After earning a Wild Card spot last year and going on a wild run into the World Series, the Kansas City Royals have lost James Shields, Billy Butler, and Nori Aoki, but don’t seem to have taken much of a step back at all. Their pitching staff will be lead by young phenom Yordano Ventura and they still have the best bullpen in baseball. Alex Rios looks good this spring, and could be a real offensive weapon if his thumb is healthy (I have my doubts), while Kendrys Morales looks to bounce back. The Cleveland Indians only big off-season addition was Brandon Moss, but their relatively young team will likely only get better. Last year Corey Kluber was a surprise Cy Young candidate, and they may have another this year in Carlos Carrasco. The Chicago White Sox made moves bringing in Jeff Samardzija and signed Melky Cabrera. Avisail Garcia has looked good in the spring, as have rookies Micah Johnson and Carlos Rodon. Rodon will start in Triple-A, but will be in the rotation this season and has the potential to be dominant while Johnson will likely be the opening day second baseman and number nine hitter. Both will improve the club that already had an underrated pitching staff and has a very good mix of power and speed. The long time favorites, the Detroit Tigers, are only getting older. Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera are coming off surgery this off-season and Justin Verlander will start the year on the DL. They brought in Yoenis Cespedes, Anthony Gose, and Shaen Greene, but the bullpen that was their downfall last year is virtually unchanged. The Minnesota Twins have brought back fan favorite Torii Hunter, but are a clear bottom of the barrel in the division. Ervin Santana will miss 80 games due to a PED suspension, and the team really lacks a true star. This may be the year uber prospects Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, and multiple highly touted pitching prospects make their big league debuts, so at least Twins fans have that to look forward to.
Projected Winner: This may be the toughest division to pick a winner, but the Indians are the favorite for me. They might have the best rotation in the division outside of Chicago, and they could also end up as the best offensive team in the division.
Is there a Wild Card, perhaps? I think it is almost a certainty one of the Wild Card spots comes from the Central, but which team is tough. Based on pure talent, the Tigers should be the team, but I think they finish fourth in the division. That leaves the White Sox and Royals. I would not be shocked if both teams earn a Wild Card bid, and the rest of the league should be scared if it is the White Sox as their potential playoff rotation could be the best in baseball. In the end, I think the Royals get the only Wild Card bid from the Central, but it will be close.