A team-by-team preview of the AL Central.
1 | Detroit Tigers
He’s here: OF Torii Hunter.
He’s outta here: OF Brennan Boesch, C Gerald Laird, OF Ryan Raburn, LHP Daniel Schlereth, RHP Jose Valverde, DH Delmon Young.
Written in Stone: The Tigers’ already potent lineup, anchored by Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, should be even better, and not just because of the addition of Torii Hunter. They also get back Victor Martinez, last seen hitting .330 and driving in 103 runs in 2011 before knee surgery wiped out all of 2012. And it’s hard to knock a rotation anchored by Justin Verlander and bolstered all season by Anibal Sanchez, acquired last July from the Marlins. Rick Porcello, reportedly on the trade block all winter, won the fifth starting job over Drew Smyly, and ex-Mariner Doug Fister is always solid. But if the Tigers want to get back to the World Series, they’ll have to figure out their bullpen. Rookie Bruce Rondon, who throws 100 mph, was supposed to be the closer, but he flamed out in spring and was sent down. Jim Leyland will start the year with the dreaded “committee,” which is always ominous.
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|CF Austin Jackson||.300||16||66|
|RF Torii Hunter||.313||16||92|
|3B M. Cabrera||.330||44||139|
|1B Prince Fielder||.313||30||108|
|DH V. Martinez*||.330||12||103|
|LF Andy Dirks||.322||8||35|
|SS Jhonny Peralta||.239||13||63|
|C Alex Avila||.243||9||48|
|2B Omar Infante||.274||12||53|
|RH J. Verlander||17-8||2.64||239|
|RH M. Scherzer||16-7||3.74||231|
|RH Doug Fister||10-10||3.45||137|
|RH A. Sanchez||9-13||3.86||167|
|RH Rick Porcello||10-12||4.59||153|
|RH J. Benoit||3.68||2||4|
2 | Kansas City Royals
He’s here: RHP Ervin Santana, RHP James Shields, RHP Wade Davis.
He’s outta here: INF Yuniesky Betancourt, LHP Jonathan Sanchez, RHP Jonathan Broxton, RHP Joakim Soria, C Humberto Quintero.
Written in Stone: The Royals have had one winning season since 1994, so patience has been a necessity. But the long-awaited fruits of a prosperous minor-league system could finally be seen this year. They used one of their primo prospects, Wil Myers, as the prime trade chip to land James Shields and Wade Davis from Tampa Bay. The Royals will have four starters they didn’t have last year at the All-Star break (Shields, Davis, Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie). Change was necessary, because KC’s starters put up a 5.01 ERA. Their bullpen was actually quite good, led by closer Greg Holland (91 strikeouts in 67 innings). Royals fans were dismayed to see Jeff Francoeur, coming off a terrible season, back in right field. And second baseman Chris Getz, who beat out Johnny Giavotella, doesn’t inspire much confidence.
|LF Alex Gordon||.294||14||72|
|SS A. Escobar||.293||5||52|
|DH Billy Butler||.313||29||107|
|3B M. Moustakas||.243||20||73|
|C Salvador Perez||.301||11||39|
|1B Eric Hosmer||.230||14||61|
|CF Lorenzo Cain||.266||7||31|
|RF Jeff Francoeur||.235||16||49|
|2B Chris Getz||.275||0||17|
|RH J. Shields||15-10||3.52||223|
|RH E. Santana||9-13||5.16||133|
|RH J. Guthrie||8-12||4.76||101|
|RH Wade Davis||3-0||2.43||87|
|RH L. Mendoza||8-10||4.23||104|
|RH G. Holland||2.96||16||4|
3 | Chicago White Sox
He’s here: 3B Jeff Keppinger, RHP Matt Lindstrom.
He’s outta here: C A.J. Pierzynski, 3B Kevin Youkilis, RHP Brett Myers, SS Jose Lopez, OF Kosuke Fukudome, INF Orlando Hudson.
Written in Stone: The White Sox had a three-game division lead on Sept. 18, but lost 11 of their final 15 games as the Tigers shot past them. Still, 85 wins was more than most expected in Robin Ventura’s debut managerial season. The key was a productive offense that finished fourth in the AL in runs, as four players hit 25 or more homers. Adam Dunn led the way with 41, which helped compensate for the .204 average and 222 (!) strikeouts. Paul Konerko, 37, just keeps churning out .300 seasons, and this year will drop from cleanup to fifth in the order. He seems to be fine after left wrist surgery. The Sox will have a new regular catcher for the first time since 2004, with 27-year-old Tyler Flowers taking over for departed A.J. Pierzynski. A huge plus last year was the breakout of Chris Sale, who was slated originally for the bullpen but emerged as a Cy Young candidate with a 17-8 record. Veteran starter John Danks starts the year on the DL (left shoulder weakness).
|CF A. De Aza||.281||9||50|
|3B J. Keppinger||.325||9||40|
|RF Alex Rios||.304||25||91|
|DH Adam Dunn||.204||41||96|
|1B Paul Konerko||.298||26||75|
|LF Dayan Viciedo||.255||25||78|
|SS Alexei Ramirez||.265||9||73|
|C Tyler Flowers||.213||7||13|
|2B G. Beckham||.234||16||60|
|RH Jake Peavy||11-12||3.37||194|
|LH Chris Sale||17-8||3.05||192|
|RH Gavin Floyd||12-11||4.29||144|
|LH J. Quintana||6-6||3.76||81|
|RH D. Axelrod||2-2||5.47||40|
|RH A. Reed||4.75||29||4|
4 | Cleveland Indians
He’s here: OF Michael Bourn, 1B Nick Swisher, OF Drew Stubbs, DH Mark Reynolds, RHP Brett Myers, LHP Scott Kazmir, INF/OF Ryan Raburn, INF Mike Aviles, RHP Matt Albers.
He’s outta here: OF Shin-Soo Choo, DH Travis Hafner, OF Grady Sizemore, INF Jack Hannahan, 1B Casey Kotchman, INF/OF Brent Lillibridge, INF Jason Donald, OF Johnny Damon.
Written in Stone: With four new starters — Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, Mark Reynolds and Drew Stubbs — the Indians should have a vastly improved lineup after scoring fewer runs last year than any AL team but Seattle. The Indians are convinced that Lonnie Chisenhall, who hit better than .400 this spring, is poised for a breakout season. Terry Francona’s hiring as manager has infused the entire organization with a positive vibe. But, oh, that rotation. The top starters, Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez, lost a combined 32 games last year — and then it gets dicier. Waiting in Class AAA: Dice-K, who would be the Indians’ second Human Rain Delay. Closer Chris Perez missed most of training camp with a shoulder strain.
|CF Michael Bourn||.274||9||57|
|SS A. Cabrera||.270||16||66|
|2B Jason Kipnis||.259||14||77|
|1B Nick Swisher||.272||24||93|
|LF M. Brantley||.286||6||60|
|C Carlos Santana||.252||18||76|
|DH M. Reynolds||.221||23||69|
|3B L. Chisenhall||.268||5||16|
|RF Drew Stubbs||.213||14||40|
|RH J. Masterson||11-15||4.93||159|
|RH U. Jimenez||9-17||5.55||143|
|RH Brett Myers||3-8||3.31||41|
|RH Z. McAllister||6-8||4.24||110|
|LH S. Kazmir*||9-15||5.94||93|
|RH Chris Perez||3.59||39||4|
5 | Minnesota Twins
He’s here: RHP Mike Pelfrey, RHP Vance Worley, RHP Kevin Correia, CF Aaron Hicks.
He’s outta here: OF Denard Span, OF Ben Revere, RHP Scott Baker, LHP Francisco Liriano, RHP Carl Pavano, INF Alexi Casilla, RHP Matt Capps.
Written in Stone: The Twins, losers of a combined 195 games in back-to-back last-place seasons, still look like a hot mess. But the big hope is that the Justin Morneau-Joe Mauer killer combo will be back at full force, which can overcome a lot of deficiencies. Morneau seems to have put his concussions and surgeries in the past (and could be a monster trade chip at the deadline), while Mauer feels better this spring than he has in years and should contend for his fourth batting title. The shiny new toy is top prospect Aaron Hicks, who takes over in center despite never playing higher than Class AA. The Twins had the second-highest starters ERA in the majors last year, and based on spring performances, this year’s quintet could be just as bad. If it all falls apart again, longtime manager Ron Gardenhire could be in trouble. He’s at the end of his contract.
|CF Aaron Hicks*||.286||13||61|
|2B Brian Dozier||.234||6||33|
|C Joe Mauer||.319||10||85|
|LF J. Willingham||.260||35||110|
|1B J. Morneau||.267||19||77|
|DH Ryan Doumit||.275||18||75|
|RF Chris Parmelee||.224||5||20|
|3B Trevor Plouffe||.235||24||55|
|SS P. Florimon||.219||1||10|
|RH V. Worley||6-9||4.20||107|
|RH Mike Pelfrey||7-13||4.74||105|
|RH Kevin Correia||12-11||4.21||89|
|RH Cole De Vries||5-5||4.11||58|
|LH S. Diamond||12-9||3.54||90|
|LH Glen Perkins||2.56||16||4|