Fangraphs rates the AL Central as the weakest division in MLB., and doesn’t really believe any of the teams are good. They’ve projected Cleveland to have 83 wins and Minnesota 82. One could be charitable and describe the division as having parity, I guess. Below I briefly address each team in the order in which I’m guessing they finish.
Minnesota Twins. First, they won the Carlos Correa sweepstakes after both San Francisco and the New York Mets gacked away their opportunities. Both made a big deal of a leg injury that occurred when he was a minor leaguer and that hasn’t held him back since. Thus the Twins get to have an elite shortstop for a long time. Their perennial question mark is can Byron Buxton ever have a healthy season? In 9 years he’s played over 100 games once. He produced 4.0 WAR in just 92 games last year. If he could just stay off the IL, it would be huge for the Twins. Kenta Maeda is back from Tommy John. Trevor Mahle, a trade deadline acquisition last year, will actually be able to be part of the rotation this year. Christian Vazquez is an upgrade over the departed Gary Sanchez behind the plate.
Cleveland Guardians. Start with they still have Shane Bieber. It’s always good to have a true Ace; the Twins don’t have one of those. Last year they coupled a strong rotation with a deep bullpen. The Rays proved in the Wild Card round last season that you can’t beat them if you can’t score on them. Their weakness was power hitting, getting out-homered by every team but one (Tigers) last year. Their two big signings were Josh Bell (1B) and Mike Zunino (C). Bell could add some offensive pop. X-Ray Zunino is good behind the plate, but is not an offensive threat. Last season they had the youngest roster in MLB, and could bring up to 6 more rookies this year too. Their most important position player, Jose Ramirez, is back, who is always a cause for optimism in Cleveland.
Chicago White Sox. They underplayed their potential last year. Luis Robert is Chicago’s version of Byron Buxton (albeit not quite as good)…can’t stay healthy. They have a new manager. What they need to contend for the division title: Dylan Cease to be roughly as good as last year…and the rest of the pitching staff to improve. They need their position players to stay healthy as, if their depth is tested, they probably don’t have any.
Kansas City Royals. They were AL pennant winners in 2014 and 2015. They won the WS in 2015. They were a .500 team in 2016. They’ve had nothing but losing seasons ever since. This year they have a new manager (former Rays bench coach Mike Quatraro) and a new GM. Last year they began a youth movement, starting several rookies. Their only pitcher over age 30 is Zack Greinke. It’s reasonable to expect a small step forward this year.
Detroit Tigers. Last year, I predicted the Tigers would finish 81-81. It was probably my worst prediction. Virtually everybody underperformed compared to 2021. Free agent signee Javier Baez was good in the field still but woeful at the plate. Rookies Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson were expected to make positive contributions and, well, did not. Arik Baddoo experienced a sophomore slump. GM Avila was given the heave-ho. This is Miguel Cabrera’s swan song. Being competitive this year probably requires the fountain of youth for him and bounce backs by everyone else.
One thought on “2023 AL Central Preview”
I’m cautiously optomistic that the Tiggers won’t completely suck this season, despite not having a single pitcher in their starting rotation that threw at least 100 innings in 2022. A healthy (physically and mentally) season for Austin Meadows would help the offense immensely and I think Nick Maton & Matt Vierling picked up in a trade from Philly will be improvements over Harold/Willi Castro & Victor Reyes. In a perfect world, Miggy has a farewell season 80% as good as Albert Pujols did last year, but this world is far from perfect. I’m just hoping he can stay healthy all season, nothing would be worse than to finish his career on the IL.
Every time I see the name of the Royals new skipper, in my mind I read it as Quatro. Guess that’s due to growing up on the east side of Detroit, the home of Suzi Quatro (aka Leather Tuscadero for you Happy Days fans). Here’s a garage rock classic from the band she was in with her sister, The Pleasure Seekers.
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