Tuesday, April 4, 2017

2017 MLB Preview: AL Central

[This is part 2 of the series. The AL East preview can be found here]

1. Cleveland Indians

Key Acquisitions: 3B/DH Edwin EncarnacionRP Boone Logan

Key Losses: OF Rajai Davis1B/DH Mike Napoli

Outlook: The defending American League champions had a great winter on paper. In 2016, Cleveland got a .239/.335/.465 line from designated hitter Mike Napoli. He had a solid season, but this winter Cleveland was able to sign one of the few upgrades available in Edwin Encarnacion. The Indians return their entire pitching staff and will get a full season from relief ace Andrew Miller, and they added left-hander Boone Logan who's quietly been a very good reliever as well. In a very watered down AL central, Cleveland should be the first team in baseball to clinch a playoff birth this season.

2. Detroit Tigers

Key Acquisitions: None

Key Losses: CF Cameron Maybin

Outlook: There were rumblings at the beginning of the off-season that the Tigers were willing to trade any of their veterans, and a few executives expected them to blow up the roster. Unfortunately, most of their veterans drew little interest because of their massive salaries, and Detroit decided they'd rather keep these players then pay half of their salaries while they play elsewhere. The team didn't have much financial breathing room, so they did very little in the off-season. They brought back former Tigers Omar Infante and Alex Avila, but neither player is much of a difference maker at this point. The Tigers look like a .500 team at best, but a few bounce back seasons from veterans or a few lucky breaks could put them into the playoff race. Of course, injuries and more declining play from veterans could see the Tigers fall to dead last as well. It should be an interesting season if nothing else in Detroit.

Key Acquisitions: Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey, C Jason CastroRP Matt Belisle

Key Losses: None

Outlook: While former team President and GM Terry Ryan was widely praised around the league, Twins fans should know the game had simply outgrown him. Replacing him with a brilliant young CBO is a great move for an organization that badly needed it. With very little productive veterans, the team didn't lose anything of value this off-season. Jason Castro should help the pitching staff, and Belisle has been a solid reliever for years. Unfortunately, they chose not to address any other bullpen weaknesses, and barring several young players breaking out together this season, hovering around .500 seems like a best case scenario.

4. Kansas City Royals

Key Acquisitions: OF Jorge SolerOF Brandon MossSP Jason Hammel

Key Losses: CL Wade DavisSP Yordano Ventura

Outlook: To be clear, I think the Royals current roster is a better team than the Twins are likely to be this season. However, I expect them to sell off several key veterans at the deadline, which should result in a poor second-half showing. Unless they are clearly contending, they can't afford to just let their talented players leave via free agency for nothing in return. As a small market team, they could use an infusion of top prospects this summer. Hopefully they'll do better than the odd Wade Davis trade. Losing Yordano Ventura to a car crash in the Dominican Republic was a terrible tragedy that will likely effect the team all season.

Key Acquisitions: 2B Yoan MoncadaSP Michael KopechSP Lucas GiolitoSP Derek Holland

Key Losses: SP Chris SaleOF Adam Eaton

Outlook: After years of possessing one of the game's worst farm systems, the White Sox changed that in a matter of days this off-season when they traded Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox and then Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals. Both deals netted them top-100 prospects, and Yoan Moncada is one of the game's few truly elite prospects. The White Sox should be terrible this coming season, but the future looks much brighter than it has in past years and it should come sooner than expected thanks to the forward thinking trades.


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