Ladies and gents, baseball season is officially here. Pitchers and position players have reported to camps in Arizona and Florida and some teams have already kicked off their spring training schedules.
We continue our division previews with the AL Central. This division last season was by far away the most competitive in all of baseball with the Tigers edging the Royals for the division crown.
Look for this division to be one of the most exciting to watch yet again in 2015 with the emergence of the Indians and White Sox and the ever improving Twins.
Here’s a team-by-team look, starting with the champs.
Feb 23, 2015; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander (35) pitches during Mondays workout at Joker Merchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
90-72 in 2014
Key Additions: OF Yoenis Cespedes, RHP Alfredo Simon, RHP Shane Greene
Key Subtractions: RHP Max Scherzer, RHP Rick Porcello, OF Torii Hunter, LHP Phil Coke
The Tigers will look different from the team we have seen make deep playoff runs over the last handful of years. In are Simon and Greene into the rotation and out are Scherzer and Porcello. The addition of Cespedes adds depth to an already really good offensive unit.
Some questions still remain though. Coming off of an injury and a down season, is Miguel Cabrera about to leave his prime? Has the bullpen improved enough?
Those questions will have to be answered in order for Detroit to finally get over the hump and win a World Series title.
Feb 23, 2015; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals players jog during a workout at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Kansas City Royals
89-73 in 2014
Key Additions: OF Alex Rios, 1B Kendrys Morales, RHP Kris Medlen, RHP Edinson Volquez
Key Subtractions: RHP James Shields, DH Billy Butler, OF Nori Aoki
There wasn’t a more surprising team than the Royals last season. Coming out of nowhere, they nearly shocked the baseball world and won a World Series.
Kansas City returns most of their team from 2014. Shields and Butler are elsewhere, but those aren’t huge blows considering how they recovered. Volquez and Medlen, when healthy, aren’t a huge drop-off from Shields and Butler wasn’t particularly good for most of last season anyways.
Teams across the league will be gunning for them in 2015 though, something that the Royals didn’t have to deal with last season. That’s going to be a big adjustment for a young baseball team.
All the pieces are there for them to make another deep postseason run though.
Sep 28, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians left fielder Michael Brantley (23) and second baseman Jason Kipnis (22) leave the field after the Indians
85-77 in 2014
Key Additions: OF Brandon Moss, RHP Gavin Floyd
Key Subtractions: DH Jason Giambi
Cleveland was very quiet during the winter, trading for Moss and signing Floyd. Moss is a nice power bat to add to a lineup, which was 11th in runs scored in 2014.
As for Floyd, don’t expect much for him. The veteran right-hander has had only 14 starts over the past two years with a slew of injuries. Plus, the Indians already have a rotation filled with good young arms.
I wouldn’t be completely shocked if this team went the way of the Royals in 2015. All of the pieces are there; rotation depth, a quality bullpen and an under the radar offense, to surprise people.
Sep 28, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton lays down a bunt single against the Kansas City Royals during the fourth inning at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago White Sox
73-89 in 2014
Key Additions: OF Melky Cabrera, 1B Adam LaRoche, RHP Jeff Samardzija, Closer David Robertson
Key Subtractions: 1B Paul Konerko (retired), IF Marcus Semien
For as quiet as the Indians, the White Sox were equally as loud. They were by far and away the biggest winners of the offseason with the moves they made.
They got two starters in Cabrera and LaRoche, a top of the rotation guy in Samardzija and a closer in Robertson. They probably overpaid for D-Rob a tad, but they had to in order to pry him away from New York.
The strength of this club is clearly in their pitching. The Sale/Samardzija combo will form one of the best 1-2 punches in the American League and the bullpen should be much improved.
It remains to be seen if this team is going to hit enough. Even with the additions of Cabrera and LaRoche, questions remain in second base, third base and right field.
Oct. 14, 2014; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Minnesota Twins outfielder Byron Buxton plays for the Salt River Rafters during an Arizona Fall League game against the Surprise Saguaros at Salt River Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
70-92 in 2014
Key Additions: OF Torii Hunter, RHP Ervin Santana, RHP Tim Stauffer
Key Subtractions: 1B/OF Chris Colabello
Don’t fear Twins fans, things are looking up for you. The future is extremely bright.
With having such a young roster, Minnesota was pretty quiet on the free agency market with their big splash being them bringing back Hunter. At this stage of his career, he’s a perfect guy to help mentor the young pups.
The Twinkies also made a couple of under the radar signings in Santana and Stauffer. Santana will probably be this team’s No. 2 starter behind Phil Hughes with Stauffer suited for a middle relief role.
Most Twins fans will have attention centered on Byron Buxton instead of the guys on the major league club. You should expect the consensus No. 1 prospect in the game to be called up at some point during the season.