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MLB Preseason: AL Central

19 Feb

Hey guys, welcome back for the second week of our “road to Opening Day.” Hopefully, you enjoyed last week’s discussion of the AL East. Just a couple updates from that. Tampa Bay Rays’ catcher Jose Lobaton was traded to the Washington Nationals. So Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina will be battling for the starting spot there. Also, Ryan Dempster decided to walk away from the game of baseball. I would expect the Red Sox to replace him with Felix Doubront because of his experience starting with them in the past. Lastly, it’s been rumored that Ubaldo Jimenez is close to a 4-year deal with the Orioles, pending a physical. He would most likely be their number one starter unless they decide to go with Charles Tillman as the “ace.” With that, let’s go ahead and start with the AL Central!

 

Chicago White Sox 2013 record: (63-99; 5th)

Acquisitions: Mitchell Boggs, Scott Downs, Adam Eaton, Jose Abreu

Losses: Gavin Floyd, Addison Reed

Projected 2014 Lineup

C Josh Phegley

1B Jose Abreu

2B Gordon Beckham

SS Alexei Ramirez

3B Conor Gillaspie

OF Alejandro de Aza

OF Adam Eaton

OF Avisail Garcia

DH Adam Dunn

Projected 2014 Starting Rotation

SP Chris Sale

SP Jose Quintana

SP John Danks

SP Andre Rienzo

SP Felipe Paulino

The White Sox certainly had a rough year last year finishing last in the division, even behind the lowly Twins. An aging star, Paul Konerko’s numbers have steadily been dropping and right now, it looks like he may be out of a starting job with the team going with their young star, Jose Abreu. Speaking of younger talent, they also have Avisail Garcia and Adam Eaton, both of whom were acquired in trades at the deadline or in the offseason. I think both of those were high quality moves especially looking at where this team was headed. Sometimes, you have to accept the fact that there are going to be some rebuilding years in a franchise and I think Chicago handled it quite well. Their lineup isn’t amazing, but it could surprise especially if their prospects perform. The rotation gets a little rough after Chris Sale as Jose Quintana is like a roller coaster and the others are either too young, too “past their prime,” or simply too bad. The bullpen is okay for major league for standards, but definitely nothing to write home about including the loss of closer, Addison Reed. This year definitely isn’t going to be the White Sox’s year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re close to the top a few years down the road with this young squad.

 

Cleveland Indians 2013 Record: (92-70; 2nd)

Acquisitions: John Axford, David Murphy, Josh Outman, Shaun Marcum

Losses: Drew Stubbs, Joe Smith, Kelly Shoppach (unsigned), Chris Perez, Brett Myers, Matt Albers, Ubaldo Jimenez, Scott Kazmir, Jason Kubel

Projected 2014 Lineup

C Yan Gomes

1B Nick Swisher

2B Jason Kipnis

SS Asdrubal Cabrera

3B Lonnie Chisenhall

OF Michael Brantley

OF Michael Bourn

OF David Murphy

DH Carlos Santana

Projected 2014 Starting Rotation

SP Justin Masterson

SP Zach McAllister

SP Danny Salazar

SP Corey Kluber

SP Shaun Marcum

The Indians were one of the biggest surprise teams of the 2013 season finishing second in the division and grabbing one of the two AL wildcard spots. I really like the team’s offense simply because they are so balanced from top to bottom. Jason Kipnis was a big surprise last year becoming one of the best hitting second basemen in the league. Michael Bourn was somewhat disappointing considering how much they paid him, but hey, you can’t teach speed and he has a lot of it. He will continue to be an elite leadoff hitter. It is unbelievably valuable when you have a guy who can get a game or inning started with a hit and then steal second base. Just like that, you have a guy in scoring position and the game has barely even started. Power may become an issue with this team, especially considering they have to compete with the powerhouse Tigers. But their speed and contact may just give them a chance. Where they reach their downfall is in pitching. Don’t get me wrong, Justin Masterson has been great for Cleveland, but I just can’t see him being an ace that you can always rely on in clutch situations. Beyond him are a lot of guys who don’t have a TON of experience in starting in the MLB which may become an issue as the strenuous season drags along. Additionally, Shaun Marcum has only been an average pitcher since his injury. But, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe another year removed from the surgery will give him a stronger arm. Lastly in the pitching category, I think they will miss Chris Perez. Yes, he had his big scandal last year, but he was a great closer for them. I don’t know if Cody Allen will be a good enough substitute for him as a guy who has limited experience in save situations. Ultimately, I see this team not doing as well as they did last year and definitely not making the playoffs.

 

Detroit Tigers 2013 Record: (93-69; 1st)

Acquisitions: Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kinsler, Rajai Davis, Steve Lombardozzi, Joe Nathan

Losses: Jose Veras, Prince Fielder, Doug Fister, Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel, Omar Infante, Brayan Pena, Jhonny Peralta

Projected 2014 Lineup

C Alex Avila

1B Miguel Cabrera

2B Ian Kinsler

SS Jose Iglesias

3B Nick Castellanos

OF Andy Dirks

OF Austin Jackson

OF Torii Hunter

DH Victor Martinez

Projected 2014 Starting Rotation

SP Justin Verlander

SP Max Scherzer

SP Anibal Sanchez

SP Drew Smyly

SP Rick Porcello

Looking up above, the Tigers definitely lost a lot this offseason. And it wasn’t even just average guys at the bottom of the lineup or on the bench. They lost key players. Obviously Prince Fielder was the biggest. Everyone really played that trade off as a fact that the Tigers shed a ton in cap space and got a quality second baseman in return. As valuable as Ian Kinsler is, I just find it tough to support the loss of arguably one of the top 10 hitters in the league. You can’t replace that 1-2 punch with him and Miguel Cabrera. It somewhat worked out with being able to move Cabrera over to first base and having Nick Castellanos get some experience at third. Despite my disagreement with the move, the Tigers still have the best lineup in the division by far. When you have the best hitter in the league (in my opinion) in your lineup, it’s going to be pretty good and it makes the other players around him better. I’m also really intrigued as to what Jose Iglesias can do this year. He’s an outstanding fielder and I’d like to see a slight improvement in the offense this year as he was up and down with the Red Sox, but improved steadily after his trade to Detroit. The Tigers’ best move though was signing Joe Nathan. They finally have a closer who can get the job done instead of rotating between a platoon of guys and even bringing Jose Valverde back. I think that was definitely the biggest thing holding them back from being even better in the regular season and possibly being in the World Series. They still have one of the best rotations in baseball even with losing Doug Fister. Two Cy Young award winners and a strikeout machine as your top three? I’ll take that on any day. This team definitely has the capability to run away with this division especially with Cleveland not making a huge leap.

 

Kansas City Royals 2013 record: (86-76; 3rd)

Acquisitions: Norichika Aoki, Omar Infante, Jason Vargas

Losses: Emilio Bonifacio (unsigned), George Kottaras, Carlos Pena (unsigned), Ervin Santana (unsigned), Miguel Tejada (unsigned)

Projected 2014 Lineup

C Salvador Perez

1B Eric Hosmer

2B Omar Infante

SS Alcides Escobar

3B Mike Moustakas

OF Alex Gordon

OF Lorenzo Cain

OF Norichika Aoki

DH Billy Butler

Projected 2014 Starting Rotation

SP James Shields

SP Jeremy Guthrie

SP Jason Vargas

SP Danny Duffy

SP Wade Davis

Could this finally be the Royals’ chance? They finished over .500 last year and are returning a lot of their young talent for another year. The Tigers are still the clear favorite, but this team is looking pretty good. Their prospects have been in the league a couple years now and have actually really improved from their rookie years. Eric Hosmer has made the biggest leap and is now a deadly power hitter. Salvador Perez provides consistent offense from a position where it’s tough to find. Alex Gordon has finally become a consistent everyday player after struggling his first couple years. The one guy who is really makes me scratch my head is Mike Moustakas. I touted him as a fantasy sleeper thinking this was finally his year to break out and be the hitter everyone thought he would be. However, he started off the year dreadfully and hovered around the low .200’s pretty much the whole year. Some players never recover from seasons like that and stay at that average for a while. He is still young though and definitely has the capability to get out of that funk. It’s just up to him to do it. Despite losing one of the best up and coming young hitters in the league in Wil Myers, they in turn found their number one starter in James Shields. His numbers weren’t lights out last year, but they were good enough. I think they paid way too much on Jason Vargas, but it was better than signing Ervin Santana to his desired $100 million contract. I mean, Santana is a decent pitcher, but come on! $100 MILLION?! It’s no wonder no one has signed him yet. He’s lowered his price significantly, but still hasn’t found a job, so good luck to him. I think Wade Davis can also have a good comeback year. He was also involved in that Wil Myers trade. Not to mention, Greg Holland is a great young closer. The Royals have the pieces they need, they just need to have the stars align in their favor. I don’t think it will be enough to catch the Tigers, but I can definitely see them finishing second in the Central.

 

Minnesota Twins 2013 record: (66-96; 4th)

Acquisitions: Phil Hughes, Ricky Nolasco, Kurt Suzuki, Jason Kubel

Losses: none

Projected 2014 Lineup

C Josmil Pinto

1B Joe Mauer

2B Brian Dozier

SS Pedro Florimon

3B Trevor Plouffe

OF Josh Willingham

OF Alex Presley

OF Oswaldo Arcia

DH Jason Jubel

Projected 2014 Starting Rotation

SP Ricky Nolasco

SP Kevin Correia

SP Samuel Deduno

SP Phil Hughes

SP Mike Pelfrey

Aaahh, the Twins. Where do I even begin? The Twins have been bad for a couple years now, but I feel like nothing has changed. To me, they’ve had guys like Trevor Plouffe and Brian Dozier as their “future” for those couple years and nothing has changed. They’re still just as bad and those guys haven’t really panned out. They’ve improved somewhat, but they are definitely not what I would want for a future playoff team. Their lineup really shouldn’t strike fear into any opposing pitchers’ hearts. Their one franchise player, Joe Mauer, is getting older and may not even be on the team by the end of the year. I feel like Josh Willingham has been on the trading block for years now and still hasn’t been moved. This has to be the year he goes, right?! Also, their offseason confuses me. One, they didn’t really get rid of ANY cap space. Not that they had a lot to get rid of anyways. Your team is clearly in a rebuilding process, but you go out and sign Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes? They’re decent (more Nolasco than Hughes), but moves like that aren’t really going to do anything when your team is like this. I would’ve rather just given the ball to some of my minor leaguers to see what they can do. They may end up doing just that as the season starts to implode, but I really don’t know what they’re thinking at this point. The Twins look to be heading to a rough season at this point and they’ll most likely finish in the basement of the division.

 

*Just a little note. I will most likely be posting next week’s blog this upcoming Sunday night. I have a trip with my school for the whole week next week and I will most likely not have Internet access.

 

-Robert

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Posted by on February 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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