Ah, the American League Central. A division that is usually stacked with talent but always seems to fall short. The Chicago White Sox won a ring in 2005 which broke a string of 14 years for the division. The Detroit Tigers had a chance to win the World Series in 2006 but were defeated by David Eckstein and the St. Louis Cardinals. This however could be the year for a team to come out of the Central to win the 2012 World Series. That team I am speaking about is the Detroit Tigers.
The Detroit Tigers are coming off a solid 2011 season. The Tigers fell to the Texas Rangers in the AL Championship Series, and are looking to return in the fall of 2012. The Tigers management may have made the splash of the off-season signing highly coveted first baseman Prince Fielder on January 26th to a 9 year, $214 million dollar contract. I never once heard of Detroit in the rumors surrounding Prince, and I am sure one of the reasons why they pulled the trigger was because of the season ending injury to All-Star Victor Martinez. With the signing it forces Miguel Cabrera to the DH role and third base. Over the course of the offseason, the Tigers lost flame throwing reliever Joel Zumaya to the Minnesota Twins, and utility player Carlos Guillen to the Seattle Mariners. Another move that went unnoticed was the signing of relief pitcher Ovtavio Dotel. Dotel played a major role in the Cardinals winning the World Series in 2011. I expect the Tigers to easily win the weak AL Central behind a solid pitching staff led by MVP Justin Verlander and one of the best closers in the game in Jose Valverde and contend for a World Series title.
The rest of the AL Central is a tossup. The Cleveland Indians surprised a lot of people last year and are looking to build on their 2011 campaign. Carlos Santana finished 2011 with 27 home runs, 79 RBI’s and a .239 average. He is now the face of the franchise, even though Grady Sizemore resigned with the Tribe in the offseason, and is now out 8-12 weeks after a minor back surgery. The Indians have a solid group of young core players that they hope to build on which includes Asdrubal Cabrera, Matthew LaPorta, Michael Brantley, and Chris Perez. The biggest news for the Cleveland Indians was finding out that Fausto Carmona is actually Roberto Hernandez Heredia and is 31 instead of 28. Carmona was arrested in January after he applied for a Visa to return to the United States for Spring Training. After the news broke, the Indians traded for pitcher Kevin Slowey. The Indians also signed inning eater Derek Lowe, and sure handed first baseman Casey Kotchman, who both will bring veteran leadership to the young ball club. The Indians will have a solid trio in their rotation with Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jiminez and Lowe. Their bullpen improved with the signing of Dan Wheeler who will be a solid 7 or 8th inning guy for the Indians setting up closer Chris Perez. The city of Cleveland was rocking last year and I don’t see why this year will be any different.
The Kansas City Royals finished fourth last year in the AL Central with a record of 71-91. This year they could bump up a spot to third place. The big move for the Kansas City Royals this offseason was the trade that sent Melky Cabrera to the San Francisco Giants for starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez. Sanchez will head into spring training as the Royals ace, followed by Bruce Chen who the Royals just resigned, and then Sean O’Sullivan, Felipe Paulino, and Aaron Crow. The Royals also bolstered their bullpen by signing for Los Angeles Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton. Broxton will now set up Joakim Soria until he is traded. The Royals also signed shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff to secure the left side of the infield. The Royals are filled with young talent in Billy Butler, Alcides Escobar, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas. Let us not forget Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur in the outfield. The Royals are setting themselves up for the future and the people in Kansas City should be excited.
Chicago White Sox Owner Jerry Reinsdorf and General Manager Kenny Williams blew up the Chicago White Sox this offseason. It all began when they did not resign fan favorite manager Ozzie Guillen and star pitcher Mark Buehrle. Both of those gentlemen took off to South Beach and are now members of the Miami Marlins. The White Sox signed former player Robin Ventura to be their new skipper. The White Sox then went on to trade their young closer Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays and hard hitting Carlos Quentin to the San Diego Padres for minor leaguers in return. The Sox are getting old with AJ Pierzynski, Paul Konerko and if Adam Dunn has a similar season to 2011, the White Sox may finish at the bottom of the barrel in the central. Looking at the White Sox starting rotation they will rely heavily on John Danks, Philip Humber, Gavin Floyd and injury prone Jake Peavy. The Sox do have some young stars though in Alexei Ramirez, Gordon Beckham, and Chris Sale. Look out for Zach Stewart to make a name for himself at the back-end of the starting rotation.
Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau will not be able to carry the Minnesota Twins offense by themselves. After losing Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel, the Twins went out and signed Josh Willingham. The Twins will once again have to play small ball with their lineup which will put a large amount of stress on their pitchers. The Twins signed Jason Marquis to help the rotation and added Joel Zumaya and resigned Matt Capps. The Twins also lost closer Joe Nathan. Look for pitcher Kyle Gibson to make it to the big show this year. Gibson, a former teammate of mine, was drafted out of Missouri into the Twins system and last season played in Rochester with the Red Wings. The Twins will finish last in the AL Central unless they make some moves during the season. I do not think that Francisco Liriano will be able to carry the work load in Minnesota.