The American League Central in 2013


Detroit Tigers

My prediction: 92-70

2012 finish: 88-74, lost in World Series

Worthy of note: Give this club credit for what they didn’t do.

They signed Anibal Sanchez… they didn’t let him leave.

They didn’t trade Rick Porcello.

For a club that is trying to win a championship now… and really only lost Gerald Laird and Delmon Young… keeping Sanchez and Porcello makes this a club worthy of a place in the playoffs right now. Because the foundation is solid. With just a couple of tweaks… oh yeah…

2013 changes: Torii Hunter is the biggest addition. But keep in mind… after losing him to injury, this club is also bringing back Victor Martinez in 2013.

That’s two major additions for the Tigers.

With the sun shining and calm seas: Best pitcher in the American League (and likely all of baseball today).

Fielder, Martinez and Cabrera could develop into a run that matches up with any trio in baseball… yes, even potentially what people think could happen out in California. And they’ve brought in Torii Hunter.

Things are good in Detroit. Not a lot of changes to a team that reached the World Series. But the changes are all strong improvements.

Trouble in paradise: No bullpen. No depth. Very little defense.

They haven’t really addressed their problems in shutting games down. The bullpen arms can be good, and can be bad. It’s not just the idea of adding a closer. It’s the idea that often you’ll hear relievers talk about wanting to know their roles… and this group has none of that right now.

The farm system… the bench… not a lot to draw on if they need to.

And honestly, this defense is shaky on the good days. They could put four peach baskets around the infield, call it an out if the ball goes into a basket, and that might have a higher defensive rating than the four players they’ll actually use.

2013 expectations: Verlander isn’t alone. Max Scherzer is one name you should be familiar with. They have a deep rotation. (And, fortunately for the bullpen, the starters are all capable of giving seven or more innings on most days.)

Powerfull offense… good starting pitching… the Tigers will club their ways to lots of wins, and the longer the starters can go into games could even lead to several pitching-based wins.

It’s enough to win the division and get into the playoffs. I don’t know if it can win again there this year though. It’s in October that they could have problems.

Chicago White Sox

My prediction: 88-74

2012 finish: 85-77

Worthy of note: I don’t really see a ton to talk about here when it comes to acquisitions and such. Instead… I find the contracts offered to Jake Peavy and Chris Sale to be far more interesting.

This club won 85 games last year, and I honestly thought they looked like toast before the year started. All Peavy did was start 32 games (he hadn’t started more than 19 since 2009, and this was the first trip north of 30 starts since 2008).

2013 changes: Brought in Jeff Keppinger to play third base.

Do you want to talk about Pierzynski or Youkilis leaving? No? Really? Because we can. Pierzynsi was more valuable to this club than you might think. Still no? Ok… let’s move on then.

With the sun shining and calm seas: There are several thoughts that begin with the dreaded if.

If Jake Peavy can stay healthy and make 30 or more starts.

If Paul Konerko can lead this batting order.

And you see already where this is going. This is a difficult team to really consider.

Their manager (Robin Ventura) is here with one season under his belt. Not a great track record to draw upon.

And things could be good… or really bad.

The trick is… I like Chris Sale. And by that, I also mean that there are some young pieces in place here.

Trouble in paradise: Well… what there isn’t here is much depth. How many times have we seen rookie pitchers and players come from nowhere, get everyone excited, and then burn out just as unexpectedly? The answer is a lot. And as such, if 2012 was an exception and not the norm, this club could be in deep trouble considering how scrappy some of the clubs in the division look.

2013 expectations: I’m putting them in the playoffs because I think Keppinger will provide solid results as the everyday third baseman… that Peavy and company can deliver results this year… and that Konerko and Adam Dunn will help put runs on the board.

But don’t expect it to last. As Cleveland and Kansas City tinker with the chemistry and try to move ahead, Chicago will be the first team they get in their sights. And once they do… they could both catch and pass the White Sox.

Keep in mind, this club has been hovering just over or just below the .500 line for the past few years. Never into the territory of great… never into the territory of horrible. They’re just… well… there. And if that’s what they deliver in 2013, and not something special in a couple of places, then they might get caught by clubs in the division… never mind the playoff race.

In reality, the one reason I’m willing to give this team a playoff spot is that in addition to what I’ll outline for teams like Baltimore and Oakland (playoffs for both last year, but I don’t think so this year) or Toronto (lots of questions involving chemistry), is that this division is ok… but not great. Yup… the White Sox will more or less live and die based on how well they play against the Indians. Royals and Twins. Good luck guys!

Kansas City Royals

My prediction: 78-84

2012 finish: 72-90

Worthy of note: James Shields and Wade Davis were part of Tampa’s organization… and to rush to the point, basically they both (Shields more, but yes, both) have experience doing what the Royals want to do… turn an organization that may not have of the resources of the bigger clubs into an annual competitor.

And they are going into a division that honestly isn’t filled with well-seasoned, MVP-candidate-filled rosters.

2013 changes: Nice. They gave up the likely 2013 AL Rookie of the Year. But nice.

James Shields and Wade Davis in one trade solidified their starting rotation by providing strong front-end talent. Ervin Santana is here, and I like that move when it isn’t associated with trying to massively improve or strengthen the rotation but rather an attempt to stabilize and slightly improve.

I think the risks on minor league contracts is interesting (and good): Dan Wheeler and George Sherrill are two notable names since I think we could be looking at an ok bullpen.

And then they signed Jeremy Guthrie.

They may ultimately regret watching Wil Myers in another uniform… but considering that this is a club that rivals the most senior of long-absent from the playoffs, the Royals in 2013 are poised to be above average on the mound, with a chance to let their youth develop in the field thanks to the changes they made.

With the sun shining and calm seas: Good pitching… young roster… some talent… wow, are the Royals also going to be part of these developing organizations we see coming together around the league? They just might.

A few breaks and some good play and this group could join teams like Pittsburgh and Seattle in runs for cracking an even record.

Trouble in paradise: We’ve been hearing for years that the Royals were loaded on the farm. So what happens? Well… a couple of players have been average to good, but not much more. And when their best prospect yet is ready to make the move, they trade him.

2013 expectations: I’m hoping the Royals get rewarded for being brave enough to trade Myers. Let’s face it… we’ve been hearing about how they have some decent parts and young talent on the way, and it just wasn’t happening. It’s a risky move. And it would be good to see it pay off.

And to a degree I think it will. They’ve got strong arms in the bullpen. The starting rotation may not be dominant… it is now good at the front and decent all the way through now.

The big question will be whether they can find an offense to support a slightly above average pitching staff. If they do… 80 wins or more, and third in the division, is there for them.

(Well… make that two big questions… because they are going to struggle on defense. It was bad in 2012… and they added nothing to improve it in any area.)

Cleveland Indians

My prediction: 75-87

2012 finish: 68-94

Worthy of note: I… um… are the Indians actually relevant again? Yeah. I think they actually are.

2013 changes: Sit down for a second. Because you may not believe this.

The Indians were big players in free agency. They brought in Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. They also either signed (or extended) Brett Myers, Mark Reynolds and Ubaldo Jimenez. (Jimenez was an extension… and for what he cost to obtain, I’d say they almost had to do the deal.)

Minor league contracts went to Jason Giambi (who actually left Colorado before retiring), Jeremy Hermida and a looking-pretty-decent Scott Kazmir.

There is a lot to like here. They’re not brilliant, tide-altering changes. But this is developing into a solid-looking club with some strengths and depth.

With the sun shining and calm seas: They improved the focus of their batting order with Bourn and Swisher. They should score enough… and at least more than last year.

By the way… love Carlos Santana. Needed to mention him. Strong offensive presence.

Outfield defense should be a plus.

And if something like Kazmir ever pays off… we could see the Indians playing meaningful games early in September.

Trouble in paradise: Not a dominant starter to be found… and while Justin Masterson is a nice guy that any rotation would be happy to have, the questions from other arms are huge.

In fact… look only to Kansas City, where James Shields and Wade Davis are arguably better than any starter on Cleveland’s roster. That’s a problem.

2013 expectations: The Indians are two starters away… and understand, we are talking quality starters… from making a lot of noise.

They should be fun. They could win more than they lose. But no division front runner would be concerned by them. (Nor should they be.)

Minnesota Twins

My prediction: 66-96

2012 finish: 66-96

Worthy of note: Another club I have too high.

2013 changes: How the mighty have fallen. Mike Pelfrey and Alex Meyer are some of the big names from the offseason.

I am not kidding.

Get ready for a long summer Twins fans.

With the sun shining and calm seas: Forecast is cloudy with a chance of heavy, steady rain.

Trouble in paradise: The rotation is in tatters… if players like Justin Morneau are on the field, they will be trade candidates… and even if the Joe Mauer contract is one he manages to live up to in 2013, it has put the organization into a panic because they likely wouldn’t spend much money if they even had it to spend.

2013 expectations: Mauer and Morneau are the cornerstones of an offense that could score runs this year.

The trouble is… quantity does not translate to quality. There isn’t much here without a question mark attached, and a sizeable question mark at that. Pitching? A collection of arms… whether by injury or just simply performance… looking to try and restart careers.

On top of that… have you noticed all the great outfield defenses we’ve been mentioning? Well… Denard Span to the Nationals is one of the reasons some of these clubs are going to have better outfield defense in 2013. And the Twins are the ones that traded Span away. So… yeah… they’re worse.

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