The season starts this coming week, so I guess I better finish these up. Last year this division was a three team race, but I believe it is now just two. However, every team in the division at least has a reason to watch them. As always, I address each team in the order in which I expect them to finish.
- Minnesota Twins. This is going to be a tight race, I think, but I’m going to give the edge to the team that did not fade down the stretch last year. Twins fans, of course, won’t be happy with just winning their third straight division title; they want some postseason success too as they have now suffered through an 18 playoff game losing streak that dates to 2004. Their biggest signing was bringing back Nelson Cruz. However, Alex Colome, Austin Romine, Andrelton Simmons, JA Happ, and Hansel Robles could all help the cause. Gone are Rich Hill, Jake Odorizzi, Sergio Romo, Alex Avila, Tyler Clippard, Trevor May and Marwin Gonzalez. They will have a potent lineup with Josh Donaldson, Max Kepler, et al. Hot prospect Alex Kirilloff, expected to be the starting left fielder, will instead start the season in the minors after going 4-31 in spring training.
- Chicago White Sox. The biggest change on this team is, for me, the biggest head scratcher: firing manager Rick Renteria and hiring Tony LaRussa. I know he’s friends with the owner; that’s no doubt also why he wasn’t fired over the DUI that came to light after his hiring. It wasn’t his first, but Jerry Reinsdorf knew that. I also know LaRussa is a Hall of Fame manager, he appears to have the players’ support, and the team did fade badly at the end of last season…but it’s not a move I’d have made. Among their other newcomers are Jonathan Lucroy, Adam Eaton, Lance Lynn, Liam Hendriks, and Carlos Rodon. Gone are Alex Colome, Edwin Encarnacion, Gio Gonzalez, and James McCann. They, too, have a potent lineup with Tim Anderson, Luis Robert, Jose Abreu, etc. Adding Lynn to Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel makes for a strong starting rotation if they stay healthy.
- Cleveland Indians. I do not think the Cleveland Baseball Team will be able to hang with the Twins and White Sox over 162 games. Teams don’t get better trading away Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco. Brad Hand and Carlos Santana are gone too. Any team that can boast having Shane Bieber and Jose Ramirez is still dangerous, but it won’t be enough. For three seasons now they’ve had a glaring hole in their lineup in the outfield, and they’ve again not addressed it adequately. The two outfielders they brought in—Harold Ramirez and Ben Gamel—both had negative WAR last year. They also signed, and then released Billy Hamilton. I was planning to be particularly scathing about signing him, until he was released. Speed is his only asset but he negates it in the field by taking bad lines to the ball and doesn’t get on base enough to use that speed on the base path either.
- Kansas City Royals. Definitely their best signing was the extension for Salvador Perez. $82M, over 4 years, is the biggest deal the Royals have ever given. If you’re going to build a team, one of the best catchers in the game is a good place to start. They also brought in three newbies with bad 2020 seasons in Michael Taylor, Mike Minor, and Andrew Benintendi. I’m already on record as expecting a bounce back season from Benintendi. Among the departures are Bubba Starling, Maikel Franco, Erick Mejia, and Ian Kennedy.
- Detroit Tigers. The number one reason to watch this team this year is to see Miguel Cabrera join the 500 homer and 3000 hit clubs. The other will be to see Casey Mize pitch. Mize got into 7 games last year and struggled, but I expect him to right the ship in his first full season in the bigs. The Tigers also bring in Julio Teheran and Wilson Ramos. Gone are CJ Cron, Ivan Nova, Austin Romine, and Jordan Zimmerman.