At long last, I am back again. School has been killer on my schedule, allowing me ZERO time to post anything. But, I have some time now, so I thought I’d run down the A. L. Central for ya’s.
1. Twins – The Twinkies boast of THE best pitcher in the game right now. I’m talking about Boof Bonser, of course! Just kidding, hehe. Although Boof does show promise, you know who I am talking about. Johan Santana is not only the best pitcher in the Majors, he will continue to be for a few years yet. The only thing that may slow him down is the fact that he also either leads or is close to leading the Majors in innings pitched. Those tend to wear a pitcher out. After Santana in the rotation is Carlos Silva, a veteran who needs to pick up after last season’s 11-15 record and 5.94 ERA. Joe Nathan is an absolute STUD in the pen. This guy is sparkling, if you don’t believe me, just look at his numbers last year. How many closers were 7-0 with 36 saves and a 1.58 ERA? Just one. Oh, did I forget to mention the fact that the Twins have in their hitting arsenal not only the reigning batting champ, but also the reigning A. L. MVP? Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau will once again rise to the challenge and put up monster numbers. I do, however, predict that Mauer’s average will drop some as he hits for more power. They also have Michael Cuddyer out there in right field. Make a steal of him in your fantasy draft, he will lead the team in homers this year. Overall, the Twins are still very young and will continue to contend for the lead in the very tough Central division.
2. White Sox – The South-siders went 90-72 last year, and finished third, that’s right, THIRD in their division. That’s how tough the Central is. This year, the Sox are going to have to figure out how to just a few more games to jump ahead of the Twins and Tigers (and possibly the Indians) and make the playoffs. The rotation is anchored by their ace, Mark Buehrle. He suffered a down year last year, and is hoping to come back strong. Jon Garland won 18 games for the second year in a row, yet no one knows about it. I’m thinking he won’t win that many this year, but will come close. They also have workhorses Jose Contreras and Javier Vazquez starting. Bobby Jenks is nasty on the mound in the 9th. His setup guys, Mike MacDougal and Matt Thorton are equally as tough. The lineup is extremely powerful, with Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye, and Paul Konerko in the middle crushing balls into the bleachers at the Cell. Of course, my "pick to click" is always Joe Crede. What can I say, I love the guy, he is continuing to get better at the plate, and is Gold Glove material at 3rd. If you don’t know what the "pick to click" is, watch and listen to Hawk and Darrin (a former Brewer) on WGN. It’s great. The big question mark however, is if Scotty Podsednik (another former Brewer) can hit for average while he steals his bases. If he can, look out for the Sox to take over 1st place.
3. Tigers – The first thing the Tigers worked on in Spring Training is pitcher’s defense. It was horrible in the Series. But, it’s a new season, and the Tigers are looking to hold on to that pennant. Pitching is what got them that pennant in the first place, and the offseason held no changes for the Tigers. Justin Verlander is coming off a ROY season, but look for his to falter some. Kenny Rogers Chicken is looking more and more like Roger Clemens, getting better as he ages. Jeremy Bonderman is also getting better every season, look for him to do the same, possible Cy Young here. He’s got that good of stuff. In the pen, the Tigers acquired crafty veteran Jose Mesa to add to the already superior staff. Todd Jones continues to rack up the saves, even though he doesn’t have much on the fastball (he’s tricky with the offspeed stuff), and Joel Zumaya can throw about Mach 5. Nasty stuff there. At the plate, the Tigers improved in the power category, adding one of my least favorite players, Gary Sheffield. Anyone who remembers him from the Brewers in the late 80s and early 90s knows why. He was a team cancer. Joining him in the middle of the order is Magglio Ordonez and Pudge Rodriguez. Pudge is one of the greatest to ever play the 2, and Mags will have an even better year power-wise this season, watch for him. The only thing that will keep the Tigers from keeping that penant will be if the stellar young starters falter and when (not if) Sheffield isolates himself.
Indians – Two years ago, the Tribe looked like they might have a chance to make the playoffs. Last year they were 6 games below .500. This year, they try to jump out of 4th place again. Unless they can pull some rabbits out of their gloves, that won’t happen. The starters will win games, with C.C. Sabathia and Jake Westbrook at the front. Both are veteran workhorses with good stuff. Cliff Lee is also in the mix, look for him to improve on his 14 win season last year. The bullpen, however, isn’t looking too pretty. They signed Keith Foulke in the offseason. Look for him to do absolutely nothing this year, mainly because he retired a month after they signed him. After him, their is Joe Borowski, a veteran way past his prime. The offense will be good again, with Pronk (Travis Hafner) crushing the ball. Grady Sizemore will be in the All-Star game this year too. He’s only getting better. Victor Martinez is a great offensive catcher, but can’t throw anyone out. Look for him to play some first. With the shady defense and only mediocre bullpen and 4th and 5th starters, look for the Tribe to hold onto 4th place again.
5. Royals – One can’t help but wonder, is this the year that Kansas City FINALLY jumps out of the cellar? I’m putting my money on "no." They signed Gil Meche, the definition of mediocrity, to a $55 million contract, hoping that he will become an ace. Although he has talent, I’m just not sure he has enough to justify that much $$$. Joining him are other talented-but-just-not-star pitchers, such as Odalis Perez and Luke Hudson. Jorge De La Rosa (a former Brewer) looks to join the staff. The best pitcher, in my mind, is Zack Greinke, who had to take time off of baseball last season to deal with personal issues. I hope he has taken care of those, because he is an excellent pitcher if he can control himself. Once again, there won’t be much run-scoring going on in KC this season. Mark Sweeney is still the dominant hitter he has always been, but needs to stay healthy. Mark Teahen has the potential to be a regular All-Star, though. You might want to think about drafting him in your fantasy league, he’s eligible at 3rd, even though he’s moving to the OF this year. The bullpen got an upgrade from last year’s awfulness (it’s a word) with Octavio Dotel becoming the closer, although he hasn’t pitched in more than 15 games since 2004. They also signed David Riske and John Bale to help in the pen. Although they probably won’t lose 100 games this season, don’t count on the Royals to move anywhere out of the bottom of the division