American League Central Preview

By Matt Paradise
Mar. 17, 2017

Today we have the 3rd in our series of baseball posts coming up, this time featuring the American League Central. Opening day is Sunday April 2, so it will be here before you know it! We have a schedule of posts set up so you can follow. All links to previous posts in the baseball series will be posted at the bottom of this post.

AL West: Friday March 10:

NL West: Sunday March 12

AL Central: Friday March 17

NL Central: Sunday March 19

AL East: Friday March 24

NL East: Sunday March 26

Preseason Award Favorites: Friday March 31

Way Too Early Postseason Predictions: Sunday April 2

For each team, there will be a quick review of last year, key additions and subtractions, possible impact in 2017 by prospects, and an outlook and prediction for 2017. For the additions and subtractions, we will simply be naming the guys who can make an impact. The guys who are last on the bench or last in the bullpen may be left out. The additions and subtractions will also be limited to guys added or lost in the offseason. Guys who came or went at the trade deadline last year were an addition or subtraction for last year, not so much for this year coming up (Example, Andrew Miller will not be a subtraction for the Yankees. Aroldis Chapman will be a subtraction for the Cubs). That said, let’s dig in to the AL Central:

Cleveland Indians: Last Year 94-67 (1st in AL Central)

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

2016 Review: 2016 was one of the most successful years in franchise history for the Indians, coming up just short of winning the World Series. The bold trade deadline move for Andrew Miller paid off handsomely and he was the key down the stretch for them. They got some big-time production out of young core player, and Francisco Lindor especially looks like a budding superstar.

Key Additions: Bone Logan, Brandon Guyer, Austin Jackson, Edwin Encarnacion

Key Subtractions: Rajai Davis, Mike Napoli, Jeff Manship

Possible Rookies to Watch: Yandy Diaz, Erik Gonzalez, Shawn Morimando

2017 Outlook: The outlook has never been brighter for the Indians. They are firmly one of the five best teams in all of baseball, and anything they lost they replaced with something arguably better. Napoli is gone, but Encarnacion will step in as the DH as likely be even more productive. Boone Logan will add more strength to the bullpen. Austin Jackson could play a role as a 4th outfielder if he is productive this spring. They key is to see Lindor, Naquin, and Ramirez keep progressing. Lindor may take another step forward as a bona fide MVP candidate this season.

Don’t expect major contributions from rookies because this team is already stacked, but Diaz and Gonzalez are both major league ready infielders, while Morimando could get some bullpen innings. Diaz may be able to step into the lineup if there is an injury to someone such as Kipnis, while Gonzalez figures to play more of a utility role.

This year has to be deep postseason run or bust for the Indians. They were on the cusp of winning the World Series last year and only got better. They won’t catch anyone by surprise this year.

2017 Prediction: 98-64

Detroit Tigers: Last year 86-75 (2nd in AL Central)

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

2016 Review: Last year was somewhat disappointing for the Tigers as they were expecting to make a run in the playoffs. Jordan Zimmerman missed a lot of time with injuries and that left the starting rotation pretty short. The bats were good not great, which is pretty much a good way to describe the entire season for the Tigers.

Key Additions: Alex Avila, Omar Infante

Key Subtractions: Cameron Maybin

Possible Rookies to Watch: Joe Jiminez, Dixon Machado, Adam Ravenelle

2017 Outlook: The Tigers were obviously pretty comfortable with what they have, provided they can stay healthy. They were one of the most quiet teams in the offseason, not having made any moves one way or another to push the needle at all. They’ll be looking for last year’s rookie of the year Fullmer to take a step forward and a return from Jordan Zimmerman to give them a serious 1-2-3 in the starting rotation.

The Tigers are another team that won’t be relying heavily on rookies. Jiminez and Ravenelle may both get some bullpen innings, and Machado would be a great utility infielder. If there is any injuries in the infield Machado can step into a bigger role, but barring anything of that sort, it will mostly be status quo for Detroit.

Detroit may be comfortable with what they had, but we’re not so sure. They will need to rely heavily on health because they don’t have the depth necessary to deal with any serious injuries. Time will tell if the method of patience pays off.

2017 Prediction: 84-78

Kansas City Royals: Last Year 81-81 (3rd in AL Central)

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

2016 Review: 2016 was massively disappointing for the Royals. They thought they still had a team that could get them back to postseason contention, but struggled to crack a .500 record. There wasn’t necessarily any single thing to blame, it was a collective team disappointment. Rather than all the young guys taking a step forward, they mostly all had just okay seasons which lead to the Royals being just okay as a team.

Key Additions: Travis Wood, Jason Hammel, Brandon Moss, Jorge Soler

Key Subtractions: Wade Davis, Jarrod Dyson, Kendrys Morales, Omar Infante, Peter Moylan, Luke Hochevar, Chien-Ming Wang, Dillon Gee, Edison Volquez, Yordano Ventura*

*Yordano Ventura tragically passed away this offseason leaving the baseball world in shock. He was one of the most exciting young pitchers to watch in all of baseball, and the Royals and MLB will miss him dearly.

Possible Rookies to Watch: Mat Strahm, Hunter Dozier, Miguel Almonte, Kyle Zimmer

2017 Outlook: The outlook only seems to be getting worse for the Royals. A few years ago they seemed like a young group on the cusp of greatness, but all they have done is continue to take steps backwards. They did not add anyone who will push them forward unless Soler finally realizes his potential, and they gave up star bullpen pitcher Wade Davis to get him.

A lot of the Royals subtractions were pitchers and they seem to be counting on young guys to replace them. Strahm could be in line to make the rotation, while Almonte and Zimmer are likely to join the bullpen. Dozier could get a starting gig if the Royals decide to move on from Mike Moustakas.

2017 feels like a bit of a rebuilding year, and the loss of Ventura especially hurts. Don’t expect the Royals to rebound this year, a regression is probably more likely.

2017 prediction: 76-86

Chicago White Sox: Last Year 78-84 (4th in AL Central)

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

2016 Review: What a roller coaster year for the White Sox. They started off looking like serious playoff contenders before totally imploding and flipping the script to a full blown rebuild. There was not another team in the league who had nearly as dramatic of a shift in their plans.

It’s hard to sum up key additions and key subtractions for the White Sox because they literally blew the team up this offseason and added mostly prospects. We’re not going to name all the prospects as key additions because most of them had little to no time in the MLB so far and only a few figure to make an impact this year, which will be summed up in rookies to watch.

For that reason, our only key addition is Derek Holland

We’re going to go ahead and name everyone who played at least a moderate role as a key subtraction to give you an idea of the depth of this rebuild: Adam Eaton, Justin Morneau, Austin Jackson, Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia, Alex Avila, JB Shack, Tommy Kahnle, Chris Sale, Matt Albers

Possible Rookies to Watch: Lucas Giolito, Carson Fullmer, Reynaldo Lopez, Yoan Moncada

2017 Outlook: As we mentioned in a previous post about the winter meetings, the White Sox rebuild is real, and it’s spectacular. They got a massive haul on trading Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, stocking up their farm to possibly the best in all of baseball. If they are smart, they should trade a couple more of their remaining assets to build it up even more and assure a higher draft pick. As it stands now, they stand a chance at being competitive in most games, but that is not the goal for this year. The goal is for 5 years down the road.

Lucas Giolito was the major piece in the Eaton trade and figures to be in the rotation right away. He is a potential frontline starter and they will want to get a good look at him this year. Lopez also came in the Eaton trade and may join Giolito in the rotation, but is better suited to be a dynamic reliever. Moncado was the major piece in the Sale trade, and while he may start the year in AAA, he will almost assuredly be in the big leagues before the end of the year, and has as much potential as any prospect in all of baseball.

The White Sox will absolutely be taking a step back from 78 wins last year, but the future is much brighter now than it was a year ago. It’s going to take some patience and a few non-competitive years, but they will be a force in a few years if a good percentage of their top prospects pan out.

2017 Prediction: 64-98

Minnesota Twins: Last Year 59-103 (Last in AL Central)

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

2016 Review: The Twins just flat out stunk, and while they found playing time for their most prized youngsters in Buxton and Sano, that did not make the future look any brighter. Neither showed to be nearly what the Twins thought they were as of yet. There really was not much at all to watch in Minnesota in 2016.

Key Additions: none

Key Subtractions: Juan Centeno, Trevor Plouffe, Kurt Suzuki, Byung Ho Park, Tommy Milone, Hector Santiago, Ricky Nolasco

Possible Rookies to Watch: Adalberto Mejia, Mason Melotakis, JT Chargois, Jake Reed

2017 Outlook: The Twins are sticking to a roster full of young guys hoping for progress, the problem is that the young guys haven’t shown much as of yet. They are going to need major leaps forward from Buxton and Sano or those guys may just turn into major busts.

Mejia could find a spot in the rotation this year, while Melotakis, Chargois, and Reed could all figure into the bullpen at some point. None of these guys are likely to be major difference makers though.

The good news for the Twins is that they do have a good amount of talent build up in the farm system. Over the next couple years, there should be an influx of talent to the big league roster, the key is going to be to make those guys good players. Until then, the Twins figure to remain in the basement of the league.

2017 Prediction: 60-102

In summary, the projected standings for the AL Central this year are as follows:

Indians 98-64

Tigers 84-78

Royals 76-86

White Sox 64-98

Twins 60-102

That’s a wrap on the AL Central. What do you think? Who is going to win the division? Who is the one addition or subtraction that will make the biggest difference? Who is the top rookie to watch in the division? Comment and let us know! Stay tuned for more current sports stories. Don't forget to follow us on social media. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram @beyondthemetrics, and Twitter @byondthemetrics

Check out our other baseball previews:

[BeyondTheMetrics :: American League West Preview]

[BeyondTheMetrics :: National League West Preview]