Six Division Predictions in Six Days - AL Central

This is a division that will be very competitive. Many of the baseball statistical services are not giving the Kansas City Royals a lot of respect despite making the playoffs the last two years. Some are predicting them to be below .500. Perhaps that is a testament about putting too much of your eggs in statistical numbers and not recognizing the many non statistical categories that make up a team and its players. The Cleveland Indians may have the best pitching staff in the American league but the only team in this conference lacking an offense. The Detroit Tigers will beat teams into submission with their offense. The Chicago White Sox offensive game should be much improved with the addition of Todd Frazier. They may be the team with the best blend of pitching and hitting. The Minnesota Twins have some young bashers but their pitching is suspect. Myworld always goes with the pitching when we are looking at close races.

1. Cleveland Indians - The Indians already have an ace in Cory Kluber. They have two ace in waitings in Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. Trevor Bauer may never reach his potential as an ace but he is pretty good in the back end of a rotation. Cody Anderson will eventually take that number five spot. The starting rotation will save the bullpen some innings making them more effective. The bullpen is not top of the line but highlights Cody Allen as the closer. The outfield is stacked with backups thrust into starting jobs until Mickey Brantley returns in May and Clint Frazier or Bradley Zimmer are ready to take over two of the positions. This is not anticipated to happen until 2017. Tyler Naquin appears to have an outfield job sewn up. The one bright spot for the offense is they will have Francisco Lindor for the full year. His defense is equivalent to Andrelton Simmons though his offensive numbers he put up last year are bound to slip. Jason Kipnis had a breakout year last year but it will be asking a lot to repeat those numbers. Older players with sliding offensive skills will play the corners. Carlos Santana drew a number of walks last year but he needs to start hitting for a higher average when he was catching regularly. Yan Gomes should have a better year if he can stay free from injuries.

2. Kansas City Royals - Resigning Alex Gordon was a critical move. He could be the heart and soul of the team. Lorenzo Cain does not put up eye popping offensive numbers but his ability to play defense while putting up solid numbers makes him a winner. The Royals will have to find a way to fill that hole in right field and waiting for the injured Jarrod Dyson is not the solution. The infield lacks big time power guys at the corners but they still have an offensive game. It is up the middle where they will not generate a lot of runs. At least Alcides Escobar will give you defense. Omar Infante may cede his starting spot to Christoper Colon by May. The starting staff lacks an ace and has some question marks at the back end of the rotation. For the Indians Edinson Volquez, Yordano Ventura and Ian Kennedy would fit in the back end of their rotation. For the Royals they are at the front end. The bullpen is losing some of their heat. Wade Davis is still lights out as their closer but Kelvin Herrera has lost his fear factor and the Royals have lost their edge. Getting the ball to Davis will be the responsibility of Joaquin Soria, who returns to the Royals as their setup man. He began his career as the Royals closer.

3. Chicago White Sox - Myworld likes their balance. The top three in the rotation, Chris Sale, Carlos Rodon and Jose Quintana can match the top three of the Indians. The one concern is they all throw lefthanded, which gives righthanders a better look against them. The White Sox won’t complain if they continue to retire all hitters. The corners are occupied by two 30 plus homerun hitters in Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier, something neither the Indians or Royals can brag about. Adam Eaton is a solid leadoff hitter who patrols a lot of real estate in centerfield. After those positions/players it gets a bit dicey. Behind the plate, at shortstop and in right field they have major holes. Alexie Ramirez left for free agency and the White Sox are hoping Jimmy Rollins can handle the position for half a year until Tim Anderson is ready. There is hope that Avisail Garcia will reach his potential playing right field. He had a difficult sophomore season after shining in his rookie year. And Alex Avila was released by his father and the White Sox hope he can handle their pitching staff recognizing his bat could slug along near .200 or below. David Robertson did not have a good year in the bullpen last year. The Yankees had hopes he would replace Mariano Rivera, but now they have three guys in their pen who would be better at closing than Robertson.

4. Detroit Tigers - The only offense more potent than the Tigers will be the Blue Jays. They need Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez to stay healthy, a difficult task considering their age. Both have the potential to win batting titles and drive in 100 runs. The corner outfield is filled with the power bats of J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton. Both players are capable of 30 plus homeruns. This leaves no room for slugger Steven Moya, who appears ready for a major league opportunity but has no position to play. The Tigers keep waiting for Nick Castellanos to find his game. His defense at the hot corner is a little shaky so if he wants to keep his position he has to show some bat. Ian Kinsler is a veteran presence at second base good for 20 plus homeruns. Myworld keeps on waiting for Jose Iglesias not too hit, but the good field no hit shortstop has shown he has a pretty good stick. He is also a gold glove candidate if not for Andrelton Simmons or Francisco Lindor. Even James McCann has a little juice in his stick and is a solid presence behind the plate. What will hurt the Tigers is their lack of pitching. Justin Verlander has to resurrect his ace like status for the Tigers to have a chance. Jordan Zimmerman can replace him as an ace, but his 2015 season with the Nationals found him more hittable than 2014. The Tigers hope the down years by both Verlander and Zimmerman are anomalies. Anibal Sanchez has been struggling this spring and Daniel Norris has been saddled with a bad back and will miss much of April. There is not a lot of effective depth to replace the injured. The Tigers have worked hard to address their bullpen needs, signing the veteran Francisco Rodriguez and acquiring Justin Wilson from the Yankees. Bruce Rondon could be the key. If he can stay on the field to throw his three digit darts that could deepen the bullpen depth and give the Tigers a young closer in waiting.

5. Minnesota Twins - They have some interesting power capabilities, but they all play the same position. Byung-Ho Park hit 50 plus homeruns in two seasons in Korea. Many translate that to a 30 plus season in the major leagues but he is a big guy making the Twins hope for more. That moves Miguel Sano to right field where the defense could suffer. The up side is the bat could bring the Twins 30 plus homeruns with a possibility of 40. Joe Mauer is still being payed well, but playing first base lessons his value. It also keeps another power bat in Kennys Vargas out of the lineup. Miguel Sano might be better defensively at third, but the Twins have Trevor Plouffe to play there and he is a proven 20 plus power hitter with solid defensive skills. Brian Dozier at second base is the straw that stirs the drink. He blasts homeruns which would make him ideal for the middle of the order, but he gets on base and steals bases which has found him at the top of the order. Bryan Buxton could decide where Dozier hits in the lineup. If the mega prospect Buxton can hit he could find himself in the leadoff spot. To date he has struggled with the bat. A decent offensive game will be sabotaged by a lack of pitching. Ervin Santana will get the nod for opening day. He is more a number 2 starter than an ace. Last year he missed 80 games because of suspension. After him the rotation turns pedestrian with a number of soft tossers trying to complete the rotation. The bullpen will suffer from the lack of innings by the starters and prove to be an inefficient bunch.

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