The American League Central will go like this.
- Kansas City
The Cleveland Guardians
The guardians are a good team in a bad division. They don’t have the talent to make a serious run in the playoffs, but their solid pitching, good defense, and opportunistic offense will be enough for them to once again win the American League Central.
Jose Ramirez is one of the best players in baseball. He will once again finish in the top five for American League MVP. Stephen Kwan, coming off his surprising rookie of the year season, is one of the best leadoff hitters in the game. The addition of Josh Bell will give the Guardians more power, especially against right-handed pitchers. If he can stay healthy, Josh Naylor will also be an important run producer in the middle of the Cleveland lineup. Andres Gimenez and and Amed Rosario are quality offensive players even though they don’t have much power.
The Guardians will be one of the best defensive teams in all of baseball. Gimenez and Rosario are a very good defensive duo up the middle. Miles Straw covers a lot of ground in center field. Stephen Kwan is the best defensive left fielder in the game. The Guardians will rarely beat themselves defensively. Regularly, their defense will be a big reason why they win.
Although he has lost velocity and stuff, Shane Bieber remains one of the better starting pitchers in the game. While his stuff is not that of a typical ace and that reality hurts him and the Guardians in the playoffs, Bieber’s consistency is a big reason why Cleveland will win the AL Central.
Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac, and Cal Quantrill are solid but not spectacular starters. Like Bieber, they will generally keep the Guardians in the game and they will benefit from the strong defense that will be played behind them.
The loss, hopefully only for a few weeks, of Triston McKenzie hurts; he has the best pure stuff of all of Cleveland’s starting pitchers. But there is no reason to believe he won’t be in their rotation by the end of May. If they are to have a chance in October, McKenzie will need to be outstanding.
Emannuel Clase is the best closer in baseball. Yes, I’m including the injured Edwin Diaz in here too. Diaz had a season for the history books in 2022, but Clase has been dominant in his own right while being more consistent than Diaz.
Trevor Stephan, James Karinchak, and Eli Morgan are quality relief options, but I worry about Karincak’s ability to adjust to the pitch clock. He was such a slow worker last year. The los of the injured Sam Hentges will hurt, because quality lefties are hard to find. With or without Hentges the Guardians will have one of the 10 best bullpens. If Hentges doesn’t miss much time and returns as effective as he was last year, the Guardians will have a top five bullpen.
The Minnesota Twins
As always, a discussion of the Twins has to begin by discussing Byron Buxton. Buxton is one of the most talented players in baseball. When healthy, he is truly a five-tool talent who has a dramatic impact on games. The problem is that Buxton is rarely healthy. The addition of Michael A Taylor will enable Buxton to DH quite a bit without causing the team to lose much defensively in center field. But using Buxton as a DH a lot of the time decreases his value. Still, it’s a trade worth making if using Buxton as the DH on a regular basis keeps his bat and legs in the lineup more often.
We can’t discuss the Twins without mentioning the offseason saga of Carlos Correa. Obviously, the Giants and Mets both doubt Correa’s ability to stay healthy for the length of a long-term contract. But for this exercise, we don’t care about that. There is no reason to expect Correa won’t be reasonably healthy this year. If he is, he will be one of the best players in the American League.
If I knew Buxton and Correa would both play in at least 140 games, I may pick Minnesota to finish ahead of Cleveland. But Buxton will not play in anything near that number of games and Correa may not.
While lacking an ace, Minnesota’s rotation could be pretty good. Pablo Lopez, Joe Ryan, Tyler Mahle, Sonny Gray, and Kenta Maeda all have a chance to have good years. But Gray, Mahle, and Maeda, all have had injury issues. Bailey Over is another potentially solid starter for the Twins. But a team without a true ace and several pitchers with injury questions needs too many things to go right for it to win the division.
The Chicago White Sox
The best thing that happened to the White Sox was getting rid of Tony La Russa as manager. The game has so clearly past him bye.
Dylan Cease is the White Sox’ best player. I believe he will win the American League Cy Young. Hist stuff, especially his slider, is absolutely filthy. The problem with the White Sox’ rotation is that Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, and Mike Clevinger are not the pitchers they were three years ago. Michael Kopeck has good stuff, but he is rarely healthy.
Liam Hendricks has been one of the best closers in the AL for several seasons. But expecting him back before June may not be reasonable. The amount of time he misses will have an impact on the bullpen and the team for the entire year.
Garret Crochet has tons of ability, but he’s coming back from Tommy John Surgery. When Healthy, Joe Kelly has been a good pitcher, but he isn’t healthy enough. Aaron Bummer and Jake Deikman have the potential to give the White Sox two quality left arms in the bullpen, but both of them have troubling injury histories too.
I think the White Sox made the right move in not keeping Jose Abreu. For the good of the defense and to help him reach his offensive potential, Andrew Vaughn had to move to first base. Couple that with Abreu’s diminished power, and letting him go made sense.
Tim Anderson is really athletic and fun to watch. But he doesn’t walk enough to be the kind of leadoff hitter a very good lineup needs.
Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez are both very talented, especially Robert, but they too have trouble staying on the field. The addition of Benantendy to play left field should allow Jimenez to DH most of the time. While that will greatly improve the defense, it may also keep an important bat healthier and in the lineup more often.
Oscar Colas should be playing every day in right field. He has the potential to hit in the middle of a good lineup. The White Sox aren’t going to the playoffs. Colas should be given every chance to reach his potential at the plate and improve on his defense.
The Kansas City Royals
The Royals are going to be a very bad baseball team. I believe they will lose at least 95 games. A 100 loss season is not out of the possibility.
Zack Greinke has had a great career, but he is no longer close to being an ace. Jordan Lyles and Brad Keller wouldn’t make a good pitching staff. Brady Singer has some ability, but he has to take a big step up before he can be seen as a true building block.
Scott Barlow is a decent reliever who should be traded before the deadline. If Aroldis Chapman shows decent stuff, he will get the Royals something in trade too. But their bullpen will be terrible.
Salvador Perez was one of the best catchers in baseball. Those days are gone now. His defense has really slipped. His power is still good, but it’s not good enough to compensate for his lack of plate discipline the way it once did.
Vinnie Pasquantino has a chance to be a quality middle of the order bat. This year will tell us whether he can become what the Royals need him to become.
Bobby Witt Jr. has a chance to be a star. His speed is among the best in the game. As he gets stronger and gains experience, Witt JR will be a very good hitter. The only long-term question about Witt JR is where will his elite athleticism make the most difference defensively? Currently, he’s not very good at any defensive position. With his tools, he could be a plus defender at shortstop. If he reaches that ceiling, Witt will be a fugure MVP candidate.
/the Detroit tigers
The Tigers will be the worst team in baseball. They will lose at least 100 games. I wouldn’t be surprised if they lost 110 games. There isn’t a single player on the Tigers roster I want to discuss.