Last time we checked out the AL East division, and as we take this tour towards the west, we stop in the AL Central. Last year the White Sox reigned supreme for the first time in 13 years. Now they are hungry to repeat the trip and have a lengthy postseason. But they will have some competition as the rest of the division will not be content to let the White Sox have their way. How will they stack up? Let’s jump in and find out.
Chicago White Sox
As mentioned above, the White Sox won the division last season. Unfortunately for them, their season ended well before they could make the World Series. Injuries plagued their season last year as key players were injured throughout the year. At first glance it’s pretty amazing that they were able to win the division despite the amount of injuries. Then you dig a bit deeper and you find out their division rivals all were poor last season. The White Sox can’t count on the division being completely terrible again and shouldn’t get complacent.
That being said, if they can stay healthy, this is by far the best team in the division. The pitching staff isn’t spectacular, but they get the job done. The back end of the bullpen will close out many games for them. Offensively is where they will win most of their games. Their lineup boasts plenty of game-changers and should give any opposing pitcher nightmares. Expect another division title for this team.
Arguably nobody had a more disappointing season last year than the Twins. Coming off back to back division titles, the Twins somehow slumped to dead last in the division. Like the White Sox they had their fair share of injuries to deal with as well. This year Minnesota will hope for a healthier team. The goal will be to reclaim the division title.
Minnesota made their intentions clear when they landed arguably the biggest free agent on the Market. Signing Carlos Correa gives them yet another bat to help out Byron Buxton. The pair give this team a jolt offensively as well as defensively. The key for the Twins would be to somehow keep the injury prone Buxton healthy. In terms of pitching, the Twins are taking a risk with a few players. Whether or not they work out will go a long way towards the outcome of their season.
The Tigers made some real strides last season and they should no longer be considered cellar dwellers. Years of bad records have yielded an impressive crop of prospects that look ready to bloom. Detroit is still a year or two away from being legitimate contenders, but the pieces are falling into place. This will likely be the last year where there isn’t a bit of pressure to perform.
Detroit felt that this off-season was the time to make a major move. They did so by signing star shortstop Javier Baez to help jumpstart their ascension back to the top. He’ll look to lead a group of young and aspiring hitters. The Tigers boast plenty of young, promising pitchers. While that no doubt creates a lot of excitement, fans haven’t seen these promising pitchers often. The reason for this is just about all of them have dealt with injuries. The goal for this team will likely be to have their young core healthy throughout the season.
Cleveland surprisingly finished second in the division last year despite finishing the season with a losing record. The newly named Guardians find themselves in a tricky situation. They haven’t embraced a full rebuild, yet they aren’t good enough to compete. So Cleveland fans are stuck rooting for a team in limbo at the moment.
If Cleveland is to have a winning season it will need their pitching staff to carry the load. A shaky bullpen will likely limit what they can do, but their starters should be formidable. Jose Ramirez is the premier hitter in this lineup. He will have to do a lot of the heavy lifting for this offense. Cleveland fans be warned, as there are several rumors that Ramirez could be on the move. If he does move on, it will be the dawn of a new era. A new wave of prospects will be hoping to ease the burden in what could be an interesting season.
Kansas City Royals
Since winning the division in 2015, the Royals have finished third or worst. That trend likely won’t change this season as their rivals have all made moves of improvement. That couldn’t have sat well with a fanbase eager to get back to the winning times. While having the Chiefs recently become a super team in the NFL, fans would like something to cheer for in the summer. With a bottom half ranking farm system, the Royals could be in for a few more lean years.
Zack Grienke headlines a pitching staff that doesn’t inspire much confidence. That being said, someone has to eat up innings, and the Royals can rely on a few pitchers to do just that. The bullpen does have a few pieces that could potentially help them become a strong unit. But the main issue is being in front long enough to effectively use those bullpen arms. Offensively, Salvador Perez had a historic season last year. Due to the nature of being a catcher, that level of performance likely won’t be repeating itself this time around. The lineup does provide an interesting mix of intriguing players though. It will be fascinating to see how well they all gel together as the season wears on. Best get ready for football season, Kansas City fans.