2012 AL Central Preview and Predictions

FanIQ MLB Preview - The Tigers are the class of a muddled division

3/29/12 in MLB   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

For a few days, it looked like the AL Central would be wide open after Tigers DH Victor Martinez went down for the season. Of course, the Tigers quickly responded by signing Prince Fielder to a big money deal. Just like that, Detroit became the overwhelming favorite in the AL Central, which four teams with big question marks chasing.
 
Here is FanIQ’s preview and predictions for the American League Central.
 
1.) Detroit Tigers
 
Projected Lineup:
CF Austin Jackson
RF Brennan Boesch
3B Miguel Cabrera
1B Prince Fielder
DH Delmon Young
C Alex Avila
SS Jhonny Peralta
LF Andy Dirks
2B Ryan Raburn
 
Projected Rotation
:
Justin Verlander
Max Scherzer
Doug Fister
Rick Porcello
Andrew Oliver/Jacob Turner
 
Closer: Jose Valverde
 
That lineup sure looks a lot better with Prince Fielder anchoring it, doesn’t it? Him and Cabrera might be the best 1-2 punch in the league, and most of the rest of the lineup are at least solid, even if none of them save Avila like taking a walk (of course, regression is the prime worry with Avila). The reigning Cy Young winner Verlander heads up a pretty good rotation as well. Look for top prospect Jacob Turner to join this rotation at some point this season.
 
The Achilles’ heel of the Tigers comes on defense. Miguel Cabrera’s well publicized move to third base has disaster written all over it, and that was before he took a baseball to the face. Yes, he used to play third but that was years and many pounds ago. Compounding the problem is that the rest of Detroit’s infield is no great shakes with the glove either. This will likely hurt the non-Verlander members of the pitching staff, especially Doug Fister and Rick Porcello, both ground ball reliant pitchers. This will be something worth watching in Detroit all year.
 
Of course, for the Tigers “all year” is likely to include October, barring injury disaster. They are almost as good as the top teams in the East and West, but have a much easier division to deal with, making them more likely to get to October than any of the big coastal teams. Once the playoffs start, anything can happen.
 
Projected Record:
92-70

2.) Cleveland Indians
 
Projected Lineup:
CF Michael Brantley
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
RF Shin-Soo Choo
C Carlos Santana
DH Travis Hafner
1B Casey Kotchman
2B Jason Kipnis
LF Shelly Duncan
3B Jack Hannahan
 
Projected Rotation:
Justin Masterson
Ubaldo Jimenez
Derek Lowe
Josh Tomlin
Kevin Slowey
 
Closer: Chris Perez
 
After a few lost years, 2011 saw the Cleveland rebuilding project get a nice jolt with a hot start and a better than expected 80-82 (sounds bad, but if I recall correctly the Indians were predicted to be one of the worst teams in baseball last year). At first glance, one can see some potential steps forward and some potential steps back. An offensive that only ranked 9th in the AL in runs should enjoy another step forward for Carlos Santana, as well as a bounce back year from Choo and a full season of exciting rookie Kipnis. On the other end, don’t count on 25 homers from Cabrera again, or that Casey Kotchman will be as good as he was last year in Tampa.
 
On the mound, Justin Masterson quietly posted a 3.21 ERA last year. His peripherals don’t scream fluke, but a slight regression is probable all the same. What the Indians really need is Ubaldo Jimenez to find some of his old Rockies form. Another ERA over 5 as an Indian will sink the season. They also need Derek Lowe to be a league average inning eater. For Tomlin and Slowey, league average is their ceiling.
 
Given the likely step-ups and step backs for the Indians, overall it’s looking like they’ll stay right where they are.
 
Projected Record: 82-80

Read on for the rest of the division.
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