That team in Cleveland is very good. After that? The American League Central doesn’t boast much to get excited about. The Tigers are solid and should play for a Wild Card, the Twins and White Sox are dreadful, the Royals used all of their luck for the next thirty years on that 2015 World Series *vomits* win.
Chicago White Sox
After their fourth-straight losing season, the White Sox started to blow it up this winter. They dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox in exchange for a massive haul of prospects, including baseball’s best, Yoan Moncada, and they sent Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals for another solid return.
The White Sox are bad. They were bad last year, and they gutted their roster of two of their best players. They won’t compete for a playoff spot, obviously, but how bad they actually are largely comes down to who they decide to give up on the trade market during the season to build on their prospect depth.
They still have a handful of veterans who could be sold mid-way through the season for a ransom, most notably, ace starter Jose Quintana, who’s under control for two more seasons after this one. Teams at the trade deadline could also be interested in veteran power hitting third baseman Todd Frazier or outfielder Melky Cabrera, and the team could even be inclined to sell high on Jose Abreu, if they really want to go on all-in on this blow up. They’ll certainly be baseball’s most interesting team when July rolls around, but it sure as hell won’t be because of what they’re doing on the field.
The Clevelanders won the American league Central last season. They’ll win it again this season barring a catastrophe. And it probably won’t even be close. Last season, they dominated the division, winning by eight games. This season, they’re even better than they were last.
They have their full starting rotation healthy, as Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar both missed time last year. Zach McAllister, Cody Anderson, Mike Clevinger, and their bullpen did an excellent job compensating for the injuries to two of their big three starters, but having both Carrasco and Salazar healthy is huge for this team. They also made a major improvement this winter, adding our old friend Edwin Encarnacion to replace Mike Napoli at first base. I certainly don’t have to explain to you how great Edwin is, but he makes this lineup significantly better. And hell, they’ll also get a full season of Andrew Miller this year. And Michael Brantley is back. And Yan Gomes is back.
Holy shit. This team is good. It’s hard to imagine enough going wrong for this team to, at the very least, repeat as AL Central champs. Anything can happen in the playoffs, obviously, but last season was basically this roster’s worst-case-scenario in regards to injury, and they reached Game Seven of the World Series.
But my god, their shitty, racist name, and their fans adamantly defending it is so so soooo gross. If not for that whole thing and their weird man-child jackass Trevor Bauer spewing nonsense on Twitter, this would actually be an endearing, likeable team.
The Tigers are trapped.
They’re too good to rebuild. They have one of the best hitters in baseball history in Miguel Cabrera, an ace in Justin Verlander who seems to be back to his Cy Young days, and a lineup loaded with talent like Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, and J.D. Martinez. But they aren’t good enough. They aren’t as good as Cleveland. They weren’t last season when the Clevelanders’ rotation was decimated with injuries, and they certainly aren’t now that it’s healthy. Their bullpen is bad, their rotation isn’t deep, and they’re getting older.
All they did this winter was add… Mikie Mahtook? And… Alex Avila? I mean, yikes, if you were one of the ones who complained about Steve Pearce and Kendrys Morales, take a look at what the 86-win Tigers did to better themselves this year. It’s an unenviable situation to be in, and it’s one that we, as Jays fans, can relate to. The Tigers are a good team, but they aren’t that good, and there wasn’t enough they could do in free agency to make themselves good enough.
But do you blow it up? Do you just roll with it? Where do you go? They’ll compete with Toronto and the rest of the heavy American League for the two Wild Card seeds, which seems kind of sad for a team that’s as close to being very good as this one is.
Kansas City Royals
Remember when the Kansas City Royals inexplicably bullshitted their way to a World Series win in 2015, taking down the vastly superior Blue Jays on the way? Neither do I. But apparently it happened. Anyways, the Royals used up all of their voodoo magic luck on that championship run, and now they’ve fallen back down where they belong, which is a middling team with many, many holes in it. Their bullpen isn’t the same as it was, with Wade Davis and Greg Holland gone, Kendrys Morales signing with the Jays in free agency leaves a massive hole in their lineup, and their lineup that relied so heavily on batted ball luck has, again, returned to earth.
As much as Kansas City’s bizarre playoff success being responsible for stealing Toronto’s 2015 World Series is frustrating, it feels wrong to talk negatively about them right now. Over the offseason, Yordano Ventura was tragically killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. He certainly had his spats with the Blue Jays, as he was public enemy number one back in 2015, calling out Jose Bautista, hitting Josh Donaldson, and all of that, but none of it really matters now. A guy lost his life, and the Royals lost a brother. It’s something that’ll loom over them all season when they go out there and play without him.
It’s hard to imagine the Royals making the playoffs because, well, they simply don’t have that strong of a roster. But if they could rally and pull something together in the wake of this tragedy, it really would be an incredible thing to witness.
The Twins, man, they’re awful. They lost 103 games last season. There isn’t many reasons to assume they’ll be any better this season. Maybe they can win some games off of their young talent, but their pitching rotation will likely hold them back.
What the hell else is there to say here?!
Sort of objective prediction
This isn’t a difficult division to predict. Cleveland will take the American League Central banner, while the White Sox and Twins occupy the basement. The Tigers will compete for a Wild Card spot, and if everything goes right, they could grab one. The Royals are the unpredictable on that could go either way, but it’s safest to assume they’ll middle around the .500 mark, not really anywhere near playoff contention.