Friday, March 7, 2008



The AL Central looks to be one of baseball's best, again, and, personal bias and northeast baseball chauvinism aside, it's probably the most intriguing division around. You have in it a team that went to the classic two seasons ago and added two big stars in the winter, a team that won 96 games last year, two teams stacked with youth, and a team managed by Ozzie Guillen. It'll be a nice ride in the American Midwest.

Detroit Tigers
Prediction: 1st Place, 95-67
This is who I expect to see in the World Series if our Mets were lucky enough to get there. I know, being high on the Tigers is the thing to do these days, but there's good reason for it. The Detroit offense has a chance to be simply prolific, 1-9, adding Miguel Cabrera and Edgar Renteria (who hit .332 last year) to an already explosive lineup. Granderson on top showed that he was the real thing last year, and has MVP-type potential in his future; he should only get better. Lineup aside, the rotation, at least on paper, is better than it was for last year's 88 win campaign. Dontrelle Willis may not be the ace we thought he might be a couple years back, but he definitely has talent and drive, and is a hell of a 3rd/4th starter. More importantly his presence leaves no questions in the rotation with K-Rog (ugh) allegedly healthy. Bonderman and Robertson are coming off down years and I would assume at least marginal improvement. Their bullpen is a question mark, with Joel Zumaya out until summer with another non-baseball-related injury, (Todd Jones has to lose that closer job someday) and the bench is less than spectacular, but this team had some bad luck last year, still won 88 games, and added a lot of talent. That to me pushes the to the next level.
Fantasy Pick: Willis, being drafted very low.

Cleveland Indians
Prediction: 2nd Place, 92-70
The Indians really didn't change much this winter other than losing Kenny Lofton again, and signing the former hot-dog eating champion out of Japan. They came within a game of the World Series, and had three shots at it, but this wasn't enough to make them go out and add talent. Sizemore is an elite young CF, though he strikes out too much, VMart is probably the best hitting catcher since Mikey P in his prime, and Pronk is Pronk. Ryan Garko emerged as a force last season, and Jhonny Peralta came back after a terrible '06. The rotation is anchored by a 1-2 that could possibly hang with the likes of Johan-Pedro with Sabathia and Carmona, and is solid through 5. I kinda wonder if Cliff Lee could reappear as a good pitcher? The bullpen is probably a little better with the Japanese reinforcement and a full year of Rafael Perez, and the bench suffers a bit with Nixon/Lofton gone, but this is essentially the same team as last year. So why would they finish worse? They might have played a few games over their head last year, and Detroit just got a lot better.
Fantasy Pick: Ryan Garko

Chicago White Sox
Prediction: 3rd Place, 76-86
This is the kind of team that could prove me horribly wrong and make this division even heavier, or it could win even less than 76 games. They are another AL central team with a fine lineup, although getting an base has been a problem. Enter Nick Swisher, who could break out and hit 40 bombs in US Cellular Field, or could have had his heyday and start having his OPS catch up with his AVG. I expect him to be a nice addition. Orlando Cabrera is the other major newcomer, displacing Juan Uribe, having come over in exchange for Jon Garland. Cabrera is a great glove at SS, and a nice enough bat, but his offense has shown some decline. The big guys stay in the heart of the order, Thome, Dye, Konerko, though none of them are getting any younger. Expect some decline for all three. Third base is a real controversy, with Josh Fields slated to start and Joe Crede likely to be traded, although there are rumblings of the two sharing the corners with Konerko being sent off in a larger deal. The rotation looks like a potential problem. Buehrle, despite the no-no, is not a true ace, and Contreras is about 77. I do like Javier Vasquez a lot; he has gone from being one of the most overrated SP's in the game to being one of the most underrated, having quietly won 15 games with a 3.74 ERA in a tough division while K'ing 213 batters. Trouble is, John Danks and Gavin Floyd also figure into the SP mix, and they would have trouble making many MLB rosters. Bullpen is just OK. Bobby Jenks is fairly solid in the 9th, but it's old and iffy after him. The big boys in the Central should beat up on them, so their additions equal only 4 more wins than last year: 76.
Fantasy Pick: Javier Vasquez

Kansas City Royals
Prediction: 4th Place, 74-88
Give Dayton Moore and the team with the nicest ballpark anywhere a couple more years, and you might finally have a good squad again. The Royals added the obligatory mediocre former pseudo-stars in Jose Guillen and Miguel Olivo, but also shedded the a bunch of the same sort, though KC should be sad to see longtime Royal masher Mike Sweeney, one of my favorite players, go. David DeJesus, Mark Teahan, Billy Butler and Alex Gordon are all very young and have very high ceilings on the offensive side, and the pitching staff houses promising starters Zach Greinke, Kyle Davies, *ahem* Brian Bannister *ahem*, and closer Joakim Soria. Without delving too far in to the rest of the team, that's a long, impressive list of prospects, and you'd expect some of them will turn in to big stars. I say more power to 'em. They got nice hats, too.
Fantasy Pick: Billy Butler, Brian Bannister

Minnesota Twins
Prediction: 5th Place, 70-92
They lost this pitcher guy.
Fantasy Pick: Scott Baker

In Mets news, it's just more spring W's and more injuries. Maybe if the Mets sign 162 players and kill one of them every day from Apr-Oct, they'll go undefeated...

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