By Tyler Smith
American League Central Predictions 2013
By Tyler Smith
American League Central Predictions 2013
#1 Detroit Tigers
Stadium Capacity: Comerica Park (41,255)
Manager: Jim Leyland
2012 Record: 88-74
Starting Pitching: With a one-two punch of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer the Tigers have one of the best staffs in baseball. Verlander led the team with 20 wins and a 2.75 ERA last season. Scherzer led the team in strikeouts with 242 and led the major leagues with an 11.08 K/9. Annibal Sanchez needs to take his game to another level for the Tigers. He's got a big contract (5 year, 80 million) and now needs to live up to it. Sanchez has a career high 13. The three or four spot could go to Fister depending on Sanzhez's performance in the spring. Fister went 10-10 a year ago and showed great command, posting 137 K's and 37 BB. The 5th spot will be something to watch in spring training, Smiley a lefty and Porcello a righty will compete for the spot. If they go with Smiley he would be the only left handed starter for the Tigers. Porcello has been in the Tigers rotation for many years, but gave up the most hits in the AL a year ago.
Relief Pitching: Detroit's seen enough from closer Jose Valverde and sent him packing. One key reason Valverde was let go: in 2.2 innings he gave up 9 runs, in October. Who takes over at closer will be determined in spring training. Leyland could go with rookie Rondon or veteran Benoit. The middle of the pen looks solid with longtime vet Octavio Dotel, left handed Phil Coke, and Al Albuquerque ready to emerge.
Infield: The Tigers offense was great last season and that was without DH Victor Martinez. Martinez missed the whole 2012 season with knee surgery. Martinez will see time at first, also. Behind the plate will be Alex Avila who was hit with several injuries last season and should be at full strength this season. Prince Fielder was brought in last season and didn't disappoint. Prince hit 30 HR's, 100 RBI's, and .313 BA. Money well spent. Jhonny Peralta struggled at the plate with only 13 HR's and 63 RBI's in 531 AB's. Omar Infante returns at 2B and hits lefties well. Don't let me forget the Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera his numbers speak for himself: 44 HR's, 139 RBI's, and .330 BA. Oh and he led the Tigers in doubles too. The only downside to the infield is their fielding capabilities.
Outfield: Center fielder Austin Jackson is a sure hand with only one error a year ago. If he continues to cut down on his strikeouts, which he did last season, the Tigers lineup could become even better. Right field was unstable a year ago so Detroit went out and got nine-time Gold Glove winner Torii Hunter. Despite his age Hunter is still productive in the field and at the plate. Last season hunter had a BA of .313 in 534 plate appearances. Left field is open for the taking. Likely candidates include Brennan Bosesch, Andy Dirks, and Quintin Berry.
Outlook: The Tigers are poised for another great year with a solid batting order and a 1-2 punch of Verlander and Scherzer in the rotation. Closer remains a big question. Bet against the Tigers winning the Central if you want, but I wouldn't advise it.
#2 Chicago White Sox
Stadium Capacity: U.S. Cellular Field (40,615)
Manager: Robin Ventura
2012 Record: 85-77
Starting Pitching: Chris Sale is the team's ace. He went 17-8 with 192 strikeouts in his first season as a starter. The Sox will look for a bounce back year for John Danks. Danks had an injury cut his season short, but before the injury he had a 3-4 record with a 5.70 ERA. Gavin Floyd had an average season for Chicago in 2012. For the White Sox to compete for the Central title they will need for him to post his '08 numbers. Peavy finally put together a full season for the White Sox. His 11-12 record is deceiving. He posted a 3.37 ERA and had 194 punch-outs last season. One stat that sticks out are his 27 HR's, which is concerning. The final spot in the rotation might fall to Jose Quintana.
Relief Pitching: Second year man Addison Reed is the closer. Reed had 29 saves last season. Thorton and Crain are the setup men. Thorton lost 10 games last season for the White Sox, which is a bit unusual for a relief pitcher. Crain had a 2.44 ERA with 60 K's in only 48 innings of work.
Infield: Gordon Beckham and Alexi Ramirez came up with high promise. Both had great rookie season, but have declined at the plate ever since. The two do bring great glove work to the infield though. Konerko is getting up in age (37). His body will need to hold up an entire season for the Sox to beat out the Tigers for the Central. DH Adam Dunn was the comeback player of the year in 2012. He knocked 41 HR's, but his 222 strikeouts led the league. It will be weird not seeing Pierzynski behind the plate, but the time is now for Tyler Flowers. The lone newcomer Jeff Keppinger will be at third base.
Outfield: Alex Rios showed his worth last season after a disappointing 2011 season. Rios led the team in batting average (.304) and had eight triples. Chicago has found their lead offman and centerfielder, Alejandro De Aza. He scored 81 runs, drew 47 walks, and had an OBP of .349. Dayan Viciedo is in left. On a team that strikes out a lot they can't afford for Viciedo have 28 walks.
Outlook: This team could make a run at the Tigers. If Danks returns to his 2010 form, Rios continues to put up great numbers, and Konerko holds up. Dunn will need to hit 40 HR's to make up for all of his strikeouts, as he did last season.
#3 Kansas City Royals
Stadium Capacity: Kauffman Stadium (37,903)
Manager: Ned Yost
2012 Record: 72-90
Starting Pitching: The Royals made several trades to bolster their starting rotation. James Shields was the biggest player the Rays obtained this offseason. Shields went 15-10 last year in the tough AL East. The switch to the Central should benefit him and his numbers should be on the rise. Wade Davis was acquired in the Tampa Bay trade and will be the Royals two or three starter. Jermey Guthrie pitched well for the Royals after a dreadful start in Colorado. In 12 starts with the Royals he had a 2.34 ERA and that earned him a new contract with the team. Ervin Santana had problems giving up the long ball last season. Luke Hocheavor and Bruce Chen gave up 241 runs combined last season! One of the two could be the Royals 5th starter.
Relief Pitching: The Royals lost Joakim Soria to the Rangers in free agency. That might not be bad due to Soria having a down year. Greg Holland will be Kansas City's closer. Holland had 16 saves a season ago and has a nice mid-90's fastball. Kelvin Herrea 29 holds and had 77 strikeouts in 84 innings of work. Aaron Crow is another strikeout guy for the Royals. Crow cut down his walks to 22 last season while maintaining the same amount of strikeouts (65).
Infield: First basemen Eric Hosmer struggled last season. The Royals love his power potential, but he only hit 14 HR's last season. Mike Moustakas made a name for himself last season. He hit 20 HR's and knocked in 73 RBI's. Moustakas has the potential to be 30-100 guy. The DH, Billy Butler, led the team in HR's (29) and RBI's (107). He did that while maintaining a .313 batting average. Alcides Escobar proved he's not just a great fielder. He posted a .293 average last season, 39 points higher than his 2011 season. He had a career high 35 steals, as well. Escobar could be the Royals lead off guy. Second base is up for grabs between Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella. Catcher Salvador Perez is a future all-star. Perez hit over .300 last season and knocked in 39 RBI's with only 289 at bats.
Outfield: The past two seasons Alex Gordon has hit at least .290. This is a good sign moving forward. Gordon led the team in doubles with 51 last season. Cain suffered several injuries last season. Cain is great in the field and on the bags. Jeff Francoeur is becoming more of a liability for the Royals. His RBI numbers were down. His on OBP is below .300 because of his impatience at the dish.
Outlook: The Royals haven't made the playoffs since 1985. The current pitching staff has four players that were in the top ten in runs given up last season. They will need to make a complete 180 for this team to contend. The lineup looks solid and everyone in the lineup is under 30 years old.
#4 Cleveland Indians
Stadium Capacity: Progressive Field (43,429)
Manager: Terry Francona
2012 Record: 68-94
Starting Pitching: Last year's staff was one of the worst in the American League. The 1-2 punch of Masterson and Jimenez combined for 32 losses and an ERA's over 5. Masterson will need to find his command, last season he had 88 walks. Ubaldo struggled with his command as well with 95 walks. His velocity is coming up, but will that be enough to turn things around? Brett Meyers is arriving in Cleveland as a starter, instead of a reliever. All eyes will be on Trevor Bauer this spring, an offseason acquisition from the Diamondbacks.
Relief Pitching: Chris Perez returns as the closer and should be around 35 saves this season. Joe Smith was the Tribes go to guy with the most appearances out of the pen a year ago with 72. Tony Sipps departure will hurt because he was their experienced lefty. The Indians will call on Vinnie Pestano to get out right handed bats.
Infield: The Indians held on to All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera and it's a good thing because they need him. Cabrera is their best player, has a great glove, and a nice bat for a SS. One of the top young catchers, Carlos Santana started to come on in the second half after a poor start to the season. Kipnis could be the next big thing for the Tribe. The young second basemen will only get better with time. Look for his numbers to improve all around. Third base is up for grabs, but look for Lonnie Chisenhall to get the starting spot. Mark Reynolds is at first and we all know what he can do, hit a HR or strikeout.
Outfield: The Indians made a few moves to the outfield. The Indians brought in Nick Swisher, Drew Stubbs, and Michael Bourn. Swisher won't have as big of numbers in Cleveland as he did New York. This is a good move, but not a great move. Micheal Bourn arrives via free agency. Bourn is dangerous on the bags having at least 40 steals a season since 2008. One concern might be his career high 155 strikeouts last season, but he counters that by a career high in walks with 70. Stubbs makes his way to Cleveland by trade. He's got great speed, but struggles at the plate, especially with striking out. He will be the Indians 4th outfielder. Micheal Brantley's role as a leadoff hitter could change now that Bourn has arrived. Brantley led the team in doubles last season with 37.
Outlook: The Indians are making progress in their rebuilding venture. The lineup is improving and becoming more dangerous. The starting pitcher is the big question mark. If Masterson and Jimenez can put in respectable seasons next season could be promising. The Indians should be fun to watch on the bases with Kipnis, Borun, and Stubbs.
#5 Minnesota Twins
Stadium Capacity: Target Field (39,504)
Manager: Rob Gardenhire
2012 Record: 66-96
Starting Pitching: Scott Diamond is the team's opening day starter. Diamond shows great command, but is not going to overwhelm hitters with power. Many new faces will be the rotation this season. Mike Pelfrey is coming off Tommy John surgery and will be up for a spot in the rotation. Kevin Corriea has never won more than 12 games in a season and that likely won't change this season. The rotation is far from complete and we will need spring training to know more.
Relief Pitching: Left handed closer Glen Perkins won the job last season, after Matt Capps failed. He did well in the role and should be around 35 saves this season. Jared Burton had the best season of his career primarily because he was healthy. The rest of the pen will be made up in spring training.
Infield: Mauer and Morneau are still the centerpieces for the Twins. Mauer showed great discipline at the plate last season. He posted 90 walks, a career high. Morneau's numbers were down across the board. The Twins can't afford another down year from him. Last season he was over 100 strikeouts for the first time in his career. Trevor Ploufee showed a lot of promise by hitting 24 HR's last season. If he can raise his average he could be an emerging star at the hot corner. Jamey Carroll returns at 2nd base. Carroll is strictly a contact hitter with only 13 total HR's in his career. Carroll won't hurt the Twins, but he won't help them either. Pedro Florimon wasn't impressive in his 137 at bats last season. One HR, 10 RBI's, and .219 batting average isn't going to cut it. He will have to impress in spring training to get the opening day start at SS. Ryan Doumit had a nice year for the Twins and will be the DH for the Twins.
Outfield: Josh Willingham's 2012 season was a career best. He had 35 HR's and 110 RBI's. Dari Mastroianni will likely split time with Joe Benson in center. Chris Parmelee will get a look at right. He showed solid power in the minors with 17 HR's.
Outlook: The pitching staff isn't going to get this team out of the bottom of the central. The bullpen isn't going to intimidate any team. The middle of the order will get the job done with Willingham, Mauer, and Morneau.