AL Central Preview: Twins Rising, Indians Still Kings
Image courtesy of David Richard-USA TODAY SportsI was on 670 The Score out of Chicago last week to help them preview the AL Central. TAKE A LISTEN HERE.
2017: 102-60, first place, lost to New York in ALDS
Manager: Terry Fancona (sixth season)
New Faces: 1B-DH Yonder Alonso, LF Rajai David, RHP Alexi Ogando
Key Losses: 1B Carlos Santana, OF Jay Bruce, RHP Bryan Shaw
Outlook: Cleveland hasn’t won the World Series since 1948 and they’ve suffered through some postseason heartaches over the last two years. In the 2016 World Series, they blew a 3-1 to the Cubs. Last year, they were up 2-0 on the Yankees before losing in the divisional round. Cleveland might have the best pitching staff in all of baseball, including the reigning AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. Offensively, Jose Ramirez led the AL in doubles and Francisco Lindor smashed 33 home runs. Veteran players Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley need to stay healthy. It might be World Series or bust for Cleveland this year.
2017: 85-77, second place, lost to New York in Wild Card game.
Manager: Paul Molitor (fourth season).
New Faces: RHP Lance Lynn, RHP Jake Odorizzi, DH-1B Logan Morrison, RHP Fernando Rodney, RHP Addison Reed, LHP Zach Duke, RHP Michael Pineda.
Key Losses: C Chris Gimenez, LHP Hector Santiago, LHP Glen Perkins
Outlook: Minnesota surprised the baseball world by becoming the first team to finish in the playoffs one year after losing 100 or more games. Now the Twins will need to try to surprise again as they attempt to hunt down the Indians. With a core of players under the age of 25, the Twins seem to rising at the right time. Adding Jake Odorizzi and Lance Lynn to the rotation helps to address a weakness and there are plenty of other arms populating the Rochester staff. While the American League looks a little top heavy, the Twins should have enough to fight for a Wild Card spot. Thankfully, the Twins are scheduled to play each of the teams listed below 19 times in 2018.
Kansas City Royals
2017: 80-82, third place.
Manager: Ned Yost (ninth season).
New Faces: RHP Jesse Hahn, CF Jon Jay, 1B Lucas Duda, RHP Wily Peralta, RHP Justin Grimm.
Key Losses: 1B Eric Hosmer, CF Lorenzo Cain, RHP Joakim Soria, LHP Mike Minor, OF Melky Cabrera, DH Brandon Moss.
Outlook: Out with the old and in with the new. Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain are off to greener pastures, which is going to put more pressure on new additions Jon Jay and Lucas Duda. Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar didn’t get great offers on the free agent market so they returned to Kansas City. Even with them back in Royals blue, it could be tough for this club to be around the .500 mark. There are holes in nearly every part of their roster. Look for them to be busy at the trade deadline as they might be forced to go into full rebuilding mode.
Chicago White Sox
2017: 67-95, fourth place.
Manager: Rick Renteria (second season).
New Faces: RHP Miguel Gonzalez, C Welington Castillo.
Key Losses: LHP Derek Holland, RHP Mike Pelfrey, RHP Al Alburquerque, C Geovany Soto.
Outlook: While the Royals haven’t hit full rebuild mode yet, Chicago traded away plenty of pieces last season. This means the White Sox have a nice young core with players like Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Miguel Gonzalez. There are other top prospects on the way but that could mean Chicago is still a year or two away from making a playoff push in the AL. A completely rebuilt bullpen makes it hard to know what to expect in late game situations. Chicago will likely continue to take its bruises this year while the young guns try to figure it all out at the big league level.
2017: 64-98, fifth place.
Manager: Ron Gardenhire (first season).
New Faces: OF Leonys Martin, RHP Mike Fiers, LHP Francisco Liriano, OF Victor Reyes.
Key Losses: 2B Ian Kinsler, RHP Anibal Sanchez, INF Andrew Romine, RHP Bruce Rondon.
Outlook: Ron Gardenhire’s return to managing doesn’t seem exactly like a dream job. He will have to piece together a roster that traded away Justin Verlander, Justin Upton, J.D. Martinez and Ian Kinsler over the last calendar year. Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez are still part of this roster but no one is sure how much they have left in the tank. Gardy is very familiar with the AL Central but he is going to have his hands full in a division that looks top heavy entering 2018.
What are your predictions for the AL Central? What will it take to catch the Indians? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.