Saturday, March 26, 2011

AL Central Preview

...Detroit Tigers...

IN - C Victor Martinez...RP Joaquin Benoit

OUT - SP Jeremy Bonderman (currently free agent)...OF Johnny Damon...SS Adam Everett...C Gerald Laird

In the Tigers organization keep an eye on...P Charlie Furbush...aside from the great name this lefty was impressive in the Minors in 2010 breezing through hitters at 3 different levels...MLB-ready fastball...nasty curveball...this guy racks up K's, but does need to improve his HR allowed #'s

The Tigers enter 2011 having numerous players with nagging injuries so we will look for this team to get better throughout the year as their health (hopefully) improves...The rotation is led by Justin Verlander, with Max Scherzer as a promising #2...after that the potential is there, but Detroit needs to see increased production from Rick Porcello and Armando Galarraga...Phil Coke will be interesting to watch as the former reliever will be in the rotation too...Coke has appeared in 158 MLB games (and had a lot of success) as a Yankee, and now a Tiger...only 1 of those times he was the starting pitcher...The bullpen is bolstered big-time by the addition of Joaquin Benoit...he will fit nicely with talent like Joel Zumaya and Ryan Perry, and from the left side we will see Daniel Schlereth and Brad Thomas get their shot to set-up closer Jose Valverde

The O will likely improve in 2011...C Victor Martinez is a sure .300 hitter added to the line-up...If you are a Tigers fan you wonder what type of 2011 will 1B Miguel Cabrera actually have...Clearly you need him to be at 100% as he is a monster in the middle of that lineup...Detroit needs a return to health, and form,  from Carlos Guillen...Also need improved play from SS Jhonny Peralta...All that being said I still think the major cogs in this line-up have to be OF's Austin Jackson and Brandon Boesch...Both need to have next-step seasons for Detroit to be able to either overcome the loss of Cabrera, or provide Cabrera protection in the lineup...Ryan Raburn could fit into that category too

Over/Under win total for the 2011 Tigers...84...OVER...we see potential in the pitching staff, and we see potential on O...Again we say let's watch Miguel Cabrera this season...should be very interesting in Michigan

...Chicago White Sox...

Welcome to the ChiSox - RP Jesse Crain...1B/DH Adam Dunn

Gone from the Ozzie Guillen madhouse - RP Bobby Jenks...OF Andruw Jones...RP Scott Linebrink...RP J.J. Putz...Man-Ram

In the ChiSox organization keep an eye on...P Chris Sale...stud-in-the-making for this team...will he be in the rotation or bullpen?...Sale (starter growing up) made his MLB debut quickly after being drafted #13 overall in the 2010 Draft...months later he was closing games for the White Sox, and his #'s were wow wow wow...23 IP - just 15 hits allowed with a whopping 32 K's...he kicked ass as a closer in his brief MLB stint, but he has 3 MLB-ready pitches and that sort of make-up is usually better suited for a starting pitcher...time will tell but this lefty looks good folks

Usually this team is interesting to watch because we remember White Sox GM Kenny Williams as a Blue Jays player in 1990 running over Jays 3B Coach John McClaren on one of the more bizarre sequences you will ever see, and because Manager Ozzie Guillen is his own walking reality tv show...This year the on-field antics may be worth a peak too...A lot of potential here for the Southsiders...Pitching staff could be damn good...Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, and Edwin Jackson give the club a solid 1 through 4...Philip Humber looks like he will be the #5 starter until Jake Peavy is able to get back on the mound...Can you imagine this staff if Peavy returns to form?!?!  A ton of potential here...The 'pen looks good too...Sale, Matt Thornton (Thornton is my fav lefty reliever in baseball), Sergio Santos, and Torontonian Jesse Crain provide skill and depth

The O has potential as well...OF's Alex Rios and Carlos Quentin have upside...as does1B Paul Konerko...New addition Adam Dunn should bring 40+ HR's to this lineup...SS Alexei Ramirez is solid...C A.J. Pierzynski needs a better 2011...Another good season will be required from Juan Pierre...Question marks with rookie 3B Brent Morel (as he is known more for his glove than his O) and 2B Gordon Beckham...MUCH more was expected of Beckham...ChiSox have to be hoping that with the hype pretty much dead now perhaps it will be a better opportunity for Beckham to thrive/produce at the MLB level

Over/Under win total for the 2011 White Sox...85.5...OVER...too much to like here...easy to believe 86+ wins is in the cards for the Chicago White Sox

...Minnesota Twins...

New to the Twins - SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka

OUT - RP Jesse Crain...RP Matt Guerrier...SS J.J. Hardy...2B Orlando Hudson...RP Jon Rauch...RP Brian Fuentes

In the Twins organization keep an eye on...OF Joe Benson...always had speed and D (great arm) with a decent bat, but last season the power was on display as he developed a swing that puts the ball in the air...let's see if the power was a 1-year wonder, or if he is adding that to his game...

Minny has won the AL Central 2 straight seasons...The pitching staff will have to come through for this team to 3-peat...SP's Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano have great potential to be a 1-2 punch...Scott Baker (needs to get hits allowed down), Nick Blackburn (needs to get HR's allowed down), and Kevin Slowey (needs to get hits allowed waaaay down) provide potential for #3-4-5...If the Twins remain in contention we could see GM Bill Smith add a starter on the fly...The bullpen has potential...The set-up guys look strong in Matt Capps, Glen Perkins, Jose Mijares, Pat Neshek, and Jeff Manship...Joe Nathan returns as closer after missing 2010 with Tommy John surgery...Nathan was hit extremely hard in Spring Training so we will watch how he starts the 2011 season...It may take time (still) for him to be back to his old self

The O gets the return of Canadian banger Justin Morneau...He and C Joe Mauer are the core of this team, and the leaders on O...OF Delmon Young was finally producing to his potential in 2010, and a repeat performance is surely paramount for the Twins to have success in 2011...CF Denard Span took a step back in 2010...Span will get 620+ AB's so he needs to get back to his 2009 form...Speaking of return to 2009 form how about RF Michael Cuddyer...3B looks in good hands for years to come with Danny Valencia...Tsuyoshi Nishioka may or may not be known by you now, but he surely will be...and soon! ...26 year old came over from Japan as the Twins won the bidding rights for him at a cool $5.3 million...Switch-hitting SS who can also play 2B...great speed...great hitter...Question marks will be Jason Kubel and 2B Alexi Casilla...will either hit in 2011 (or at least hit better than 2010)

Over/Under win total for the 2011 Twins...86...UNDER...I see a lot to like on O, but a pitching staff that could see its share of problems...

...Cleveland Indians...

Welcome to the Cleve - SS Adam Everett...(welcome back) OF Austin Kearns...IF Orlando Cabrera

No notable departures...

In the Indians organization keep an eye on...P Joe Gardner...nasty MLB-ready sinker on some now-you-see-me, now-you-don't level...this guy was good in 2010 and should be a MLB pitcher in the next few years

Things have gotten rotten in the Cleve...Remember the days when Jacobs Field was a sure sellout (TONS of them - a record 455 straight sellouts at one point)...Would you believe that no team had worse attendance in MLB in 2010 than Cleveland...Back-to-back miserable 60+ wins seasons have killed the spirit and the attendance of Tribe fans...Chris Antonetti takes over as new GM and he has significant work to do...In the rotation you have a proven guy like Fausto Carmona...The rest of the crew showed signs of being good in the second half of 2010...Still much more will be required Justin Masterson, Mitch Talbot, Carlos Carrasco, David Huff, and Josh Tomlin...The bullpen has Frank Herrmann, Rafael Perez, Joe Smith, and Tony Sipp to set up closer Chris Perez

The O needs several guys to return to form, but first they need a return to health...Grady Sizemore, Carlos Santana, and Travis Hafner all are would-be offensive leaders for this club, but all have been plagued by injuries (for Sizemore and Hafner the injury bug has bitten them in multiple years now)...3B Jayson Nix and 1B Matt LaPorta both had miserable Springs, but both need to bring 20+ HR's to this lineup...SS Asdrubal Cabrera hopes for a healthy 2011 so he can get back to his 2009 form...Veterans Orlando Cabrera and Adam Everett provide depth for the middle IF positions...Young Luis Valbuena will get playing time in the IF too...In the OF let's watch Shin-Soo Choo...Choo hits .300+ annually, and has hit career highs in HR's 3 straight seasons...Young Michael Brantley will have to pick his game way up, or Austin Kerns could take his AB's

Over/Under win total for the 2011 Indians...71...UNDER...Bullpen has potential, but I think a third straight season of wins in the 60's is the fate of the 2011 Cleveland Indians

 ...Kansas City Royals...

Welcome to our rebuilding project in KC - OF Melky Cabrera...SS Alcides Escobar...OF Jeff Francoeur...SP Jeff Francis...2B Joaquin Arias...OF Lorenzo Cain...SP Vin Mazzaro...3B Pedro Feliz...RP Jeremy Jeffress

Now leaving KC (you're welcome) - SP Zack Greinke...3B Josh Fields (although Fields goes to Pittsburgh which is pretty much KC of the National League, if not worse)...SS Yuniesky Betancourt

In the Royals organization keep an eye on...3B Mike Moustakas...1B Eric Hosmer...C Will Myers... you can imagine there is a ton of talent in this organization as the Big Club loses so damn much they always get high draft picks (we saw the Rays build a perenial playoff team that way, but it is a tough road)...these 3 are in the plans for the future of KC as everyday starters...we will see all of them as soon as 2012, possibly even as early as this season (so much talent we will likely see them as September call-ups at least)...They project to group with Billy Butler as the middle of KC's order for years to come

Greinke, Gill Meche, and Brian Bannister are all gone leaving a lot of rotation spots open...Guys like Vin Mazzaro, Kyle Davies, Bruce Chen, Sean O'Sullivan, Luke Hochevar, and Canadian Jeff Francis will all get their shot at the rotation...The closer on this team is lights-out...Joakim Soria is about as good as it gets...Getting the ball to Soria in a Save situation is tough for the Royals...Robinson Tejada is likely the best set-up man on the roster, plus Jeremy Jeffress will get a shot too (Jeffress one of the many young talents that came back from Milwaukee in the Zack Greinke)

The O could get a boost from new OF's Jeff Francouer, Melky Cabrera, and Lorenzo Cain...Cain came over along with SS Alcides Escobar in the Greinke trade...Billy Butler proved he belongs at the MLB level...Wilson Betemit should see plenty of playing time, likely at 1B/3B...Mike Aviles should see action at 3B and 2B...If Pedro Feliz can regain his 20+ HR form from a few years ago then he will see time at 3B too...Not a whole lot to like here (yet)...There is plenty of O coming through the system, and plenty of young talent at the MLB level for the future to look very bright in KC

Over/Under win total for the 2011 Royals...69...UNDER...2013+ looks strong for the Royals...2011, not so much

Check out the other MLB Previews too...and follow me on twitter @craigballard77