The next division prediction is the American League Central Division. This division is considered to be the weakest of all divisions at the moment. I believe there is a clear winner for the division title and that is the Cleveland Indians. They have won the AL Central division title since 2016. The Indians are expected to win the title once again. I will explain why the AL Central is the weakest division.
- Cleveland Indians
The Indians choked last year in the first round after the New York Yankees took them to game 5 and advanced to the second round in the land. So I know the Indians have the boys in pinstripes on their minds for revenge throughout this season. Almost the whole team is returning from last year’s postseason roster minus outfielder Austin Jackson, who joined the San Francisco Giants, and top reliever Bryan Shaw, who left to join the Colorado Rockies, via free agency. 2017 all-star Yonder Alonso joins the Indians to become the full-time first baseman to fill the void that Carlos Santana leaves via free agency to join the Philadelphia Phillies. The addition of Alonso is a big boost and will give the Indians a better defender at first base and another slugger. The lineup is a force to be reckoned with in the Central. Having shortstop Francisco Lindor who could just as easily be the face of the MLB with that big smile of his, but he also has the tools to definitely be the face. Lindor is an exciting player, he can hit, run, and play stellar defense and it helps that he has great offensive pieces to surround in him all-star third baseman Jose Ramirez, all-star second baseman Jason Kipnis, Edwin Encarnacion, and Alonso. Can’t forget the young talents of outfielders Michael Brantley and Bradley Zimmer, if they can stay healthy. Indians ace Corey Kluber, who is coming off a Cy Young award win but choked in the playoffs in game five against the Yankees, will be on a mission to make sure that the events of last year’s playoff series don’t happen again. The Indians have a very strong pitching staff behind the Kluber in Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and Mike Clevinger with Josh Tomlin to round out the starting rotation. The Indians also have the best set up man and closer duo in the game in Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. This team is full of strengths, which is why I believe the Indians will win the division title for the third consecutive year. I expect the Indians to be a real contender to make it to the World Series.
2. Minnesota Twins
Easy pick to win 2nd place in the Central division is the Twins. Why? They made the wild card game last year but lost to the Yankees. The Twins have a lot momentum to build upon their team in a weak division. Before losing to Yankees in the wildcard game, the Twins played hard as they could to stay in it, but it is something to be proud of it and carry it into this season. The Twins made some nice pickups during in the offseason to bolster their roster. There is a lot to like about their new additions of Logan Morrison as their designated hitter, Addison Reed as their set-up man and starting pitching pieces in Lance Lynn and Jake Odorizzi. Morrison, while he is known for striking out a lot in many stretches, has a nice bat when goes on a hot offensive run. It is good to see the Twins add another slugger. Reed is a solid bullpen piece, he has really improved since his days with the New York Mets, I wouldn’t be surprised if he is in the closer role by the end of the season, not to spite new closer, Fernando Rodney. Lynn and Odorizzi joining the Twins and mixing them with young guns in Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson will play huge factors whether the Twins will be playoff contenders or not. Adding all these new pieces to the current pieces, slugging second baseman Brian Dozier, Cuban third baseman Miguel Sano, and outfielders Eddie Rosario and Byron Buxton will make this team very special. Not to mention that longtime first baseman Joe Mauer will bring the leadership to a young Twins team that will be fun to watch this season. I can’t say the same for the next three teams coming up next.
3. Kansas City Royals
The Royals lost one of their most consistent and big bats in first baseman Eric Hosmer, who left for the west coast to join the San Diego Padres on an 8-year deal, worth $144 million. Hosmer’s replacement, free agent addition Lucas Duda, won’t bring the consistency that Hosmer has but can bring the home run power to Kansas City. Third baseman Mike Moustakas couldn’t find the big contract that he was looking for in free agency and ended up returning to the Royals on a one-year deal with a mutual team option, worth $22.7 million. The Royals also added veteran outfielder Jon Jay and veteran set up man Brandon Maurer via free agency, but they can only do so much. If the Royals want to make playoffs, their chances will depend on the health of all-star catcher Salvador Perez and outfielders Alex Gordon and Jorge Soler. This team will need the offense support heavily as their starting rotation are question marks after Danny Duffy. Ian Kennedy and Jason Hammel are out of their primes and are tough to rely on. Nate Karns, their fourth pitcher in the rotation needs to stay healthy. If he does for the whole season, I can see him supplanting Kennedy and Hammel for the second spot in the rotation. Kelvin Herrera was a really good set up man when former Royals, Greg Holland, and Wade Davis, were still the closer, but that was a long time ago (2014, 2015). Herrera didn’t do well last year, he has a new slate this season, but if he doesn’t keep making the most of opportunities as the closer, expect him to get demoted to middle reliever or back to set up man.
4. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox probably have the best young talent between the Royals and the Detroit Tigers. The reason why the White Sox are ranked below the Royals in the division is the young talent are still young and they have James Shields in their rotation. Shields, once a dominant starting pitcher with the Tampa Bay Rays, has really fallen off the wagon. It is really unfortunate that Shields isn’t the same pitcher because he is really fun to watch when he dominates. If he can keep the ball and doesn’t allow so many fly balls that end up being home runs, then I can see the White Sox in third place. The bullpen is not all the strong when you compare to Indians or the Twins, but they’re relatively young, but have good veterans with the likes of left-handed reliever Luis Avilan, who was very good with the Los Angeles Dodgers last year, and former closer, Joakim Soria The Southside team of Chicago have very good young players in Yoan Moncada at second base and starting pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez in the starting rotation. If the young guys can break out now and not a few years later in the future, add that into the mix with veteran ballplayers like first baseman slugger Jose Abreu, outfielder Avisail Garcia, and new catcher Wellington Castillo, this is a dark horse team in my opinion. The White Sox are just waiting for the breakout shoe to drop.
5. Detroit Tigers
This team is nowhere close to contending and won’t be for quite a bit of time. Trading players with the likes of ace Justin Verlander, outfielder J.D. Martinez, second baseman Ian Kinsler and closer Justin Willson between the trade deadline and the offseason, has left longtime veteran first baseman Miguel Cabrera in the beginning phase of the rebuild in Detroit. Within this season, ace Michael Fulmer could be traded elsewhere to bring in more prospects for their rebuild. The fact that an aging designated hitter Victor Martinez is still on the team is amazing because he’s been there just as long as Cabrera, but I don’t know how much left he has in the tank. Jordan Zimmermann has been on the decline since he first came to Detroit and if the Tigers want to win, it starts with him. If Zimmermann can go back to Washington Nationals days, it could make him an attractive trade bait for teams that are desperate for starting pitch depth and it would help the Tigers speed up the rebuilding process if they can get a lot for a rejuvenated Zimmermann. Other than that, there is not much towards to for Tigers fans.
Like I said, the AL Central Division is considered to be the weakest in the AL and possibly all of baseball, but after closely looking at each of these teams, it is possible that there could be some nice and unexpected surprises from the bottom of the division. With that said, anything is possible, but it is more likely that Indians and Twins will play for first place, with the Indians eventually running away with the division title. Next up will be the American League West Division predictions at The Utility Man so be sure to be on the lookout!
What do you think of the predictions for the AL Central Division? Do you think they are reasonable predictions? Be sure to tweet your thoughts @TheUtilityMan17 on Twitter!