AL Central Preview
The AL Central has been on a decline over the past two years and so has the Cleveland Indians lead the past three seasons. With opening day on March 28, it is time to take a look and see who will improve, who will decline, and who will win the division in the AL Central.
1. Cleveland Indians
Coming off a 91-win season last year and losing in the ALDS to the Houston Astros, the Indians look to bounce back and make another run to the World Series as they did in 2016, where they eventually lost to the Chicago Cubs.
A solid rotation that is headlined by Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and Carlos Carrasco, which should carry the team early. With Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis expected to start the season on the injured list, it may be a slow start for Terry Francona’s ball-club as José Ramírez and Carlos Santana will be needed to pick up the slack on offense, but once they get back, the hitting and pitching combined will make the Indians a dangerous team yet again.
It’s going to be a daunting task with powerhouse teams like the Red Sox, Yankees and Astros looming outside the division, but inside the Central, it looks like the Indians are the team to beat yet again and are on pace to win their fourth straight division title.
2. Minnesota Twins
The Twins are making the case early for a wild-card push with a young and powerful lineup combined with a decent pitching staff.
Nelson Cruz has hit at least 37 homers in each of the past five seasons. Miguel Sanó, who’s looking to get back to his solid 2017 where he hit .264 and 28 homers, can help pace the scrappy Twins offense to help support the rotation.
The dark horse for the Twins this year is starting pitcher Kyle Gibson, as his ERA dropped from 5.07 to 3.62 in 2018. Along with the young right-hander José Berríos and veteran Michael Pineda, first-year manager Rocco Baldelli will have an inviting task on his hands to not only give the Indians a run for their money but have a shot at a wildcard spot at the end of the season.
3. Chicago White Sox
This offseason was an interesting one for Chicago, as they were in talks to get either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado and came up with neither of them. They did add veteran players with experiences like John Jay, Yonder Alonso, and Kelvin Herrera.
The White Sox finished with just 62 wins in 2018, a disappointing season to say the least. With a relatively young and inexperienced rotation lead by Iván Nova, the White Sox need to look to their bats in the form of José Abreu and Yoan Moncada if they want to have a chance at keeping pace with the Indians and Twins.
This is a young team that has talent but just does not have enough experience, which is why they will finish third in the AL Central this year.
4. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers are coming off back to back 64-win seasons in 2017 and 2018, as they are in rebuild mode in 2019. They have not won the division in over 5 years, which, back in 2014, was the end of their 4-year control over the AL Central.
A veteran rotation headed by Jordan Zimmerman, Matt Moore, and Bud Norris has the task of supporting a subpar lineup that is led by the always dangerous, Miguel Cabrera.
Now 35, Cabrera is getting up there in age and struggled to stay healthy in 2018, as he had just 134 at-bats.
With former 2016 AL Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer out with Tommy John surgery, the Tigers rotation lacks depth and the hitting is questionable, which is why they will be in fourth place at the end of the season.
5. Kansas City Royals
Ned Yost and the Royals round out the division in last place as they have been on the decline since their World Series Championship in 2015. What was once a formidable team has now regressed to winning just 58 games last season.
Six-time all-star catcher Salvador Pérez being diagnosed with damage to his ulnar collateral ligament is not promising for the Royals, as he may have to miss all of the 2019 season. The slack needs to be picked up by 30-year-old second-baseman Whit Merrifield, who led the AL in hits (192) and steals (34, 45) the past two seasons.
Young up-and-coming star Adalberto Mondesí should provide help as well, having hit .276 with 14 home runs in just 75 games last year.
The pitching staff is a weak point for the Royals, mixed with veterans like Danny Duffy and young guys Brad Keller, Jakob Junis, and Jorge López. Along with a weak bullpen and an inexperienced closer Wily Peralta, who only has 14 career saves in, the Royals will improve on their record from last year but not by much, expected to finish dead last in the AL Central.
Andrew Field is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.