AL Central At A Glance
Detroit Tigers: The odds on favorite to win the World Series, the Tigers aren’t just a big fish in small pond, they’re like a shark in a puddle. It took them a while in 2012 to remember they’re the Tigers, only overtaking the White Sox in late September and spending 33 days in first place, but one of those was October 4th, and that’s all that counted. Victor Martinez is back to add a “5” to the best 3-4 combination in baseball. Justin Verlander will assuredly finish in the top 3 for the Cy Young. Max Scherzer is established now and Austin Jackson is ready to break out. There’s a little bit of a closer issue, but if the Tigers won with Jose Valverde in 2012, I wouldn’t worry too much.
Chicago White Sox: Chicago is the only team that can offer the Tigers any real competition. They also have a dangerous middle of the order in Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn and Alex Rios. They have a deep bullpen. They have a young ace in Chris Sale and dependable starters behind him in Gavin Floyd and the durable Jake Peavy, who came back from a career-threatening injury to log more IP and three fewer starts in 2012 than he did in 2010 and 2011 combined. He also had his best ERA since 2008 and the best WHIP since 2007. If John Danks can get healthy in his return from surgery, they have a very solid rotation. The acquisition of Jeff Keppinger gives them a capable top-of-the-order bat. They will compete for a Wild Card till the end, but not have quite enough to get them there.
Kansas City Royals: There’s a lot to like about the Royals’ young offense. Billy Butler is a legitimate star. Salvador Perez is ready to break out in a big way and become one of the league’s top catchers. Did you know that the only three catchers with a higher OPS than Perez in as many plate appearances by age 22 (his 2012 age) was Brian McCann, Joe Mauer and Johnny Bench? That’s it. Salvador Perez is fourth on that list. Also on an impressive list is Alex Gordon. He’s fifth behind Robinson Cano, Cabrera, Ryan Braun and Albert Pujols for extra-base hits since the start of the 2011 season. Lorenzo Cain is very highly touted, and Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, though disappointing last season, still have All Star potential. The Royals have a solid bullpen and added Wade Davis and James Shields to their rotation. I wasn’t a fan of the trade, as James Shields has an unimpressive 4.67 career ERA pitching in open-air stadiums. But if I knew that, I’m sure Dayton Moore did, and he still pulled the trigger, so it would seem it doesn’t concern them. The Royals aren’t ready to really compete, but a couple of steps forward for their young players and another piece or two and this could be a different article in 2014.
Cleveland Indians: Lucky for them the Twins are miserable. The Indians made a splash in the offseason, adding Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, both on the wrong side of 30, to a 94-loss team with a terrible farm system and no help on the way. I guess you can sum up the rotation with two facts: their Opening Day starter is Justin Masterson and their fifth starter could very well be Scott Kazmir. Trevor Bauer will see big things, but not immediately. Ubaldo Jimenez, he of the 5.40 ERA and 1.61 WHIP in 2012, round out the rotation. They also acquired Mark Reynolds and Drew Stubbs to go along with Swisher and Bourn, so those four guys will hit .235 and strike out 700 times. Awesome. On the flip side, Carlos Santana is close to being a star and this should be the year Lonnie Chisenhall gets some recognition. The brightest aspect of the 2013 Indians besides Bauer should be Jason Kipnis approaching Dustin Pedroia-type status at second base. He’s a real player. I don’t think the Indians will “Marlins” themselves and turn everyone over in year one, but I certainly expect a much different lineup on Opening Day 2015.
Minnesota Twins: There was a lot of turnover in the rotation for the Twins, but nothing you’d really want to hang your hat on. Scott Diamond and Liam Hendricks (career 5.71 ERA in 20 starts) are the only pitchers to have made semi-regular starts for the 2012 Twins that figure to do the same for the 2013 version. Added to the fray are Vance Worley, Mike Pelfrey, Rich Harden and Kevin Correia. There are holes in the middle infield. The positives aren’t much, but they’re there. Joe Mauer is still an elite hitter and Justin Morneau finally seems full healthy from a series of concussion-related DL stints, however, he’s in the last year of a hefty contract and is prime trade bait. Trevor Plouffe is emerging at third base and Aaron Hicks tore up the Grapefruit League and will likely force himself into the starting lineup. Hopefully Hicks can maintain a level of interest from the fan base, otherwise Oswaldo Arcia, who just made the High-A to AA jump in 2012 might be forced into the major league outfield a little prematurely.
XtreemIcon: Tigers, White Sox, Royals, Indians, Twins
Jessep: Tigers, White Sox, Indians, Royals, Twins
Joe D: Tigers, White Sox, Royals, Twins, Indians
XtreemIcon: Salvador Perez, Kansas City
Jessep: Dayan Viciedo, Chicago
Joe D: Mike Moustakas, Kansas City
XtreemIcon: Trevor Bauer, Cleveland
Jessep: Trevor Bauer, Cleveland
Joe D: Bruce Rondon, Detroit
XtreemIcon: Justin Verlander, Detroit
Jessep: Justin Verlander, Detroit
Joe D: Justin Verlander, Detroit
XtreemIcon: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
Jessep: Prince Fielder, Detroit
Joe D: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
Up Next: American League West