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MLB Preview: AL Central

Jarrett Bailey, Sports Writer

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The National League is complete, leaving the American League’s three divisions. The first to be covered is probably the most competitive divisions in baseball; the AL Central.

 

  1. Royals: The Royals are a team that are solid at every position on the field. They had one of the biggest breakout stars last year in centerfielder Lorenzo Cain. Coming into last season, Cain had a career total of 15 homers and 144 RBI in 5 seasons. In 2015, he batted .307, slammed 16 HRs, and 72 RBI. Their DH spot is filled by RBI machine Kendrys Morales, who accumulated 106 RBI and 22 HRs in 2015. They also have a solid rotation, led by Edinson Volquez, who went 13-9 last season. The one thing that could take both Volquez and the Royals a step higher is if he could take that 3.55 ERA from 2015 down a bit. Yordano Ventura is a guy in their rotation that I think will build on a solid 2015 as well (13-8, 4.08 ERA). At just 24 years of age, Ventura has all the tools to continue improving and become even more of an asset to his team. I love the Royals in terms of depth, and I think they should have a fine 2016 campaign en route to a playoff birth.
  2. White Sox: The White Sox have one of the best slugging first baseman in all of baseball in Jose Abreu. Abreu smacked 30 HRs along with 101 RBI, and has submitted himself as a force to be reckon with. They have another 30 HR hitter at third base in Todd Frazier, who smacked 35 homers. They also brought over Brett Lawrie at second base, who batted .260 with 16 HRs and 60 RBI in 2015.  The one reason I put the White Sox in that second spot is because I trust their pitching staff more than the remaining teams in the division. Chris Sale atop their rotation is someone whose 13-11 record may need improvement, but Sale is still a solid ace to lead this group, which also consists of Jose Quintana, and this duo is getting a lot of attention. If the batting lineup and pitching staff can co-exist in terms of helping each other in production and stability, the White Sox should be a contender for a wildcard spot.
  3. Tigers: Last season was a disaster in the Motor City. Miguel Cabrera missed 43 games, Justin Verlander just didn’t look like himself, and that led to a 74-87 record, the worse in the division. But, let’s be optimistic. If Cabrera can stay healthy, he is an absolute beast and one of the best sluggers in baseball. If Justin Verlander can get run support and get his mojo back following a disappointing 2015 (5-8, 3.38 ERA), this team will be fine. Those are two “ifs” that are perfectly attainable. It’s true that the Tigers aren’t the powerhouse that they once were, but they can still contend in this division. Jordan Zimmerman is another guy in their rotation that gives them great stability, and a guy who has great skill on the mound. If run support can be given to this rotation, the Tigers should have a bounce back year.
  4. Indians: The Indians had a season in which they can build off of in 2015. Though they didn’t make the playoffs, they did more than what most expected, finishing with an 81-80 record. They added a few talented veterans to their infield; Mike Napoli at First and Juan Uribe at Third. One player that has my attention is shortstop Francisco Lindor. In his rookie season, he batted .313 and hit 12 HRs and 51 RBI. The pitching rotation is a group that isn’t elite, but is good. Corey Kluber did have an off year (9-16 record), but Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar gave him some support and helped the rotation hold its own. I think the Indians are a group that will not make the playoffs, but will be a team that you won’t want to play.
  5. Twins: Even though I have them finishing last, the Twins are still going to be a tough outing. They have a young right fielder who is poised to be one of the game’s best in the coming years in Miguel Sano. As a rookie in 2015, Sano smacked 18 balls out of the park, along with 52 RBI and a respectable .269 average. They also got a nice surprise at third base last season in Trevor Plouffe, who batted career highs in both HRs(22) and RBI(86). The one thing that the Twins will have to get better at is getting help from their rotation in terms of kepping runs off the board. They finished 19th in the Majors in total ERA with 4.07. If that number can drop to around 3.70, the Twins should be able to have another decent season.
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