2013 MLB Predictions: AL Central
In this segment, I'm going to look at the American League Central.
1)---DETROIT TIGERS---Detroit won the division last year, with 88 wins, and look to be the class of the division again this year. They have the best pitcher in the division, in Justin Verlander, and the best hitter, in Miguel Cabrera. Those two players, by the way, have won the last two AL MVP Awards, and there are a lot of quality parts around them.
Besides Cabrera, who won the Triple Crown, and the AL MVP last year. the Tigers boast the likes of Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez, and Austin Jackson in their line-up. That's the kind of line-up that makes their own starting pitcher smile. They'll certainly score their share of runs, and will probably be even better than they were a year ago at the plate.
The pitching cupboard isn't bare behind Verlander, either. Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez form a formidable trio, complimenting the 2011 AL Cy Young and MVP.
Gone from the bullpen is last year's closer, Jose Valverde, and Detroit is hoping that Bruce Rondon can step into that role this season.
The Tigers acquired Hunter as a free agent, and really added another piece, in Martinez, who missed all of 2012. So, this team should eclipse last year's 88 win total, and not only win the division, but should be a legit contender for the world title.
2)---CLEVELAND INDIANS---I love what Cleveland did in the offseason, hiring Terry Francona as their manager, and signing the likes of pitcher Brett Myers, infielder Mark Reynolds, and outfielders Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, and Drew Stubbs.
Offensively, with Bourn and Asdrubal Cabrera hitting 1-2, with Jason Kipnis, Swisher, Carlos Santana, and Reynolds behind them, Cleveland's line-up will be much-improved.
While the offense will be solid, I have a major concern about the Indians' starting rotation. Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson were very disappointing last season, and just simply have to be better this year. Maybe Trevor Bauer can help significantly.
The additions of Bourn and Stubbs made an already good defensive team even that much stronger. That would help any pitching staff.
If the Indians get better pitching, which I expect, they can improve by as many as 12-18 games over last season's 68-game win total, and finish second in the AL Central.
3)---KANSAS CITY ROYALS---I'd be cautiously optimistic, if I were a fan of Kansas City. They won 72 games last year, and there are a lot of reasons to expect more in 2013.
The Royals added a legit ace in the offseason, acquiring James Shields, along with Wade Davis and Ervin Santana.
If Greg Holland can close, and Aaron Crowe can develop into a quality set-up guy, this pitching staff can be really good.
Offensively, I think Eric Hosmer will bounce back with a good season, and Billy Butler will continue to be one of the most underrated hitters in the game, but other than him, nobody else should be expected to hit over 20 homers. Lack of pop, will cost them some runs.
Even with the Royals trading Will Meyers, they still have one of the top minor league systems, with such highly-touted prospects as pitchers Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura, and outfielders Bubba Starling and Jorge Bonifacio.
The Royals are interesting. If they get some offensive production, they may be able to contend. I'd just be cautious, as we've been waiting for them to break out for a few years now, and it has yet to happen.
Kansas City has improved, enough for me to call them a .500 team. Right now though, I can't go higher than that.
4)---CHICAGO WHITE SOX---Chicago won 85 games last year, and if not for a late season collapse would have made the playoffs. I'm looking for them to take a step back this year, however.
There are too many holes in the line-up, even if Alex Rios and Adam Dunn repeat their 2012 seasons, which is certainly no guarantee. I also think the loss of A.J. Pierzynski will hurt more than they think.
Chris Sale is a star, but the rest of the pitching staff is questionable, at best, with Jake Peavy, John Danks, and Gavin Floyd following him. All three have the ability to get hitters out, but all three also come with injury and/or inconsistency concerns.
I look for the White Sox to decline by about ten games from their 85 wins from last year.
Hang on though, White Sox fans, as talented prospects such as outfielder Courtney Hawkins and Trayce Thompson, infielder Carlos Sanchez, and pitchers Erik Johnson and Scott Snodgress will be appearing in Chicago in the near future.
5)---MINNESOTA TWINS---I really like the future of Minnesota. They're building a strong system, headlined by outfield prospect Byron Buxton, who I thought was the best player in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft, along with third baseman Miguel Sano, outfielder Oswaldo Arcia, and pitcher Alex Meyer. That being said, don't expect much from them this year.
Outside of Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham, and Justin Morneau, the Twins don't have a lot to offer, offensively.
In terms of pitching, there just isn't much there, either, with Vance Worley, Kevin Correia, and Mike Pelfrey spearheading the rotation.
Again, the Twins looks good over the long haul. Over the short haul, not so much.
Look for Minnesota to come close to reaching the 66 wins that they totaled a year ago.
Next up: The National League Central