CardinalsGm- 2011 American League Central Preview

Check out my previous National League Central Preview.

American League Central

The Chicago White Sox look poised to regain the American League Central Division. The signing of Adam Dunn and his dingers coupled with the return play of Paul Konerko, puts manager Ozzie Guillen’s team back in the saddle again. Add to the mix Carlos Quentin, Akex Rios and Alexei Ramirez and there is a potent line-up.

The rotation smacks of veteran presence with Mark Buehrle, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, John Danks and Edwin Jackson. The bullpen is the biggest question mark they have going into 2011 with the loss of Bobby Jenks and the closer role handed over to inexperienced Matt Thornton and his 17 career saves.

2011 Prediction: 92-70, 1st place

The Minnesota Twins return some valuable commodities from the injury list for 2011. Back to close game will be Joe Nathan from Tommy John surgery and a full year of Matt Capps makes this bullpen formidable again. Jon Rauch performed well last year but the whole gang makes them eons better.

The return of Jim Thome leads an offensive explosion that is aided by a healthy Justin Morneau and ever consistent Joe Mauer. Look for an even better breakout year for Delmon Young for this team to be on fire.

The pitching staff is banking on Francisco Liriano to continue as ace material but then they fall off rapidly with Carl Pavano, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey and Brian Duensing. This team will struggle to get games to the closer many times.

2011 Prediction: 86-76, 2nd place

Manager Jim Leyland has struggled now for over 4 years trying to put a competitive team on the field for the Detroit Tigers. On paper they have a very good offensive team. Victor Martinez may be the key to scoring some runs this year. Add in Miguel Cabrera, if he stays away from legal issues, with Jhonny Peralta, slugger Ryan Raburn and Austin Jackson and tis has lots of power and the ability to drive in runs.

The ace of the pitching staff is left in the hands of Justin Verlander. He is definitely capable of handling those duties and will be followed by Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer. Brad Penny is added to this staff but they are not a top of the line rotation. In the bullpen we have fire-baller Joel Zumaya and Jose Valverde that can man late inning situations. Joaquin Benoit was a solid add to the team and lefty Phil Coke provides help from that side of the pitching mound.

2011 Prediction: 80-82, 3rd place

This is the year the Kansas City Royals break out of last place. Not much better than the fifth place team but they qualify slightly. Joakim Soria is the only household baseball name left in a Royals uniform. Offensive starts with Billy Butler and trends quickly downward to Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur. This team lacks many quality players to ever be taken seriously. Saving grace for them is that they have been proclaimed to have the best prospects in the Minor Leagues.

2011 Prediction: 70-92, 4th place

Yes, I do believe there is a team worse than the Royals. It is the Cleveland Indians. They have shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera and….. I can’t really find any more.

The pitching rotation is one weak starter in Fausto Carmona  and then a group of Class AAAA pitchers of Mitch Talbot, Justin Masterson and Jensen Lewis. The bullpen has Chris Perez as closer and then more of the same, players that would never make most Major League rosters. This is one very weak team.

2011 Prediction: 63-99, 5th place