2013 AL Central Preview
There was lots of room for improvement in the AL Central this year, but only a couple of teams seem to have taken advantage of the offseason. Detroit is likely the front-runner of the division again, but the Indians, Royals and White Sox have made some moves that could put them in contention during the month of September. Check out the previews for each of the AL Central teams by using the tabs below. Each preview has been meticulously prepared by one of the top sports bloggers for each of the respective teams, giving us the best look at how each team is projected to perform in 2013.
2013 White Sox Preview
2013 Indians Preview
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The Indians did a lot this offseason, so much that they have the fan base thinking contention. And why not? After the past two seasons with some hopefuls thinking it was possible after fast starts, this team is much better than the last two. Not only that, they have a new identity and an infusion of leadership with Terry Francona at the helm and players like Nick Swisher in the fold. With Michael Bourn, Mark Reynolds, and Drew Stubbs thrown into the mix, the lineup should be dynamic, versatile, quick, and perhaps potent. The bullpen has the same cast of characters at the end, with additions from the trade of Shin-Soo Choo to freshen up the looks and overall approach. However, the question that has been around all offseason simply comes down to the starting pitching. The Cleveland Indians did add Brett Myers to the mix, but they still lack an ace and their two best arms, Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson, are coming off rough years. The rest of the spots are question marks, with youngster Zach McAllister likely filling one spot and the other still to be determined. The good news is that there are tons of options, from rookie Trevor Bauer, to returning Carlos Carrasco, and even a few reclamation projects in Daisuke Matsuzaka and Scott Kazmir.
The Indians need an ace, someone to be the guy. The hope is that eventually, Trevor Bauer is that guy, but for the next year or two, they don’t have that. They’ve got a lot of good pieces, but they don’t have no defined top option. This season has some excitement and hope to it for Indians fans. There seems to be a renewed energy and a whole lot of people that are pleased with the direction the franchise is now headed with a new aggressive approach and suddenly in-use check book. The willingness to spend on players like Swisher, Bourn, Myers, and Reynolds has put the Indians in the good graces of their fan base once again. Perhaps with a renewed enthusiasm the fans can now get behind their club and push them past their questions in the rotation and any other dangers that are up ahead within the 2013 season. I’m not sure many people are thinking World Series, it certainly is a wishful thought, but what team’s fan base doesn’t dream about that? The Indians do have a chance to contend in the AL Central though. With a Detroit Tigers team that was sluggish for most of 2012 until it really counted, and a Chicago White Sox team that is battle tested and talented, the Indians shouldn’t be in a position to sit back and watch the two battle it out, but rather be right in the mix with them, especially if they find their way into some solid pitching.
2013 Tigers Preview
The Tigers won the American League pennant in 2012, but the road to post-season was not smooth. Their total of 88 wins during the regular season was only seventh best in the AL and the division title was still in doubt in late September. They had a solid group of stars led by triple-crown and MVP winner Miguel Cabrera, and ace right hander Justin Verlander, but a weak bottom half of their batting order and porous defense made them vulnerable. They were as many as six games behind as late as mid June, and it took a 50-34 second-half record to secure a post-season birth.
The Detroit Tigers enter 2013 with a significantly stronger line-up than they had for most of 2012. They return the same offensive core of Cabrera, slugging first baseman Prince Fielder and emerging star Austin Jackson, but they now have a much better supporting cast. Veteran right fielder Torii Hunter (.816 OPS with the Los Angeles Angels in 2012) was signed as free agent and should be a substantial upgrade over Brennan Boesch both offensively and defensively. After missing all of last season with a knee injury, Victor Martinez (.330 batting average and 52 extra-base hits in 2011) should be a considerable improvement over Delmon Young at designated hitter. Finally, they will get a full season out of Omar Infante who took over the second base position from Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago after being acquired in a trade from the Miami Marlins in July.
Rounding out the line-up are young left fielder Andy Dirks (.857 OPS in 88 games), solid catcher Alex Avila (.352 OBP) and shortstop Jhonny Peralta. Overall, it is a line-up very capable of scoring 800 runs which would make it one of the best in the league. It would also be a 74-run or 7-win improvement over last season.
With the re-signing of right hander Anibal Sanchez to a five-year contract, the Tigers bring back arguably the best quartet of starters in the league. The others are Verlander , Max Scherzer (maybe the most dominant pitcher in the league over the last three months of 2012) and under-rated Doug Fister (194/42 K/BB and 2.95 ERA in 232 innings as a Tiger). Rick Porcello and southpaw Drew Smyly will contend for the fifth spot, although Porcello still could be traded before the season.
There are questions about the Tigers bullpen which has no true closer. Last year’s stopper Jose Valverde struggled at times during the season, imploded in the playoffs and is now without a home. Flame-throwing rookie Bruce Rondon is currently the front runner for the job, but there is no guarantee he will be ready for the majors. If Rondon needs more seasoning, Phil Coke, who handled the closing duties in the post-season or the more experienced Octavio Dotel (109 career saves) could get a shot. They have pretty good bullpen depth with Joaquin Benoit, Al Alburquerque, Brayan Villarreal and Duane Below, but it’s still an area where they may be looking for help during the season.
The other item of concern is fielding. The outfield defense should be stronger with Hunter and a full-season of Dirks, but their infield defense is still a problem. Infante makes them better at second, but they lack range elsewhere with Fielder and Cabrera at the corners and Peralta at shortstop. However, the Tigers are betting that they have enough offense to overcome their defensive deficiencies.
Despite holes in the bullpen and defense, the Tigers look like a team that should win around 95 games which should be more than enough for another division title.
2013 Royals Preview
The Kansas City Royals had one goal as the calendar shifted from a disappointing 2012 season to 2013 and that was to improve the starting pitching. They got an early start on that goal shipping Brandon Sisk to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for Ervin Santana. Then, they were able to re-sign Jeremy Guthrie, a pitcher they acquired in a trade with the Colorado Rockies mid-season last year. And finally, the granddaddy move of them all landed them their best pitcher since Zack Greinke was in Kansas City, James Shields. He came with Wade Davis to give the Royals a nearly complete overhaul of their 2012 rotation. Shields and Davis did not come without a cost as the Royals traded minor league player of the year, Wil Myers as well as Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard.
That trade represented a shift in the thinking in the front office in Kansas City. Love or hate the trade or anything in between, it showed the Royals meant business this past offseason and are in the market of building a playoff contending team. The Royals 2012 rotation of Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar, Jonathan Sanchez, Luis Mendoza and Danny Duffy has turned into James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana, Wade Davis and a three-way competition among Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza. I’d say the goal of an overhaul was complete, and on paper, there’s no doubt the 2013 rotation looks much improved.
Pitching wasn’t the only issue in 2012. The Royals offense finished 12th in the American League in runs scored last season. And yet, the only moves made among position players were to pick up Elliot Johnson as the player to be named later in the trade with the Tampa Bay Rays and pick up a new backup catcher. The Royals also signed veteran infielder Miguel Tejada to a minor league deal that could be worth $1.1 million if he makes the club. So why didn’t the Royals want to do something about an offense that lacked punch? While the offense was anemic at times, the Royals offense is filled with young players with high upside.
Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are really the keys to the offense clicking in 2013. The known quantities are Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. You have a pretty good idea of what you’re going to get from those two year in and year out. Salvador Perez at catcher has only played two partial seasons, but he has hit better than anybody could have imagined in those two partial seasons. Even if he regresses some, he’ll still be an improvement over the first half tandem in 2012 of Brayan Pena and Humberto Quintero. The Royals two top prospects from a few years ago need to hit. Moustakas was having a very solid season last year before hurting his knee mid-season. He only missed a few games, but his numbers took a nosedive. Eric Hosmer had one of those years players want to forget, and so far this spring, it’s looking like he has. If those two can join forces with Butler, Gordon and Perez, the Royals offense should rebound nicely.
The strength of the Royals is the bullpen, headlined by Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera, Aaron Crow and Tim Collins. Those four will be joined by the two losers in the fifth starter battle barring trades and likely one more pitcher in camp. Donne Joseph, a left-handed pitcher obtained in return for Jonathan Broxton last season, has been outstanding in camp and may be that guy. The bullpen comes at you from the left and right side with 95 MPH heat. You could easily argue it’s the best bullpen in baseball.
All in all, this is a make or break season for the Kansas City Royals. With a revamped rotation, the team is hoping for far more innings from their starters in order to help give the bullpen a little bit of a rest. They’re also hoping those are quality innings with veterans manning the first three spots. Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer are on the horizon for the Royals if some of the starting pitching falters, along with Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino who will be returning from having Tommy John surgery last season. For the first time, there’s depth in the rotation. The Royals want to compete for the playoffs, and I think they’ve built a roster that can at least stay within shouting distance of the Tigers until mid-September. Ultimately, I believe they’ll fall short, but a great year from a guy like Wade Davis and one more position player stepping up to join with the five I listed above could make for a very fun year in Kansas City and the first year over .500 since 2003.
This 2013 Twins preview was written by yours truly. Hopefully next season I can find a Twins blogger willing to write a preview of the team. Enjoy!
The Twins have lost some of the punch they used to have, ever since moving outdoors to Target field. Minnesota has lost 95 or more games in back to back seasons for the first time since the franchise moved to Minnesota, which is cause for concern in what is typically a weak AL Central division. It doesn’t look like the front office is looking to turn the team into a contender this year either, by trading proven talent for prospects this offseason. Unfortunately, the Minnesota Twins franchise player, Joe Mauer, is losing the best years of his career on a team mired in mediocrity.
Probable opening day lineup
- Darin Mastroianni, CF
- Jamey Carroll, 2B
- Joe Mauer, C
- Josh Willingham, LF
- Justin Morneau, 1B
- Ryan Doumit, DH
- Chris Parmelee, RF
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B
- Pedro Florimon, SS
Probable starting pitching rotation
- Vance Worley
- Kevin Correia
- Liam Hendriks
- Cole De Vries
- Brian Duensing
The Twins do have a couple of pitchers in Mike Pelfrey and Scott Diamond who are both returning from elbow surgery and likely won’t be ready in time for opening day, but they are expected to return shortly after the season starts. Their addition should bolster the rotation, but likely not enough to turn it into a division contender.
The strength of the Twins lies in the middle of their batting order with Justin Morneau, Mauer and Josh Willingham. This isn’t a team that is going to score a lot of runs, which means calling the Minnesota lineup a strength doesn’t bode well for the team, but at least it is a high point in an otherwise bleak 2013 outlook.
If the Twins needed to improve in any area, it was their pitching staff which ranked third worst in all of baseball last year. Their 2013 pitching staff has additions in Correia and Pelfrey, neither of which will help improve the teams overall ERA. It will be up to the up and coming prospects Trevor May and Alex Meyer to help bolster this staff’s efficiency. All in all, it looks to be another tough year for the pitching staff and the Minnesota Twins as a whole in 2013.
Everyone, including the team’s front office has seemed to resign to the fact that the Twins are not going to contend for the AL Central in 2013 – or for a few more years. We know that every team goes through rebuilding years, but it is a shame to see a talent like Mauer wasted on what will likely be 5 seasons of retooling in an attempt to get back into contention. We can see this team losing another 90 games this year, and even with some veteran signings, it would be difficult to see this team finishing above .500.
Check out the rest of our divisional previews for 2013