2014 MLB preview: A look at the AL Central
Predicting the best, and the worst, to come this season in the American League Central.
New faces, places
The Tigers, the best team in the division, added second baseman and leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler and veteran closer Joe Nathan. The White Sox signed Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu to a six-year, $68 million deal. The Twins signed free agents Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes and put them at the top of their rotation, which tells you all you need to know about the Twins’ rotation. Former Mariner Jason Vargas signed with Kansas City after one middling season with the Angels.
The Royals won 86 games last season and retained their good, young lineup, featuring DH Billy Butler. They’ve got one of the best closers in baseball, Greg Holland, and hope hard-throwing rookie Yordano Ventura is ready to step into the rotation. They might pass up the Indians, but can’t see them catching the Tigers.
Cleveland won 92 games last season, finishing just a game behind the Tigers. But the Indians lost free-agent starters Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir and are going with shaky John Axford as their closer.
Missed out on the best second basemen? No worries. Brian Dozier, the Twins’ 26-year-old second baseman, hit 18 home runs and stole 14 bases last season. If he improves even a little on those numbers he’ll be a steal at a weak position, considering where you’ll be able to get him.
One of these years, Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas might prove all those scouts right. Until then, he’ll struggle hitting lefties and might end up in a platoon situation. Don’t be the owner that gambles that this will be the year for Moose.
Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers star will move from third base to first this season. Whatever. As long as he remembers to bring his bat.
Take your pick of Detroit’s Cy Young winners, Justin Verlander or Max Scherzer. Verlander has the stronger body of work but Scherzer, who is two years younger, was brilliant last year (21-3, 2.90 ERA, 240 strikeouts).
From 2008 through 2010, John Danks looked like one of the best young left-handers in the American League. He’s struggled the past three years but has been sharp this spring. The White Sox are hoping he’ll help support No. 1 starter Chris Sale in a rotation with plenty of question marks.
Manager on the hot seat
Ron Gardenhire begins his 13th season as Minnesota’s manager. At the end of the 2013 season, the third consecutive year with at least 96 losses, Gardenhire was given a two-year extension, through the 2015 season. Of course, the guy won the division six of his first nine years, and it would be hard for anyone to win with this roster. Still, when 90-loss seasons keep piling up, managers tend to get fired.
Indians center fielder Michael Bourn will start the season on the disabled list because of a tight hamstring. That’s not good for a player whose speed is his greatest asset. Cleveland expects Bourn to be back soon, though, taking his place at the top of the Indians’ lineup.
Rookie to watch
With the Tigers moving Cabrera to first base, 22-year-old Nick Castellanos will step in at third. Castellanos, a first-round pick in 2010, has hit at each stop in the minors, with increasing power each season.
By the numbers
10 Consecutive 100-RBI seasons for Miguel Cabrera.
28 Consecutive non-playoff seasons for the Royals, and counting.
How they’ll finish