American League Central 2016 Prediction

Posted: March 6, 2016 in Uncategorized

Time to dethrone Kansas City.

First:  Detroit.

Pitching:  The ever admirable and effective Justin Verlander will rebound from a less than Verlander 2015.  Jordan Zimmermann makes for a substantial one-two punch.  Daniel Norris has a bright future and prospered under Detroit guidance as contrasted to his struggles in Toronto when called to the Bigs.  If Anibal Sanchez can pitch anywhere near 200 innings, the Detroit starting staff would receive a great gift.  However, any injury of more than a 21-day d.l. stay will bury this group of starters.  Frankie Rodriguez is a wise addition to the closer role.  Mark Lowe throwing the eighth gives the Tigers a degree of late inning comfort most squads dream of.  The Wilsons, Alex and Justin, had an impressive 2015.  Drew VerHagen threw well, though limited innings.  Blaine Hardy completes the bullpen members worth entering a game post-fifth inning.

Offense:  The ever ready Miguel Cabrera is looking for company.  Sure, Victor Martinez posts steady offensive numbers, but Mr. Martinez suffers from good year/bad year dating back to 2009.  J.D. Martinez (an outstanding 2015), Ian Kinsler, Nick Castellanos (see J.D. Martinez), Jose Iglesias (becoming one of the better A.L. shortstops) and the newly arrived Justin Upton provide a great deal of power.  James McCann behind the plate completes the lineup.  One drawback is the injury to Cameron Maybin, but between Anthony Gose and Tyler Collins, the Tigers should not suffer too long while waiting for Mr. Maybin’s return.

Players in the system who could help:  Wynton Bernard (cf, and do not rush this guy.  Give him most of 2016 in AAA), Xavier Avery (cf), Dean Green (1b) and Jeff Ferrell (relief).

Second:  Cleveland.  A very close second.

Pitching:  An impressive group of starters.  Mavens are quick to point to Corey Kluber, but I find the continued development of Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar to be key to the Indians success in 2016.  Josh Tomlin also posted eye-catching numbers.  Cody Anderson beats Trevor Bauer for the fifth spot.  A better group of starters than the Tigers, no doubt, but the bullpen cannot lay claim to the same praise.  Cody Allen closing follows a jumble of would be eighth inning men:  Bryan Shaw, Zach McAllister and Jeff Manship (my favorite for the eighth inning role).  Then the men who sit in chairs and wait become thin gruel.

Offense:  Old Man Juan Uribe and almost as Old Man Mike Napoli join a group of guys entering their late 20s.  A prime mix.  Francisco Lindor (nowhere near his late 20s) is a shortstop to watch.  Jason Kipnis had a topnotch 2015.  Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez are the best defensive catching duo in the A.L. Central.  Plus, they keep Carlos Santana at the dh spot where he can concentrate on hitting.  As for the outfield, Abraham Almonte’s suspension is easily overcome by rotating Rajai Davis and Joey Butler in center.  Michael Brantley has become the best left fielder in the A.L.  Lonnie Chisenhall in right will hopefully avoid Cleveland’s version of Hanley Ramirez in left.  Granted, Mr. Chisenhall has a work ethic, but 95% of his games played have occurred at third base.  Third to right is a great difference, but to the Indians’ credit, Mr. Chisenhall auditioned for 51 games in right during 2015.

Players in the system who could help:  James Aguilar (1b) rides to the rescue if Mike Napoli continues to swing at letter high fastballs, Jose Ramirez (2b), Tyler Naquin (cf.  Frankly, why not now given Mr. Almonte’s suspension?) and Adam Pluto (starting pitching).

Third:  Kansas City.

Pitching:  Any team that lists Ian Kennedy as their #3 starter is hurting and regressing.  Sure, Edinson Volquez and Yorando Ventura remain, but the Kennedy signing reeks of panic.  Danny Duffy and Chris Young complete an average starting rotation.  The bullpen is superb.  Wade Davis has another spectacular season in 2016 (there is a risky prediction).  Kelvin Herrera, Luke Hochevar and Joakim Soria highlight the best bullpen in the A.L. Central.

Offense:  Any outfield featuring Jarrod Dyson as their starting right fielder is akin to a team featuring Ian Kennedy as a #3 starter.  My point is made.  Alex Gordon is now a rich man and continues to play left.  He is vastly overrated as an offensive player.   Lorenzo Cain continues to improve with each passing season.  Eric Hosmer does the same.  Mike Moustakas made a great leap forward in 2015.  Alcides Escobar, while a superb shortstop, is woeful with a bat in his hands.  Same goes with the aging Omar Infante.  Christian Colon should become the starting second baseman.  Kendrys Morales had a fine 2015 and should show no change in 2016.  Salvador Perez is a defensive catcher supreme, throws out his fair share of runners, but strikes out a bit much while swinging for the long ball.

Players in the system who could help:  Parker Morin (c), Balbino Fuenmayor (1b), Angel Franco (2b), Reymond Fuentes (lf), Brett Eibner (lf), Jose Martinez (rf), John Lamb (starting pitching), Andy Ferguson (starting pitching) and Michael Mariot (relief).

Fourth:  Chicago.

Pitching:  Chris Sale leads a so-so starting staff.   Frankly, Jose Quintana may well out pitch Mr. Sale this year and earn the #1 spot.  Erik Johnson should be the #3 guy.  Mat Latos will bitch and moan if he doesn’t get at least 30 starts.  John Danks and Carlos Rodon bring up the rear.  David Robertson will make the most of limited save opportunities.  Nate Jones needs to appear much more than 2015.  The rest of the bullpen resembles the Baltimore starting staff:  Eras around 4 and whips around 1.4.  Gonna be long year for White Sox fans.

Offense:  Jose Abreu will post another fine year with little help.  Speaking of help, Todd Frazier will lend a great attitude in a place sorely needing one.  Brett Lawrie and Jimmy Rollins will spend more time returning to the dugout rather than first base after at bats.  Melky Cabrera plays an uninspired left.  Adam Eaton is one of the best center fielders in the game.  Avisail Garcia hopefully listens to Jose Abreu in 2016.  Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro will handle the catching duties while offering anemic at bats.

Fifth:  Minnesota.

Pitching:  Phil Hughes returns as the #1 starter.  Do I need to continue?  Shame on me.  Anyway, Ervin Santana should actually pitch most of 2016 without taking his 2015 suspension detour.  Tyler Duffey and Kyle Gibson show promise.  More innings will tell.  Tommy Milone and Trevor May get the rest of the starts.  Glen Perkins closes, again.  Glen is unexciting, but generally gets the job done.  Ryan Pressly and Kevin Jepsen are the bright spots in an otherwise average to bad bullpen.

Offense:  Mostly to the younger side, especially in the outfield.  Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano (mavens were a tad excited about Mr. Sano’s average performance.  Then again, he does play for the Twins).  Trevor Plouffe and Brian Dozier offer some pop, but at the expense of woeful obp.  Eduardo Escobar and the local hero Joe Mauer complete the infield.  Kurt Suzuki is entering the twilight of his career.  Thankfully, trading Aaron Hicks for John Murphy was a great move by the Twins.  Mr. Murphy could well be the Twins starting catcher as the  year progresses.  Byong Ho Park is touted as the dh with the free swinging Kennys Vargas waiting for at bats.  The Twins dh could be the least productive in the A.L.

Players in the system who could help:  Max Kepler (1b), James Beseford (3b), Danny Santana (ss), Jose Berrios (starting pitching) and Michael Tonkin (relief).

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