Tigers by a Whisker in a Wide-Open Division

AL Central Should Be Wide Open

One last roar? I think so.
This could be one of MLB's more interesting divisions. All five teams have a legitimate shot at winning the Central; all five are also flawed and could tank horribly. It still looks like the Tigers' division to lose, but the Striped Cats are by no means a lock and they're not as good as last year.

Why the Tigers Should Win: Even after losing Scherzer, who wouldn't want a staff with Verlander, Price, and Sanchez? If Alfredo Simón makes the NL-to-AL transition and Greene is a decent # 5, the Tigers' staff will remain formidable. Add MLB's best offensive player–yes, he's still better than Mike Trout–in Miggy Cabrera; mix him in with Kinsler, Céspedes, Avila, and the emerging J. D. Martinez and Detroit will provide plenty of run support.

            Why Detroit May Go Bankrupt: Verlander hasn't dominated for several years and the bullpen is very shaky (Joba, Albuquerque, Soria, Nathan). I didn't think Iglesias was very good before he missed all of last year, nor am I convinced Céspedes will ever hit for average. A key injury or two could cage the Tigers.

Will the Royals Again Be Flush? Call me skeptical. Losing James Shields hurts—a lot! Vólquez arrives–the he'll-be-a-star former phenom who's all of 66-59 lifetime based on just two good years out of nine. Ventura might be their ace, but I can't say I've ever thought much of Vargas or Guthrie. I still think Wade Davis ought to be a starter. Holland had an amazing year last year, but can he duplicate it? The offense hits for power—headed by Hosmer, Gordon, Infante, Morales, and a resurgent Moustaka. Perez looks poised to become an elite catcher.
            For all of this, I need the Royals to pull an Ultimate Missouri and show me they're for real. It's still a team that relies on big innings from guys whose on-base percentages could/should be better. Are the Royals 4-5 games worse without Shields? I think so and that makes them just an 84-win team. 

Can the Indians Pull a Surprise Attack? They could, though losing Gavin Floyd to the DL doesn't help. Kluber is the reigning Cy Young winner, Bauer is very good, and McAlister should be. Cody Allen as closer doesn't inspire though. Nice outfield with Brantley, Murphy, and Bourn, though the latter needs to justify his inflated contract and he simply hasn't done so yet. Moss at first sends Chisenhall across the diamond to third­–potentially a defensive problem. Catcher Carlos Santana might see action at third–not good. Love Kipnis at second.

Did the White Sox Buy Respectability? No. Not with Chris Sale on the DL. Let's just say that Noesi isn't a replacement. I also fail to see the Samardzja hype. Melky Cabrera comes over, but the Sox will miss Adam Dunn. Unless a few guys catch fire–including a few (Eaton, Beckham, Flowers) who seem to be made of asbestos–this team might struggle to score. Closer David Robertson is a nice addition, but they overpaid to get him.


1. Tigers: Soft pick that can be picked off. Every year they look ferocious on paper and each year they are less than the sum of their parts. This year they look weaker, so logic dictates that 2015 will be the year they roar!
2. Indians: Terry Francona is one of the best managers in baseball. This club won't astonish anyone with its star power, but it looks like the team Billy Beane always tried to build in Oakland. Call this a hunch, but I see the Indians in the playoffs.
3. Royals: Was 2014 the sign of things to come, or just a lucky aberration? Show me again in 2015 and I'll start believing.
4. White Sox: Splashy off-season, but still way too many holes. There's enough talent on the South Side for the Sox to be this year's Royals, but I don't think that will happen. I still say the White Sox will do better than the Cubs, though.
5. Twins: Not this year, but soon. Nice mix of veterans (Mauer, Hunter, Suzuki) and rising youngsters (Dozier, Arcia, Plouffe), but the Twins simply don't yet have enough pitching to get to the postseason—Hughes, Santana, and Nolasco have to be on anyone's "Most Likely to Disappoint" list. But watch them–they won't lose 92 games again this year. 

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