2013 AL Central Preview

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.

 

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Chicago White Sox

2013 White Sox Preview

This 2013 White Sox preview is brought to you by Bill of WhiteSoxGab.com. Follow the blog for regular updates on the South Siders. You can also follow White Sox Gab on Twitter @WhiteSoxGab. Enjoy!

Sitting down to eat I notice that the cheese of my enchiladas is oozing out of every corner of the tortilla. How does that relate to the Chicago White Sox? Well like my delicious meal the Sox have talent oozing out of every corner of their organization. Having seen things first-hand for the past 3 weeks, I can give you fans hope for the present and the future.
Last year, anyone who was anyone predicted the team to languish near the bottom of the Central Division. They, whoever THEY are was wrong. Once again, those same they guys are predicting the same fate for the 2013 version of the Sox. They will be wrong again!
Am I going to go out on a limb and say the Sox will win the division? No, but they won’t be a second-rate team. I see the same quiet determination that I observed last year. These guys want to close the deal that they were unable to do in 2012.
Expect the same solid numbers from Paul Konerko. By solid I mean 25 home runs, not 35, and 80 RBI’s. He is a prideful player and wouldn’t be taking the field if was to just collect a check. Same for Adam Dunn, who looks and acts like a guy ready to explode. He has made it a point to be more aggressive early in counts, so that should, and I am saying should lead to more success, and possible more home runs.
The rest of the infield is defensively solid, if not spectacular. Gordon Beckham is a Gold Glove 2nd baseman. The same goes with Alexei Ramirez, who still makes all the spectacular plays, but can fumble away a routine one from time to time. 3rd base is a hodge-podge, Jeff Keppinger was signed to take the roll, and very well might, but don’t count out the quiet Morel. Morel looks to have added muscle, while his creaky back appears to be a thing of the past. However, herniated disks do have a way of rearing their ugly heads, so until he plays 80+ games there will still be trepidation in the organization. Anyhow, when healthy, Morel can pick it with the best of em. And if he swings the bat like he did near the end of 2011, Keppinger will find himself playing a lot of other positions besides third.
Beckham is the x-factor though. He looked to be figuring things out in the 2nd half of last year, and should be up to the .250’s this year as far as batting average. I do think his power numbers will decrease a tad though. If Ramirez gets off to a good start with the bat, he’ll have a great year. If not, he’ll have a good one. I think we all know what to expect from the shortstop.
Things will get real interesting if Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza continue to mature. Viciedo has the ability to his 40 home runs. I said the ability….and he very well might, if he cuts down on his swing, something I have not seen him do this spring.
De Aza will never get the respect he deserves because he is not a glamour name, but he could swipe 40-50bases. His average will continue to climb as well if he incorporates bunting into his game. Haven’t seen him do that yet, and I don’t expect him to. I can hope, can’t I?
From what I have seen so far, Alex Rios could have an even better year than his 2012 career year. Rios is locked in, and we haven’t even gotten out of February. He is also taking the ball to right on a regular basis, which should move his numbers in a positive direction. Expect a better than average year for Rios, who is 32 and in his prime.
It’s the pitching that really excites me. Chris Sale has the arm, makeup and demeanor to be a big winner in baseball. He is always looking for ways to improve, picking the brains of other pitchers and any coach who has an opinion. Another guy that I expect to explode will be Jake Peavy. Peavy threw a ton of innings, and could very well do it again this year. He also has his swagger back. By that I mean he isn’t wondering if he can come back, he knows he is back, and one of baseballs best. I think he’ll be in the top 5 of the Cy Young voting.
John Danks looks ready to go, but until I see him in regular action, I will reserve judgment. Knowing him and watching him, it’s hard not to pull for him.
I know a lot of people don’t like Gavin Floyd, but his numbers are solid every year. Usually winning in double-digits with a passable ERA. You another guy who was like that? Jon Garland. Garland did have two 18 win seasons and helped the team win a title, but Floyd won 17 games back in 2008. He like, Garland was close to .500 most of the rest of his career, similar to Garland. Anyhow, Floyd says he’s healthy, but like Danks, I’ll believe it when I see it.
Jose Quintana, I want him to win a bunch of games. However, he could be one of those guys who surprises one year, then fades away in his second. I have a hunch that could happen to this guy, but I have been wrong once or twice in my life–haha.
The bullpen is loaded with great arms. From Addison Reed to Nate Jones to Jesse Crain, Matt Lindstrom and Matt Thornton, there is a lot of heat in them arms. I didn’t even mention Donnie Veal or Leyson Septimo or Hector Santiago, who very possibly will make up the rest of the pen. This will be the strength of the Sox and should win them a number of games.
Following them could be Simon Castro, Scott Snodgress, Dylan Axelrod, Nestor Molina, Andre Rienzo and more. The Sox are stacked with good arms who can start or relieve. Not many teams have the plethora of arms the Sox have.
All told, this should be a good year for the Sox. I am saying they will finish second with about 82 wins.
Now back to my enchiladas..Yummy!

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Cleveland Indians

2013 Indians Preview

This 2013 Indians preview is brought to you by Nino from TheTribeDaily.com. In addition to following The Tribe Daily on their blog, you can also find them on Twitter @TheTribeDaily to get all the latest Indians news in 140 characters or less.

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.

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Detroit Tigers

2013 Tigers Preview

This Tigers preview is brought to you by Lee over at DetroitTigerTales.com. Stay up to date with all the baseball news out of Detroit by following the blog or on Twitter @tiger337. Enjoy!

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.

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Kansas City Royals

2013 Royals Preview

This 2013 Royals preview is brought to you by David of PineTarPress.com. For regular updates on all the news coming out of Kansas City, you can follow the blog or on Twitter @DBLesky. Enjoy!

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.

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Minnesota Twins

2013 TwinsPreview

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

  1. Darin Mastroianni, CF
  2. Jamey Carroll, 2B
  3. Joe Mauer, C
  4. Josh Willingham, LF
  5. Justin Morneau, 1B
  6. Ryan Doumit, DH
  7. Chris Parmelee, RF
  8. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
  9. Pedro Florimon, SS

Probable starting pitching rotation

  1. Vance Worley
  2. Kevin Correia
  3. Liam Hendriks
  4. Cole De Vries
  5. 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.

Biggest strength

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.

Biggest weakness

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.

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Check out the rest of our divisional previews for 2013

About Aaron Garcia

Aaron is an avid sports fan who passionately follows the NFL, NBA and MLB, in addition to NCAA Sports. He is an Arizona State University grad who loves the Dodgers and the Patriots.