What is it they say about spring and eternal hope? Can the Royals or Indians cage the Tigers? Of course not!
The Tigers should go to the Series. Call it addition by subtraction–the highly overrated Jim Leyland yields to Brad Asmus as manager, and they suckered the Rangers into swapping Ian Kinsler for the one-dimensional Prince Fielder. The Tigers have MLB’s best hitter, Miggy Cabrera, and its best pitcher, Justin Verlander. Surround Cabrera with Avila, Hunter, and V-Mart, and the rest just need to get on base occasionally. I’m not sold on Rajal Davis, though his OBP will be better than Austin Jackson’s. The staff? Verlander, last year’s Cy Young winner (Scherzer), plus Smyly, Sanchez, and Porcello. Nathan gives them a real closer for a change. It says here that Smyly will be dominant, that Iglesias’ average comes back to earth, and that Joba and Coke will still stink.
The Indians have Terry Francona, one of MLB’s best managers. He’ll get the best out of Swisher, Kipnis, Bourn, Brantley, Santana, and Murphy. Asrubal Cabrera is now the league’s best shortstop. Masterson and McAllister head a staff with so many question marks that the Tribe signed Aaron Harang, which can’t be encouraging. Who’s on third? They need a big bat. Jeff Francoeur says he’s rejuvenated. I’ve only heard that for a decade.
The Royals are a sexy pick for a wild card. They certainly have fewer holes than the Indians and a nice stable of pitchers with Shields, Chen, Guthrie, Brooks, and Davis. They always hit well, though seldom timely enough, and seldom with high OBP. It starts with Gordon–who must stay healthy–and then it’s Moustakas, Hosmer, and the useful Butler. Infante should help, Perez is rising as a catcher, and Bonifacio looks like he’s ready. Lots of unproven guys, though.
The White Sox never seem to find the right chemistry. The pitching should be good, though Sale was hurt a lot of last year and Danks and Axelrod were terrible. Highly regarded rookie RHP Erik Johnson will get a shot at this team. The lineup has two guys, Dunn and Konerko, born to be DHs–a problem as Jose Abreru, Flowers, and Eaton aren’t enough sticks. Keppinger is a nice player; Beckham not even close to his projections. Their closer, Nate Jones, never has done so.
Call the Twins the Cubs of the AL Central. Mauer goes to first, Willingham is decent in left, Suzuki is steady behind the plate and then everything is up for grabs. Prospects like Buxton (OF), Sano (3B), and Myer (RHP) are on the way, but how far can kids take the Twins? Probably further than a staff headed by Nolasco, Hughes, and Pelfry–candidates for the All-Star Major Disappointment squad. Perkins and Duensing, who were supposed to the answer, are in the bullpen.
1. Tigers: They have a shaky pen, but too many swords to lose the Central.
2. Royals: Hope in KC, but still not enough to win the division.
3. Indians: Francona will get the best from a squad that’s not good enough.
4. White Sox: Might lose 90 games.
5. Twins: Wait until 2016.