Wednesday, April 1, 2015

2015 American League Central Preview

Another regular season is upon us and that means that it is prediction time for a lot of writers across the inter-web. There will be surprise teams, surprise players, and even some other surprises along the way. The unknown and unpredictability of baseball is one of the most enduring qualities of "America's Past-time."

Through out the coming week, I will be making my picks for the National League and the American League, taking a closer look at the AL Central, and selecting awards for the Twins. Here is a look at the weekly schedule so make sure to stop in all week to get yourself primed for the season to come.

2015 Preview Series
1. Cleveland Indians: Projected Record 88-74

The Positive: Cleveland has one of the best young rotations in the game and a veteran line-up that should provided just enough offense to win the Central. Michael Brantley could be in the MVP discussion at the end of the year. Brandon Moss was added in the off-season to add a little more pop to the line-up. The division is going to be tight but Cleveland will come out on top and find itself with its first division crown since 2007. 

The Negative:  The Indians have some injury concerns with some of their veteran players. Nick Swisher missed time last season and he won't start the season with the club. Michael Bourn seems to miss time every year. Jason Kipnis signed a big deal and hasn't really lived up to that money as of yet. If all these players can stay healthy and on the field, Cleveland will be a force.

2. Detroit Tigers: Projected Record 85-77 (Wild Card)

The Positive: Detroit has won the Central Division for four straight seasons so it's tough to pick against the Tigers. Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez will be joined in the middle of the line-up by Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. David Price is in a contract year and he will have a full season in Detroit to prove he is worth Max Scherzer type money. Anibal Sanchez might also be one of the most overlooked starters in the American League. Detroit could easily end up on top of the division again so time will tell.

The Negative: There are still questions about Justin Verlander and his health. With the departure of Scherzer, Detroit is going to need Verlander to start resembling his old self. The bullpen is terrible and Detroit did nothing to address this problem. Joe Nathan is well past his prime so the Tigers are hoping Joakim Soria is healthy and ready for a more prominent role. 

3. Chicago White Sox: Projected Record 79-83

The Positive: Chicago went out and retooled a roster with a flurry of off-season moves. Zach Duke, Adam LaRoche, Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson and Melky Cabrera were all brought into the fold and each will provide value to the club. If Chris Sale's foot injury doesn't bother him too far into the season, the top of Chicago's rotation includes a scary trio. Jose Abreu had a monster rookie season and he will look to repeat that campaign in his sophomore season. Chicago could sneak up on the other team's in the division and walk away with the crown but middle of the pack seems more likely.

The Negative: The last couple spots in the White Sox rotation are a little weak and the bullpen was one of the worst in the majors last season. They've made a couple of nice additions but a bullpen can't just rely on Robertson and Duke. Second base is a big question mark and it's hard to know what the team will get from the back-end of their line-up. 

4. Kansas City Royals: Projected Record 78-84

The Positive: Flags fly forever and the Royals are still basking in the glow of the 2014 World Series appearance. Kansas City's bullpen was fun to watch last season and Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland are all back at the disposal of Manager Ned Yost. Yorando Venturna is one of the most exciting young pitchers in the division and he will have to rely on last year's postseason experience to anchor the Royals rotation. There are some good pieces in the line-up and each of them now has the experience of last year to drive them.

The Negative: Spending money on Kendrys Morales, Alex Rios, and Edinson Volquez doesn't seem like the wisest investment. James Shields is no longer there to anchor the rotation. Last year's strength was the bullpen and now there are more question marks in the rotation. Also Yost rode those players into the ground last season so the team will have to rely on some other arms to get them through the 2015 season. 

5. Minnesota Twins: Projected Record 75-88

The Positive: It seems likely that the Twins could avoid losing 90 games for the fifth consecutive season but it could be close. The rotation should be improved with the addition of Ervin Santana to go along with returning starters Phil Hughes and Kyle Gibson. Brian Dozier is coming off a strong season and it seems likely for Joe Mauer to get back to his former self. Minnesota will be a strong baserunning team again with Dozier, Danny Santana, and Jordan Schafer leading the way. Minnesota should see some of their top prospects debut this season and that gives hope for the future.

The Negative: The Twins gave up a top-50 draft pick to sign Santana and it seems like there were other arms in camp that could have filled his spot in the rotation especially since the Twins are expected to contend for a few seasons. Minnesota's outfield defense was bad last season and adding Torii Hunter doesn't exactly help the situation as he continues to age. Minnesota's not winning this year but the rest of the division has flaws as well. 

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