Been laser-focused on the Twins for the last few months? That’s okay, I have too. But there are four other teams in the AL Central division, so lets take a quick look at what they’ve been up to, and how their seasons might go. Buckle up, tighten your helmet, and get ready for a whirlwind tour!
Fangraphs Projected Record: 70-92
2017 Record: 64-98, 5th place
Key Offseason additions: Mike Fiers, Leonys Martin, Niko Goodrum, Francisco Liriano
Key offseason subtractions: Ian Kinsler, Bruce Rondon, Andrew Romine
The Tigers hired former Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire to oversee their rebuild, and surrounded him with old friends. Frankly, though, this team is going to be really, really bad this season, and probably for a few more after that. They’ve traded away everything but the kitchen sink, and the prospect payoff isn’t anywhere near the pros yet. They do still have Miguel Cabrera, or at least what is left of him. Victor Martinez and Jose Iglesias are also players you’ve probably heard of. They also have a couple of decent pitchers, and Michael Fulmer could end up being really good. Meanwhile, they are also trying to get worthwhile contributions out of old friends Francisco Liriano, John Hicks, and Niko Goodrum. James McCann is still a jerk for putting hands on Sano, though there might be multiple ways to look at that. I’d rather talk about old friends and old fights though, than just how bad the Tigers will be. This is a team that legitimately might not win 60 games. Gardy voo-doo magic might get them to 75 wins, maybe. That’s a stretch though.
Fangraphs Projected Record: 71-91
2017 Record: 80-82, 3rd place
Key Offseason additions: Jon Jay, Lucas Duda, Blaine Boyer
Key offseason subtractions: Eric Hosmer, Brandon Moss, Lorenzo Cain, Jason Vargas
No one seems to be sure exactly what Kansas City is trying to do on the baseball field this year. Off the field, they apparently want to ban porn. This is somehow a reasonable metaphor for their offseason. They lost most of the core of their successful run from the first half of this decade, and then brought back Mike Moustakas at the last minute on a one-year deal. Odds are he gets traded at the deadline anyway, but they didn’t really have anyone else to play third base. In an offseason where everyone was either loading up or tanking, the Royals decided to be mediocre. They have the pieces here to be a perfectly forgettable, roughly .500 team. If they decide to commit to the rebuild, they have some decent pieces to move, but their farm system is nearly barren. On the plus side, by September, we will probably get to see their Adalberto Modesi batting against our Adalberto Mejia. I’ll call it “Battleberto,” “Battleberto II, the Stikeoutening,” and other fun puns. So yeah, they could win 83 games, but they’re just as likely to win 63.
Fangraphs Projected Record: 66-99
2017 Record: 67-95, 4th place
Key Offseason additions: Wellington Castillo, Joakim Soria, Miguel Gonzalez, Bruce Rondon
Key offseason subtractions: Mike Pelfrey, Geovany Soto, Derek Holland
Don’t expect to see much competition from the South Side of Chicago this season. The White Sox jump-started their rebuild by selling everything that wasn’t nailed to the floor before the 2017 season, and will be relying on a lot of young players and cheap veterans this season. Their saving grace is that Detroit is trying to not win even harder than they are. Rick Renteria returns at the helm, and if everything clicks, this team could surprise people with a near-.500 finish. More likely, they’ll be a punching bag for the Twins and Indians all season. They could compare to the 2015 Twins. The first wave has arrived, but will need some more reinforcements from the farm before they are ready to compete.
Fangraphs Projected Record: 93-69
2017 Record and standings: 102-60, 1st place
Key Offseason additions: Yonder Alonso, Matt Belisle
Key offseason subtractions: Carlos Santana, Bryan Shaw, Joe Smith, Jay Bruce, Austin Jackson
Cleveland is once again the overwhelming favorite to win the AL Central. Terry Francona’s squad returns most of the key pieces from a team that won over 100 games. Their weakness, at this point, might be depth. The top of their rotation is still intimidating with Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer. However, Danny Salazar will start the season on the DL. The bullpen still has Andrew Miller and a few other weapons, but lost Bryan Shaw. Just a few key pitching injuries could leave them dangerously thin. Similarly, they lost two starting-caliber outfielders, and are counting on Michael Brantley’s health to make up for it. Yonder Alonso replaces Carlos Santana, but is an obvious downgrade. While its hard to bet against Cleveland, a visit from the injury bug could qickly make this team disappointing.
How do you think the AL Central will turn out? Where will the Twins end up? See any sleepers here?