AL Central Predictions

The majority of teams’ pitchers and catchers have now gone south for the start of Spring Training. Yes, that’s right baseball season is finally here.

It’s been a long offseason for all of the 29 teams that didn’t win the World Series.

The team that did, however, – the Kansas City Royals – lives in the American League Central Division.

That is the division that I am giving my predictions for today.

 

Chicago White Sox, 76-86 last season

Chicago made a number of moves that made the team look like a dark horse heading into last season. Those moves, though, did not live up to expectations, and the White Sox wound up finishing fourth in the division.

Chris Sale led a lack luster starting rotation with a 13-11 record and 3.41 ERA. Despite what those numbers may indicate, Sale was dominant for much of the season, and it was the offense (or lack thereof) that became the downfall of not only him, but a lot of the White Sox starting pitchers, as well.

But, continuing to attempt to rebuild its roster, Chicago once again made of number of signings this offseason.

White Sox owners traded for 2015 HR Derby champ Todd Frazier in a three-team deal, acquired fellow infielder Brett Lawrie and starting pitcher Mat Latos in free agency. Ownership did, however, let shortstop Alexei Ramirez leave when they were unable to re-sign him.

An under the radar move Chicago did make was signing catcher Alex Avila, who will give the team a good presence behind the plate.

With the combination of Frazier, Melky Cabrera, Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche, this team has power capability all over it. However, like we saw last season, when the power isn’t there the whole team suffers.

This team will bounce back slightly this year, but not enough to make the playoffs.

Prediction: Third place

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A large portion of the White Sox’s success will land on the shoulders of starting pitcher Chris Sale.  Photo by Mike DiNovo / USA Today

Cleveland Indians, 81-80 last season

After winning 92 games three seasons ago, the Cleveland Indians have taken a step back each of the last two years. And after a fairly silent winter from the Indians front office, the team will look fairly similar to what it looked like last year.

Like his team, Corey Kluber saw his numbers fall mightily after his CY Young season.

Kluber leads starting rotation that has the potential to be better than advertised with still relatively young arms in Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, who both won 14 games a season ago.

One addition that the team did make in the offseason was that of outfielder Collin Cowgill, who appeared to have found a home in Los Angeles in 2014, but regressed heavily in 2015 in limited action. Cowgill has the talent to help a team win, however, two of the three outfield spots are already taken by Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall.

Cowgill’s best bet to get in the lineup is to either win the battle for centerfield, or possibly be the team’s designated hitter. Though, the position battle for the DH spot could be between first baseman Carlos Santana and newly acquired Mike Napoli.

Whereas the other teams in this division made notable deals this winter, Cleveland couldn’t manage to make a big splash. That comes back to bite the Indians, and the slide down in the standings continues.

Projected finish: Fifth place

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Second baseman Jason Kipnis has been a big part of the Indians recent success.  Photo via US Presswire

Detroit Tigers, 74-87 last season

Unlike the aforementioned team, the Detroit Tigers convinced multiple big-name free agents to come to The Motor city.

Power-hitting left fielder Justin Upton, and starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann both inked deals worth $22 million a year. Upton signed for 6 years, $132M while Zimmermann landed a 5-year, $110M contract.

Despite the large figures, neither is the largest contract on the team, which belongs to all-star Miguel Cabrera, who is signed with the team through the year 2024.

With the addition of Upton, the Tigers lineup will be power-oriented given the strength in the bat of Cabrera, J.D. Martinez, Victor Martinez and Nick Castellanos. Second baseman Ian Kinsler can also provide some pop.

Zimmermann will be the ace of a staff that will need Justin Verlander to return to form after a disappointing season last year if they want to be true contenders.

Detroit attempted to sure up the back end of the bullpen by adding Francisco Rodriguez, but the team has had trouble in recent history with notable relievers.

Brad Ausmus will need for his team to heavily improve this year if he wants to keep his job as manager, which came into question at the tail end of last year.

His team helps him keep his job for another year, and make a big move up in the standings.

Projected finish: Second place

 Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 1.02.25 AM.png

Kansas City Royals, 95-67, 2015 World Series champs

Kansas City didn’t make a ton of noise over the offseason, but it made the necessary moves. Most importantly, the team re-signed outfielder Alex Gordon.

KC also extended third baseman Mike Moustakas’ contract, he would’ve been a free agent at the end of the upcoming season.

On the flip side of that, though, the Royals did lose two key pieces from their World Series run, as pitcher Johnny Cueto signed a lucrative deal with the San Francisco Giants, and second baseman Ben Zobrist signed a four-year contract with the Chicago Cubs.

Even though those are two big losses from last year, don’t think the Royals are going anywhere anytime soon.

KC has a studded lineup with excellent fielders, a decent starting rotation – which picked up Ian Kennedy in free agency – and a bullpen that is still one of the best in the MLB.

It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see the Royals in the ALCS for the third year in a row.

Projected finish: First place, playoff appearance

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The Royals now have the metaphorical arrow on their back after winning it all last year.  Photo of catcher Salvador Perez lifts Wade Davis after the last out of the ALCS was recorded.  Photo by Rob Carr / Getty Images. 

Minnesota Twins, 83-79 last season

The Minnesota Twins may have been the biggest surprise team of 2015.

Minnesota finished the year in second place in the AL Central, and only three games outside the final Wild Card spot.

Rookies Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano made contributions and will hope to avoid sophomore season slumps that have plagued players after impressive rookie campaigns in the past.

As a team Minnesota was one of the worst hitting clubs in the league, and was towards the bottom of the rankings in terms of ERA and quality starts.

There is a bit of an unknown with this team heading into the season as the team signed South Korea-native Byung Ho Park to a four-year deal.

Looking at the stats, it’s hard to figure out how the Twins had such a successful year last year. Some of that magic wears off in 2015.

Projected finish: Fourth place

 

Final Standings

  1. Kansas City Royals
  2. Detroit Tigers
  3. Chicago White Sox
  4. Minnesota Twins
  5. Cleveland Indians

 

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