Cleveland (Because I don’t believe K.C. can or will repeat the 2014 season)

Ramble:  If youth continues to develop, the Indians enjoy a successful 2015.  If.

Outfield:  Brantley (’14 20/97 was top-notch) and Bourn are fleet of foot while Brandon Moss has an above average arm.  Nick Swisher gets the fourth spot when he needs exercise.

Infield:  Carlos Santana at first hopes to develop defensively to the degree Mike Napoli enjoys.  Jason Kipnis is an underrated defensive second baseman (only 6 kicks in 2014).  Jose Ramirez at short hopefully hits enough to stay in Cleveland.  Lonnie Chisenhall (whose offensive production is key to the Indians’ ability to make the playoffs) at third finishes the infield.  Mike Aviles will see a lot of sub time at second, third and short.

Catching:  Yan Gomes will take the majority of the innings.  Carlos Santana will take an occasional squat (in a nice way).  Any injury to these two makes Roberto Perez’s arrival permanent.

DH:  Nick Swisher healthy provides a better line up than Nick Swisher not present.

Starting Pitching:  Cory Kluber and Gavin Floyd are as good as any one-two starter pair in the Central.  Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar combining for 36 to 40 wins would make Francona’s year.  Josh Tomlin is the most likely to join the rotation if somebody struggles.

Relief:  Cody Allen is the end of a quality bullpen.  Scott Atchison, Kyle Crockett Nick Hagadone and Bryan Shaw are a very impressive group.

AAA/AA Help:  I’m assuming Perez and Ramirez leave for Cleveland at the end of spring.  Jesus Aguilar (1b), Erk Gonzalez (ss and really good), Tyler Holt (of), Tyler Naquin (of), C.C. Lee (relief) and Enosil Tejada (relief).

Prediction:  First in the Central.

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Detroit

Ramble:  Yoenis Cespedes joining the line up finally takes the sting out of Fielder’s 2014 departure for Texas.  Choosing not  to sign Max Scherzer was a head scratcher, but any team paying that kind of money to any baseball player is idiotic.  Drew Smyly and Rick Porcello leaving is a concern.

Outfield:  Cespedes joins an unproven Anthony Gose and solid J.D. Martinez.  Rajai Davis may become the de-facto center fielder if Gose struggles.  A better outcome is Ezequiel Carrera quickly becomes a major league center fielder.

Infield:  Miguel Cabrera should benefit from Cespedes’ presence in the line-up.  Ian Kinsler continues as one of the better second baseman in the game.  Jose Iglesias will get all the innings he ever dreamed of this year as the starting shortstop.  Nick Castellanos probably starts at third.  Andrew Romine can play all four infield spots.

Catching:  Alex Avila most of the time while James McCann learns the MLB way.  However, sooner rather than later, McCann becomes the starting catcher.

DH:  Victor Martinez received a nice raise.  If he, Cabrera, Cespedes, Kinsler and J.D. Martinez hit to talent, 2015 should be a notable offensive year for the Tigers.

Starting Pitching:  Justin Verlander and David Price followed by Anibal Sanchez.  Not bad.  But, given the departure of Scherzer, Smyly and Porcello, Mr. Sanchez must pitch 200 innings.  More of a concern is getting twenty wins collectively out of the #4 and #5 starters.

Relief:  Al Alburquerque, Joba Chamberlain, Tom Gorzelanny and Joakim Soria make for an improved bullpen leading to Joe Nathan in the ninth.

AAA/AA Help:  Dean Green (1b), Devon Travis (2b), Corey Jones (3b), Eugenio Suarez (ss), Dixon Machado (ss) and Ezequiel Carrera (of).

Prediction:  Second in the Central, but no playoff spot.

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Kansas City

Ramble:  Country Breakfast  and James Shields leave.  Alex Rios, Kendrys Morales and Edinson Volquez arrive.  While Butler will be missed, Rios and Morales will provide more offense.  Edinson Volquez is no Shields.

Outfield:  Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain (who sometimes strikes me as a bit of a punk) and Alex Rios will provide plenty of hits.  Jarrod Dyson gets Sunday duty.

Infield:  Eric Hosmer offered a whiff of his long referenced potential in 2014.  Mike Moustakas is awful with the glove, but good enough with his bat.  Alcides Escobar is the best shortstop in the A.L.  Omar Infante is a long favored dirt dog.

Catching:  Salvador Perez is far and away the best catcher in the Central.  I suspect Erik Kratz will not get a lot of playing time.

DH:  Kendrys Morales in the field is not good for the nerves of the Royals faithful.  With a bat in hand, Kendrys is much more appealing.

Starting Pitching:  Yordano Ventura, Jason Vargas, Edwin Volquez (which version shows in 2015?  The guy that can pitch or the one that can’t make the end of the third inning?), Danny Duffy and Jeremy Guthrie are as good a set of starters as any team in the Central.

Relief:  Greg Holland was awesome.  Expect more awesomeness in 2015.  Wade Davis is one of the best eighth inning guys in baseball.  Kelvin Herrera and Jason Frasor and then, not much in the bullpen.

AAA/AA Help:  Whit Merrifield (of and the best prospect in the Royals system), Christian Winford (starter) and Andy Ferguson (starter).

Prediction:  The Royals slip to third place.

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Minnesota (because the White Sox are worse than the Twins)

Ramble:  Torii Hunter returns.  A fine ball player.  That’s all I have.

Outfield:  The aforementioned Mr. Hunter with the intriguing duo of youth, Aaron Hicks in center and Oswaldo Arcia in left.  Flip a coin from the spring training roster, and you too, can choose the fourth outfielder.

Infield:  Joe Maurer (offering a 2012 or 2013 result would shut up the critics), Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe (why do I think French pastry chef?) and Danny Santana (who played a lot more outfield than shortstop last year, but he can hit) make a serviceable infield.  Return to a coin flip for the utility guy.

Catching:  The forever young Kurt Suzuki backed by Chris Herrmann (who eventually succeeds Mr. Suzuki).

DH:  Kennys Vargas receiving 500 abs will prove to the Twins if he can hit MLB pitching.  Give Mr. Vargas the at-bats.

Starting Pitching:  Phil “I Never Cared For New York City” Hughes continues to surge as a starter.  When he pitched for the E.E., never did I think he would win double-digit games in consecutive years.  Ervin Santana moves to this year’s highest bidder.  Tom Milone receiving 30 starts rids the mystery of “Can he pitch?”.  A combination of Kyle Gibson, Ricky Nolasco and Mike Pelfrey will form the rest of the starters.

Relief:  Could be ugly and difficult getting to Glen Perkins to close the game.  If Ryan Pressly and Casey Fien repeat last year’s success, good.  If not, than a great many relievers from AAA and AA are getting a shot.

AAA/AA Help:  Levi Michael (2b), Jorge Polanco (ss), Daniel Ortiz (of), Tyler Duffey (starter) and Jose Berrios (starter).

Prediction:  People of the Twin Cities, Be Happy for Baseball is Played on Snowless Fields.  Fourth place, I hope.

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Chicago

Ramble:  Daniel Robertson improves the bullpen by leaps and bounds.  Adam LaRoche arrives as a long waiting designated hitter.

Outfield:  Melky “No More Chemicals” Cabrera gets a chance in left.  Adam Eaton had a fine year in 2014.  Avisail Garcia probably starts in right, though J.B. Shuck plays hard.  Will Michael Taylor receive an extended look?

Infield:  Jose Abreu, the offensive surprise of 2014, Micah Johnson (2b), Conor Gillaspie (3b.  Nice numbers in ’14) and Alexei “Skinny” Ramirez (ss) form the infield.  Glen Beckham bounces around as the number one sub, though the team would be better served with Carlos Sanchez getting at bats.

Catching:  Tyler Flowers and Geovany Soto do the bulk of the catching.  Whomever calls the better game gets the majority of the starts.

DH:  Adam LaRoche and Andy Wilkins (who desperately needs to see big league pitching to offer an alternative after LaRoche’s contract expires).

Starting Pitching: Chris Sale followed by hope and prayer.  Jeff Samardzija, Jose Quintana and Hector Noesi offer the best hope and prayer.  If these three can win 35 games between them, well done.  The White Sox do a horrible job of developing starting pitching, thus, less one guy, no system help awaits.

Relief:  Zach Putnam, Zach Duke, Daniel Webb, Javy Guerra and Jake Petricka (a young man with promise) will see far too much action this year.  Daniel Robertson, through no fault of his own, will be lucky to register 30+ saves this year.  By the way, if you were wondering about developing closing/relief help, don’t.  The White Sox absolutely face plant in relief development.

AAA/AA Help:  Keyan Smith (c), Rangel Ravelo (1b) and Mike Recchia (starter, but do reference the above comment regarding starting pitching in system).

Prediction:  The Chisox fight the Twins for dead last in the Central.

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