Covering The Bases: AL Central

Covering The Bases: AL Central

Opening Day is quickly approaching so let’s take a quick look at what each team looks like heading into the 2021 season. The AL Central is up to close out the American League previews. 



CHICAGO WHITE SOX

PROJECTION 1ST AL CENTRAL

 

NOTABLE NEWCOMERS

LANCE LYNN SP

LIAM HENDRICKS RP

ALEX COLOME RP

Adam Eaton OF

 

LINEUP

1 Anderson SS

2 Robert OF

3 Abreu 1B

4 Jimenez OF

5 Moncada 3B

6 Grandal C

7 Eaton OF

8 Vaughn DH

9 Madrigal 2B

 

ROTATION

Giolito

Keuchel

Lynn

Cease

Rodon

 

CLOSER - Hendricks

 

OUTLOOK

Clearly the best team the White Sox have produced in years. They have a solid pitching staff led by ace Lucas Giolito, who has Cy Young worthy stuff. Keuchel and Lynn have  been dominant in the past. Perhaps the biggest off season addition was getting closer and league saves leader Liam Hendricks from the Athletics. On the offensive side, you have last year's AL MVP, Jose Abreu, and a myriad of talented youngsters. Robert was the most hyped rookie we've seen in a while last season, Jimenez will be entering his 3rd season in the league, and Madrigal saw his first full action in the bigs last year.  Jimenez might be the most productive of the 3 at plate after hitting .298 last season, and had over 30 dingers in his rookie season.Madrigal hit a scorching 340 in his small sample size, and Robert should improve on his strikeout pct (32%) in his Sophomore season. Jimenez is probably a lock to hit 30 plus bombs. Robert should be right there also. Moncada was great in 2019 and Anderson has been one of the better hitters in the league the last few years.The future is bright in Chicago, and I expect the White Sox to be a playoff team with a good chance to make some noise when they get there.



 

MINNESOTA TWINS

PROJECTION 2ND AL CENTRAL

 

NOTABLE NEWCOMERS

JA Happ SP

Andreleton Simmons SS

Nelson Cruz DH

Hansel Robert RP

Alex Colome RP

Matt Shoemaker SP

 

NOTABLE DEPARTURES

Jake Odorizzi

Eddie Rosario

 

LINEUP

1 Kepler OF

2 Donaldson 3B

3 Cruz DH

4 Polanco 2B

5 Sano 1B

6 Kiriloff OF

7 Buxton OF

8 Jeffers C

9 Simmons SS

 

ROTATION

Maeda

Berrios

Happ

Pineda

Shoemaker

 

OUTLOOK

 

This year's Twins are pretty balanced across the board. This is historically a team that will terrorize teams with an aggressive approach at the plate. If they see anything close, they are usually jumping on it, and that approach has seemed effective in recent years. They ranked 6th in the league in home runs last season and figure to be amongst the league leaders once again in 2021. Eddie Rosario has moved on to division rival Cleveland. His replacement, Kirriloff is a highly touted prospect that figures to join the home run party sooner rather than later. Cruz will be 41 this season but hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. Kepler had a down year last season bit hit 31 bombs in 2019. Donaldson and Sano are premiere power hitters, and Buxton offers great speed on the base paths. Simmons sat out last season due to covid concerns but has always been able to handle the bat well and is capable of hitting .300 and getting on base, which makes this offense even more dangerous. The pitching staff is led by Maeda who was dominant a year ago. There are some question marks after that, with Berrios being a quality starter, and probably a lock to win 10 plus games. The rest of the rotation has had their ups and downs. The bullpen has some new faces in Robles and Colome, both of whom have closer experience and both of whom had their struggles a year ago. There's no question the Twins will put runs on the board, but getting past the first round, which they didn't not do last year, is probably riding on how well these new veteran pitchers perform. Oh, and they have lost 13 straight playoff games to the Yankees. They might be closer to playoff success but I wouldn't be surprised if that number increases this year.

 



CLEVELAND INDIANS

PROJECTION 3RD AL CENTRAL

 

NOTABLE NEWCOMERS

Andres Jimenez UT

Amed Rosario SS/2B

Eddie Rosario OF/DH

 

NOTABLE DEPARTURES

Francisco Lindor

 

LINEUP

1 Hernandez 2B

2 Rosario OF

3 Ramirez 3B

4 Reyes DH

5 Naylor OF/1B

6 Bauers 1B

7 Pérez C

8 Jimenez 2B/SS/3B

9 Zimmer OF

 

ROTATION

Bieber

Plesac

Civale

McKenzie

Quantrill

Allen

 

CLOSER - Karinchak

 

OUTLOOK

 

There's no question that the Indians have the most notable departure in baseball with the loss of Lindor. That will put more pressure on third baseman Jose Ramirez to produce at the plate, which he's perfectly capable of doing. Rosario is a big bat that adds considerable power to the outfield. There's talk of getting Naylor some work at first base this year, as well. That would allow for move versatility and since Bauers hasn't shown a whole lot at the plate, they would likely have an upgraded offensive lineup in doing so. Yu Chang should also get his chance to show what he can do, possibly filling an everyday role in the middle infield at some point in the 2021 season. But let's not kid ourselves, pitching is the strength of this team. Last year's Cy Young winner, Shane Bieber has quietly turned himself into a top 3 starter in the league. Maybe the number one starter. Plesac had a 2.28 ERA in 2020, and Civale should continue to be effective. Tristan McKenzie is loaded with talent and possesses an upper 90's fastball and has everything you need to be dominant at the big league level. Closer, Karinchak is coming off an outstanding rookie season and should continue that success as the Indians closer in 2021.Cleveland will be good, It's just hard to believe they will have enough to fend off the White Sox and Twins in the Central division.

 



DETROIT TIGERS

PROJECTION 4TH AL CENTRAL

 

NOTABLE NEWCOMERS

Robbie Grossman

Renato Nunez 1B/OF

Nomar Mazara OF

Julio Teheran SP

Jose Urena SP

 

NOTABLE DEPARTURES

Carlos Santana

 

LINEUP

1 Grossman OF

2 Candalerio 1B/3B

3 Castro SS/2B

4 Cabrera DH

5 Schoop 2B

6 Mazara OF

7 Ramos C

8 Nunez 1B/DH

9 V. Reyes/J. Jones OF

 

ROTATION

Boyd

Urena

Skubal

Turnbull

Teheran

 

CLOSER Soto/Garcia

 

OUTLOOK

 

Detroit is improved but the overall talent is still lacking for this team to make any noise in the 2021 season. The biggest upside is shortstop Willi Castro who played himself into an everyday role in 2020, while batting well over .300 on the season, and that has carried over to spring training. He may even have a chance at the leadoff spot in the lineup. Grossman gives them a veteran bat and he's reportedly made some adjustments at the plate in the off-season, hoping to become a steady source of production at the top of the order. Victor Reyes is another exciting young player to watch as he's capable of stealing a lot of bases as well as being a steady bat. Nunez comes over from the Orioles as a free agent signing and is a good source of power, though it's unknown what kind of role he will have, if the Tigers decide to keep him in the lineup at all. The pitching staff is young, and Matthew Boyd returns from injury in hopes of regaining some of the success he had just a couple seasons ago. Turnbull should once again eat up a lot of innings, and should improve on his 4-4, 3.97 ERA from the '20 season. Skubal is a lefty that has shown great strikeout ability in his limited experience in the big leagues. There are some nice pieces but the Tigers will likely be battling the Royals for last place in the AL Central once again this year.



 

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

PROJECTION LAST AL CENTRAL

 

NOTABLE NEWCOMERS

Andrew Binetendi OF

Michael Taylor OF

Mike Minor SP

Carlos Santana 1B/DH

 

NOTABLE DEPARTURES

None

 

LINEUP

1 Merrifield OF/2B

2 Benetindi OF

3 Mondesi SS

4 Santana 1B/DH

5 Soler OF/DH

6 Dozier 1B/3B

7 Pérez C

8 Lopez 2B

9 Taylor OF

 

ROTATION

Keller

Duffy

Minor

Singer

Bubic

 

Closer Holland

 

OUTLOOK

 

The most notable addition is Binetendi, who comes over from the Red Sox. Although he had a terrible season a year ago that saw him hit below the .200 mark, he's been a consistent hitter in every other of his major league seasons. He should be a welcome contribution to an otherwise unimpressive lineup that features one other newcomer in Carlos Santana, who is a great source of power and patience at the plate as he is consistently amongst the league leaders in walks, while also capable of 30 plus homers. Mondesi struggled much of last year before finally turning it on at the end of the season and has the speed to steal 30 or 40 bases. The biggest production should once again come from Merrifield, who has been one of the better overall hitters in baseball the last few seasons. Plus there is number 1 prospect Bobby Witt Jr., who should make his debut sometime this year. The Pitching staff is young but talented. Keller has always been a guy who has been projected to have elite level stuff, he just hasn't necessarily shown it yet. Minor had his career rejuvenated in Texas and is said to have added the velocity on his fastball that he lacked last year after hitting the mid 90's in previous seasons that led to him being dominant at times in 2018 and '19. Bubic has the ability to miss bats and generate good strikeout numbers. Overall there just isn't enough firepower in the Royals offense to believe that it will translate into many wins for any of the aforementioned pitchers, or the team. Give it a couple years and see if that might change. There's not much chance of it happening this year.

 

 

 Stay tuned for the National League and as always, stay true.



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