Last week, Dylan Frazier and Jacob Bollinger continued our Pre-Spring Training Power Rankings with the NL Central. Today I will be previewing the AL Central.
Offseason Additions: Edwin Encarnacion (Signed as FA) Boone Logan (Signed as FA)
Offseason Departures: Mike Napoli (Signed to TEX), Rajai Davis (Signed to OAK), Chris Gimenez (Signed to MIN), Jeff Manship (FA)
Players who need to step up: Michael Brantley, Danny Salazar.
The Cleveland Indians are coming off an appearance in the World Series, where they were knocked off by the Chicago Cubs 8-7 in game 7. The Indians are poised to be back this October as, they return most of their line-up and their entire pitching staff. In the World Series they were without Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Michael Brantley, and for the most part Yan Gomez. The Indians are hoping that through their offseason addition of Edwin Encarnacion and Michael Brantley’s return, they are able to make another World Series run. Edwin Encarnacion will look to build upon Mike Napoli’s 34 homeruns and that Michael Brantley can add more stability into a constantly rotating outfield.
Michael Brantley is coming off a lost year, in which he only played 11 games while coming off bicep/shoulder surgery. In 2014 and 2015, Michael was the Indian’s best offensive player. He had a batting average of .310 with 45 doubles and 15 home runs. The Indians struggled at times last year with their outfield positions and they need one of their best players to make an impact this season.
The Indians have been able to rely on Danny Salazar to be a reliable number 3 starter. The issue has been the same with him though. He has been unable to stay healthy through all 162 games. The team missed him throughout the playoffs as they were forced to go with Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin. If the Indian are looking to return to the World Series again, they are going to need Danny to be healthy.
The Indians look like they are again the favorite to win the AL, even with the Red Sox right behind them. The team should be looking at a possible repeat with the Chicago Cubs if they are able to stay healthy.
Offseason Additions: Alex Avila (Signed as FA), Omar Infante (Signed as FA)
Offseason Departures: Cameron Maybin (Traded to LAA), Erick Aybar (Signed to SD), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Signed to TOR)
Players that need to step up: Jordan Zimmermann, Anibal Sanchez
The Detroit Tigers are coming off a season in which they finished 8 games behind the Cleveland Indians for the division title and 2.5 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays for the last wild card. The Tigers are a team stuck in the middle. They feel that they might be good enough to contend for a wild card but they also need to decide if it time to demolish everything and rebuild. Justin Verlander was Cy Young runner-up and Michael Fulmer was the AL Rookie of the Year. They also have a power combination of 2-time MVP Miguel Cabrera and JD Martinez. Their starting pitchers struggled outside of Verlander and Fulmer.
In order for the Tigers to contend this year, they are going to need Anibal Sanchez and Jordan Zimmermann to step up. Anibal Sanchez had his worst year of his Tigers career. He posted a 5.78ERA while having a 7-13 win-loss record. Jordan Zimmermann posted his worst season as Tiger when he posted a 4.87ERA and a 9-7 win-loss record. If they are both able to rebound with decent seasons, the Tigers will have a shot at the division and wild card.
The Tigers front office could still decide at the trade deadline to unload all of their star powered players. The Tigers currently have the second highest payroll and the front office either wants to contend for World Series or diminish the payroll. If they are not in position for division crown, they will incur a fire sale.
The Tigers will be able to compete for a wild card this season. They have a solid pitching staff and enough bats around them to compete. If Jordan Zimmermann or Anibal Sanchez are able to rebound on bad seasons, the Tigers will be able to compete for the division title.
Offseason Additions: Jorge Soler (Acquired from CHC), Brandon Moss (Signed as FA),Travis Wood (Signed as FA), Jason Hammel (Signed as FA)
Offseason Departures: Jarrod Dyson (Traded to SEA), Yordano Ventura (Passed Away), Wade Davis (Traded to CHC), Edinson Volquez (Signed to MIA), Kris Medlin (FA), Kendrys Morales (Signed to TOR), Tim Collins (Signed to WAS)
Players that need to step up: Ian Kennedy, Brandon Moss
The Kansas City Royals is a team that is stuck in the pack of average teams. The team will have to decide at some point this season if it is time to start trading some of their expiring contracts. Notably, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Lorenzo Cain will all be free agents next offseason. The could decide to stand pat if they are competing for a divisional crown at the trade deadline. They will start to unload some these players to contenders in order to start their process of rebuilding.
That being said, if Ian Kennedy is able to keep his home run numbers down this year, he could have an excellent year as the team’s number 2 starter. The surreal death of Yordano Ventura and the loss of Edinson Volquez has the team looking for a reliable number 2 starter.
The Royals also need Brandon Moss to increase his production from last year with St. Louis Cardinals. He is replacing Kendrys Morales, who had a .263 batting average and 30 home runs. Brandon Moss only batted .225 last season but had 28 home runs. The Royals are going to need him to keep his home run numbers up while increasing his batting average.
This season could be a slow and miserable one for the fans if they decide to do a full fire sale of their roster. The front office will decide if it wants to compete for a wild card or rebuild for another chance at a World Series in the future.
Offseason Additions: Ryan Vogelsong (Signed as FA), Jason Castro (Signed as FA)
Offseason Departures: Pat Dean (FA), Trevor Plouffe (Signed to OAK), Kurt Suzuki (FA)
Players that need step up: Miguel Sano
The Minnesota Twins finished a dismal 59-103 last season as they are going through a major rebuilding period. The team is still a couple of years away from competing for any kind of postseason berth. The Twins still have one major piece that they need to trade before the deadline and that is Brian Dozier. Dozier is the Twins best player and he could bring in major prospects for the team. His contract expires in 2019. The team is hoping that the veterans are able to teach the young players valuable lessons.
Miguel Sano needs to have a bounce back season. Sano had an abysmal performance from the plate, as he batted .239 with 178 strike outs. He also reportedly reported to spring training last season overweight. With Trevor Plouffe gone, the Twins are going to lean on Sano to learn and handle the third base position.
In a couple year, the Twins will be a constant contender for many years. That time is just not now. The Twins fans will have to bear with a couple years of ugly play on the field. The good new; the Twins will get to play in what should be a weaker AL Central this year.
Offseason Additions: Yoan Moncada (Acquired from BOS), Michael Kopech (Aquired from BOS), Lucas Giolito (Acquired from WAS), Dane Dunning (Acquired from WAS), Reynaldo Lopez (Acquired from WAS), Derek Holland (Signed as FA)
Offseason Departures: Matt Albers (Signed to WAS), Alex Avila (Signed to DET), Justin Morneau (FA), Austin Jackson (Signed to CLE), Chris Sale (Traded to BOS), Adam Eaton (Traded to WAS),
Players that need to step up: James Shields
The Chicago White Sox started their plan of rebuilding. They began the offseason by dumping payroll and acquiring young prospects. In the trade for ace pitcher Chris Sale, the White Sox got Yoan Moncada, the number 1 prospect. The front office seems committed to building for the future, in my opinion, they had the best offseason in baseball as they were able to acquire a ton of top talent for Chris Sale and Adam Eaton. This trend to continue into the year. The best thing they can do, is find a suitor for Jose Quintana and Todd Frazier. The fans will be in for a long season with a depleted roster. With the rise of the Cubs, the White Sox could find themselves in hardship to get fans to come to the games this year.
James Shields is going to look to bounce back from a career worst year. He posted a 5.85 ERA and a 6-19 win-loss record. At times, Shields looked unhittable and his numbers were reflecting the offenses inability to score when he was on the mound. I would not be surprised if he rebounds and gets traded at the trade deadline.
The White Sox will continue to sell most of their assets this season. They have assets that many contenders will be willing to overpay for at the trade deadline. The White Sox will be contenders in the near future but not right now.
In conclusion, here is our projected standings:
Cleveland Indians: 93-69
Detroit Tigers: 83-79
Kansas City Royals: 79-83
Minnesota Twins: 68-94
Chicago White Sox: 65-97