The 3rd Man In

2014 MLB Predictions: American League Central

When the weather starts to warm and the grass starts to green, you know it is right around the time the baseball season begins. This year it might be a bit chilly in the northern states on Opening Day, but who is going to complain with baseball officially underway. The season is never won early, as it is a 162 game journey, but here is how I see the American League Central shaping out to be:

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

At first when some experts were picking the Kansas City Royals to shock the world and make the playoffs, I thought they were crazy, but after looking at the Royals in depth, I am now drinking the blue Kool-Aid.

After winning 86 games a season ago, the Royals have gotten even better this offseason. They added veteran second baseman Omar Infante, lefty pitcher Jason Vargas and traded for one of the top leadoff hitters in baseball in Norichika Aoki.

The Royals had the best ERA in the American League (3.45) last season, and this year it should be even better with young pitching phenom Yordano Ventura in the starting rotation.

Now is the time for the Royals to make the run for a division crown. Kansas City has an extremely talented roster, and get ready to be watching this young, exciting team in October.

After a 93-69 season with an American League Championship Series appearance, many changes where made in Detroit. Longtime MLB catcher Brad Ausmus was brought in as manager after Jim Leyland announced his retirement following their ALCS defeat, while numerous deals were also made.

Prince Fielder was traded to Texas for Ian Kinsler, while Doug Fister was shipped to Washington for close to nothing. These two players will be a huge loss to this team, and it will show throughout the season.

Sure the Tigers still have the best hitter on the planet in Miguel Cabrera, with the trio of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez atop the rotation, but they have multiple question marks surrounding their team.

How will Ausmus handle being a manager? Can they get production from shortstop, left field and third base? Can their bullpen be effective?

These are all questions that need to be answered, and are just to big of an issue to view the Tigers as the favorite entering the season. Yes they have experience, but if they cannot solve all of these problems early on they will not make the playoffs.

After falling one game short of the Tigers a year ago, the Indians will once again be competitive. With Terry Francona at the helm, he is capable of getting the best out of his players, even if the talent is not completely there.

The loss of Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir will not help their pitching staff, but it will not drastically hurt either. Expect the Indians to once again be competitive, and if they can get some players to unexpectedly setup, they might even finish in front of the Tigers in the AL Central.

The White Sox finished last in the division a year ago with 99 losses after challenging the Tigers in 2012 for the division title. Chris Sale, along with newly acquired players in Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu will help the Sox improve this season, but not enough to make them a force in the division.

In last will be the Minnesota Twins. After always competing for a playoff spot, over the last couple seasons they have fallen as they try to rebuild. The Twins have some potential superstars down in the minors, and could be back to competing again as early as next year. This season however, they will struggle badly.

The AL Central is always a competitive division, and it should be a fun season watching the Royals, Tigers and Indians battle for the division crown.

Make sure to check back for the rest of my predictions on the MLB standings for the 2014 season.

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