2011 AL Central Predictions: Will the Minnesota Twins Remain on Top?
Aside from the White Sox signing Adam Dunn, the Tigers signing Victor Martinez and the Twins acquiring Tsuyoshi Nishioka from Japan, the AL Central has been pretty quiet this offseason.
Unless, of course, you consider the fact that Miguel Cabrera once again found solace at the bottom of a bottle.
Even that being the case, it doesn't appear to have affected the way he plays, as he is having a great spring training with the Tigers.
None of the five teams have a clear-cut advantage as far as starting pitching goes. Other than a few aces, the AL central is overwhelmed with mediocrity in their teams' starting rotations.
On the hitting side of things, the Tigers, White Sox and Twins are packed with power and pure hitting talent, not to mention countless youngsters who have yet to hit their prime. On the other hand, the Indians and Royals will be spending yet another season in the so-called "rebuilding stage."
5th in the AL Central: Cleveland Indians
My prediction: 61-101
Team MVP: Shin-Soo Choo, .302 BA, 24 HR, 88 RBI, 95 R, 18 SB
Biggest up-side: Choo is still getting better and better every year and has yet to hit his prime.
Biggest downside: Their starting rotation leaves something to be desired, to say the least. Not even Fausto Carmona (the No. 1 pitcher in Cleveland's rotation) would be good enough to be the No. 5 pitcher in Philadelphia.
I am truly sorry Indians fans. Your franchise continues to do absolutely nothing to address the countless holes in its lineup. For the sake of Cleveland's sanity, I hope that Grady Sizemore can stay healthy and that Carlos Santana can live up to the hype.
4th in the AL Central: Kansas City Royals
My prediction: 70-92
Team MVP: Billy Butler .313 BA, 22 HR, 92 RBI, 81 R, 1 SB
Biggest upside: There is plenty of young potential talent that could come into their own eventually, but it won't happen this season.
Biggest downside: The Royals traded away their best player in Zack Greinke. The starting rotation was already below average, now it's WAY below average.
Like the Indians, Kansas City is a long way from becoming a serious contender in the AL Central. I am, however, pleased to see that baseball analysts finally realized that potential doesn't mean a thing until it is reached.
For the past three or so seasons, these so-called "professional" analysts have been predicting the rise of the Royals. I have yet to see that this season.
Thank you for coming to your senses.
3rd in the AL Central: Detroit Tigers
My prediction: 83-79
Team MVP: Miguel Cabrera .314 BA, 36 HR, 122 RBI, 110 R, 0 SB
Biggest upside: They have added Victor Martinez to their lineup. Look for him to have superb numbers this season. All he will have to worry about is being Detroit's primary DH.
Biggest downside: They have pitching issues. The back end of their rotation is inconsistent as can be, flamethrower Joel Zumaya can't stay healthy and a handful of the relievers have yet to prove they belong in the big leagues.
The Tigers are a very good baseball team. Unfortunately for them, there are two teams in their division that are even better.
One clear advantage that they do have over the White Sox and Twins is depth in their roster. Don Kelly, Carlos Guillen and Brennan Boesch will fill in admirably if somebody goes down, because if history repeats itself, Magglio Ordonez will be on the IR sooner or later.
2nd in the AL Central: Chicago White Sox
My prediction: 92-70
Team MVP: Paul Konerko .316 BA, 32 HR, 108 RBI, 94 R, 0 SB
Biggest upside: If they can stay healthy, they have the best starting rotation in the AL Central.
Biggest downside: If they can't stay healthy, they could very well have the worst starting rotation in the AL Central. Mark Buehrle isn't getting any younger, which doesn't bode well for the probability of staying healthy, and Jake Peavy is as injury prone as they come. The other three just can't carry the team.
Ozzie Guillen's White Sox have a scary combination of seasoned veterans and young raw talent. They have proven in the past few seasons that they have the potential to be an exceptional team; however, they need just one more solid bat in their lineup to push them to the top of the AL Central.
Could Adam Dunn be that missing piece?
2011 AL Central Champions: Minnesota Twins
My prediction: 96-66
Team MVP: Justin Morneau .322 BA, 33 HR, 121 RBI, 96 R, 0 SB
Biggest upside: Other than acquiring Tsuyoshi Nishioka from Japan in the offseason, they did nothing worth mentioning. In this case, that's a good thing. They have been contenders with the same core group for the last several seasons. Why fix it if it isn't broken, right?
Biggest downside: The bullpen is quite inexperienced. With names like Jim Hoey, Glen Perkins and Jeff Manship on the roster, the Twins had better hope that the starters will be able to go into the late innings of the majority of their games.
The Twins certainly aren't flashy in getting their wins, but they always find a way to get it done. The batters don't always swing for the fences, the pitchers attack the strike zone and the Twins are known for minimizing counterproductive mistakes.
They re-signed Carl Pavano and found a way to keep the Yankees away from Francisco Liriano (at least for now), and the rest of the rotation, although quite young, has the big league experience to help lead the team to the top of the AL Central in 2011.