Saturday, March 21, 2015

2015 MLB preview, part 6: AL Central breakdown

Two weeks before opening day. Let's move on to the AL Central.

Amazingly, at least one media outlet has bought into the belief that the Chicago White Sox, in former star Robin Ventura's 3rd season as manager, could win the division. For openers, after DH/First baseman Paul Konerko retired, the Sox needed to find a power bat to fill the void. So, they signed Adam LaRoche (Washington) as a free agent. LaRoche will spend more time at DH due to Jose Abreu being the incumbent at first. For more offense, Chicago signed Melky Cabrera (Toronto) to shore up the outfield, but the biggest changes are on the mound. Former Notre Dame football star Jeff Samardzija returns to Chicago after a mid-season sojurn in Oakland after the Cubs gave up on him for whatever reason. David Robertson, after a year of trying to fill the void in New York created by Mariano Rivera's retirement, moves in as the Sox's new closer. That's going to cost the Yankees. Trust me.

However, folks are sleeping on the defending AL champs, the Kansas City Royals.Yes, they lost some offense, seeing Billy Butler (Oakland) and Noriyuki Aoki (San Francisco) leave as free agents, and after all the hoopla of getting James Shields at the trade deadline in 2013, he's fled as well (San Diego). Taking his place is Kris Medlen, who couldn't pitch at all for Atlanta last year due to Tommy John surgery. Alex Rios (Texas) replaces Aoki in right. Kendrys Morales (Seattle) replaces Butler at DH. The post-season provided a showcase for the Royals' killer bullpen, and I think they may be key to the Royals getting back to the post-season on this, the 30th anniversary of their lone World Series title.

In Detroit, there is still some life in the Tigers, even though Justin Verlander didn't perform as well as normal last year. Then again, having Kate Upton as an off-field armpiece may have something to do with that. Brad Ausmus' club has to reload the starting rotation with Max Scherzer (Washington) & Rick Porcello (Boston) gone. Alfredo Simon, who came over from Cincinnati, is only part of the answer, not all of it. Not so sure about Shane Greene, who came over from the Yankees. Greene was inconsistent last season. Detroit starts the season with an outfield of Yoenis Cespedes (Boston), Anthony Gose (Toronto), and J. D. Martinez, who moves from left to right after the former Valleycat had a breakout season last year. Torii Hunter returned to his original team, the Minnesota Twins, and I'd not be surprised if this will be the end of the trail. Hall of Famer Paul Molitor takes over for Ron Gardenhire in the dugout, and has to rebuild, if not also reboot, a club that tumbled all the way to the cellar the last couple of seasons. The Twinkies jokes will start again if Minnesota doesn't get off to a fast start.

The Cleveland Indians said goodbye to DH Jason Giambi, who retired after last season, and another ex-Yankee, Nick Swisher, might be best suited to fill the position due to recent injury issues. Cy Young winner Corey Kluber is a late bloomer that everyone slept on last season. Brandon Moss comes over from Oakland to platoon with Carlos Santana at first. Santana, who has also been a catcher and 3rd baseman, has seen his stock fall due to injury as well, and the Indians, no longer able to trust him behind the plate, went out and got Yan Gomes from Toronto before last season. Meh. Sure, they made a nice run late, but they can't afford to fall too far behind this time.

Projected order of finish:

1. Kansas City.
2. Chicago.
2. (tie) Detroit.
4. Cleveland.
4 (tie). Minnesota.

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