FanIQ AL Central Preview

The Tigers Once Again Look Like the Class of the AL Central [FanIQ AL Central Preview]

3/12/13 in MLB   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Blog Photo - FanIQ AL Central PreviewLast season, the assumption in the AL Central is that the Tigers would run away with it. However, the White Sox led Detroit most of the year before fading, and it took until late in the season for the Tigers to finally win the division. This of course was forgotten when the Tigers won the AL pennant, where they were then swept by the Giants in World Series. This year, once again the consensus is the AL Central is all Detroit, despite intriguing moves made by Cleveland and Kansas City. Is that truly the case?

Welcome to the first of our MLB Division Previews for 2013. We’re starting with the Central divisions because no one ever does. The NL Central will come on Thursday, with the East divisions next week and the West divisions the week after. Each team capsule will have the projected lineup and rotation and key losses, as well as projected record, and a quick look at who to watch in the minors.

With that, let’s get to the AL Central, where I go out on a real limb in predicting the winner…

(Teams are listed in predicted order of finish. All lineups are from MLBDepthCharts.com. Bold indicates new acquisition. Italics indicate rookie.)

Detroit Tigers

Projected Lineup

CF Austin Jackson
RF Torii Hunter
3B Miguel Cabrera
1B Prince Fielder
DH Victor Martinez
LF Andy Dirks
SS Jhonny Peralta
C Alex Aliva
2B Omar Infante
 
Projected Rotation
 
RHP Justin Verlander
RHP Doug Fister
RHP Max Scherzer
RHP Anibal Sanchez
RHP Rick Porcello
 
Closer: RHP Bruce Rondon
 
Key Losses: C Gerald Laird, RP Jose Valverde, RF Delmon Young, UT Ryan Raburn
 
Expected to be an offensive machine, the 2012 Tigers were only 6th in the AL in runs, even with Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. That figure looks to improve though with the return of Victor Martinez and the signing of Torii Hunter. Add those two to the twin powerhouses Cabrera and Fielder and a post breakout Austin Jackson and you have the makings of a potent offense.
 
Add to that a rotation that also looks to be among the best in baseball. Justin Verlander’s greatness goes without saying, but behind him is a lot of talent as well. Doug Fister is a fine #2, while Max Scherzer broke out to finish second to Verlander in strikeouts last year. Anibal Sanchez blossomed after getting traded to Detroit, and was rewarded with a 5 year, $80 million deal to be a fourth starter, even though his talent exceeds that. Porcello, a former top prospect who doesn’t strike out enough guys, is the weak link, but he’s not bad and might be traded still to make room for left hander Drew Smyly (or Smyly wil win the job in camp). Turning to the bullpen, Bruce Rondon is currently the likely closer. Despite some misgivings, Rondon should be fine if he’s given the job since he a.)  throws 102 mph, and b.) is not Jose Valverde. If not Rondon, it’ll likely be Joaquin Benoit or Phil Coke.
 
The weakness of the Tigers is the same weakness from last year: defense, particularly infield defense. Martinez coming back is good for the offense, but coming off a torn ACL, he’ll be almost solely a DH, meaning Cabrera and Fielder will spend the whole year in the field. Middle infielders Peralta and Infante don’t grade out as great shakes with the glove either. As such, Detroit was 26th in baseball last year in Defensive Efficiency, and it’s unlikely they’ll be much better this time around. Overall though, the Tigers are easily the class of the division, and should be right in the mix to defend their AL title.
 
Projected Record: 92-70
 
Down on the Farm: As the Tigers have focused on winning now, the farm system has suffered a bit. The top prospect is 3B Nick Castellanos, and he’s at least another year away. OF Avisail Garcia, who we saw on the playoff roster, could end up back in the bigs at some point depending on how his AAA stint goes.
 
Blog Photo - FanIQ AL Central PreviewChicago White Sox
 
Projected Lineup
 
CF Alejandro De Aza
3B Jeff Keppinger
RF Alex Rios
1B Paul Konerko
DH Adam Dunn
LF Dayan Viciedo
SS Alexei Ramirez
C Tyler Flowers
2B Gordon Beckham
 
Projected Rotation
 
LHP Chris Sale
RHP Jake Peavy
LHP John Danks
RHP Gavin Floyd
LHP Jose Quintana
 
Closer: RHP Addison Reed
 
Key Losses: C A.J. Pierzynski, 3B Kevin Youkilis, RHP Brett Myers, LHP Francisco Liriano, IF Orlando Hudson
 
For a team that surprised and won 85 games last year, the White Sox didn’t do a whole lot in the offseason. Outside of Keppinger, their main acquisition was probably reliever Matt Lindstrom, a middle inning guy at best. Last year the White Sox were 4th in the AL in runs, but repeating that could be difficult. Pierzynski had a big 2012, but he’s now in Texas, and it’s up to Tyler Flowers to finally fulfill some of his old promise. While the 2012 team benefited from Alex Rios’ resuregence, the 2013 version also needs Paul Konerko to keep beating Father Time, and for Dunn to at least keep hitting homers and walking, since he won’t do anything else. Viciedo can also hit homers, and he’s still young enough that he can still contribute in other ways. With Keppinger just a guy and the Beckham ship (.296 OBP each of the last two years) sailing, the net result is probably a slight decline for the team at the plate.
 
For the White Sox though, it’s the pitching that they hope is the key to the club this year. Chris Sale turning into a stud and Jake Peavy finally being healthy gives Chicago a fine 1-2 punch, with solid mid-rotation starters Danks and Floyd behind them. Sounds great, right? The issue for 2013 is health. Peavy’s injury history means another full year from him is far from guaranteed. Sale’s mechanics, meanwhile, have been a concern for some time now, contract extension notwithstanding. Finally, Danks and Floyd each spent time on the DL last year, especially Danks. If all four are around all year, it’s a good rotation, but that’s far from assured.
 
If everything goes right, the White Sox can contend for the second wild card, but everything going right is not a realistic expectation.
 
Projected Record: 82-80
 
Down on the Farm
: The White Sox have historically not paid for up for talent in the draft, and it has hurt their talent levels in the minors. OF Courtney Hawkins is the one guy scouts are talking about, and IF Carlos Sanchez and OF Trayce Thompson also have potential, but none of three have really seen higher level minor league pitching yet.
 
See the next page for the two AL Central teams that made the most aggressive moves in the winter.
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3/16/13   |   huskerdoug2009   |   2790 respect

Nebraska has announced after a "healthy" donation that they are changing the name of their practice facility to the Alex Gordon Training Facility.
http://journalstar.com/sports/huskers/life-in-the-red/husker-extension-with-adidas-ok-d-by-regents/article_d81aad6c-8da4-11e2-8713-0019bb2963f4.html

3/13/13   |   Sharp Square   |   11935 respect

huskerdoug2009 wrote:
Interested to see how close to 100% Victor Martinez will be when the season starts.  Like the Tigers need more offense, however adding him to Miguel and Prince will make it hard to pitch around all of them.  I also am waiting for Alex Gordon to live up to the hype he had here at Nebraska.  He has been a good player, but wouldn't exactly say great since making it to the Royals everyday lineup in 2007.   



If Vic Martinez is indeed healhy all season that Tigers offense could be real real scary !  Talk about a middle of the order murderers row surprise

3/13/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

huskerdoug2009 wrote:
Interested to see how close to 100% Victor Martinez will be when the season starts.  Like the Tigers need more offense, however adding him to Miguel and Prince will make it hard to pitch around all of them.  I also am waiting for Alex Gordon to live up to the hype he had here at Nebraska.  He has been a good player, but wouldn't exactly say great since making it to the Royals everyday lineup in 2007.   

The "Alex Gordon is the next George Brett" thing will never happen. However...

In 2011, he broke out and hit .303/.376/.502 and won a Gold Glove. In 2012, he backed that up with a .294/.368/.455, led the league in doubles, and won another Gold Glove. By WAR, he's been a 4-5 win player these last two seasons, and at 29, he's right in his prime. He's a damn good player, and when I said he was "solid" in the piece, I was probably underrating him.

3/13/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Sharp Square wrote:

Well done gearhead was a solid read.

I think Cleveland has a real good shot to finish ahead of the wsox this year.  Stubbs has a nice speed/power mix if he can just make a little more contact and the kid Chisenhall is a nice bat who could end up bringing some solid numbers to lineup , if they can get even some moderately consistent starts from Masterson and Jimenez this year with Bauer pitching in some mid season on they could put together a nice season. Plus i can see the wsox maybe backing up some this season as they have a lot of question marks. 

For some reason the Royals seem like an interesting team to watch this season to me. The mix of good young talent at the plate and now some veteran arms gotta figure they could get in a few solid winning streaks and at least be somewhat of a scrappy team to watch even if they dont break .500. 

Yeah, I had a whale of time picking between Chicago, Cleveland, and KC in those 2-4 spots. There's something about the White Sox I don't like, and I decided to be conservative with the other two. That's how I ended up where I ended up. I doubt I'll get any of them right.

The Royals are fascinating. I would like to see them play well and get in contention.

3/13/13   |   SusanVette   |   8495 respect

 The Detroit Tigers today have released Brennan Boesch. Ugh. That didn't make my day.

3/13/13   |   huskerdoug2009   |   2790 respect

Interested to see how close to 100% Victor Martinez will be when the season starts.  Like the Tigers need more offense, however adding him to Miguel and Prince will make it hard to pitch around all of them.  I also am waiting for Alex Gordon to live up to the hype he had here at Nebraska.  He has been a good player, but wouldn't exactly say great since making it to the Royals everyday lineup in 2007.   

3/12/13   |   Sharp Square   |   11935 respect


Well done gearhead was a solid read.

I think Cleveland has a real good shot to finish ahead of the wsox this year.  Stubbs has a nice speed/power mix if he can just make a little more contact and the kid Chisenhall is a nice bat who could end up bringing some solid numbers to lineup , if they can get even some moderately consistent starts from Masterson and Jimenez this year with Bauer pitching in some mid season on they could put together a nice season. Plus i can see the wsox maybe backing up some this season as they have a lot of question marks. 

For some reason the Royals seem like an interesting team to watch this season to me. The mix of good young talent at the plate and now some veteran arms gotta figure they could get in a few solid winning streaks and at least be somewhat of a scrappy team to watch even if they dont break .500. 

3/12/13   |   mcleodglen   |   32 respect

so far so good, but i won't get excited for too long.