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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

2015 MLB Previews: AL Central

The AL Central is a much improved division and all five teams have at least a glimmer of hope entering the season. Plus after seeing what the Royals did last year, they all have to feel like they're capable of pulling the same thing off. I think the Tigers, based on sheer star power, depth, and pitching have to be the front-runners, but after that, it's up for grabs. It's not likely, but it's possible both wild card teams could come out of the Central.


1st Place, Detroit Tigers

2B Ian Kinsler
CF Anthony Gose/Rajai Davis
1B Miguel Cabrera
DH Victor Martinez
RF J.D. Martinez
LF Yeonis Cespedes
3B Nick Castellanos
C Alex Avila
SS Jose Inglesias

LHP David Price
RHP Justin Verlander
RHP Anibal Sanchez
RHP Alfredo Simon
RHP Shane Green
SU: Joakim Soria
CL: Joe Nathan

Key Reserves: OF Rajai Davis, IF Andrew Romine

Although they lost ace Max Scherzer, their new one should be able to fill his shoes admirably in his first full season in the "Motor City". They're pitching staff is deep, and strong, and they have two guys capable of shutting the door on you in Joe Nate and Joakim Soria, so both should stay fresh. That lineup should have no trouble scoring runs either with the big addition of Yeonis Cespedes. I'd like to see more out of Nick Castellanos and he's had a solid spring. To me though, it comes down to Justin Verlander. If he's the pre-2014 version, they're not only division favorites, but legit 'Series contenders. A full healthy season out of Anibal Sanchez (which they didn't get in '14) could be key if Verlander's decline continues. This team is getting older though and if they run into injury problems or some guys have down years, they'll struggle to keep off the rising, reigning AL Champion Royals and may even fail at topping the young "Tribe" in Cleveland.

3rd Place, Cleveland Indians *AL Wild Card

CF Michael Bourn
3B Lonnie Chisneall
LF Michael Brantley
1B Carlos Santana
C Yan Gomes
RF Brandon Moss
DH Nick Swisher
2B Jason Kipnis
2B Jose Ramirez

RHP Corey Kluber
RHP Carlos Carrasco
RHP Trevor Bauer
RHP Danny Salazar
LHP TJ House
SU: RH Bryan Shaw
CL: RH Cody Allen

Key Reserves: UT Mike Aviles, OF David Murphy

Now I'm not going to pick them to take over Detroit this year, (granted Tigers are healthy) but talk about a big story heading into the season. The Indians are improving too. So much in fact that SI has them as the AL reps in the World Series this fall. They sport a terrific young staff who ALL are going to just get better, and that's scary. They may be a year away from really being legit Series contenders, but they very well could make the jump this year. Michael Brantley took a huge step forward last year, adding power to his game and making him now a legit 5-tool player. They finally have the player Grady Sizemore was supposed to be. He hit's .330 again with 20-25 jacks, 100 RBI and 24 steals though he may just work his way into MVP talks, he's that good. They need more out of Bourn and as well as other veterans Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis, all of which are capable of performing at higher levels than last year. Other than that though, they've got enough talent to be competitive, but not enough polish to win the division as is quite yet, in my opinion. However, they are very much like the Royals (just with much better starting pitching) of a year ago and this division may very well have both Wild Card teams if things go right with the top-3.

3rd Place, Kansas City Royals 

SS Alcides Escobar
CF Lorenzo Cain
1B Eric Hosmer
DH Kendrys Morales
LF Alex Gordon
C Salvador Perez
2B Omar Infante
RF Alex Rios
3B Mike Moustakas

RHP Yordano Ventura
LHP Jason Vargas
RHP Edinson Volzquez
LHP Danny Duffy
RHP Jeremy Guthrie/Chris Young
SU:  RH Wade Davis
CL: RH Greg Holland

Key Reserves: OF Jarod Dyson, IF Christian Colon

The young hungry Royals are going to give the star-powered Tigers and uber-taelented Indians a run for their money in this division and the healthiest team likely comes out on top. The Royals did lose Shields, which is huge but they're hoping Ventura is that guy to take this staff over and the other guys step up too (Ventura does look legit, but not overly impressed with rest of rotation). Much like the Giants, this team plays hard and plays for each other and seems to get the optimum talent out of each of their players. Lorenzo Cain is growing into a force who's capable of a 20-20/.300 season once that power arrives for good, and Salvy Perez should be much bigger in 2015 than last season. Alex Gordon is as steady as they come and an anchor in the middle of the lineup as well as a strong defender. The lineup is deep, fast and powerful. That bullpen is second to none in this game. So good in fact that it makes an average rotation a winning one in the regular season just because you just have to give them a lead after 6. They'll be in the wild card hunt, but I don't think they'll sniff the World Series again in 2015.

4th Place, Chicago White Sox

CF Adam Eaton
SS Alexi Ramirez
LF Melky Cabrera
1B Jose Abreu
DH Adam LaRoche
RF Avasail Garcia
3B Connor Gillaspie
2B Micah Johnson
C Tyler Flowers

LH Chris Sale
RH Jeff Samardzija
LH Jose Quintana
LH John Danks
RH Hector Noesi
SU: RH Jake Petricka
CL: Dave Robertson

Key Reserves: UT Emilio Bonafacio, IF Gordon Beckam

These guys are going to be the wild card of the division because they have such a good offense and a strong front-three in their rotation. They should outscore Cleveland, but probably won't out-pitch them from top to bottom so I had to rank them lower but in reality these guys are gonna be neck-and-neck trying to take down KC and Detroit. The rotation falls a bit after Quintana, but not by much and that bullpen's not too shabby. They also have depth. Jose Abreu showed he's the real deal and an MVP candidate and Melky Cabrera is an all-star type talent when healthy. Like most other teams in the division they should score, but unlike the teams ahead of them, I don't think they're quite as deep in the pitching department. Still things are close in this division and it wouldn't surprise me if four teams finished within 8 games of first place.

5th Place, Minnesota Twins

SS Danny Santana
2B Brian Dozier
1B Joe Mauer
DH Kennys Vargas
RF Tori Hunter
3B Trevor Plouffe
LF Oswaldo Arcacia
C Kurt Suzuki
CF Jordan Schaefer/Aaron Hicks

RH Phil Hughes
RH Ervin Santana
RH Ricky Nolasco
RH Kyle Gibson
RH Tommy Milone
SU: LH Brian Duensing
CL:  LH Glen Perkins

Key Reserves: OF Aaron Hicks/Jordan Schafer, IF Eduardo Escobar

Of all the teams in this division, they'd need the most to go right in order to squeak out a playoff birth. They'd need Hunter to find the fountain of youth, Mauer to find his rapidly diminished power stroke, and that pitching staff to all put up career years to have a chance at competing. That said, I do like what they're doing and the direction they're headed. They have some nice young talent like Vargas, Arcacia, Schaefer, Santana and Dozier. They just don't quite have a deep enough or talented enough 25-man roster to keep up with the rest of this division.

The Giants Baseball Blog


  • At 11:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I wondered why Detroit let Scherzer go without a fight, but I forgot they got Price last year. That team is sick if Verlander can get back to form, but I like Cleveland and KC. Young hungry talent. I think KC wants it bad after getting sooooo close last year. I'd pick them 1st.


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