Saturday, March 26, 2011

2011 Predictions: AL Central

1. Chicago White Sox
Maybe I’m being blinded by the Adam Dunn acquisition, but I really like this team’s chances.  Dunn gives them the big slugging bat they’ve lacked since the decline and departure of Frank Thomas, and he should slot nicely into an already formidable lineup.  Although they seem to have had a bit of a down season last year, the Sox were actually pretty good.  If you give last year’s team more power (Dunn) and better seasons from Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez, and Gordon Beckham, they could have won the division.  Surprisingly enough, this is what I think will happen this year.  The pitching should be pretty good too.  I’m a big Mark Buehrle fan, though the big deciding factor here is surely Jake Peavy.  Can he stay healthy?  If so, this rotation is excellent.  If not, it’s still quite good (John Danks makes a quietly great #3 starter).
Bottom line: If everything falls into place, as I (perhaps optimistically) expect it to, the White Sox have a real chance to bring a title to the South Side.

2. Minnesota Twins
Okay, let’s get to the heart of it: this team lives and dies with Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer.  If they succeed, they could win the division.  If they are injured, or slump, a long winter could be ahead.  Granted, they managed to skate into the playoffs with Morneau having a down year last season, but the AL Central of 2010 was a lot weaker than 2011’s incarnation.  The peripheral parts of their lineup are good, but not great.  The outfield of Delmon Young-Denard Span-Michael Cuddyer has the potential to surprise, but none of them can pick up the slack from either of the M’s.  Hopefully for them they won’t have to.  The pitching is iffy, with reconstructed ace Francisco Liriano leading the way, backed by Carl Pavano and Scott Baker.  I seem them being good, but not quite as good as the White Sox.
Bottom line: Overall this team is really solid, and is a fair pick for the Wild Card, but I just don’t think this is their year.

3. Detroit Tigers
I don’t know about you, but I was (pleasantly) surprised by the Victor Martinez pick-up.  The Tigers have quite a nice lineup this year, though it’s precariously perched on the aging shoulder of Magglio Ordonez and the troubled shoulder of Miguel Cabrera.  If they can keep it together and have productive seasons, this team will challenge for a playoff spot.  Sophomore Austin Jackson should also be fun to watch, as he looks to build on his great 2010.  The pitching, led by longtime ace Justin Verlander (he still seems young to me, but he’s apparently been in the MLB since 2005), is actually pretty good.  Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello are excellent 2+3 starters, and I really like the addition of Brad Penny.
Bottom line: If—and that’s a big if—this team can hold all of its parts together, they could challenge for a spot in the top tier of this division.

4. Cleveland Indians
O for 2007!  This team, once with such promise, has fallen into disrepair (yes yes, it’s very Clevelandish, we get it).  All hope is not lost, however.  The return of a healthy Grady Sizemore is much welcome, and combining him with Shin-Soo Choo and phenom catcher Carlos Santana should give the Indians’ lineup some potency.  Their pitching is really nothing special, though it would be nice to see one-time ace-of-the-future Fausto Carmona regain his ability to pitch well.  Beyond him, however is a mixture of young guys, none of whom are top prospects.
Bottom line: Not this year, Indians fans.  I’d suggest going on a fire sale, but there’s nothing left to sell….

5. Kansas City Royals
Now that they have Jeff Francoeur, how can this team not win this division?  No, umm, they’re bad.  Like, really bad.  But that’s okay because they have a stacked farm system and are going to be cleaning up (especially in this relatively weak division) in about two years.  While the Royals await the impending arrivals of Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Montgomery, they will have to content themselves with a lineup anchored by the likes of Melky Cabrera, the aforementioned Frenchy, and Billy Butler.  Their pitching, I’m sorry to say, isn’t much better, though I like the Jeff Francis signing (even if his health is questionable at this point in time).
Bottom line: If you’re a Royals fan, you should either: go into hibernation until 2013, or move to Omaha and/or Northwest Arkansas, where all the hot prospects will be spending time over the next years.

1 comment:

  1. Adam Dunn gives the sox the big slugging bat they haven't seen since Frank Thomas? Then what exactly was Jim Thome? If anything I would characterize Dunn as a younger version of Thome.