Wednesday, February 16, 2011

At First Glance: AL Central

At First Glance: AL Central

Chicago White Sox

The White Sox have a very solid starting rotation despite not having an ace. It’s true they have Jake Peavy, but he cannot be counted on like he was in San Diego until he can prove he is healthy. The White Sox did not make many moves in the off season but the one big one was the addition of Adam Dunn. If he produces his regular output of 40 HR’s and 100 RBI’s and the Sox get a slight uptick from Carlos Quentin and Gordon Beckham, it could be a very strong season for the White Sox.

Grade B

Cleveland Indians

Manny Acta’s club was one of the least active in the offseason both in acquiring and losing players from their roster. For a young squad this could prove very beneficial. There are a lot of holes that need filling going into Spring Training however, most glaringly third base, second base and the Starting rotation. If you are looking for sleepers for your fantasy squad, take a peak at Cleveland (more on sleepers as we get closer to the draft!), but they will need quite a few young uprisings to be competitive down the stretch. Even their vets are iffy. Grady Sizemore and Shin Soo Choo are both coming off season altering injuries and Fausto Carmona, their top starter has had his share of boo-boos. All in all this team will be fun to watch, with a lot of young talent and promise, but they are several years away from contending, so it will be a busy year for one of the big leagues best bullpens!

Grade- D

Detroit Tigers

Many folks are all over the Tigers in the AL Central. Some even have them as the front-runner. I don’t see it. What I see is one of the league’s top stud pitchers and one of the league’s top stud batters and then some young talent and a bunch of spit and rubber bands holding this team together. Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera are as good as it gets at their respective roles, but after Victor Martinez and youngster Austin Jackson, this lineup is underwhelming. The highly touted pitching staff has two holes that are being filled by career reliever Phil Coke and journeyman SP Brad Penny. Hardly cause to celebrate in Detroit. After Verlander you have Scherzer and Porcello who have dynamite potential, but a lot to prove. The bullpen is solid but most likely upper-middle of the AL pack. To me this is an average team looking to overachieve.

Grade: C

Kansas City Royals

The Royals have a deep farm system, no one can debate that. They also know how to acquire good talent when they trade solid players like Zack Greinke. They may have acquired three players who will start out of the gate in spring training for Greinke. You can’t argue with that! All three (Escobar, Cain, and Jeffress) will make the opening day roster for sure, which means plenty of playing time! However glowing the future may be in KC, the present is going to be ugly to epic proportions! Much hyped, little reward Luke Hochevar is now the ace of the staff, need I say more? The Royals really are a triple A team masquerading as a big league squad this year, it’s not just a funny line in 2011. Look out 2013, here they come!

Grade: F

Minnesota Twins

The Twins did not make many moves this offseason except hopefully getting well. With injuries to Kevin Slowey, Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan last year, staying healthy could be the mantra for the Twins this year. Both Nick Blackburn and Scott Baker are also coming off of surgeries this winter, but it appears everyone will be back and well. If this is the case, this is a formidable team in the Central. In a division without many clear cut aces, the Twins also do not have one, at least not one that hasn’t had elbow or arm surgery in the last 5 years. If the Twins can patch their starting pitching together and keep the batters out of the ER, I look for them to fight the White Sox to the wire for this division. Getting extra games versus the Indians and Royals will also put the division loser in the mix for the wild card.

Grade: B

Predictions: Twins will find a way once again to win the division with the White Sox nipping at their heals. I believe this comes down to the final days of the season. Detroit will also stay in mix until early September. The Royals will out-lose the Indians in the battle for MLB doghouse. Pitching is too weak in this division so no Wild Card teams here.

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