One team to rule them all (AL Central Preview)

The AL Central is one of the more competitive divisions in the MLB as there have been 4 champions since 2005. It has been so even that in 2009 it came down to a playoff game between the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins, the Twins won. Last year the division began to lose their competitiveness as one team was able to dominate the division. The Detroit Tigers came out on top as they rode the best pitcher in the American League to the top of the division. They put plenty of distance between them and the Cleveland Indians as they were able to finish 15 games ahead of the Tribe. The Indians, White Sox, Royals, and Twins all finished way behind the Tigers as the battle seemed to be more about who would finish second rather than who can win the division. The Twins seemed to be the surprise of the division as they just avoided a 100-loss season but where much worse than they were supposed to be. This year the battle is back on as some teams have attempted to reload while other teams seemed to fail to do anything. Another season will see the teams all look to get the title but it may come down to the same result as last year. Of course anything can happen as the season will start with everyone in a tie for first place


Chicago White Sox






The Chicago White Sox are a legendary team that has seen some rough times in the last few years. The White Sox saw their last success in 2008 as they won the division and made the postseason. Since then they have not done the best but have stayed in the middle of the pack including last year. In 2011 the White Sox started their season with a terrible first month of April going 10-18 but were able to start climbing back. The first month was enough to put the Sox behind though as they could not completely recover and ended the season in 3rd place. This year the Sox will try to turn things around but will be without the face of the franchise. The face of a franchise is usually a player that has been there for a long time and has been around for the best and worst of times but became a fan favorite along the way. For the White Sox it is slightly different as the face of the franchise was not a player but in fact the manager Ozzie Guillen. For years Guillen took the focus in Chicago thanks to his colourful language and his “No Apologies” style of managing. This year will be the first year since 2004 as the Sox dugout will be much more silent this year and that may mean that they will fall off of the map as their play certainly won’t put them there. Expect the White Sox to adjust to a new manager and some key losses forcing them to have another losing season and finishing outside of the postseason again.



Starting Rotation

– Even with the loss of Mark Buehrle the starting rotation is a good one with John Danks, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, and Philip Humber who will make a great rotation but will also need to avoid injury as the pitching depth leaves something to be desired



Run Production

– The Sox have very little power to think of as Adam Dunn represents the only power hitter in the lineup and does not have as fast a bat as he used to meaning the Sox really don’t have much power left in the lineup


Biggest Addition:


– After looking through the transactions of a few players who have played less than a season altogether it is safe to say that the White Sox really didn’t add any impact player this year as they stayed silent even after losing some major parts


Biggest Loss:

Mark Buehrle, LHP

– Ozzie Guillen was a big loss for the White Sox but the biggest player to be lost in the offseason was the ace Buehrle who almost guaranteed the Sox a win every time out and his loss will definitely hurt the starting rotation even though they are a very good bunch


One to Watch:

Chris Sale, LHP

– With Mark Buehrle gone a spot opened up in the rotation and Chris Sale could be the one to take the spot as he will enter his second full season on the Sox after pitching from the bullpen for 71 innings last year and earning an ERA under 3.00


Cleveland Indians






The Tribe has fallen on some hard times lately after dominating the division in the late 1990s winning the division 6 of 7 years from 1995-2001. They returned to their usual spot in 2007 but since then have not returned to the top of the division despite some promising teams. One of these promising teams was last year as the Indians had some high hopes going into the season. They matched these hopes in the beginning of the season as they went 32-20 in the first two months of the season. Then the bottom fell out as they went 21-32 in the next two months and that continued throughout the rest of the season. The Indians made a bit of a comeback at the end of the season and the first two months them to finish second in the division but they finished 15 games behind the division winning Tigers. This year the Indians hope that their rebuilding phase will end and they can begin challenging for the top of the division. For the Tribe it is not too far off as they have a young team that seems to be getting better. Of course with a young team there could be some pitfalls as mistakes may hurt the Indians in their attempt to challenge for the division. The 2012 season for the Indians is very much unknown as the young players may show their talents or could make too many mistakes to recover from. The Indians could land anywhere from 1st to 5th this year but if history is any indication they could continue their rise and fight for the top spot.



Young Player Potential

– The Indians are full of young players but their young players have some great potential including Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Ubaldo Jimenez who can all be impact players for the Tribe this year



Rotation Depth

– The Indians youth will be their downfall in the rotation as a lot will fall on the Ubaldo Jimenez as the rest of the rotation is not nearly as good and if any of the top five falter or get hurt there will be little to replace them in what could be a big issue this year for the Indians


Biggest Addition:

Derek Lowe, RHP

– With the lack of pitching depth and a young team the Indians decided to add Lowe to the rotation to provide a veteran presence and a calculated approach that will provide a change of pace to the overpowering pitchers in the lineup


Biggest Loss:

Jim Thome, DH

– Thome provided a veteran power bat in the lineup for the Indians and losing any veteran presence on a young team will always hurt the team as he could have provided a calming presence to the young talent


One to Watch:

Carlos Santana, C/1B

– Santana has shown some of the best potential of all of the young players on the Indians and he could be the next superstar in Cleveland with a patient approach and a good amount of power plus talent behind the plate


Detroit Tigers






The Detroit Tigers joined the AL Central in 1998 after expansion changed the alignment and made the Tigers move from the AL East to the Central. Since then the Tigers had not been able to win the division as they struggled to gain a hold in the new division. That was until last year when the Tigers were able to dominate the competition and win the division finishing 15 games ahead of the Indians who were in second. The main reason for their success was the fantastic performance of Justin Verlander who had the best season of his career finishing with a 2.40 ERA and a 24-5 record. As a result of this performance Verlander took home the AL Cy Young award and the AL MVP Award. Verlander simply won games for the Tigers last year and truly became an MLB Ace and one of the best pitchers in the league. The big question will be what will Verlander do in 2012 to follow his great season. A lot will be riding on Verlander this year but the Tigers also made some key moves to build for a teal run in the postseason. With a great rotation liked by Verlander the Tigers will be able to limit the opposition. The biggest aspect to the Tigers in 2012 will be the addition of Prince Fielder who will help to drive in runs with his power. The Tigers look like the team to beat this year in the Central as they have added some key parts to an already good team.



Starting Rotation

– The Tigers have a great starting rotation led by the defending MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander but also seeing Max Scherzer, Doug, Fister, and Rick Porcello in the lineup that is sure to give opponents fits



Base Path Speed

– The Tigers have very little weaknesses but if there is one glaring weakness it is that they lack speed on the base paths meaning that they will not be able to manufacture runs by stealing as they will need to use their power to drive in runs


Biggest Addition:

Prince Fielder, 1B

– One of the biggest free agents this year, Fielder waited to accept an offer and finally got signed bringing his big bat and power to the Tigers and adding a lot of power if he can perform up to his 9-year $214 million contract


Biggest Loss:

Octavio Dotel, RHP

– It was really the only loss for the Tigers this year as they retained or added much more than they lost but even as one of the only loses Dotel could be missed as a good veteran presence in the bullpen


One to Watch:

Brennan Boesch, RF

– Boesch has a lot of potential but it has not been revealed as he has been cursed by injuries and when he is playing he is very inconsistent if he can play consistently Boesch could be another offensive weapon


Kansas City Royals






The Kansas City Royals are the only team in the original AL Central that has yet to win the division. The division was formed in 1994 and since then the every member of the division has won a championship except for the Royals. This includes the newest member in the Detroit Tigers who entered the division 4 years after it was formed and won their first title last year. Royals fans were hoping that some key parts would make the Royals a good team but in the 2011 offseason the Royals lost one of these key parts in young pitchers Zach Greinke. The Royals missed him in the 2011 season as they could not recover from the loss and ended their season in 4th place. They got lucky to finish in fourth with a 71-91 record as they could have easily been in last if it wasn’t for injuries to the Twins. The Royals will try to turn things around and finally win a division title in 2012 as they hope to give their fans something to cheer about. This year the Royals have a good base in place as they have a number of great young fielders who have some serious offensive potential. The issue again for the Royals will be a shaky pitching rotation that has become a perennial issue for the Royals ever since the loss of Greinke. The Royals could struggle again if they cannot find their pitching but if the pitching can stand up better than expected the Royals could be a good team.



Young Offensive Talent

– The offence of the Royals is based on the young talent that they have acquired as a number of young hitters have the potential to be some of the best in the league but it will take some longer to develope than others




– Their starting rotation is very weak with no real ace in the lineup and no shutdown pitching in the top five this hurts even more when the bullpen is shaky like in KC who have an aging closer in Joakim Soria and an injury riddled Jonathan Broxton


Biggest Addition:

Jonathan Broxton, RHP

– With an aging closer the Royals looked to get their future closer In Broxton who has shown he can be a great closer but will need to avoid the injury bug that kept him out for the majority of the 2011 season


Biggest Loss:

Melky Cabrera, OF

– With such a young team any veteran presence is a big help and the loss of Melky Cabrera will take away a good veteran presence and a bat that has shown its worth through the years unlike many of the young bats in the lineup


One to Watch:

Eric Hosmer, 1B

– Hosmer has some of the biggest potential on the team and in the league as he could be a future award winner for his bat but more than that is his great defence that will be added to the good defence of the Royals


Minnesota Twins






The Minnesota Twins are one of the better teams in the league when it comes to looking at their roster. In the division they are the same as they are one of the best teams on paper in the Central and they have been able to meet this potential in the past few years. The Twins reached this potential in 2009 and 2010 when they won back to back division titles including a playoff in 2009. Last year the Twins were again expected to be great but they could not return to the top of the division. Instead the Twins fell drastically to the bottom of the division finishing in last place with a 63-99 record. This was in large part due to a rash of injuries to their starting lineup as key players all fell out of the lineup including Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau who both missed significant time with serious injuries. This year the Twins will be looking to get back to their former glory at the top of the division as they look to the return of some injured players to be a team to watch again. It may not be meant to be though as the Twins will be getting some injured players back but they may never be the same. This is especially true of Morneau who is plagued by chronic post-concussion syndrome and may never be able to play a full season if it continues. With their issues the Twins will not likely fight for the top of the division but could be better than last year with the return of some great players.



Starting Rotation

– The Twins have not had the same performances out of their starting rotation but it is still a great rotation with Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, and Brian Duensing able to give the team a chance to win every time they get to the mound



Run Production

– The loss of Morneau and Mauer had something to do with this last year but it also shed some light on the fact that the Twins really do not have much more than  two great bats in the lineup that can help them win games


Biggest Addition:

Josh Willingham, RF

– The lack of power in the lineup was addressed in the offseason as Willingham was added to bring in another bat that can hit for power in case the two best players fall out of the lineup again in 2012


Biggest Loss:

Michael Cuddyer, INF

– At one point Cuddyer provided 32 HRs to the lineup and last year he brought 20 to the Twins and these runs will be missed on a team that could struggle to produce runs this year as they try to get back to the top


One to Watch:

Danny Valencia, 3B

– In 2010 Valencia showed the talent of an emerging third baseman who would represent the future of the position in Minnesota but last year he failed to meet expectations this year the Twins hope that the 2010 Valencia shows up instead of the 2011 version



1. Detroit Tigers

2. Cleveland Indians

3. Chicago White Sox

4. Minnesota Twins

5. Kansas City Royals

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