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.

Eddie Rosario- The star we don’t talk about

In 2017 the Minnesota Twins would have been the best story in baseball if they had not been overshadowed by the brilliant run by the world champion Houston Astros.  The Twins made a huge step forward finishing second in the Central, finding themselves in the American League Wild Card game.  Minnesota fell short against the powerhouse Yankees but the statement was made, they have arrived on the scene and are ready to make the next step.  The baseball world has begun to see the Twins but they have yet to notice their developing star Eddie Rosario.

Rosario burst onto the scene in 2015 for the Twins hitting 13HR, stealing 11 bases  and hitting an astounding 15 triples.  Rosario finished 6th in the rookie of the year voting.  Rosario struggled to stay healthy in 2016 playing just 92 games. Without their young star the Twins suffered a tough season finishing just 59- 103, 35.5GB.  A healthy Rosario took the field in 2017 and began his accent to a leadership role on a young Twins roster looking for a star.  Rosario’s stats spoke for themselves, being placed in the middle of the Twins order Rosario blasted 27HR. Rosario also saw a huge progression in his advanced analytics. 2017 Stats (Increases from 2016)  OBP +33 – SLG  +86 – OPS +120 – XWOBA +59. The impact of having Rosario created a boast to the team as they finished 85-77 a ridiculous +26 in there win total.  While there are many different reasons for the increase in wins for the Twins it cannot be ignored that Rosario’s presence was huge for this team.

Rosario has continued his development in 2018 continuing to be a force.  The Twins struggled out of the gate mainly due to pitching issues.  But as we inch closer to the All Star break the twins currently sit 4.5 games back from the Central leading Indians.Eddie Rosario has been the reason why this team has been able to stay afloat in the division.  Over his last 15 games he has a Ruthian stat line .379BA 7HR 13RBI.  Eddie Rosario came into the league as a guy with a little pop but a lot of raw skills.  He used his speed and defensive ability to get into the lineup.  There has been a regression in his speed game, but I believe that is due to the fact that the Twins needed a guy that can hit for power.  Players like Byron Buxton can provide speed, Joe Mauer can provide more OBP. Rosario has changed his game to address the needs of his team.  He has found more value swinging for extra base hits and driving in runs.

Right now Eddie Rosario’s numbers should place him right in the middle of the MVP discussions.  His .323BA (5th), 16HR (10th), 46RBI (6th) put him in the same class as players like Mike Trout and Mookie Betts but he is still not looked at in the same light as these stars.  Rosario currently ranks 14th in AL All-Star voting behind players like Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, Nick Castellanos and Michael Brantley.   While these players may be deserving they are not near the level of Eddie Rosario.   I live in realistic world, players in bigger markets are always going to be put in front of a player that plays in the midwest.  Rosario sits in a market that doesn’t receive the same level of coverage.  The baseball world has to open their eyes and see what is happening up in Minnesota.  The best way to make that happen is to win.  The Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau Minnesota Twins teams of the early 2000’s forced the sports world to pay attention.   If the Twins can get more consistency from their pitching and secondary players they can turn around what his been a disappointing season.

Eddie Rosario will most likely make the All- Star game, he may even find himself in the talks for MVP (Not Realistic to win).  What is certain though is that he is becoming a player that the league cannot ignore.  He hits both righties and lefties, he hits for power, he hits for average,  he has speed and he is only 26 years old! It is time to pay attention to this man and watch as he continues to be one of the best players in Major League Baseball.