2010 Divisional Predictions and Previews: AL Central

The AL Central could very well be the weakest division in 2010. The Twins proved that they are the team to beat in 2009. This division probably does not have as many “contenders” as other divisions since the Tigers and Indians are in the rebuilding phase and the Royals are, well, the Royals. However, if the White Sox can get some production out of Alex Rios and Jake Peavy they could make this division interesting.

1. Minnesota Twins

Key Departures: Carlos Gomez and Joe Crede

Key Arrivals: Orlando Hudson, J.J. Hardy, and Jim Thome

The Twins had a quiet off-season but it was a very, very good one. They will be much better this year having Orlando Hudson and J.J. Hardy up the middle instead of Alexi Casilla, Nick Punto and Orlando Cabrera that they had in 2009. They also add Jim Thome who can contribute his share at the DH spot. I think that they have the best offense in the division and they posted a team wOBA of .338, which was best in the division. They also have a good enough bullpen and rotation to get the job done. They are not a great defensive team by any means, actually they are really bad, but they are solid at the most important positions with Orlando Hudson, J.J. Hardy, Denard Span, and Joe Mauer. The Twins could end up being a 90+ win team this year and could end up taking this division fairly easily. Look for them to repeat as division champs.

2. Chicago White Sox

Key Departures: Jermaine Dye, Jim Thome, Scott Podsednik, and Jose Contreras

Key Arrivals: Juan Pierre, Mark Teahen, and Andruw Jones

Now by looking at these off-season moves alone, you would think that the White Sox could not possibly improve on the disappointing season that they had last year. Well, I am accounting for the contributions that Jake Peavy will provide and I am also relying on Alex Rios having at least a 2-3 win season. I think both of these things are possible and it should make up for what they lost last season if you add their off-season additions as well. I really had a hard time putting the White Sox ahead of the Tigers because even though the Tigers lost some key players, I still don’t think the White Sox are all that much better. The White Sox most glaring weakness is their offense. Despite Rios having a very uncharacteristic year, they had a team wOBA of .325 and their offense provided the second lowest amount of value in the league with a WAR of 11. The Royals were last with their batters posting a WAR of 6.9. Both Dye and Thome provided some major pop in the middle of that lineup and they are lucky that they have the best pitching staff in this division, or else I would not be very confident in putting them in second.

3. Detroit Tigers

Key Departures: Curtis Granderson, Edwin Jackson, Placido Polanco, and Fernando Rodney

Key Arrivals: Johnny Damon, Max Scherzer, and Jose Valverde

The Tigers question marks in their rotation and their horrible pen prevent them from overtaking the White Sox in my division predictions. The Tigers bullpen posted an xFIP of 4.80. That is a future indicator of ERA based on last seasons performance. Other than Verlander, Scherzer, and a young Rick Porcello, they don’t really have any consistency in their rotation. The Tigers are clearly going through a rebuilding phase and it will be evident this season. I think they will struggle to get 80 wins this season. Many Tigers fans are disappointed that Granderson is now on the Yankees, as they should be because he provided great defensive play in CF that will now be rookie Austin Jackson’s territory. And in their lineup, I don’t see anyone other than Miguel Cabrera or Johnny Damon that is going to provide any sort of significant value.

4. Kansas City Royals

Key Departures: Miguel Olivo, Mark Teahen, and Coco Crisp

Key Arrivals: Rick Ankiel and Scott Podsednik

Hold on, wait, what? The Royals? Not in last? Yes. The Royals will finish fourth in the central in 2010. You can rejoice Royals fans. I see this team being able to sniff 75 wins this season. Plus, look what team I have finishing below them by process of elimination. I see Zach Grienke being a dominant pitcher once again. Probably not as dominant as in 2009, but he will still be a top pitcher in the American League. Billy Butler, Rick Ankiel, and Alex Gordon has potential to be a nice 3, 4, 5 in their lineup. At least it will be better than in past seasons. Scott Podsednik is still capable of doing what he does best and also look for Mike Aviles to improve greatly on .205 wOBA and .223 BABIP season. The Royals offense WILL improve this year. And as for their rotation and bullpen, it is no worse than that of the Indians, who don’t seem to have any consistent starter in their rotation at this moment.

5. Cleveland Indians

Key Departures: Ryan Garko and Kelly Shoppach

Key Arrivals: Russell Branyan

Now we are left with the Cleveland Indians. I do expect Grady Sizemore to be one of the better outfielders in the league this upcoming season and Sizemore, Choo, Branyan and Hafner will have to have a really good year in order to make up for their inexperience and horrid rotation and bullpen. I question whether or not Branyan can provide as much offensively as he did last season with the Mariners. They are filled with extremely young players who don’t have much major league experience and are clearly in the rebuilding phase. I have a feeling that their record as helped last year by Cliff Lee, Mark DeRosa, and Victor Martinez being on the team for about half of last season. That probably inflated some of their offensive numbers just a little.

YC’s AL Central Predictions:
1. Twins
2. White Sox
3. Tigers
4. Indians
5. Royals

Disco’s AL Central Predictions:
1. Twins
2. White Sox
3. Tigers
4. Royals
5. Indians

JeffMac’s AL Central Predictions:
1. Twins
2. White Sox
3. Tigers
4. Royals
5. Indians

ES42’s AL Central Predictions:
1. Twins
2. Tigers
3. White Sox
4. Royals
5. Indians

Dougbies AL Central Predictions:
1. Twins
2. White Sox
3. Tigers
4. Indians
5. Royals

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