The Obstructed AL Central Preview

The AL Central from the mid-90’s through the early part of the 2000’s was dubbed the Comedy Central for having some bad teams in that time period. Cleveland dominated while the rest could never seem to get it together. Yes, you had years where teams would go up and down in the standings, but nothing in the way of being a major legit.

So we fast forward to the last couple of seasons. The Indians once again dominate and the other teams are just a mess. Minnesota has shown hope and promise but last year the Twins disappointed as some had them to be a threat for the Wild Card. The Tigers are deep in their rebuild. The Royals are as well. The White Sox however, are trying to show their rebuild is near an end.

So will the Indians thrive? Will the Twins off-season moves give Cleveland a fight within the division? Will Chicago contend? Will the rebuilding process of Detroit and Kansas City continue to progress into maybe something quicker?

Kluber was subject to trade rumors this off-season but the Indians did the right thing

(1) CLEVELAND INDIANS

Last year: 91-71 (Lost to Houston in ALDS)

KEY ADDITIONS: OF-Jake Bauers (Trade-Tampa Bay), 1B-Carlos Santana (Trade), DH-Hanley Ramirez (FA-Boston), 2B-Brad Miller (FA-Los Angeles Dodgers), C-Kevin Plawecki (Trade-New York Mets), IF-Max Moroff (Trade-Pittsburgh), OF-Jordan Luplow (Trade Pittsburgh), OF-Carlos Gonzalez (FA-Colorado)

KEY LOSSES: DH-Edwin Encarnacion (Trade-Seattle), IF-Yandy Diaz (Trade-Tampa Bay), C-Yan Gomes (Trade-Washington), IF-Erik Gonzalez (Trade-Pittsburgh), 3B-Josh Donaldson (FA-Atlanta), IF-Adam Rosales (FA-Minnesota), OF-Michael Brantley (FA-Houston), OF-Melky Cabrera (FA-Pittsburgh), OF-Lonnie Chisenhall (FA-Pittsburgh), OF-Rajai Davis (FA-New York Mets), P-Josh Tomlin (FA-Atlanta), P-Cody Allen (FA-Los Angeles Angels), 1B-Yonder Alonso (Trade-Chicago White Sox), P-Andrew Miller (FA-St. Louis)

The Indians still have a load of talent on their roster that is really unmatched in the AL Central. There is no better left side of an infield than Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez in all of baseball. The rotation headed by Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer is stout and when you throw in Mike Clevinger, yikes. Cleveland also brings back former Tribe star Carlos Santana who had a bit of a disappointing year in Philadelphia. However, it feels like the window to win a World Series is starting to close a bit. Andrew Miller and Cody Allen are gone. Cleveland also said goodbye to Michael Brantley and Edwin Encarnacion as well. There had been talk that Cleveland would ship out ace Kluber in the off-season but it didn’t happen. They brought in Carlos Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez. Had this been 2009, these would be great pickups. With that said, the Tribe knows how to get the best of veterans on the downswing. But Cleveland from an October standpoint are somewhat lagging behind the AL’s big boys in depth. Should the Indians win the AL Central? Yes. But it doesn’t feel like the same team we’ve seen in 2016-2018. MY PREDICTION: 88-74

IF Berrios is a little more consistent he can be the Twins ace without question.

(2) MINNESOTA TWINS

Last year: 78-84

KEY ADDITIONS: DH-Nelson Cruz (FA-Seattle), 1B-CJ Cron (Waivers-Tampa Bay), 2B-Jonathan Schoop (FA-Milwaukee), 3B-Marwin Gonzalez (FA-Houston), P-Blake Parker (FA-Los Angeles Angels), P-Ryne Harper (FA-Seattle), P-Martin Perez (FA-Texas)

KEY LOSSES: C-Chris Gimenez (Retired), 1B-Joe Mauer (Retired), 1B-Logan Morrison (FA), 2B-Logan Forsythe (FA-Texas), P-Robbie Grossman (FA-Oakland), P-Ervin Santana (FA-Chicago White Sox), P-Matt Belisle (FA)

The Twins a few years ago hoped that another run that was similar to the Mauer/Morneau/Cuddyer/Santana days would have happened by now with the likes of Miguel Sano/Byron Buxton/Eddie Rosario/Jose Berrios. It hasn’t happened. After a run in 2015 and one in 2017, the Twins have failed to garner that run as Sano has been all-or-nothing after his torrid start and Byron Buxton hasn’t found his groove yet. And Berrios has shown flashes, but nothing consistent as of yet. It is probably why Minnesota invested heavy into veterans such as slugger Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop, and making a cople of good under-the-radar moves in CJ Cron (how’d the Rays let this guy go?) and Marwin Gonzalez. Of course, what may decide how well they do is their starting pitching. Berrios showed great signs of taking that next step and Kyle Gibson was reliable, but Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda will have to make those next steps to really put Minnesota in the mix of a Wild Card, perhaps a division title spot. They have the talent all around but can they put it all together and make that needed run? MY PREDICTION: 83-79

Eloy Jimenez is one of two young stars that will be must-see TV for MLB

(3) CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Last year: 62-100

KEY ADDITIONS: OF-Jon Jay (FA-Arizona), 1B-Yonder Alonso (Trade-Cleveland), C-James McCann (FA-Detroit), P-Ivan Nova (Trade-Pittsburgh), P-Alex Colome (Trade-Seattle), P-Kelvin Herrera (FA-Washington), P-Manny Banuelos (Trade-Los Angeles Dodgers)

KEY LOSSES: C-Omar Navarez (Trade-Seattle), IF-Matt Davidson (FA-Texas), OF-Avisail Garcia (FA-Tampa Bay), P-Jeanmar Gomez (FA-Texas), P-Hector Santiago (FA-New York Mets), P-James Shields (FA), P-Miguel Gonzalez (FA)

It’s hard to think what the White Sox had was a disappointment in the off-season after striking out on the big-name free agents of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. But the good news is that the White Sox rebuild seems to be winding down and the South Side will get back into the swing of things in 2019. Of course, there will be some hiccups, but many hope to see the farm system really shoot up, notably with Eloy Jimenez who I am very high on. Add him with Jose Abreu and you have a nice punch there. If Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada can figure things out, keep an eye on this team at the All-Star Break. They may make a move to improve their rotation which is pretty anemic (surprised they didn’t go after Dallas Keuchel more), but it is also what may keep the White Sox from getting over that hump form being a threat for an October spot. But they will make strides this year and 2020, watch out! MY PREDICTION: 74-88

Merrifield was a nice surprise for the Royals in 2018

(4) KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Last year: 58-104

KEY ADDITIONS: DH-Lucas Duda (FA), C-Martin Maldonado (FA-Houston), OF-Billy Hamilton (FA-Cincinnati), OF-Chris Owings (FA-Arizona), OF-Terrance Gore (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Homer Bailey (FA), P-Brad Boxberger (FA-Arizona), P-Jake Diekman (FA-Arizona), P-Chris Ellis (Rule 5-Texas),

KEY LOSSES: P-Jason Hammel (FA-Texas), IF-Alcides Escobar (FA)

IF you want to know the payment charge of winning a world championship, look at what has gone on in Kansas City. The Royals are 4 years removed from being the true kings of baseball, and with the moves of trading prospects for Johnny Cueto and others, while unable to compete to keep their key contributors (Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas), dark ages reign supreme in Kansas City. This year, Salvador Perez is injured and likely out for the season as he was the last of the championship players. The Royals are in the early stages of the rebuild but if things go well, and make a good draft, keep an eye out for this group down the road. But again, for this year, not as much. The hopes of Lucas Duda, Chris Owings, and Billy Hamilton of getting the Royals into contention will not scare anybody. And Homer Bailey leading the way? Well, at least he is out of the Great American Smallpark. Just don’t expect a Cy Young run out of him. MY PREDICTION: 63-99

It will be a long year for Cabrera and the Tigers in the Motor City

(5) DETROIT TIGERS

Last year: 64-98

KEY ADDITIONS: IF-Josh Harrison (FA-Pittsburgh), SS-Jordy Mercer (FA-Pittsburgh), IF-Gordon Beckham (FA-Seattle), P-Tyson Ross (FA-St. Louis), P-Matt Moore (FA-Texas), P-Reed Garrett (Rule 5-Texas)

KEY LOSSES: C-James McCann (FA-Chicago White Sox), DH-Victor Martinez (Retired), SS-Jose Iglesias (FA-Cincinnati), P-Francisco Liriano (FA-Pittsburgh)

I’m going to quote the musician Mary Hopkin and say “Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end.” Double meaning for me. First off, any run the Tigers had from 2006-2014 was a nice run (2008 excluded) and those were some good teams that *could* have netted a world championship at some point, but never did. And the other meaning of the Detroit Tigers from 1995-2003 where they were just downright awful and you never thought Detroit would ever revert back to contention. Well, the latter has arrived in full swing since 2017. Now, there is slight hope as the once-depleted farm system has some arms to keep an eye on for the next few years (Alex Faedo, Matt Manning, Beau Burrows, Casey Mize), but as for 2019, uh, yikes. The Tigers are relying on Jordan Zimmermann, the injured and inconsistent Jordan Zimmermann. Supporting staff will include Tyson Ross, Matt Moore, and Matt Boyd (who did pitch pretty well at times), but this isn’t the rotation of Verlander, Scherzer, Anibal, Porcello, and Fister we are talking about…..or 1/5th of that. The bullpen has a good setup punch of Joe Jimenez for Shane Greene assuming the Tigers will have a lead in 2019. The offense, if they are to win will have to send Miguel Cabrera to the Fountain of Youth while making him become the Bionic Man as they look very thin outside of him and Nicholas Castellanos (who could be trade bait in July). Now if Jeimer Candelario makes strides after his first season in Detroit where he started fine but fell apart down the stretch, the Tigers will be somewhat formidable especially if their big off-season move of Josh Harrison has a good year and he has something to prove honestly so that part may help the Tigers out a bit and be somewhat competitive under Ron Gardenhire. But that rotation currently isn’t one to get hopes up for a Cinderella season. MY PREDICTION: 60-102

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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