AL Central Predictions

The Cleveland Indians appear to be rebuilding. That is good news for Twins and White Sox fans.

Minnesota Twins

Good - Last year they broke the record for homeruns in a season with 307. They signed Josh Donaldson to play third base. He should be good for thirty plus more homeruns to add to that total. The big question is whether Mitch Garver can replicate his 2019 season when he hit 31 homers in just 93 games for a .630 slugging percentage. Twin fans may want to temper down expectations and hope for a 20 plus season, which is still pretty good for a catcher. Nelson Cruz will hit 40 in July. He has been good for 40 plus homeruns in four of his last six seasons. When he fell short it was by less than a handful. The corners in the outfield of Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler each combined for 30 plus homeruns. It would stay good news if Kepler stayed at the corner and did not have to play 60 plus games in centerfield because of injuries to Byron Buxton. He is not noted for his defense but Miguel Sano has some pop. If he can stay healthy for a full season he could hit 40 plus homeruns at first base or DH. This lineup has the potential for three or more 40 plus homerun hitters in their lineup and another season of 300 plus homeruns. Jose Berrios could turn into the ace the Twins need to cut down on those losing streaks.

Bad - The bullpen looks a little leaky. They will rely on Taylor Rogers to repeat his 30 save performance. He entered the 2019 season with only two saves. Relievers can be temperamental. Expecting back to back seasons from first year closers is asking a lot. Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard are veterans who have done the role, but Trevor May has the closer stuff if Rogers falters. The starting pitching looks a little thin after Berrios and Jake Odorizzi. Kenta Maeda and Homer Bailey have had issues being reliable for full seasons. The return of Michael Pineda from suspension in May would lengthen the rotation, dropping Maeda and Bailey to more acceptable back of rotation spots. Byron Buxton could be a star but he has played in more than 100 games once in his five years in the major leagues. Marwin Gonzalez could fill the outfield role if Buxton does not play but the defense and offense would be impacted.

Ugly - If the balls are not flying out of the park the Twins could be hurting. Also, the lack of depth in their starting rotation cannot afford an injury to Berrios or Odorizzi. Not a lot of big time pitching prospects waiting in the minor leagues to replace them.

Rookies - This is a veteran laden roster. Injuries to the starting rotation could provide opportunities for Devin Smeltzer or Lewis Thorpe. Neither are considered ace material pitchers. If either Alex Kirilloff or Trevor Larnach tear it up in the minors and injuries hit the outfield depth they could get opportunities. Royce Lewis is also waiting for his opportunity if an infield spot should open up.

Expected Finish - First place, and if their offense is running on all cylinders they should get past the first round in the playoffs.

Chicago White Sox

Good - It is a young team with a lot of upside. Eloy Jimenez last year had a rookie season in which he hit 31 homeruns. His defense in left field is very dicey and he belongs more at the DH. Everyone expects Luis Robert to play center and put up Cody Bellinger like numbers. His centerfield defense may be challenged as a rookie. The starting rotation has a lot of depth and promise. Lucas Giolito seemed to figure it all out last year and Dallas Keuchel will show him what it is like to be an ace. The White Sox hope Reynaldo Lopez figures it out, making the trade with the Nationals for Adam Eaton a steal. If not, Michael Kopech could be ready. Before the Tommy John surgery he had an easy triple digit fastball. Gio Gonzalez could make it a ex-Nationals threesome for the White Sox rotation, but his best years are behind him. Yoan Moncada finally pulled it all together last year. The White Sox hope that more improvement is on the horizon. Yasmani Grandal was a good free agent signing. He has hit 20 plus homeruns in his last four years, turning last year’s starter James McCann into a backup and future catcher prospect Zach Collins an after thought or a move to first base or DH.

Bad - There still appears to be a hole at second base. Yolmer Sanchez won a gold glove there last year but was not much of a bat. The White Sox may go with Leury Garcia there this year but his glove may not be as strong as Yolmer and his bat is very vanilla. With a good spring Nick Madrigal could win the starting job. The defense does not look very strong with Jimenez in left field and average or below average defenders at every position except catcher. If Leury Garcia is starting at second base the White Sox lack a utility option they can fill in at a number of positions.

Ugly - The starting staff is young and if injuries or poor performance hit too many of them any shot at contending for the playoffs will be eliminated. Though there is some depth in the rotation it only goes six deep. There is a lack of depth in the outfield should Roberts struggle or injuries make for extended absences.

Rookies - Luis Robert and Michael Kopech are the two big rookies since they are expected to play big roles on the team. Nick Madrigal is a sleeper and could be called up by midyear.

Expected Finish - Second place but just short of the wild card berth and the playoffs.

Cleveland Indians

Good - Francisco Lindor is one of the best shortstops in baseball, but the Indians have spent a lot of time trying to trade him. He provides offense and defense. This would become a big hole if he is traded. Roberto Perez had a break out year behind the plate, hitting 24 homeruns. His batting average (.231) was a little weak. Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger are new names in the rotation that had solid years last year. If they can stay healthy the Indians can be competitive for two of their five games. Carlos Carrasco has to prove he is healthy before myworld mounts him as a benefit to this rotation. Jose Ramirez needs to show the 2019 season was a fluke and bounce back to his previous years numbers to make third base a strength.

Bad - A lot of vanilla in the outfield. Jordan Luplow is a terror against left handed pitching (.320) but an automatic out versus right handers (.216). Franmill Reyes is a defensive liability, but can hit the ball a long ways, as his 37 homers show. Oscar Mercado had a nice rookie season but his numbers fall far short of others at the position. Not a lot at the back end of the rotation, especially if Carlos Carrasco does not stay healthy. The DH spot seems like an empty hole for offense. They hope for better production from Jake Bauers or Carlos Santana or Franmil Reyes could be moved there.

Ugly - By midseason it could get ugly after the Indians fall out of the playoff race and trade Francisco Lindor and other veterans for prospects. They will then fall closer to the Tigers and Royals than contend with the White Sox and Twins.

Rookies - The farm system is loaded more at the lower levels than the upper levels. Logan Allen could be ready for the Indians rotation by mid season. He was acquired from the Padres with Franmil Reyes in the three team Trevor Bauer trade. Bobby Bradley could move to first or fill the DH slot if there continues to be lack of production. He is capable of 30 plus homerun pop. Emmanuel Clase could take over the closer role by the end of the season if the Indians start to trade their veterans and send Brad Hand packing.

Expected finish - Third place, far from the playoffs

Detroit Tigers

Good - They have a future starting five in Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal, Alex Faedo and Franklin Perez. This will not help them much in 2020 but fans could see a sprinkle of their abilities before the season ends. Matt Boyd showed ace potential with 200 plus strikeouts last year, but was still too inconsistent to be placed in the ace category. The best “good” that can come for the Tigers with Boyd is that he meets his ace potential and the Tigers get a bagful of prospects for him. Niko Goodrum is good as a utility player but falls short as a starter at one position.

Bad - Let’s just say they are stacking their lineup with a bunch of fillers. They hope Christin Stewart has a better year but all the other positions are filled with journeyman who have no future in the Tigers rebuild. Miguel Cabrera will eat a lot of salary at the DH spot.

Ugly - The starting rotation behind Boyd will give up lots of runs. Can’t imagine the starter ERA being any less than 5.

Rookies - A lot of potential in the starting five mentioned in the “good”. During a bad season there is little incentive to lose service time calling them up, but Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal could fit in the rotation by mid-season. Isaac Paredes could win the third base job out of spring training. He may not have the power for the corner infield spot but he can find the gaps. Willie Castro and Jake Rogers lack the offense to make an impact, but they both got major league time last year.

Expected Finish - They will battle the Royals for last place in this division. Whoever wins that battle may get the number one pick next year.

Kansas City Royals

Good - Like the Tigers the Royals are collecting a number of good arms for the future starting rotation. Brady Singer, Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar are three first round picks rising up the minor league ladder. Jorge Soler has a good bat but a terrible glove. His 48 homeruns last year will see most of his games at DH. Salvador Perez used to be one of the best catchers in the major leagues. He missed last year because of Tommy John surgery. He should be ready to play this year. Whit Merrifield may not be with the Royals before the year ends. He has hit .300 his last two years and can play either second base or centerfield. Adalberto Mondesi, the son of Raul, relies on his legs to create havoc. The shortstop has stolen 30 or more bases his last two years. Last year was a down year compared to his breakout 2018.

Bad - The corner infielders are question marks. Ryan O’Hearn had a down year last year slugging just .369. That is more than 200 points lower than last year’s numbers. Maikel Franco signed as a free agent this year. Last year in Philadelphia his slugging was just .409. Teams expect more offense from their infield corners. The team resigned Alex Gordon to play left field, but his best days are behind him. Last year he slugged .396. Nicky Lopez is their promising rookie second baseman, but he finished the year with an OBA of .276. These bats are not going to support a rag tag group of pitchers who will give up runs in bunches. Their bullpen will not protect a lot of leads. The biggest issue is getting a lead to Ian Kennedy, who converted from starter to bullpen and saved 30 games.

Ugly - The starting rotation will eat up innings and give up runs. There is no real ace and they are just filling a need until Singer, Lynch and Kowar are ready.

Rookies - Khalil Lee could see some time in centerfield if the Royals trade Merrifield or return him to second base. Most of the other minor league prospects are too low in the minor leagues to rush to a last place team and waste service time.

Expected Finish - The Royals have more offensive talent than the Tigers. That talent may not stay with the team the whole year. Expect them to battle the Tigers for that first round pick in 2021.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.