With Spring Training underway and everybody in the baseball world excited for the upcoming season, over the next week or so N2K will look at, preview and predict the six divisions in the MLB. We started with the AL East and NL East. Today we continue with the AL Central.
The American League Central is made up of the Detroit Tigers, the Kansas City Royals, the Cleveland Indians, the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox. The 2015 AL Central was one horse race. The Royals led the division from the get go and used their 95 regular season wins to propel them to a World Series Championship. A few days back Baseball Prospectus released their full predictions for the 2016 regular season.
Now to N2K’s Preview
Chicago White Sox
Located on Chicago’s South Side, the White Sox were determined to put themselves in the upper echelon of MLB rosters for the upcoming 2016 season. The White Sox seemed to have accomplished just that by adding both Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie. Now I know that those two names might not seem like the overall difference-maker but for the inconsistent AL Central, they could be exactly that, difference-makers. The White Sox haven’t made much noise since their 2005 World Series run but this years team might have what it takes. An average starting rotation headlined by strikeout maestro Chris Sale and analytical gem Jose Quintana. Complementing their staff is a yet again, an average bullpen led by “Mariano Rivera’s Replacement” David Robertson, who obviously couldn’t get everything working in the Bronx as their closer.
Cuban slugger Jose Abreu should generously hit 30 homers, while Melky Cabrera has transformed himself into a line-drive hitter capable of batting above 0.300 and helping an organization win. I’m not saying Cabrera will help them win but he does have two World Series rings at the age of 31.
An all-around lineup, whatever you need the Detroit Tigers have it. Power? Meet Miguel Cabrera 2012 Triple Crown Winner and two-time AL MVP, Justin Upton famous for his April in May stats but not so much for his October ones and JD Martinez who many are picking to flop this season but not me. Defense? No shortstop flashes the leather better than Jose Iglesias. Contact? Ian Kinsler will be an extremely productive top of the lineup member of Detroit’s 2016 campaign. Pitching? Justin Verlander claims to no longer be washed up, the offseason addition of Jordan Zimmermann should work wonders for the win column and they also have a bullpen with the single-season save leader in it, K-Rod aka Francisco Rodriguez.
The success of the ‘16 Tigers depends on the durability, and performance of their pitching unit. This includes both their bullpen and their rotation. To put it simply, this offense can and will score runs, it is just whether or not the player on the mound has a good enough game to notch the win. Personally, I do not think that the Tigers will be able to find much success this year because I do not have much faith in Mr. Kate Upton and the rest of the Motown pitching staff.
Kansas City Royals
As you can see above from the Baseball Prospectus Prediction, many people do not think that the Royals will make the playoffs this year let alone contend for another championship. I might not be in the majority but there is no possible way in my eyes for the Royals to not make the playoffs this season. The KC roster is simply too talented. The Royals are obviously known for the bullpen and its ability to shorten games but don’t forget about their starting rotation. Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez, Ian Kennedy, Kris Medlen, and Danny Duffy should be plenty responsible to take care of innings one through six while Kelvin Herrera, Luke Hochevar, and Wade Davis will take care of the rest.
Kansas City boasts one of the fastest and defensively sound outfields in baseball with Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson. Lorenzo Cain will start in CF for the American League in the 2016 All Star Game, yes over Michael Nelson Trout. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas should continue to be dangerous bats in a dangerous lineup. Going back to the Baseball Prospectus Prediction of last place, I just don’t see it and I guess I’ll believe it if I see it which I doubt that I will.
A team coached by Terry Francona will always have the potential to make a postseason run and this year’s Indians team should have a great chance at accomplishing exactly that. The 2016 Indians will rely on the pitching of Corey Kluber and the hitting/fielding of Michael Brantley. Cleveland has a well rounded team and if they can add another piece by the trade deadline, they should have an outside shot at a World Series run. Expect Jason Kipnis to once again prove that he is a top five second baseman, also expect young shortstop Francisco Lindor to improve upon his 2015 debut and challenge Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Corey Seager for the best young shortstop in the MLB.
In order for the Indians to go as far as I think that they can go, their pitching staff outside of Kluber needs to have career seasons. Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and Trevor Bauer (pictured) will need to consistently go late into games which will help ease the bullpen’s workload. The blueprint for Cleveland’s success starts with Trevor Bauer. Former Golden Spikes Award Winner given to the nation’s best amateur player every year, needs to pitch like he did during his career at UCLA. Now I know that college ball and the majors are totally different but Trevor Bauer was the ace of staff that also had Pittsburgh Pirates standout Gerrit Cole on it. Bauer has shown signs of stardom during his tenure in the MLB but nothing too regularly, until 2016 that is.
The Twins offense is very promising and their bullpen has the arms to win games but their rotation is abysmal and that will be their downfall. The Twins are still a year or two away from being contenders and once pitching prospects Jose Berrios and Tyler Jay make their immediate impact the team from Twin Cities should be smooth sailing. Enough with the future, now on their present team. Guided by catcher turned first baseman Joe Mauer, fan favorites third baseman Trevor Plouffe and second baseman Brian Dozier, the Twins that I was just saying had no chance at the playoffs should be able to flirt with a 0.500 record. The addition of South Korean power bat Byung Ho Park should add a much needed sense of the long ball to this lineup.
Centerfielder Byron Buxton, former #1 MLB Prospect (now #2 behind Corey Seager) and rightfielder (former third baseman and also a top prospect) Miguel Sano will give the Twins fans hope for the future showing that they can be assets both now and down the line. Both 22 years of age, they will be foundation of the Twins teams alongside Jay and Berrios that make deep runs into the postseason. This team is just too incomplete and too inexperienced in order to make an impact on the 2016 division standings and the playoff race.
N2K’s AL Central Prediction
Kansas City Royals 88-74
Cleveland Indians 87-75
Chicago White Sox 85-77
Detroit Tigers 79-83
Minnesota Twins 75-87
Cover Photo via Major League Fantasy Sports
Image Predictions via Baseball Prospectus