Thursday, March 28, 2013

2013 AL Previews: AL Central

1st Place, Detroit Tigers

CF Austin Jackson
RF Torii Hunter
3B Miguel Cabrera
1B Prince Fielder
DH Victor Martinez
SS Jhonny Peralta
LF Andy Dirks
C Alex Avila
2B Omar Infante

RHP Justin Verlander
RHP Max Scherzer
RHP Anibal Sanchez
RHP Doug Fister
LHP Drew Smyly
SU: Joaquin Benoit
CL: Bruce Rondon

The reigning League Champions are returning pretty much the same squad that took them to the Series' a year ago, they just hope their bullpen holds up a little better this time around. They're getting V-Mart back, so their offense will get a boost, but they don't have a ton of team speed, so they'll need those big hitters to be on their game. That pitching staff is one of the stronger ones in baseball, and should again have them in the running for the AL crown. I think the addition of Hunter and the return of Martinez have improved this team a lot, but they could still use some help at short and at the back end of the bullpen. Still, they're clear-cut favorites in a weak Central Division.

2nd Place, Chicago White Sox

CF Alejandro De Aza
3B Jeff Keppinger
RF Alex Rios
1B Paul Konerko
DH Adam Dunn
SS Alexi Ramirez
LF Dayan Viciedo
2B Gordon Beckam
C Tyler Flowers

LHP Chris Sale
RHP Jake Peavy
LHP Jose Quintana
RHP Gavin Floyd
LHP John Danks
SU: Matt Thronton
CL: Addison Reed

The Sox could give Detroit a run for their money in the Central with the pitching staff they've lined up. It's not quite up to Detroit's level, but it's a young one with big potential. Chris Sale is one of the most underrated arms in the game and John Danks as a number 5 just shows you their depth.They also have a more sound bullpen than Detroit, led by young closer Addison Reed. They're hoping the addition of Jeff Keppinger will help solidify the top of the order, which hasn't been good for them for a while. They have the boppers in the middle, but they need the 1-2 guys to get on base and set the table.

3rd Place, Kansas City Royals

LF Alex Gordon
SS Aclides Escobar
1B Eric Hosmer
DH Billy Butler
C Salvador Perez
3B Mike Moustakas
CF Lorenzo Cain
RF Jeff Francoeur
2B Chris Getz

RHP James Shields
RHP Ervin Santana
RHP Jeremy Guthrie
LHP Bruce Chen
RHP Wade Davis
SU: Aaron Crow
CL: Greg Holland

Once again, the Royals success will rely on whether or not their key young players can take that next step. Moustakas, Gordon, Hosmer and Cain are all legit players who could be future all-stars. Billy Butler is a legit run producer in that middle. If the youngsters start putting it together this year, this team could be a lot like that surprise Tampa Bay Rays team from a few years back. Their starting pitching after Shields and Santana is spotty, but they have one my favorite young closers in the game in Greg Holland shutting the door for them. Also, that young catcher Perez may be the 2nd best young catcher in the game behind Buster Posey.

4th Place, Cleveland Indians

CF Michael Bourne
2B Jason Kipnis
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
1B Nick Swisher
C Carlos Santana
DH Mark Reynolds
LF Michael Brantley
RF Drew Stubbs
3B Lonnie Chisenhall

RHP Justin Masterson
RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
RHP Brett Myers
RHP Zach McCallister
RHP Trevor Bauer
SU: Vinnie Pestano
CL: Chris Perez

I loved the addition of Bourne for this team, but I don't know how well Swisher will turn out for them. Their lineup is decent, they have a lot of speed and have some power, but not a lot of guys hit for very high averages, so they'll have trouble getting guys on base consistently. They've improved from last year and are on the up though, so if Ubaldo Jimenez magically re-finds his ace-like form he had in Colorado, they too could surprise a lot of people. Too many things need to go right in order for them to compete this year though.

5th Place, Minnesota Twins

CF Aaron Hicks
2B Jamey Carroll
C Joe Mauer
LF Josh Willingham
1B Justin Morneau
3B Trevor Plouffe
DH Ryan Doumit
RF Chris Parmelee
SS Pedro Florimon

LHP Scott Diamond
RHP Vance Worley
RHP Kevin Correia
RHP Mike Pelfrey
RHP Liam Hendriks
SU: Jared Burton
CL: Glen Perkins

The Twins are filled with some many holes that I just can't see them being very competitive this season. Sure, Mauer will still give you his typical .300/10/80 line, and Willingham will hit 30 jacks with a .250 average, but outside of that, everything is a crap-shoot. Who knows how the top of the order will fare with the rookie Hicks and the ancient Carroll? I don't really like anything about their pitching staff either, bullpen or starters. I could see this team being one of the worst in baseball in 2013.

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