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Thursday, March 22, 2012

2012 MLB Preview: AL Central

On to what I believe to be the worst division in baseball heading into the year, and also happens to be one of the hardest to pick. Literally, every team in that division is alive, even the Twins have a shot if the stars align and Mauer, Morneau and Liriano all perform and avoid DL-time. Anyway, here's how we see the AL Central shaking out this year:


AL Central Preview


First Place, Detroit Tigers

Lineup:
CF Austin Jackson
RF Brandon Boesch
3B Miguel Cabrera
1B Prince Fielder
LF Delmon Young
C Alex Avilla
SS Johnny Peralta
DH Don Kelly
2B Ryan Rayburn

Rotation/Closer
RHP Justin Verlander
RHP Max Scherzer
RHP Doug Fister
RHP Rick Porcello
LHP Andrew Oliver (R)
CL: Jose Valverde

In perhaps the weakest division in baseball, the Tigers, with two MVP candidates in the lineup and the reigning AL Cy Young award winner atop their rotation look very strong. The Fielder addition was one that should put them over the top in this paper-thin division and look for Fielder and Cabrera to provide one of the best 3-4 punches in the game and the Tigers to have this thing locked up by early September. The only question with them lies at the end of their rotation and with the depth of their bullpen, but both are strong enough in this division to hold off the other teams. When they get to the postseason, that's when they could get exposed.

2nd Place, Kansas City Royals

Lineup:
LF Alex Gordon
CF Lorenzo Cain
1B Eric Hosmer
DH Billy Butler
RF Jeff Francoeur
3B Mike Moustakas
2B Johnny Giavotella
C Bryan Pena
SS Alcides Escobar

Rotation/Closer:
LHP Bruce Chen
RHP Luke Hochevar
LHP Jonathan Sanchez
RHP Luis Mendoza
RHP Felipe Paulino
CL: Jonathan Broxton

The Royals have already suffered a catastrophic loss in young closer Joakim Soria, but they have the young rotation, bullpen, and enough young talent in their everyday lineup to help overcome it and give KC their best team they've seen since the turn of the century! All their young hitters are having strong springs, but there are some questions surrounding their starting rotation, where they have no true ace. Chen will fill that role, and they're hoping Hochevar and Sanchez each pitch to their potentials, which would give KC a strong front-3 even without that true ace. Their closer will likely be Broxton, who if healthy should be just fine in Soria's place. They're still not playoff material yet, but the Royals are rising in a weak division. They should be all over Javier Vazquez and Roy Oswalt!

3rd Place, Chicago White Sox

Lineup:
CF Alejandro De Aza
2B Gordon Beckham
RF Alex Rios
1B Paul Konerko
DH Adam Dunn
SS Alexi Ramirez
3B Brent Morel
LF Dylan Viciedo
C AJ Pierzynski

Rotation/Closer:
RHP Jake Peavy
LHP John Danks
RHP Gavin Floyd
LHP Chris Sale
RHP Phillip Humber
CL: Matt Thornton

The White Sox are banking on just about everybody besides De Aza and Konerko to have bounce-back seasons in 2012, or in some players cases like Morel and Viciedo's, build on 2011's brief success. The guys they need to rebound and hold the key to their success in 2012 are: Dunn, Beckham, Rios and Peavy. If all those guys play like they're capable of, and shown in the past, then the White Sox will be OK. If that doesn't happen, it's going to be another long year on the South Side.

4th Place, Cleveland Indians

Lineup
CF Michael Brantley
LF Grady Sizemore*
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
C Carlos Santana
RF Shin-Soo Choo
DH Travis Hafner
1B Shelly Duncan
2B Jason Kipnis
3B Jack Hannahan

Rotation/Closer
RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
RHP Justin Masterson
RHP Josh Tomlin
RHP Derek Lowe
RHP Kevin Slowey
CL: Chris Perez

Injuries to the rotation forced the Indians to add Derek Lowe this offseason, and I think it will wind up being a nice addition to a young staff. Masterson and Jimenez should be solid atop, but Slowey is questionable in the five-slot and could be expendable. They have a under-appreciated closer in Perez, and some very good young pieces in their lineup like Cabrera, Santana and Brantley, but will need Hafner, Choo and Sizemore to avoid major DL time to have any hope of contending. In this division though, an injury here or a hot streak there could really change the shape of things, and it wouldn't surprise me the least of any of these top-4 teams win the division. The one team I'm pretty certain wont win the division...

Fifth Place, Minnesota Twins

Lineup:
CF Denard Span
SS Jamey Carroll
C Joe Mauer
1B Justin Morneau
RF Josh Willingham
DH Ryan Doumit
3B Danny Valencia
LF Trevor Plouffe
2B Alexi Casilla

Rotation/Closer
RHP Carl Pavano
LHP Francisco Liriano
RHP Scott Baker
RHP Jason Marquis
RHP Nick Blackburn
CL: Matt Capps

The Twins, out of every team in baseball, are most likely the team every batter would like to face. Their pitching staff, from top to bottom, just isn't that strong and doesn't look to be a whole lot better in 2012. Liriano should be a bit better, but any time a team is trotting out a 9-13 pitcher with a 1.34 ERA on opening day, you know it's in trouble. From Pavano, down through Marquis, Blackburn and even in their closer Capps, these guys just don't scare anyone, don't strike people out and have a hard time getting hitters out in general. Also, their best two hitters, the J.M.'s, are as fragile as they come and need to spend more time on the field than the DL. Those two were batting champion and MVP candidates just 2 years ago, hard to believe they both completely lost it at the same time? But the Twins, for a team with a new yard should be drawing up more hype and spending more money and they just aren't making good decisions.

Giants Notes: As far as the Giants notes go, there really isn't a whole lot new to talk about. Their was some good things going on Thursday though, as both Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson each had outings in a minor league game and looked solid doing so. Wilson is still being babied because of the arm problems he had last season. He's still on target to start the season as the Giants closer and I don't foresee that changing... Still waiting to see how Ryan Vogelsong does though after missing much of the Cactus League so far... And of course, nothing new to report on Freddie, other than it looks inevitable that he starts the year on the DL, opening up another infield spot, most likely for Manny Burris, but I'd expect to see Fontenot out there for the opener.
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2 Comments:

  • At 2:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think the Twins will be better than people expect... They're healthy finally, and I think Justin and Joe will be good to go! I think they surprise and battle the Tigers!

     
  • At 3:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

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