Continuing with my predictions on the various divisions in baseball, it's time to look at one of the more balanced divisions in baseball, the American League Central.
5. Detroit Tigers - What happened to the dominating lineup that was supposed to win the AL Pennant in 2008? Last year's mega-trade that brought Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Detroit was supposed to get the Tigers back to the World Series, but instead the team began with an 0-7 record and never really took off, losing 88 games and finishing in last place in the division. Don't look for this team to move out of this spot, even in one of baseball's weaker divisions. The starting rotation is in shambles, and injuries have forced them to go with Brandon Lyon as closer. The offense is decent. Cabrera will continue to dominate pitchers and Maglio Ordonez still has something left in the tank, but overall, this team does not look to have improved enough to get them back to a .500 team.
4. Kansas City Royals - This team wants to win. And who knows, they could surprise a lot of people. This offseason, the Royals added relievers Juan Cruz and Kyle Farnsworth and traded for speedster Coco Crisp and power hitting first baseman Mike Jacobs. The rotation is very good and probably a bit underrated, and Joakim Soria is one of the best closers in the league. All in all, this team could push the .500 mark and possibly even third place this year if everyone plays up to potential, but I don't see them as having the depth to be this season's Tampa Bay Rays.
3. Chicago White Sox - While Sox fans may hurl beer bottles at me for this prediction, I think this team did not improve from last season's division championship team. Gone are innings eater Javier Vazquez and outfielder Nick Swisher. Jim Thome and Paul Konerko are still producing but are beginning to show their ages as each of their numbers have declined over the past three seasons. There will also be several rookies getting starting jobs. On the plus side, Carlos Quentin is just getting started, Jermaine Dye still produces at a high level, and Bobby Jenks is a lights-out closer. Mark Buehrle will eat innings, and both John Danks and Gavin Floyd are coming off of stellar seasons. They should contend in what looks (on paper) to be a three team race, but they are an injury away from having some serious problems.
2. Minnesota Twins - They traded Johan Santana to the Mets before last season started and went on to miss the playoffs by a single game. How does this team continue to do this? In any event, this year's Twins may come back to Earth a bit, but they are still solid contenders in this division. The team added Joe Crede, who they felt was worth the risk even though he has been injured in recent years. Their rotation of virtual unknowns are producing, and Francisco Liriano could become another Santana if he can stay healthy. Joe Nathan is an incredible closer (there's a lot of that in this division), and the offense is led by Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer and Carlos Gomez. this team is good, but health concerns could determine where the Twins ultimately end up at season's end.
1. Cleveland Indians - The Indians improved this offseason by snatching Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa, they have a potential 40-40 guy in Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez is one of the better hitting catchers in baseball, and the pitching staff (despite having Carl Pavano and Anthony Reyes) looks pretty solid as well. Travis Hafner needs to stay healthy (as does Wood) for this team to make it to the postseason, but if health is not a concern, this starting staff has the right tools to take this division.
Just my opinion.