It appears myworld got this division right, except for picking the Royals to finish second. The Indians superior pitching has paid off. Below are the teams current standings with myworld’s prediction in parenthesis. We have also listed the five top prospects, excluding anyone currently at the major league level who we feel will not be considered a prospect next year.
Cleveland Indians (1) - The pitching has been solid even with the step backward from Corey Kluber, now the third best starter on this team. They need to get Mickey Brantley back in the outfield picture. Tyler Naquin has been has been filling one of the outfield positions. Francisco Lindor has proved that last year was not a fluke. A bullpen meltdown could prevent them from holding this lead and acquiring a catcher for the stretch run is on the priority list.
The Indians probably have the strongest prospect system in the Central and could use some of that surplus to fill the holes at catcher or in the outfield. 1) Clint Frazier should see the Indians outfield next year. He shows a good mix of power and average with the defensive chops to play centerfield. 2) Bradley Zimmer is said to be a better centerfielder than Frazier, but from what we’ve seen we like Frazier there. Zimmer is probably a less consistent hitter than Frazier but he has a nice combination of power and speed. 3) Bobby Bradley is a slugging first baseman with a lot of swing and miss to his game. His lack of speed leaves him as a first base or DH candidate only. 4) Tristan McKenzie is a stick figure who can throw a fastball in the mid-90s. Imagine what he can do once he fills out. An impressive 0.61 ERA after 8 starts in the rookie league. 5) Francisco Mejia has a 40 game hitting streak and a .347 average. His arm is a rocket that will make runners think twice before stealing a base.
Detroit Tigers (4) - Who would have thought Michael Fulmer would be the ace of this staff? Justin Verlander is having a better year than last year but he is still short of his Cy Young stuff. The power bats of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez and the emergence of Nick Castellanos gives them one of the best offenses in this division. As the season winds down the Tigers would like to see more from Justin Upton and get back a healthy J.D. Martinez. They seem to finally have found a closer in Francisco Rodriguez, something they have been missing in their other playoff runs.
The Tigers have a veteran lineup that makes it difficult for prospects to crack. 1) Christin Stewart has slugged his way to prospect status, bashing homers in the Florida State League. His defense will limit him to left field and he will strike out a lot. 2) Joe Jimenez does not throw as hard as Bruce Rondon but he may end up a better closer. He has 23 saves and a 1.17 ERA at three minor league levels. 3) Jacoby Jones was acquired from the Pirates and was suspended for a drug of abuse. He has a lot of making up to do. If his offense does not come around he could be a solid utility player. 4) Matt Manning was a first round pick, throws in the high 90s and is 6′6″. We’ll give him some creds for that. 5) Derek Hill will be a speed guy at the top of the order, patrolling centerfield. He seems to have resurrected his prospect status with a solid year.
Chicago White Sox (3) - Their pitching almost rivaled the Indians but Carlos Rodon is still inconsistent and now needs to get healthy. Jose Abreu has not matched his rookie year and Todd Frazier may be hitting for power but his average is way down. It is hard to conceive that at one time in his career David Robertson was to be the replacement for Mariano Rivera as the Yankees closer. It appears the White Sox are selling so a drop in the standings is likely.
The farm system is ugly. Myworld had a hard time finding five players to get excited about. The 2016 draft crop dominates this list. 1) Zack Collins was criticized for his poor defense behind the plate. Some say he may have to move to first. He has the power bat to survive at the position but the White Sox will give him a chance behind the plate. 2) Zach Burdi was another first round pick who has a fastball that hits triple digits. Coming out of the bullpen he could be a fast riser. 3) Adam Engel has impact speed that can create chaos from the leadoff spot. He still needs to do a better job of getting on base. 4) Alec Hanson is another 2016 pick, a second rounder who carries a mid to high 90s fastball. Command was said to be an issue but in six starts he has only walked six hitters with a .119 opposition average. 5) Trey Michalczewski is having trouble making contact this year resulting in a lower than expected average.
Kansas City Royals (2) - We were a little more optimistic about the Royals but an end of season injury to Mike Moustakas and a down year from free agent signee Alex Gordon has hurt the offense. The starting rotation lacks an ace and the bullpen does not have the same firepower it had in their first World Series run. Ian Kennedy has been a big disappointment after signing a multi year contract. The Royals may be in sell mode and Kennedy would be tops on the list.
Another weak farm system that has been decimated by trades to fulfill playoff ambitions. 1) Hunter Dozier has a power bat but Cheslor Cuthbert appears to have this position covered after the Mike Moustakas free agent departure. Dozier lacks the speed to be a rangy outfielder but it may be the best way to get his bat in the lineup. 2) Jorge Bonafacio has finally discovered his power. It won’t take him long to fill one of the Royals outfield positions. 3) Alec Mills had some dominant starts in AA. He has struggled a bit in AAA but a good pitcher’s frame and solid fastball will get him to the major leagues next year. 4) Brooks Pounders is a big boy who throws hard. His best bet may be to fill the closer role. He puts up video game numbers when pitching out of the pen. 5) Ashe Russell is a first round pick from last year with a explosive fastball slider combination. He needs to develop a third pitch to remain in the rotation.
Minnesota Twins (5) - The Twins are having such a disappointing year they fired Terry Ryan, who came out of retirement to try to resurrect the team. He had built up the roster to many playoff appearances years ago but the magic did not return in his second stint. Korean free agent signee Byung Ho Park struggled making contact leading to a demotion to the minors. Miguel Sano has not progressed from his rookie year and his outfield defense was poor forcing a move to DH/first base. The starting rotation lacks an ace and even a number two starter, though Ervin Santana, the only starter with an ERA below 4 can mime one on occasion.
1) Jose Berrios was used in the starting rotation but found major league hitters a bit of a challenge. He will be back next year. 2) Nick Gordon, the son of Flash Tom Gordon and half brother of Marlin Dee Gordon will try to stick at shortstop. He does not have the speed of Dee but his defensive tools should allow him to play the positiont. 3) Tyler Jay was a reliever in college but the Twins are using his arm in the rotation because he has four average to above average pitches. 4) J.T. Chargois could be the Twins future closer with his three digit fastball. 5) Stephen Gonsalves fastball is not overpowering but a plus changeup gives it more giddy yup.