We continue our look into the 2012 MLB season. Yesterday, we predicted the AL East, today, we take a peek at the AL Central. Can the Tigers repeat? How will the White Sox fare without Ozzie? Can Morneau and Mauer bounce back after down years? We'll try to answer these questions and more, so stay tuned and you might just learn something.
1st- Detroit Tigers
The Tigers made a surprise splash this offseason by signing Prince Fielder to a long term deal. Even before the signing I thought the Tigers would repeat, but now I think hey are a legit contender for the AL pennant.
The team suffered a major blow earlier in the offseason when Victor Martinez blew out his knee and is most likely out for the year. So the Tigers do the next best thing. Sign Prince Fielder. Fielder is an upgrade from Martinez, so the Tigers need not worry anymore.
The Tigers still have Miguel Cabrera and when you combine him with Fielder, the Tigers might have the best one-two punch in, not only the AL, but the Majors.
Justin Verlander should continue to keep his crown for best pitcher in baseball and could very well win another Cy Young. Jose Valverde will still be the Tigers closer and probably won't have the perfect season he had last year, but still a very good one.
2nd- Cleveland Indians
Indians fans, you are almost there. Almost.
The Indians will be a better team this year, that's for certain, but the Indians have a lack of starters that could hinder the Tribe's chances.
Outside of Ubaldo Jimenez, the Indians don't have much depth in starting. They signed Derek Lowe, in the twilight of his career, and Justin Masterson has a chance to become a good, solid starter. After those three, it gets shaky. Real shaky.
The offense is good enough to overcome poor pitching on most nights. Carlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera are the RBI machines for the Indians and if Grady Sizemore comes back and can play like we all know he can, this offense can be the saving grace of this team.
3rd- Minnesota Twins
Last season, every that went wrong for the Twins, did.
Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau battled injury problems for most of the season. The pitching was absolutely dreadful. Finished dead last in the Central.
Joe Mauer will have a solid year, but I fear will not be the same player he once was. When you are this young and play catcher, injury problems will only get worse down the road. Justin Morneau is worried that his concussion problems will end his career early, but hasn't had any problems this spring. If Morneau can stay healthy, the Twins will not finish in the basement again.
The pitching is the one thing that will cripple the Twins. The bullpen is shaky at best and now they don't have Joe Nathan to close games. Francisco Liriano as the Twins number one starter is not a good sign for the Twins.
4th- Kansas City Royals
The Royals have a good base of young players that remind me of the 2009 Tampa Bay Rays.
Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are the future of the Royals team. Alex Gordon finally broke through and became the star of the Royals. The team has a nucleus of young players that could help them compete for years to come, but...
The pitching is the weakest link of this team. Bruce Chen is the ace of the Royals. Bruce Chen. He might be the weakest number one starter in the Majors and Jonathan Sanchez is an overrated pitcher that the Giants were lucky to unload for Melky Cabrera. Aaron Crow is a young pitcher with a ton of talent, but he is not there yet.
You will get there, Kansas City, just not for another three seasons or so.
5th- Chicago White Sox
How do you replace the fiery manager that helped the White Sox become relevant again and win an elusive World Series? Hire Robin Ventura, that's what. Ventura was a shocking choice to replace Ozzie Guillen, since he has no managerial experience or even coaching experience for that matter. That hiring might be the worst move of the offseason.
Adam Dunn will still be Adam Dunn. Paul Konerko is only getting older and can't carry this team forever. The pitching is in shambles after Mark Buehrle left town for South Beach and they traded their closer Sergio Santos to the Jays. The returning starters did not post a winning record last season and no one in the bullpen is not capable of closing.
At least you still have the Cubs, Chicago. Oh wait...