The AL Central needed 163 games before it was determined the past two years. In 2008, the White Sox won the one game playoff with a stellar outing from John Danks. Last year, the Twins beat the Tigers to win the AL Central and pull off an amazing run to win the AL Central.
I'm not sure if we will a see a three-peat of one-game playoffs but I am sure that we will see another amazing race that will come down to the wire in 2010. The AL Central is a very exciting division and it shouldn't disappoint this year.
1.) Minnesota Twins
The Minnesota Twins are currently a very proud organization. They have a fantastic core of players, highlighted by Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. Both of those players are significantly talented and young. The Twins are also opening up their beautiful new ballpark, Target Field, this year.
Twins fans have every right to be excited about the upcoming season. The Twins have a very well rounded team. If their pitching can pan out, then they will be extremely tough to beat.
They have a young pitching rotation with plenty of question marks. I think that their rotation will produce, though. All the pitchers have solid stuff, and Joe Mauer behind the plate will help each and every one of them.
The most interesting pitcher for the Twins is going to be Francisco Liriano. Liriano has had an up and down career. He has tremendous stuff but it seems that he isn't consistent enough to be an ace.
If he can fix himself, then he will be a fantastic ace for the Twins. Liriano performed fantastically in the Caribbean Series this winter. He played for a Dominican Republic team and tossed a lot of gems.
The Twins batting is fantastic. Whenever Joe Mauer is your number three hitter, you have a pretty good lineup. Mauer isn't the only great hitter on the Twins: Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, Delmon Young, JJ Hardy, and newcomer Orlando Hudson all have tremendous hitting upside.
The Twins also added Jim Thome this offseason to be their DH. Thome still has his freakish power and will hit plenty of dingers in Target Field's inaugural season. If all of the people in the Twins lineup perform to at least fifty percent of their abilities the Twins should be fine. The Twins hitting should be fun to watch in 2010.
The Twins bullpen is also a big plus. Joe Nathan and Pat Neshek have the ability to cut all of the Twins games to seven innings.
The AL Central is a talented division, but I just can't see the Twins placing anywhere other than first. They have a fantastic team, period.
Key Pitcher: Francisco Liriano
Key Batter: Joe Mauer
2.) Chicago White Sox
Ever since the White Sox acquired Jake Peavy, they seemed like a different team. Peavy and Mark Buehrle give the ChiSox a very nice one-two punch. The other three pitchers behind Peavy and Buehrle are also not too bad: Gavin Floyd, John Danks, and Freddy Garcia all have a lot of talent.
If those three guys can put up some decent numbers, then the White Sox rotation should be fine.
The White Sox have all-or-nothing hitting. They have so many guys who can either do really bad or really good. Alex Rios will be a huge asset to this club if he can find his old stroke. It should be interesting to see how Jun Pierre takes on his role with the White Sox.
I like Pierre a lot, but I think that he will either be really good or really bad for the White Sox. I am also excited to see how Gordan Beckham will fare in his second major league season. Beckham is now playing second base, and it should be interesting to see the transition in progress. Beckham has no ceilings, and I expect him to continue to blow away the baseball world.
The White Sox also have an abundance of big boppers in their lineup. Alexie Ramirez, Paul Konerko, and Carlos Quentin all have the ability to easily hit 20 home runs. Those guys can change the complex of any game with just one swing of the bat.
The ChiSox have a bullpen similar to the Twins. JJ Putz and Bobby Jenks will make for a nasty team in the 'pen. Those two should be very successful and close the door on many games this season.
Even though I like the White Sox a lot, I think that they will fall just short of the AL Central title in a close race with the Twins.
Key Pitcher: Mark Buehrle
Key Batter: Alex Rios
3.) Detroit Tigers
The Tigers have so much talent, but I just don't see them winning the division. The Tigers have looked fantastic on paper for the past three years, but things just haven't clicked. Last year, they looked like they will be in the playoffs, but the Twins started to play great baseball and stole the Tigers spot in what came down to a one-game playoff.
The Tigers have nice pitching; Justin Verlander is one of the best pitchers in the game and Rick Porcello has a very bright future ahead of him. Those two pitchers are talented and I expect them to put up stellar numbers, but I don't see any other sure pitchers in their rotation.
Max Scherzer, Jeremy Bonderman, and Armando Galaragga are all huge question marks for the Tigers. I can see one of those three having a decent year. but not much else. Those three guys just don't look like they can overcome their problems.
It's going to be hard to predict how they will do. What I'm trying to say is that I don't see them just putting up average numbers.
The Tigers have a very powerful lineup. Miguel Cabrera, Brandon Inge, and Magglio Ordonez can all pop plenty of long balls out of Comerica Park. Johnny Damon should also hit a decent amount and be a valuable part of the lineup.
The Tigers are most likely going to start rookie centerfielder, Austin Jackson, in order to replace Curtis Granderson. I like Jackson a lot, he has a whole lot of upside and great tools. Granderson can be a 30-30 guy and he wil be missed by the Tigers. Even though I think Jackson is going to have success in the bigs, I don't think that the Tigers are going to play well without Granderson. In the future, though, Jackson will more than make up for Granderson's loss.
I just noticed that the AL Central has a lot of great setup men and closer duos. The Tigers have Joel Zumaya setting up Jose Valverde. If Zumaya gets back to his dominant self, then the Tigers will also have the ability to lock down many games early.
The Tigers don't have a bad team, but I think that there are too many problems and question marks that might be unanswered. I don't think they are going to win the AL Central, but there will be a good amount of bright spots for them in 2010.
Key Pitcher: Jeremy Bonderman
Key Batter: Magglio Ordonez
The Cleveland Indians organization has really took a hit in the past couple of years. They went from being legitimate contenders with Cy Young winners at the helm of their starting pitching, to a team with low expectations.
Last year just didn't work out for the Tribe. They had a rough beginning, and things continued to be tough for the rest of the season. I think that the Indians are going to have another awful time this season.
The Tribe has an interesting pitching rotation. Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona have great stuff; Westbrook is listed as the Indians ace, but I definitely do not see him as an ace. I think that he can be solid number three starter at best.
I do think that Fausto Carmona can be an ace. He has had an up-and-down career but we know that he can be great. If he can get his stuff back, then he should act as the Tribe's ace. He could be one of the Indians bright spots this season.
The Indians lineup is just as interesting as their pitching. They are looking for guys like Grady Sizemore and Johnny Peralta to rebound and have a great season. Both of those guys saw a dramatic decrease in production last year.
Other than those two, the Indians lineup is average. They have a decent amount of speed, contact, and power, but it is not enough to compete in this division.
The Indians are also continuing the trend of solid bullpens in the AL Central. There 'pen might not be as good as some others in their division, but it is not bad. It will definitely win them some games this season.
This is not the Indians year. It's going to be tough for them to get back to how they once where, but they can do it.
Key Pitcher: Fausto Carmona
Key Batter: Grady Sizemore
The Royals have been the cellar-dwellers for some time now in the AL Central. They haven't had much to be proud of until 2009. In 2009 they saw their ace, Zack Grienke, pitch his way to an American League Cy Young.
It will be interesting to see how Grienke pitches this season. I think that he will have another great year, but there are some doubters out there.
The Royals had a very busy offseason. They didn't necessarily make any moves for big name players, but they made a lot of small moves. The Royals look like they don't know what they want to do with organization.
That is not a hit on the team, but the way that they are building the team doesn't look like they are rebuilding at all. They are taking older, above-average players, and I don't get it. Unless they're using these guys only for a season or two, then replace them with young players, I don't get it.
I think that the Royals' best recent move was getting Yuniesky Betancourt. Betancourt isn't too old and he can become a very solid hitter for the team.
Their pitching rotation is a little shaky behind Grienke. I like Luke Hochevar, though. I think that he can be a solid pitcher for the team in the years to come.
Everybody else in that rotation won't help the team in the future. Gil Meche might, but he will need to have a significant improvement this future. Another bright spot for the Royals is their closer. Joakim Soria was amazing last year. He has plenty of talent and will make the most out of his save opportunities this season.
If the Royals can get a general idea of what they want to do with the organization, then they might be up and running sooner than later.
Key Pitcher: Gil Meche
Key Batter: Alex Gordon
I hope you are enjoying my predictions for the 2010 MLB season. If you have any questions please ask in the comment section, I will be more than happy to answer them.