The AL Central may be the most interesting division in baseball. Four teams whom all have valid arguments to win the division. The White Sox were among the the busiest in the off-seasons. The Royals are defending American League Champions. The Tigers have won the division the past four seasons. The Indians have quietly built a competitive team that went to the playoffs just two seasons ago. Let us take a look at each team in the division and re-assess the situation afterword, shall we.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
The White Sox had one of the most busy off seasons in the league. Acquiring Jeff Samardzija, Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche, David Robertson, Zach Duke, Dan Jennings, and Emilio Bonifacio. Doing so by giving up limited talents in Marcus Semien, Josh Phegley, and Andre Rienzo. The White Sox have a solid 1-3 in the rotation but a back end of post surgery John Danks, and Hector Noesi don’t leave much to be des
ired. Their line 1-4 in the line up is solid, but after that it tails off. Alexei Ramirez will be average, 3B can be a productive spot if they find a decent platoon for Connor Gillaspie. The Wild Cards for the Sox are Avisail Garcia, and the bullpen. If Garcia can be above average the line up should be at least okay. Adding Roberson, and Jennings to a bullpen as bad as theirs should help, but can Zach Duke prove 2014 was no fluke? I’m not buying it. It should be noted too that the Sox have Carlos Rodon waiting in the wings in the minors. I think the are in the 80 wins range, and I mean anywhere from 80 to 89.
The Indians were a bit of a disappointment after their Wild Card appearance in 2013.Injuries to Michael Bourne and Nick Swisher, And under achievement from Jason Kipnis and the first half of their rotation. Speaking of their rotation, the Indians’ rotation in the second half lead the AL in fWAR, FIP, and xFIP. This was no fluke, however. The first half had the highest BABIP in the AL, and had a higher FIP/xFIP than ERA. With Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber and young studs Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and TJ House to go along a solid bullpen the Indians may be the team to beat in the Central. They add Brandon Moss, and Jose Ramirez in the wings until Francisco Lindor is ready. If the Tribe get bounce back years from Swisher, Bourne, and Kipnis they should win the AL Central.
For the third straight year in a row, the Tigers just barely beat out a team for the AL Central. And, of course, it was because some player had a break out/career year. In 2014 it was JD Martinez, and Victor Martinez. The Tigers’ once dominant rotation lost Max Scherzer, and Rick Porcello, and replaced them with Shane Greene, and Alfredo Simon. Although their rotation got worse, their defence does get better with Yoenis Cespedes, Anthony Gose, and the return of Jose Iglesias. The Tigers’ line up has a ton of questions though: which Kinsler is for real, the first half or second half? Was this JD Martinez’s break out year, or an outlier? How will Miguel Cabrera, and Victor Martinez perform after their surgeries? How healthy can Alex Avila stay? Not to mention the bullpen has been the Tigers’ bain for the past few years. If Greene, and Simon pitch to league average numbers, and Cabrera, Cespedes, and the Martinez boys can perform to career normals the Tigers will be in the race all year.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS:
The Royals ended their 29 year post season drought by going to the World Series and losing to the San Francisco Giants. The Royals kind of played an old school running, pitching, and defence style of game. Holland-Davis-Herrera were incredibly lock down for the Royals’ bullpen last season. Their line up, however, was pretty below average. They lose Aoki, and Butler and added Alex Rios, and Kendrys Morales. They lose James Shields, and signed Edinson Volquez. I think the Royals’ bullpen will still be good even though I think Herrera and Davis regress a bit. They do have some young, good, starters in Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, Brandon Finnegan, with an okay Jason Vargas, and a wildcard in Volquez. I think with not really upgrading the offence, and factoring in the bullpen regressing and losing Shields the Royals take a step back and hover closer to their pythagorean W-L of 2014, then their actual W-L.
I understand the Twins want to start winning again. And I know the Twins are going to hit. Even losing Willingham and bringing in Hunter (who by all accounts absolutely should be DHing), the line up is going to hit and score runs. Phil Hughes was the lone bright spot in the Twins’ rotation, so they signed Ervin Santana, and get a whole year out of Tommy Milone. Their rotation is kind of bad, their bullpen should average out to be average, and their defence is suspect. Again, the line up will hit but its all they’ll really do.
2015 AL CENTRAL STANDING PREDICTION
- Cleveland Indians
- Chicago White Sox
- Detroit Tigers
- Kansas City Royals
- Minnesota Twins
Indians need less to go right to help their chances, and they’re probably the best team in the division even without it. Chicago’s rotation, line up, and bullpen improved. Tigers have too many questions, some will work out, others wont. The 2013 Royals were better than the 2014 Royals, who are better than the 2015 Royals. If the Twins can get a good year out of two of their starters, not named Hughes and Santana, watch out, but I don’t see it.