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2018 AL Central Division Preview

Posted by Ted Schwerzler , 20 February 2018 · 1,977 views

minnesota twins cleveland indians kansas city royals detroit tigers chicago white sox
With free agency being a bit slower moving (to put it nicely) this offseason, this piece comes out a few weeks later than in previous years. At this point, there's still a handful of quality major league talent unemployed. For the most part, I think the AL Central is looking towards the year ahead as opposed to who else can join them in competing during 2018.

Projection systems have started to run win totals for the upcoming season, and major sportsbook Bovada has also posted over/under win totals for each team. Rather than hold out for the last of the remaining free agents to leave IMG Academy in Bradenton, it's time to throw numbers out for the Twins and their competition.
Here's how I see the AL Central in 2018:

1. Cleveland Indians (98-64)

The team at the top of the division seems to have taken a slight step backwards over the offseason. Carlos Santana left for the Phillies, and key pen arm Bryan Shaw is no longer in the mix. Yonder Alonso will have to recapture his Oakland magic if he's going to remove the memory of Santana, and it'll be lightning in a bottle if Melvin Upton or one of the MiLB deals pans out well.

That said, the Indians are still the team to be in the division, and it's largely on the backs of a strong pitching staff. Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco remain lights out at the top, with a strong duo of Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer behind them. The bottom half of the Central getting weaker should help add some additional wins to offset some of the talent losses.

2. Minnesota Twins (87-75)

If you asked me to take a bet on what was more likely, the Twins win 90 games or lose 81, I'd take the former. After making a Postseason appearance a season ago, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine accomplished what they set out to do this winter. Although the club didn't land the big fish in Yu Darvish, Jake Odorizzi is a top three starter for them, and helps to supplement the roation. The relief corps was strengthened with the addition of Addison Reed, and both Zach Duke and Fernando Rodney should play a big role for this club.

With so many players still looking for jobs, it's fair to wonder if Minnesota doesn't aim a bit higher than Kennys Vargas or Robbie Grossman for the DH role. I'd expect Miguel Sano to miss a handful of games due to suspension, but still think he'll have a shot at surpassing the 114 contests he got into a season ago. Another year of growth for the youth, plus some key veteran additions, make the Twins the most improved team in the AL. Their record is a reflection of battling back against regression, as well as a division that should have plenty more wins to be had from the doldrums.

3. Kansas City Royals (72-90)

If there's a team that lost more than the Indians over the offseason, it's definitely the Royals. Unfortunately for Kansas City, they don't have near the ability left to overcome it. Exits from Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain will be felt mightily, and even if Mike Moustakas is brought back, the core just isn't there any longer. Jason Vargas played a key role in the first half for the Royals, and he's now in New York. Combine the exits with a lack of internal talent ready to step up and you've got somewhat of a doomsday scenario.

Right now, the Royals are treading water but don't have much of a direction. The farm doesn't have anything in terms of top prospects, and there's a lot of fliers at the top that can play fill in roles. Without much in terms of capital to deal for future talent either, it could be a bit before the Royals find themselves relevant again.

4. Chicago White Sox (69-93)

Arguably the most talent deprive 25 man roster in the division, the White Sox are in a full rebuild situation, but at least they know it. Having moved on from players in return for a good group of prospects, there's a plan in place here even if it takes a few more years to come to fruition. Over the winter, Chicago handed out a few low-risk veteran deals that should also be able to net them some pieces throughout the upcoming season.

Yoan Moncada should be a staple at the big league level this season, but guys like Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech aren't there yet. Lucas Giolito needs to be a big arm for the South Siders, and players like Luis Robert, Blake Rutherford, and Dylan Cease have to develop in the year ahead as well. Most of the names Chicago will build its future around won't show up in 2018, but fans should be checking the box scores on the farm frequently.

5. Detroit Tigers (66-96)

The bottom three teams in the division provide nice comparisons to each other. If the Royals are treading water without a plan, and the White Sox are stripping it down to rebuild, the Tigers are old and stuck in some level of purgatory. Miguel Cabrera still has six-years and $184 million left on his deal, and I'd suspect no one would take on Cabrera's contract at this point. Michael Fulmer is a nice young piece, but he probably isn't going to be around by the time Detroit finds itself relevant again.

For new skipper Ron Gardenhire, the club is going to have to find a direction sooner rather than later. The club should hang around in the early going, but fading down the stretch and holding somewhat of a fire sale seems like a good bet. Gardenhire was let go around the time Minnesota could see the rebuild bear fruit, so he'll be navigating some similar waters in Motown with 90 loss seasons checking off the past four years of his resume.

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  • mikelink45 likes this



Great write up, Ted.One correction is that Kinsler was already moved to the Angels. Perhaps you had already written the Detroit section earlier, and I might pass them over too as they've been pretty silent since then.

 

My gamble is that the White Sox finish 3rd.I see some of the Chicago talent starting to figure it out in the second half and showing the team's future (although people still may not come to the games).I think KC will be in full fire sale mode at the deadline trying to do something to restock that disaster of a farm system. Duffy, Herrera and Merrifield could all be gone. We'll see if they bring back Moustakas. If they only win 20 games after the deadline, it won't surprise me.

 

Of course, Chicago could jettison Abreu and Garcia and still try to race to the bottom in 2018.

 

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Ted Schwerzler
Feb 20 2018 09:55 AM

 

Great write up, Ted.One correction is that Kinsler was already moved to the Angels. Perhaps you had already written the Detroit section earlier, and I might pass them over too as they've been pretty silent since then.

 

My gamble is that the White Sox finish 3rd.I see some of the Chicago talent starting to figure it out in the second half and showing the team's future (although people still may not come to the games).I think KC will be in full fire sale mode at the deadline trying to do something to restock that disaster of a farm system. Duffy, Herrera and Merrifield could all be gone. We'll see if they bring back Moustakas. If they only win 20 games after the deadline, it won't surprise me.

 

Of course, Chicago could jettison Abreu and Garcia and still try to race to the bottom in 2018.

Woof, how did I forget that, thanks.

 

I'd tend to agree with you that if there's a team at the bottom capable of winning some down the stretch it would be the White Sox. So much hinges on the development of their prospects, when they arrive, and how much they contribute.

First off, I feel sorry for Gardy, sort of. He wants to manage, but sadly he is most likely simply a placeholder until they get their roster rebuilt. But it's still a MLB managers job. I could see spots 3&4 flipping also. 87 wins? To me that's a tad high, 83 would make me more comfy. I wrote on this topic in more detail on a different thread so I will be brief. Upgrade the DH? Won't that end up being Sanos spot quite often this year?
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Ted Schwerzler
Feb 20 2018 10:40 AM

 

First off, I feel sorry for Gardy, sort of. He wants to manage, but sadly he is most likely simply a placeholder until they get their roster rebuilt. But it's still a MLB managers job. I could see spots 3&4 flipping also. 87 wins? To me that's a tad high, 83 would make me more comfy. I wrote on this topic in more detail on a different thread so I will be brief. Upgrade the DH? Won't that end up being Sanos spot quite often this year?

I thought it an interesting hire from the get go for Detroit, because Gardy is being brought in at around the same situation he was let go from the Twins.

 

The thinking behind 87 wins is an improved team, and a worse division. They've addressed regression and then some. If I really wanted to go out on a limb, I'd be closer to saying they'll win 90 than win 81.

 

Sano playing DH means he's failed to control his weight and therefore his athleticism. I think that'll end up being the case, but I'd still prefer to see either a 3B/1B bat or a RH OF bat brought in.

 

Sano playing DH means he's failed to control his weight and therefore his athleticism. I think that'll end up being the case, but I'd still prefer to see either a 3B/1B bat or a RH OF bat brought in.

 

If Sano doesn't man 3/4 of the innings at 3B, then there's trouble. Eduardo Escobar did a nice job filling in last year, but history tells us that was an aberration. He's not a 3B, and unless Dozier decides to move to the hot corner to make way for Nick Gordon, the team really doesn't have another 3B ready to go.

 

Granted, if Sano is going to play at 300 lbs, DH is about the only option. However, that will hurt the team and his long-term earning potential. I wonder what it will take to get it through Sano's head that he can't make it big without a total commitment.

    • Ted Schwerzler likes this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Feb 20 2018 08:00 PM

 

First off, I feel sorry for Gardy, sort of. 

Not me. He'll make a million bucks annually and get to do what most of us at TD would love to do...manage a major league baseball team.

 

 

    • mikelink45 likes this

I think Gardy has become a specialist for teams that are going to lose 90, but stay together and learn.In three years watch for another tanking team that needs a manager who knows how to be sane with all those losses.