or at third base.
I just don't think their pitching will be good enough for them to really contend. Closer Bobby Jenks is good, but how many times will they actually be able to get the ball to him with a lead?
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