Friday, March 22, 2013

MLB Preview 2013: AL Central

     The AL Central, a.k.a. the Tigers' division, although they had a close call last year. But this time, the Tigers don't have to worry because the White Sox lost A.J. Pierzynski, a key bat in Chicago's lineup. So this will be Detroit's division to lose. In fact, the American League could very well be Detroit's league.

  1. Detroit Tigers: Plus: Justin Verlander heads a strong Tigers rotation which includes Doug Fister and Max Scherzer. But this isn't Detroit's biggest strength. Perhaps the biggest offseason acquisition for the Tigers wasn't a free-agent signing or a trade, but rather a returning player from injury. Designated hitter Victor Martinez is returning from left knee problems and has looked great during Spring Training. Adding left fielder Torii Hunter into a lineup with Triple Crown winner/MVP Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder helps as well. Minus: Bruce Rondon is unproven as a closer, but any Detroit fan will tell you that any closer's better than Jose Valverde, especially after his debacle during last year's playoffs. It'll be a wait-and-see approach with Rondon in the closer role.
  2. Kansas City Royals: Plus: They ranked 7th in the MLB in batting average last year, and that's with first baseman Eric Hosmer underachieving (.232, 14 HR, 60 RBIs). Designated hitter Billy Butler had a breakout season, batting .313 while hitting 29 home runs and 107 RBIs. Also look for left fielder Alex Gordon ( .294, 14 HR, 72 RBIs) to emerge as a darkhorse MVP candidate. Minus: Their pitching overall is a concern. Yes, they got James Shields from the Rays along with Wade Davis. But if they expect their other new acquisition Ervin Santana to do just as good, they can guess again. Santana had a 5.16 ERA and a 9-13 record last year, including an ERA of 6.22 and a WHIP of 1.53 on the road. Bruce Chen (11-14, 5.07 ERA) doesn't do much to bolster the rotation. Also, losing closer Joakim Soria to the Rangers makes matters worse.
  3. Chicago White Sox: Plus: Chicago committed the fewest errors in MLB last year with only 70 errors. Six of those came from former White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. In fact, first baseman Paul Konerko and left fielder Adam Dunn combined for just three errors in 2012. Minus: In terms of effective closers, Addison Reed is no Bobby Jenks. Reed blew four saves last season while throwing an ERA of 4.75. His WHIP of 1.13 is respectable, but that's only because he walked 18 batters last year in his rookie campaign. He'll need to add some secondary pitches to his arsenal since fastballs accounted for 75% of his pitches in 2012. Losing set-up man Brett Myers doesn't help, either.
  4. Cleveland Indians: Plus: New manager Terry Francona will certainly know how to utilize his new and improved outfield which includes center fielder Michael Bourn and right fielder Nick Swisher. Bourn adds speed to the Indians lineup (42 stolen bases), while Swisher adds some pop to the lineup (24 HR, 93 RBI). Minus: Cleveland ranked 29th in ERA last year with a team ERA of 4.78 and ranked ranked 28th in WHIP last year at 1.42. Justin Masterson must return to his 2011 form and cut back on the walks (3.21 ERA, 12-10, 66 BB in 2011) and Ubaldo Jimenez must do the same. Cleveland will get off to a fast start this season, but they can only sustain it if their rotation holds up.
  5. Minnesota Twins: Plus: Many baseball fans tend to forget that Joe Mauer is still a Minnesota Twin. His .319 batting average (4th in the AL) and his .416 OBP is fairly respectable along with the fact that he had 174 hits last season and 85 RBIs. Also, left fielder Josh Willingham was a pleasant surprise for the Twinkies, belting 35 home runs and 110 RBIs (3rd in the AL). Catcher Ryan Doumit (18 HR, 75 RBI) can also produce some offense. Don't forget about first baseman Justin Morneau, who suffered a concussion a couple of years ago. Last year, he hit 19 home runs and 77 RBIs. Minus: Scott Diamond (12-9, 3.54 ERA) is a bright spot in the rotation, but the days of Brad Radke, Johan Santana, and Scott Erickson are long gone. They traded away Francisco Liriano and are now entrusting Diamond with the No. 1 spot in their rotation. There's going to be a lot of pressure on Diamond to perform as the ace of the rotation. Minnesota also needs to develop a leadoff man in their lineup after losing Ben Revere and Denard Span. 

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