1) Detroit Tigers – While I am not high on the Tigers this year, they are clearly the class of the Central. While the Cabrera ball to the face was on a really bad hop that few if any third baseman would field, it is a sign of things to come. From what I was able to find, the major league record for most unearned runs in a season is 152, by the 1940 St. Louis Browns. I will set the over/under this season at 158 for the Tigers, which would clearly break that record. The Tigers have incredible power on the team and a really good staff, but I don’t believe any of them will live up to the expectations. Verlander is dominating, but he needs to strike out 27 a game to ensure a win. Valverde is a very emotional closer, and if the Tigers don’t put Inge in late in a ball game, an error could easily cause Valverde to spiral downward. I have real concerns about this team, but I still believe they are good enough to win 90-95 games and win the division easily.
2) Kansas City Royals – I went back and forth on this, but had to go with my gut. I think Alex Gordon is for real now that he has gotten comfortable out in left. Francoeur is a low average, good power, insane arm right fielder, a guy I am a fan of. Hosmer is for real, Butler is one of the better DH options in the league, Moustakas will be an All-Star third baseman as early as next season. The middle of the field is a bit of a question. Perez is out 14 weeks behind the plate, who knows who will lock down center, and the middle infield is average. The staff has great young arms with a mixture of decent young veteran guys. Soria possibly out for the year would have been huge last year, but he is arguably the fifth best guy in that bullpen today. I see the Royals winning about 85 games this year.
3) Minnesota Twins – The Twins will battle for second in the division, but I just don’t trust them enough to place them above the Royals. Mauer and Morneau are both proving to be fragile and will eventually be battling for playing time at first and DH to keep them both healthy, making Ryan Doumit the everyday catcher, and that just isn’t a recipe for success. Then they sent Nishioka to the minors, essentially admitting that experiment didn’t work, and the other back up middle infielder, Trevor Plouffe, was so bad defensively, they have now made him an outfielder. They have a decent rotation, and if Liriano can pitch to his ability and stay healthy, he can be great, but again, we are talking about a Twins player essential to their success having injury issues. The Twins could win 85 games, or they could win 65 games, neither would surprise me.
4) Cleveland Indians – I think the future of the Indians is bright. They have some young talent, some live arms, it is just a matter of time before they pull it all together and make a playoff run. I also think that is the same opening couple lines that could have been written for the past 5 seasons. The Indians did look good for a time last season, and I do think they are a team that can be fun to watch. But Grady is hurt…again, Chris Perez will be ready to go opening day…despite Pestano likely a better closer, and Casey Kotchman was signed to play first this season. Chisenhall and Kipnis I believe are both overrated, and despite my crazy man love for him, Shin-Soo Choo really struggled last season. Their rotation is interesting. Will Ubaldo become the Ubaldo from a couple years ago? How much does Derek Lowe have left? Will the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona pitch this season? They will be in the hunt until July again, but the lack of depth will cost this team again, and will finish fourth in the division.
5) Chicago White Sox – Dayan Viciedo is a future super star in this league. Paul Konerko is the least recognizable borderline hall of famer of all time. There, I said a couple nice things about the White Sox. Now let’s take a look at the rest of the team. They are awful! The South Siders will be about as far south as you can be in the standings. They do have enough talent left in Konerko, Alexei Ramirez, and A.J. Pierzynski to prevent them from losing 100 games, which will only cause them to miss out on a #1 pick next season, which would be beneficial for a farm system that is 30th by a significant margin. White Sox fans should focus on Viciedo, Adison Reed, and Chris Sale this season. They are the future of the Sox, and will be the very dim light at the end of the very long tunnel for this organization.