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Monday, March 17, 2008

AL Central Preview

1st Place, Detroit Tigers
Lineup:
CF Curtis Granderson
1B Carlos Guillen
3B Miguel Cabrera
RF Maglio Ordonez
DH Gary Sheffield
SS Edgar Renteria
C Ivan Rodriguez
2B Placido Polanco
LF Jacque Jones/Marcus Thames

Rotation:
RHP Justin Verlander
LHP Kenny Rogers
RHP Jeremy Bonderman
LHP Dontrelle Willis
LHP Nate Robertson
SU: Fernando Rodney
CL: Todd Jones

The Tigers pushed themselves ahead of the rest of the AL Central after the blockbuster deal in December that landed them Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Cabrera makes the Tigers offense one of the best (if not the top) offenses in the league. Their pitching has some question marks, but so does every other team in the division. Verlander is solid, but Bonderman and Willis are coming off sub-par years and need to pitch like they're capable of. Getting a full season out of Kenny Rogers should help. The bullpen, led by Todd Jones, is fragile and a little thin at the moment, but the team is expecting Fernando Rodney to start the year healthy, and Joel Zumaya back by mid-season. If that happens, the Tigers will be one of the front runners for the AL Pennant.

2nd Place, Cleveland Indians
Lineup:
CF Grady Sizemore
2B Asrubal Cabrera
DH Travis Hafner
C Victor Martinez
1B Ryan Garko
SS Johnny Peralta
3B Casey Blake
RF Franklyn Guttierrez
LF Ben Francisco

Rotation:
LHP C.C. Sabathia
RHP Fausto Carmona
LHP Jake Westbrook
RHP Paul Byrd
LHP Jeremy Sowers
SU: Rafael Betancourt
CL: Joe Borowski

The Indians return the same starting lineup and pitching staff as last years bunch, minus Kenny Lofton. I'd say their in pretty good shape as last years squad reeled off 96 wins. I think they should have re-signed Lofton for depth in the outfield, but they should be fine without him. Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez and Grady Sizemore are all-star players and all 3 have MVP type talent. The starting rotation looks solid, lead by Sabathia and Carmona. Outside of Betancourt and Rafael Perez (minus last years playoff struggles), I'm not too up on their bullpen, and thats where they may have some problems. With their solid starting pitching, they should be able to score enough runs to keep up with the better offensive teams in the league, but their bullpen may not be able to keep opponents off the board. This should be the year Betancourt takes over the closers job. They have a few youngsters in Asrubal Cabrera, Franklin Guttierrez and Ben Francisco who all could be huge lifts if they can produce offensively. As they stand now, I just can't see them finishing above the loaded Detroit Tigers .

3rd Place, Chicago White Sox
Lineup:
CF Jerry Owens
SS Orlando Cabrera
LF Nick Swisher
DH Jim Thome
1B Paul Konerko
RF Jemaine Dye
C A.J. Pierzynski
3B Josh Fields
2B Danny Richar

Rotation:
LHP Mark Buerhle
RHP Javier Vazquez
RHP John Danks
RHP Jose Contreras
RHP Gavin Floyd
SU: Scott Linebrink
CL: Bobby Jenks

The White Sox should be in the thick of things in the AL Central all year. Although they don't have a true, proven leadoff hitter, their lineup has plenty of punch and shouldn't have any problem scoring runs. The middle of the order is aging a bit, but can still hit. The additions of Nick Swisher and Orlando Cabrera give the lineup speed and versatility. I'm not sold on their starting rotation just yet. Buerhle and Vazquez should be fine, but after those two, it gets a little shaky. John Danks and Gavin Floyd are playing big roles in the rotation and neither has been successful in the bigs yet. They also could use another solid arm in the rotation in place of Contreras who has been on a steep decline. The bullpen is solid with Jenks and Linebrink closing teams down in the 8th and 9th innings.

4th Place, Minnasotta Twins
Lineup:
CF Carlos Gomez
2B Bredan Harris
C Joe Mauer
1B Justin Morneau
LF Delmon Young
RF Michael Cuddyer
3B Mike Lamb
DH Jason Kubel/Craig Monroe
SS Adam Everett

Rotation:
LHP Francisco Liriano
RHP Livan Hernandez
RHP Scott Baker
RHP Boof Bonser
RHP Kevin Slowey
SU: Pat Neshek
CL: Joe Nathan

The Twins lost their two top players from a year ago (Torii Hunter, Johan Santana) and although they got some good young players in return, it looks like '08 will be a year of transition for the Twins. Their starting staff is loaded with talent as well as a whole bunch of questions. Liriano has to return to his 2006 form and Scott Baker will have to resemble a young Brad Radke if the Twins are going to have any shot in this division this year. Their bullpen is once again one of the better ones in the league with Matt Guerrier, Pat Neshek and Joe Nathan holding down the 7th, 8th and 9th innings. They also have some young talent in their lineup with Delemon Young, Joe Mauer and Carlos Gomez. They have the pieces in place to be good, but it may take a year or two for them to develop.

5th Place, Kansas City Royals
Lineup:
CF David DeJesus
2B Mark Grudzielanek
LF Mark Teahan
3B Alex Gordon
RF Jose Guillen
1B Billy Butler
DH Ross Gload/Joey Gathright
C John Buck
SS Tony Pena

Rotation:
RHP Gil Meche
RHP Brian Bannister
LHP Zack Grienke
RHP Brett Tomko
LHP Jorge De La Rosa/RHP Kyle Davies
SU: Ron Mahay
CL: Joakim Soria

Once again, the Royals have very little hope in the AL Central, but things look to be on the up for Kansas City. All the young talent accumulated over the years is starting to form a decent, young lineup. I think at least one of their youngsters (Mark Teahan, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon) will breakout and have an all-star year this season. They also have Joey Gathright waiting in the wings who if given a full time job could very well steal 75+ bases. Their pitching isn't very good, but they appear to have a set rotation going into the season, which is better than they've had in years past. Meche, Bannister and Grienke are all capable big league arms, and Joakim Soria is one of the bright young closers in the game today.
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3 Comments:

  • At 8:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think the White Sox will make some noise. Never underestimate Ozzie Guillen's crew.

     
  • At 8:34 PM, Anonymous Osiris said…

    I like Cleveland for the AL Wild Card if they can get their bullpen straightened out.

     
  • At 1:27 AM, Anonymous four seamer said…

    Imagine if the Indians signed Bonds? Him tutoring Hafner and Sizemore along with the younger outfielders as well. It could be a good fit. Cleveland isn't a huge meadia city so he may not be too much of a distraction there. Who knows. That's my two cents.

     

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