– Mike Tolsma
Spring is finally here and boy could I not be happier. Over the course of the next couple of weeks I am going to hit you guys with my way to early MLB Division previews. Baseball is a long, sometimes too long – grind. April, all the way through October, has its peaks and valleys.
You will notice I will value depth – teams that can go to more than their active 25 man roster are typically the ones who can hang around into August and September. The dog days of May, June, and mid July are very, very real my friends.
First up! The AL Central.
2015 Final Division Standings
Kansas City Royals (95-67)
Minnesota Twins (83-79, 12 GB)
Cleveland Indians (81-80, 13.5 GB)
Chicago White Sox (76-86, 19 GB)
Detroit Tigers (74-87, 20.5 GB)
In the early days of spring training this is definitely an interesting division. Kansas City is looking to defend its World Series crown and once again must do it from within. Losing Johnny Cueto in free agency shouldn’t be a huge loss if someone like Yordano Ventura can step up and live up to his ace potential. Alex Gordon being back in the fold is huge for this club. I firmly believe each team in this division can challenge Kansas City if they can stay healthy. Detroit simply can’t have a last place finish again this year. They were riddled by injuries in 2015 and adding two key pieces should have them back at the top looking down again this year. I love the Jordan Zimmerman signing. Not sure why, but he always felt like a gamer who was constantly overshadowed in Washington due to Strasburg and later Scherzer. Justin Upton is a nice add as well. The White Sox and Indians (more so the Indians are quietly building above average to excellent starting rotations. Corey Kluber had some of the worst luck in baseball last year after winning a Cy Young in 2014 (9-16, 3.49 ERA). On the South Side Chris Sale is still a stud. Carlos Rodon is one of the most exciting pitching prospects in all the land and Jose Quintana still doesn’t get the love he should. Not many staffs are anchored by three quality lefties. Todd Frazier is a great pickup for the black and white as well. Then there is Minnesota. The simple, albeit lazy early eye test tells me they are probably not on the verge of winning a division crown. I love Sano and Buxton and they are both going to be quality young players in the league but can Ervin Santana and Phil Hughes anchor this pitching staff?
Prospects to watch:
Francisco Lindor – Cleveland Indians
All hail Francisco! This kid is great. A switch hitting 22 year old shortstop with plus range and a great arm. In 99 games last year he hit .313 with 12 homeruns, 51 RBIs and added 12 steals. If he stays healthy I can’t wait to see what 150+ games look like out of this kid.
Carlos Rodon – Chicago White Sox
I am a little biased on this but to me he is still a prospect. I faced Rodon (not me personally, I was a pitcher too) back in the spring of ’13 and this lefty simply has disgusting good stuff. In 23 starts last year he went 9-6 with a 3.75 ERA. He was pitching in a big league rotation less than two years after being drafted number three overall out of NC State. The same year he was drafted he finished his first pro season pitching in triple A Charlotte. Mid 90s fastball and devastating slider from a 3/4 arm angle.. no thank you!
2016 projected finish (disclaimer – I am by no means going to try and guess these records)
Kansas City Royals – winner
Detroit Tigers – 2 games back
Chicago White Sox – 4.5 games back
Cleveland Indians – 10 games back
Minnesota Twins – 17 games back
Kansas City is just so good top to bottom. They still sport one of the best bullpens in all of baseball and top to bottom this lineup is extremely talented. Detroit will not go down without a fight though.
– Mike Tolsma (@Tolss22)