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As the month of April ends, the AL Central standings don’t exactly match the experts’ preseason predictions. Let’s examine each team’s start and decide who are the contenders and who are the pretenders.Kansas City Royals

After a surprising start, Kansas City sits atop the AL Central. Danny Duffy is having a career year as he has only allowed one earned run in 23 innings (0.39 ERA) with a 1.04 WHIP. Michael Taylor, a free agent signing, has the team’s highest WAR among position players (1.1 WAR). Another off-season pick-up, Carlos Santana continues to be an on-base machine as his OPS is nearly 30 points higher than his career mark. While this start is fun for Royals fans, it seems unlikely for this team to keep up their current pace of 162 games. Result: Pretender

 

Chicago White Sox

Chicago is sitting right where many expected they would be in the thick of the division race. Like the Royals, there are some surprising players leading the way. Yermin Mercedes (1.1 WAR) is leading baseball in batting average and Carlos Rodon (0.9 WAR) shocked the baseball world with a no-hitter. Chicago isn’t going away, especially if their younger players find ways to improve. Result: Contender

 

Cleveland Baseball Team

Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, and Carlos Santana were all key loses for Cleveland this winter, but this club still has some of the best players in the division. Shane Bieber, the reigning AL Cy Young winner, has picked up right where he left off as he has been striking out over 14 batters per nine innings. Jose Ramirez is a perennial MVP candidate that will be relied on to carry even more of the offensive load. Cleveland’s pitching depth is strong enough to keep them in the race, especially if other teams continue to struggle. Result: Contender

 

Minnesota Twins

Despite the recent slide, the Twins are still getting the second-best odds to win the Central. That could owe as much to the expectation that Kansas City won't be able to keep up their hot start as to the Twins eventually figuring things out. Minnesota has plenty of problems to solve, but not everything has been negative so far. Byron Buxton looks like an early MVP contender and Nelson Cruz remains ageless. The Twins are struggling, and they need to figure things out before the other contenders are out of reach. Result: Contender

 

Detroit Tigers

Detroit was never supposed to be in the running, and they are living up to those expectations. AJ Hinch, the former Astros manager, is at the helm and he is charged with turning around a rebuilding team. The Tigers haven’t had a winning percentage over .500 since 2016 and that trend doesn’t look to end this year. Result: Pretender

 

Who do you think are the contenders and pretenders in the AL Central? Leave a COMMENT and join the discussion.

 

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I have a hard time with both the Indians and Twins being real contenders. Cleveland doesn't have a lineup, and while the Twins' lineup could rebound, we don't have a bullpen. Once the White Sox go on a winning streak, they're going to be hard to catch. 

I agree completely. The only way the Indians and Twins remain contenders is if the Sox don't go on an extended run. I think it's very likely that they do though. Especially since their two main competitors for the division are so flawed.

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I chose the Royals as the team that could surprise this year in the AL (even though I picked the Angels to win the West). They have some very good young players and pitchers who, if they all come together, could make a run. While I don't expect them to win the division, winning early in the season gives them the belief that they can go on. And Hunter Dozier hasn't begun to hit just yet. It would not surprise me if they finished third in the Central.

The Tigers are also a team of the future as they have the best young pitchers in the division and in their minor leagues. I expect them to be contenders within 2 years if their management makes the right decisions. They already have the best manager in the division..

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I believe I said earlier that if KC's young pitching holds up they have a good chance to win the division this year. They had been snake bit losing lot's of close games last year.  Their Offense has always been pretty solid but starting pitching and the pen needed help.  While I don't think they will keep up the current pace I don't see them falling far off of it unless their pitching falters. I don't think they have a ton of pitching depth so injuries could hurt them.  At any rate I don't see them as pretenders.

 

The Twins have had a lot of really odd things happen to lose games.  Colome is pretty much directly responsible for I think 4 losses himself granted the defense cratered on him as well in some spots but he hasn't helped.  The bullpen looks unreliable at worst and shaky at best.  It looks like the Achilles heal for the team this year.  If they can somehow fix the pen maybe they are contenders otherwise look for lots of heartache at the end of games.

 

Indians still don't have an offense and other teams in the division are starting to get better pitching.  I think they are a long shot to take the division.

 

Chicago still looks like the team to beat to me. The lineup is solid and the pitching is there.  Again I question their depth when it comes to pitching but they might have enough offense to cover for it anyway.

 

Not as bullish on the Twins as I was to start to the season but if they can fix the pen I think they can hang at the top.  Right now it is just hard to see that happening.

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Any team could realistically take it except Detroit. I disagree that the Sox are without flaws:

 

1. They are bad defensively

2. Their lineup is full of 1st and 2nd Year starters

This is basically right. I think the Sox are the favorites now but we're probably still the second best team. That said, at the end of the year, I wouldn't be surprised if we won 94 and took first or if we somehow managed a 79 win season and came in third. The bullpen terrifies me. The lineup will be good. If we win 94, Buxton wins MVP.

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I don't think Detroit is a pretender.  Their record reflects the consensus thought on what type of season they would have.

 

We'll get a good idea of the Kansas City situation this weekend.  Duffy and Singer have been pretty good so far.  Singer is a talent and could be figuring it out.  Duffy is probably more likely to be in a hot stretch, but perhaps he will have a career year. Until yesterday, the Twins weren't exactly pegging lefties, so the question of pretender should be on full display Saturday.

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Whoever dominates this division will win the division. But ... dominating this particular division might not make someone a "contender" in the playoffs. In fact I would say it probably doesn't.

 

I agree with some others that the Twins still have the most pieces, but that bullpen piece that seems to be missing is one hell of a big one.

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I can't wait to see the Royals play the Twins and see what they really have in KC. Should be fun to watch.

This is probably just as much the case for the Twins too. This will be an important early season series for both teams, in my view.

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White Sox: Contender. Two to three of their starters will regress but the rotation will still be good especially if they give Kopech more starts. Their hitting has been good but less power than I’d expect so far. If they increase the power they could be the 2020 version of the Twins.

 

Indians: Their pitching has been Bieber and not much else no matter what Civale’s ERA says. Hitting is bad but I think it will improve. If the rotation keeps this up they won’t even be a .500 team at the end of the year and we’ll have nothing to envy anymore.

 

Royals: average to slightly above average pitching (mostly three starters) combined with average offense. I can easily see them being .500 and maybe even better than that.

 

Tigers: 100 losses

 

Twins: Average pitching at best (someone stop using a Maeda voodoo doll). Average hitting if they’re  lucky. Buxton, Cruz, Arraez and Donaldson are carrying the team and if they’re not hitting then the team won’t win. Looks like a .500 team unless Maeda goes back to normal..not even 2020, just normal Maeda and other guys start hitting. 

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The Twins pen isn't one piece away.

 

It would certainly look a lot better if he were.

 

IDK, but it’s not just been the pen that has been hot garbage. The whole team has been hot garbage (outside of SP). So possibly as the offense and defense turn around the pen turns around too? IDK.

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