Thursday, March 27, 2008
Last year the AL Central was arguably the best division in baseball, this year it should get a run for its money from the AL East, but they certainly have two teams to match any other division in MLB.
1. Detroit Tigers
Apparently Detroit is becoming a big market team. After a a World Series trip the Tigers missed out on the postseason due in part to some key injuries. So what does a big market team do in the offseason? They reload. They trade their best prospects (Maybin, Miller, Jurjjens) to restock with All Stars (Cabrera, Willis, Renteria). Now the Tigers have arguably the best lineup in baseball.
Key Player: Jeremy Bonderman, The Tigers really need someone to emerge as their #2 starter behind Verlander. Last season Bonderman appeared to be on the verge of a breakout season. On July 13th Bonderman moved his record to 10-1 and his ERA to 3.50, after that it was kaboom to the point where he finished the season 11-9 with a 5.01 era before being shelved. The Tigers really need Bonderman to be the 2007 pre all star break Bonderman.
Player to Eye: Miguel Cabrera, In his first season in the American League a lot will be expected from Miguel Cabrera, yet the Tigers plan on batting him in the 5 hole. Really it will be interesting to see just how much of a boost Cabrera's numbers will get now that he's hitting in the middle of one of the best lineups in baseball.
Record Prediction: 96 - 66
2. Cleveland Indians
The Indians just missed out on the World Series last year after CC Sabathia completely ran out of gas in the playoffs. This year they will most likely once again be amongst the elite American League teams challenging for a birth to the World Series.
Key Player: Travis Hafner, Last year the Indians won the division due to the strengths of their two aces at the top of the rotation. One thing lost in the shuffle was how ineffective Pronk was for the majority of the season. After the Tigers beefed up their lineup with two big bats in the offseason the Indians need Pronk back and raking in order to
Player to Eye: Joe Borowski, Borowski somehow despite being not good ended up with a ridiculous amount of saves last season. This year once again despite having better pitcher in the bullpen the Indians will turn the ball over in the 9th to Borowski. Will he be able put up a similar showing this season or will he force the Indians to replace him by getting rocked on a more consistent basis.
3. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox should again be looking up at the standings for the entirety of the season. They decided to part ways with Jon Garland in the offseason which might not have been the greatest idea. Either way the White Sox don't have the pitching depth or the studs at the top to give a serious run at the division title.
Key Player: Paul Konerko, Last season was an unacceptable one for Konerko. His average fell from a career high of .313 in 2006 to .259 in 2007 which was amongst his career lows. The WHite Sox certainly won't have a stellar rotation this season and will be very reliant on Konerko as well as others to boost their run production back to an elite level.
Player to Eye: Nick Swisher, So Nick Swisher the past few seasons has been a masher for the Oakland A's floating between the corner outfield and first base. Now potentially Swisher could be the leadoff hitting center fielder for the White Sox? Does this make any sense to anybody? I can't wait to see this guy track down his first regular season gapper.
4. Minnesota Twins
The Twins traded away the best pitcher in baseball and their #1 pitching prospect and also lost their clubhouse leader. So they're going to suck right? Well probably, but there is a chance if that they could actually contend for the division title. They just need the rest of their pitching prospects to light it up, the JM cornerstones to have their best seasons and some of their hitting prospects to emerge as big time players. Sure it's a lot to ask but they do have potential.
Key Player: Francisco Liriano, When you trade away the best pitcher in baseball it's pretty hard to replace him, but the Twins actually have a chance. If Liriano can regain his 2006 form when he was actually a better pitcher than Santana. A return to that form is mostly unlikely but in order for the Twins to make a run at the division they need to unlikely to happen.
Player to Eye: Delmon Young, He's always been deemed a little bit of a loose cannon, but now in Minnesota outside of the radar Delmon Young could blossom into a premier player. This season young comes in at the tender age of 22 with a full season under his belt where he hit .286 he should have a breakout season.
5. Kansas City Royals
If this was the NFL or the NBA the Royals would be right there in the race to get that first pick. Too bad there are no Michael Beasley's waiting as saviors at the end of the tunnel. The good news for the Royals is they have some young talent with Gordon, Teahan and Butler waiting in the wings. The problem, they still have no pitching and they're one of the best divisions in baseball.
Key Player: Alex Gordon, Again the Royals are going to be bad this season so once again the only thing that should really matter to fans in KC is the future. And Alex Gordon is supposed to be the future of the franchise.
Player to Eye: Billy Butler, Now that Sweeney is finally gone Billy Butler can get full time PT all season long. Expect him to hit around .300 and morph into another solid career DH.