Ranking the AL/NL Central Teams: 5-1
Image courtesy of © Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports5. Cincinnati Reds
- 2019 batting WAR: 11.1
- 2019 pitching WAR: 18.6
- Total WAR: 29.7
- Key addition(s): Mike Moustakas, Nicholas Castellanos, Wade Miley, Shogo Akiyama
- Key departure(s): Kevin Gausman, Alex Wood
The Reds rotation will consist of Luis Castillo, Trevor Bauer, Sonny Gray, Anthony DeSclafani, and Wade Miley. That is very solid. The bullpen is led by Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, Amir Garrett, and Pedro Strop. This staff is definitely top ten and has upside to be even better. The problems last year came in the lineup that ranked 25th in baseball.
In order to fix that lineup, the Reds added Castellanos (121 OPS+), Moustakas (114 OPS+), and Japanese import Shogo Akiyama. Akiyama is a 32-year-old center fielder who hit .303/.392/.471 (.864) with 20 homers in Japan last season. Adding this talent with Votto, Suarez, Aquino, and hopeful breakout player Senzel could turn this offense around.
4. St. Louis Cardinals
- 2019 batting WAR: 22.3
- 2019 pitching WAR: 15.6
- Total WAR: 37.9
- Key addition(s): Kwang-hyun Kim
- Key departure(s): Marcell Ozuna
The rotation is led by RHP Jack Flaherty and hopefully he can repeat his stellar 2019, but behind him the Cards will need Dakota Hudson, Miles Mikolas, and 38- year-old Adam Wainwright to step up. Former starter Carlos Martinez was good in the bullpen last season, but perhaps he will make a return to the rotation in 2020.
Looking at the lineup, there aren’t many players who would scare me after Paul Goldschmidt and Matt Carpenter. Tommy Edman had a great rookie year in 2019 so if he can continue that then he will provide a huge boost. Everyone else (Wong, Molia, Bader, DeJong, etc) had an OPS+ below or around 100. They could be really good, but they could also win 83-85 games.
3. Chicago Cubs
- 2019 batting WAR: 24.9
- 2019 pitching WAR: 17.0
- Total WAR: 41.9
- Key addition(s): Jeremy Jeffress, Jason Kipnis
- Key departure(s): Nicholas Castellanos, Cole Hamels
Despite losing Cole Hamels, the rotation is still in good shape with Darvish, Hendricks, Quintana, and Lester leading the way. It’s certainly not a young rotation, but it’ll get the job done. The bullpen is where some issues may arise. If Kimbrel can not get back to his former Hall of Fame self, then this group could be in need of an addition quickly.
The lineup is filled with players that helped win the 2016 World Series and they are still in their prime. This list includes Javier Baez (#2 in 2018 MVP voting), Kris Bryant (2016 MVP), and Anthony Rizzo who had one of his best seasons in 2019. To complement the big three, the Cubs still have Wilson Contreras, Kyle Schwarber, and Ian Happ. Definitely a solid lineup all around that is a bit underrated.
2. Cleveland Indians
- 2019 batting WAR: 19.7
- 2019 pitching WAR: 21.9
- Total WAR: 41.6
- Key addition(s): Cesar Hernandez, Domingo Santana
- Key departure(s):Corey Kluber, Tyler Clippard
Even with Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer gone, the rotation in Cleveland will still be very good. Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger will be Cy Young candidates if all goes right and Civale/Carrasco is a solid back half of any rotation. The only thing that might get in the way for the pitching is injuries (and Miguel Sano).
With Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez both still in town, this lineup will always produce. On top of that, they have All-Star Carlos Santana, young Oscar Mercado, and power hitting Franmil Reyes in the middle. It’s not an elite lineup, but it’s one that can definitely lead a team to the playoffs.
1. Minnesota Twins
- 2019 batting WAR: 31.0
- 2019 pitching WAR: 24.0
- Total WAR: 55.0
- Key addition(s): Josh Donaldson, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, Tyler Clippard
- Key departure(s): Jason Castro, C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop
The pitching staff has received a lot of criticism for being the weak link, but it has become one of the top ten in baseball for sure. A rotation of Berrios, Odorizzi, Maeda, and Hill is one most teams would love to have. Last season the bullpen looked awful for a while, but suddenly it’s great with Rogers, Duffey, and May leading the group. This staff has gone from being a concern to being excellent in just one calendar year.
Moving on to the lineup, what more can be said? One of the greatest groups of all time in 2019 somehow became better by adding Donaldson, replacing Cron with Sano, and replacing Schoop with Arraez. Any potential regression will likely be halted by these full-time replacements and this lineup should see the same success that was seen in 2019 (unless the ball changes completely).
That brings us to the end of my rankings and I better wrap this up quick because I used way too many words (sorry Tom). Let me know your thoughts below!
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