AL Central Preview

Cleveland Indians:

Key Additions: Jake Bauers, Carlos Santana, Jordan Luplow

The Cleveland Indians made some interesting moves in the offseason.  Unloading the power of Edwin Encarnacion and the often-injured Michael Brantley were moves made to change up the culture of the Indians locker room, while also making sure to free up money to sign franchise cornerstones Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor for the long term.

Their open negotiations on moving starting pitchers was surprising to say the least.  Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber were openly being discussed in the market, ultimately the Indians decided to hold on to their top two rotation pieces. Making them the favorites for the 2019 season. 

The Indians still have the best rotation in the division.  Brad Hand will take over the closing duties for another departing star Cody Allen, overall the bullpen is still solid.  The biggest worry I have for the Indians would be their depth in the outfield.  They have great speed but no real established major league stars.  The projected starters are currently Jake Bauers, Leonys Martin, and Tyler Naquin.  The Indians will be putting a lot of pressure on their stars in a lineup that is does not have the depth is has had in past years.

Minnesota Twins:

Key Additions: Marwin Gonzalez, Nelson Cruz, CJ Cron, Jonathon Schoop

The Twins have quietly become the most improved team in this division and its not even close.  A team that ranked 23rd in the league in homers last year added some serious pop to their lineup.  Nelson Cruz and CJ Cron immediately give them two players that can hit over 30 homers backing up Eddie Rosario and hopefully a resurgent Miguel Sano. Fellow additions veterans Jonathon Schoop and super utility man Marwin Gonzalez gives the Twins some serious depth on the infield. 

Offensively there is a lot to like about Minnesota going into 2019.  To overcome the Indians though they will need more production at the very top of the order.  A healthy Jorge Polanco and Byron Buxton are the best bets to take over the lead off role.  If Minnesota can put people on base consistently they could be looking at a top ten offensive club.

The biggest questions will be the starting pitching behind stud Jose Berrios.  Minnesota fans will hope to see Michael Pineida take the mound during the season fresh off his Tommy John surgery.  The former Yankee and Mariner has shown glimpses of what could be before his injury, if he is able to step in and help solidify a rotation with a lot of promise this team will not only take of the central but potentially be a contender in the American League.

Detroit Tigers

Key Additions: Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison

Can someone please make a deal for Nicolas Castellanos??? The Detroit Tigers are not ready to contend, and this guy is too good of a hitter to waste his prime years in Detroit in what is a forever rebuild.  The Tigers have some players that are going to be fun to watch, Jeimer Canderlario, Niko Goodrum and Christian Stewart will all get the opportunity to show the organization what they have this season but that shouldn’t make a huge difference in their overall record.

With a core of veterans like Miguel Cabrera, Jordan Zimmerman and the newly signed Josh Harrison the tigers will be competitive early in the season but it’s time for them to fully commit to their rebuild.  They need to move on from all of their older players and help build their farm system that currently ranks in the middle of the pack.  If the Tigers are smart they will also move their lone pitching star Michael Fulmer while he still has solid value.

Kansas City Royals:

Key Additions: Brad Boxberger, Terrance Gore, Billy Hamilton

The 2019 Kansas City Royals are going to be fun to watch.  An adrenaline rush of energy from almost every spot in the lineup.  With the addition of Billy Hamilton to go along with Whit Merrifield, Alberto Mondesi and Terrance Gore the Royals are going to be tough for opposing pitchers and catchers. 

The Royals have begun the rebuild of their farm system bringing themselves from worst in the league to 27th ranked.  While not a huge upgrade moving up four spots in farm system rankings in just one year is very impressive.  The Royals don’t have much pitching depth in the rotation or bullpen but their great defense and unique offense should help them pull out victories in 2019.

Chicago White Sox:

Key Additions: Kelvin Herrara, Yonder Alonso, Jon Jay, Ivan Nova

I want to say I feel bad for the White Sox for losing out on Manny Machado but when you sign players to help you bring in the guy you want to build around you put yourself in a tough situation. The Sox still have a great core of young players Yoan Moncada, Eloys Jimenez, Dylan Case and Michael Kopech.  They are still looking for the player to finalize the rebuild.

The 2019 White Sox will still be bottom dwellers but there is at least excitement in the works for Chicago’s second favorite team. The pickup of proven major league player like a Yonder Alonso, Ivan Nova and Jon Jay will give them potential trade chips when the trade deadline hits.  Chicago has its core but is still a few years away from being a true contender.

Projected standings:

  1. Minnesota Twins
  2. Cleveland Indians
  3. Chicago White Sox
  4. Kansas City Royals
  5. Detroit Tigers

I think that the Twins have done enough to improve their offense to take the American League Central.  This is a two team race between the Twins and the Indians.  The battle for third place in the division will also be a battle for the worst record in the American League.

Under Radar Free Agents

Adam Jones

Adam Jones is coming off the worst season of his professional career.  A 0.2WAR by far the lowest of his career came while his team was putting together a historic season alongside him.  The Orioles finished the season at 47-115 an astounding 61 games behind the first place Red Sox.  Jones will enter the season at 33 years old, his best days offensively and defensively behind him. But is he really not worth a look in spring training by a contending team in need of some outfield help?

Jones hasn’t been the all-star he was from 2012-2015 but he still has brought production to the table over the last three seasons.  Jones has shown power over the last three season combining for a total of 70 homers and never hitting below .265 in those three seasons. Jones also brings in league average OPS at a career mark of .779.  He has been a leader in the Baltimore club house and is respected around baseball.  Never more notably then the leadership he brought to team USA in the world baseball classic.

While he is not the based sabermetric center fielder defensively, Jones still has the ability to play all three positions. 

Teams that should consider:

New York Mets- Lagares can’t hit and Broxton hasn’t shown anything in the majors yet.

Cleveland Indians- after losing so much this off season the Indians could use some more pop and another veteran bat to sell to the fans.  Leonys Martin is not the answer.

Josh Harrison

Josh Harrison is coming off a subpar season that was marred by injuries.  Playing in only 97 games in 2018 Harrison’s productivity was not where the Pirates wanted it to be, leading to a buyout of his contract.  Harrison now sits in the wasteland of free agents.

The 31-year old utility player brings plus defense to two different positions 2b and 3b. The 2017 All-Star can bring a dynamic player off the bench for multiple playoff contenders.  In an age of versatility being a great attribute Harrison would be a perfect fit on multiple teams. 

Teams that should consider:

New York Yankees- having a player whom can come in defensively for Miguel Andujar would be a perfect fit in the late innings. His speed can also be valuable in late inning situations.

Milwaukee Brewers- This one is a bit of a stretch but he would be an upgrade over Hernan Perez because of his experience and great club house demeanor.  He could replace the underrated Eric Sogard in a utility infield role.

Tony Sipp

I have been preaching the effectiveness of Tony Sipp all off season. Sipp had a 1.86 ERA in 38 innings last season with the Houston Astros. This included a home ERA of .90 in the hitter friendly Minute Maid Park.

Sipp was as good as it gets versus lefties in 2018 holding them to a slash line of .191/.263/.294. While Sipp hasn’t had as storied a career as the players a previously spoke of he is coming off of a great season and is currently ranked as the second best reliever still on the market behind Craig Kimbrel. 

Teams that should consider-

Anyone and everyone.  I lefty specialist is not easy to find.  Sipp would fill in that role for any contending team that is worried about the left side of their bullpen.  He is going to be cheap to.