Wednesday, April 3, 2013

2013 MLB Season Preview: AL Central

Detroit Tigers

Key Additions: Anibal Sanchez, SP: 5years/$80MM. Torii Hunter, OF: 2years/$26MM. Brayan Pena, C. Octavio Dotel, RP: 1year/$3.5MM. Jhonny Peralta, SS: 1year/$6MM.

Key Losses: Gerald Laird, Justin Henry, Delmon Young, Andy Oliver, Daniel Schlereth, Marcelo Carreno.

Key Trades: Acquired C Ramon Cabrera from Pirates for P Andrew Oliver. Acquired 2B Jeff Kobernus from Red Sox for UT Justin Henry. Acquired P Kyle Lobstein from Mets for Cash Considerations.

The Tigers are coming off a World Series run only to get swept by the Giants in embarrassing fashion. The good thing going for the Tigers is that they are pretty much the same team as they were last year with a few upgrades and the fact that they got rid of Delmon Young.

When it comes to the Tigers offense, of course you have to begin with Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera is the heart of this offense with everyone succeeding because of his production. Austin Jackson will score 100 plus runs again this year because he will have Miguel Cabrera driving him in. You have Prince Fielder hitting clean-up. That's always a good thing. They added Torii Hunter's glove for the outfield who should have a decent year at the plate. I like Andy Dirks in left field. He's a sleeper for sure. The rest of the Tigers' offense is pretty bad. Alex Avila peaked for two months in 2011 and hasn't done much since. Omar Infante.....yeah. Jhonny Peralta plays well in sessions and isn't consistent with the bat.

The Tigers have a very, very strong starting rotation. Maybe the best in the American League. It starts with newly extended ace, Justin Verlander. Verlander is very interested because he is labeled as a ticking time bomb for his style of pitching yet he hasn't shown any regress at all. Not saying that it won't happen still, but a lot of guys similar to the way he pitches would have had their arms fall off by now. Anibal Sanchez is probably the least-dependable pitcher in the Tigers' rotation and it's unfortunate that he's their number two starter. Rick Porcello has a very bright future and could really do great things this year. Doug Fister and Max Scherzer fill in the bottom of the rotation, who are both very good. as for the bullpen, it's a joke. A sad, dragged on for 15 minute joke. They have no clue on who their closer is and will start the year doing closer by committee. Bruce Rondon was set to be the closer, until the Tigers realized he was overweight and had major control issues. Sounds like someone who used to close for them. Jose, something.


Catcher: Alex Avila, Brayan Pena
First Base: Prince Fielder
Second Base: Omar Infante 
Third Base: Miguel Cabrera
Shortstop: Jhonny Peralta
Outfield: Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter, Andy Dirks
Utility: Victor Martinez, Don Kelly, Matt Tuiasosopo, Ramon Santiago
Starting Pitching: Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer
Relief Pitching: Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke, Al Alburquerque, Octavio Dotel, Drew Smyly, Brayan Villareal, Darin Downs

Kansas City Royals

Key Additions: Jeremy Guthrie, SP: 2years, $25MM. Claimed C George Kottaras off waivers from Athletics.

Key Losses: Wil Myers, Vin Mazzaro, Joakim Soria, Mike Montgomery, Brandon Sisk, Patrick Leonard.

Key Trades: Acquired SP James Shields, P Wade Davis and IF Elliot Johnson from Rays for OF Wil Myers, P Mike Montgomery, 3B Patrick Leonard and P Jake Odorizzi. Acquired P Luis Rico and P Luis Santos from Pirates for P Vin Mazzaro and 1B Clint Robinson. Acquired SP Ervin Santana from Angels for P Brandon Sisk.

I really liked the Royals going into last season but knew their pitching would be their downfall. This year, I still really like them only this time their pitching just might be okay. They went out and made some questionable yet needed moves to improve their pitching. Many argue they gave up too much (Wil Myers, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard) for James Shields.

Their offense will come together this year. Eric Hosmer had a really bad year last season, and that's saying it in a nice way. Moustakas wasn't much better. Billy Butler held that offense together along with Alex Gordon. Alex Gordon had a really strong spring and could be a stud this season. Salvador Perez will be someone to watch this year. He's got a good bat and should be batting in the five or six hole. Chris Getz, Lorenzo Cain, and Alcides Escobar are a part of the youth movement the Royals are going with. Those three offer great upside and speed if they can get on base. And then there's Jeff Francoeur....

James Shields was acquired from the Rays and is now the Royals' ace. Then you have Jeremy Guthrie, who sucks. Ervin Santana isn't much better. Wade Davis might be a silver lining for the rotation. Luis Mendoza tops out the last spot in the rotation, which is mind boggling to me. The bullpen holds a few pitchers that were in the starting rotation last year, but are now out because of the upgrades. I personally think Luke Hochevar should be in there instead of Mendoza. Bruce Chen, who was the Royals Opening Day starter last year, is now the long reliever in the pen. Greg Holland is a great closer. Tim Collins and Kelvin Herrera are pretty good. Their bullpen should be alright.


Catcher: Salvador Perez, George Kottaras
First Base: Eric Hosmer
Second Base: Chris Getz 
Third Base: Mike Moustakas
Shortstop: Alcides Escobar
Outfield: Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Jeff Francoeur, Jarrod Dyson
Utility: Billy Butler, Miguel Tejada, Elliot Johnson
Starting Pitching: James Shields, Jeremy Gurthie, Ervin Santana, Wade Davis, Luis Mendoza
Relief Pitching: Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera, Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Luke Hochevar, Juan Gutierrez, Bruce Chen

Chicago White Sox

Key Additions: Jeff Keppinger, IF: 3years/$12MM. Matt Lindstrom, RP: 1year/$2.8MM. Dewayne Wise, OF: 1year/$700K. Gavin Floyd, SP: 1year/$9.5MM. Claimed 1B Lars Anderson off waivers from Diamondbacks, then claimed off waivers by Blue Jays, then later acquired of waivers from Blue Jays for cash. Claimed P Zach Stewart off waivers from Pirates. Claimed IF Angel Sanchez from Angels in Rule 5 draft.

Key Losses: A.J. Pierzynski, Dan Johnson, Kevin Youkilis, Jose Lopez, Phil Humber, Zach Stewart, Francisco Liriano, Brett Myers.

Key Trades: Acquired 3B Conor Gillaspie from Giants for P Jeff Soptic. Acquired OF Blake Tekotte from Padres for P Brandon Kloess.

The White Sox look pretty good this year, all things considered. It's unfortunate that their minor league system is so bad, otherwise I would say they are a few years away from over taking the Tigers. But, they aren't even close.

The White Sox have a very underrated outfield. Alex Rios, Dayan Viciedo, and Alejandro De Aza combine for around 60 home runs and 200 RBI. Viciedo is the only one who concerns me. He had a good season last year but is still unproven. Adam Dunn is going to strike out a lot, but he will hit around 40 homeruns, so there's that. Paul Konerko is somehow still playing baseball, and playing it will. Jeff Keppinger fell into a starting role with the White Sox at third base, which is what he was looking for as a free agent. Defensively, this team sound.

Chris Sale, tearing his arm off.
The pitching, as cliche as it sounds, will make or break the White Sox this year. I like Chris Sale, although his arm will be dead in two years. The rest of the rotation has too many question marks. Jake Peavy is coming off a career year after recovering from two injury ridden seasons before last. Galvin Floyd is good for 10-12 wins, but nothing excites me about him. Jose Quintana has the same birthday as me, so he's pretty cool. Dylan Axelrod and his 38% ground ball rate and 5.47 ERA from last year is the fifth starter. Their bullpen should be able to relinquish any setbacks the rotation causes during games.  Hector Santiago, Matt Lindstrom, Jesse Crain and Addison Reed are the best pitchers in this pen. Thornton is okay. Donnie Veal isn't bad either. He has good minor league stats.


Catcher: Tyler Flowers, Hector Gimenez
First Base: Paul Konerko
Second Base: Gordon Beckham
Third Base: Jeff Keppinger
Shortstop: Alexei Ramirez
Outfield: Dayan Viciedo, Alejandro De Aza, Alex Rios, Dewayne Wise
Utility: Adam Dunn, Conor Gillaspie, Angel Sanchez
Starting Pitching: Chris Sale, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, Jose Quintana, Dylan Axelrod
Relief Pitching: Addison Reed, Matt Thorton, Jesse Crain, Nathan Jones, Matt Lindstrom, Donnie Veal, Hector Santiago.

Cleveland Indians

Key Additions: Nick Swisher, OF: 1years/$56MM. Michael Bourn, OF: 4years/$48MM. Brett Myers, P: 1year/$7MM. Mark Reynolds, IF: 1year/$6MM. Ubaldo Jimenez, SP: 1year/$5.75MM.

Key Losses: Travis Hafner, Lars Anderson, Casey Kotchman, Jack Hannahan, Jason Donald, Shin-Soo Choo, Tony Sipp, Scott Maine, Russ Canzler.

Key Trades: Acquired OF Quincy Latimore from Pirates for P Jeanmar Gomez. Acquired OF Drew Stubbs, P Trevor Bauer, P Matt Albers and P Bryan Shaw in a three-way deal with Reds and Diamondbacks for OF Shin-Soo Choo, IF Jason Donald, RP Tony Sipp and 1B Lars Anderson. Acquired IF Mike Aviles and UT Yan Gomes from Blue Jays for P Esmil Rogers.

The Indians had a very busy offseason. They spent a lot of money for only being a fourth place team. The decline of this team since 2007 is astounding. Don't believe me? Look it up. And don't let their second place finish in 2011 mislead you. It was still a losing record. Larry Dolan has done nothing since he traded Sabathia away in 2008. I honestly believe the Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn signing were his last desperation moves otherwise I don't think he would have made any moves this offseason. I will say that firing Manny Acta and hiring Terry Francona was a really good move.

The offense is very solid for the most part. Michael Bourn will lead off and steal around fifty bases this year. Cabrera, Kipnis, and Swisher will hit 2-3-4, respectively. Michael Brantley, Carlos Santana, and Mark Reynolds will provide some middle of the order power with lots of strikeouts. Speaking of strikeouts, Drew Stubbs will be batting 8th or 9th, with Lonnie Chisenhall batting where Stubbs isn't. If the Braves will strike out the most in the National League, the Indians will likely be the strikeout leader in the American League. So, yeah.

Now we look at pitching, and there isn't much to look at in this pitiful rotation. Justin Masterson is their number one, but wouldn't even be a number two or three on any other team. Then we get to Ubaldo Jimenez who is looking to bounce back after a pretty bad 2012. Am I crazy to say that Brett Myers might be their best starter? Maybe, but on paper it looks that way. Zach McAllister will be fun to watch and see develop this year. The rest of their starters are recovering from Tommy John surgery, which makes me wonder why their current pitching coach has a job. Their bullpen is pretty bad too. Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano are both closers, but Vinnie will likely set up for Perez. Everyone outside of those two and MAYBE Bryan Shaw, are awful. Good luck, Cleveland.


Catcher: Carlos Santana, Lou Marson
First Base: Nick Swisher, Jason Giambi (DL)
Second Base: Jason Kipnis
Third Base: Lonnie Chisenhall
Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera
Outfield: Michael Bourn, Michael Brantley, Drew Stubbs
Utility: Mark Reynolds, Ryan Raburn, Mike Aviles
Starting Pitching: Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers, Zach McAllister, Scott Kazmir, Josh Tomlin (DL), Frank Herrmann (DL), Blake Wood (DL)
Relief Pitching: Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano, Joe Smith, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Rich Hill, Matt Albers

Minnesota Twins

Key Additions: Mike Pelfrey, SP: 1year/$4MM. Kevin Correia, SP: 2years/$10MM.

Key Losses: Denard Span, Ben Revere, Scott Baker, Matt Capps, Alexi Casilla, Tommy Field.

Key Trades: Acquired SP Vance Worley and P Trevor May from Phillies for OF Ben Revere. Acquired P Alex Meyer from Nationals for OF Denard Span.

Guys, you have no idea how hard it is to write about the Twins. Seriously. I don't know where to start, and I want to finish quickly as possible before I get angry at this organization. I think for the sake of everyone involved, I'm going to keep this short and sweet. They did a lot of nothing this offseason besides trade their outfield away for prospects. They signed free agent pitching that isn't good. Red flags surround this entire team as health is a huge concern. Aaron Hicks will be one of the bright spots for the Twins in 2013. The pitching on this team is completely useless. There. Done.

Aaron Hicks is a diamond in the rough

Catcher: Joe Mauer
First Base: Justin Morneau
Second Base: Brian Dozier
Third Base: Trevor Plouffe
Shortstop: Pedro Florimon Jr.
Outfield: Aaron Hicks, Josh Willingham, Chris Parmelee, Darin Mastroianni, Wilkin Ramirez
Utility: Ryan Doumit, Jamey Carroll, Eduardo Escobar
Starting Pitching: Vance Worley, Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, Liam Hendriks, Cole DeVries, Scott Diamond (DL)
Relief Pitching: Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Casey Fien, Brian Duensing, Josh Roenicke, Tyler Robertson, Ryan Pressly

Projected Standings

Detroit Tigers 95-67 (first place, AL Central Champions)
Kansas City Royals 88-74 (second place, 2nd Wild Card)
Chicago White Sox 82-80 (third place)
Cleveland Indians 78-84 (fourth place)
Minnesota Twins 62-100 (fifth place)

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

Andrew Vrchota (@AndrewVrchota)

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