Broken Bat Blog: AL Central Preview

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by contributing blogger Drew Pelto

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
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Why they'll win the Central: They have the most explosive player in the league not named Trout in Jose Abreu. They have a potential Cy Young candidate in Chris Sale. They made some nice acquisitions in the off-season, led by Jeff Samardzija.

Why they won't win the Central: Because after that trio, what else do they really have? Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche, and Gordon Beckham are solid players, but they aren't solid enough to push the Pale Hose out of the bottom half of the division.

Best case scenario: Abreu stays hot, LaRoche goes .270/25/80 as a DH for the first time in his career, Beckham has a career year after he discovers he's been holding his bat upside-down the whole time, Sale has a strong year, and the team stays in contention through September.

Worst case scenario: Abreu has a sophomore slump, Samardzija isn't what he was on the North Side, Sale re-tweaks his foot, team finishes in last.

Realistic scenario: Third to fifth place in the Central.


CLEVELAND INDIANS
Why they'll win the Central: Reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber anchors a staff that had the AL's best ERA after the All-Star Break in 2014. had the Carlos Santana might finally be able to get comfortable not having to bounce all over the diamond from position to position. And Michael Brantley is coming off a career year and is just starting to enter his prime.

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Why they won't win the Central: The SI cover jinx. 1987: Joe Carter and Cory Snyder are on it, Tribe is predicted to storm the AL... and they lost 100 games. 2005: Ronnie Belliard is on the cover as the season comes down to its final week... where the Indians go 1-5 and fall out of the AL Central lead and even a Wild Card spot. 2007: Grady Sizemore is on the cover, his OPS drops 50 points from 2006, thus starting a rapid end to his career.

Best case scenario: Kluber stays hot, Carlos Carrasco stays effective, Bauer figures out his 17 different pitches, and the Tribe rides its pitching into the World Series.

Worst case scenario: Bauer goes fungal, Brantley suddenly loses it, Santana still can't figure it out, Gavin Floyd can't stay healthy, and the Erie Warriors swoon in June and die in July.

Realistic scenario: Second in the AL Central, Wild card spot, with the division battle coming down to the final week.

DETROIT TIGERS

Why they'll win the Central: The Tigers have a perennial Cy Young candidate in Justin Verlander anda perennial MVP candidate in Miguel Cabrera, plus excellent talent under them in Victor Martinez, David Price, Anibal Sanchez, Yoenis Cespedes, and a cavalcade of others. 
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Why they won't win the Central: Okay, I'll play. The only weak spot I can find is the bullpen. Joe Nathan has been bad in Detroit. Joakim Soria could potentially take over the role, but even he was largely ineffective in a small sample of work last last season. Even Joba Chamberlain hasn't risen anywhere near the giant expectations put on him as a Yankee. Teams will have to attack in the late innings and hope for the best.

Best case scenario: This is the Tigers' division to lose. Perhaps even their league to lose. They could easily take first place from wire to wire and mow their way through to the World Series with minimal effort.

Worst case scenario: Verlander never gets over his injury and heartbreak from breaking up with Kate Upton, Cabrera's age starts to catch up with him (ugh, I can't call 31 old, I'll be there in two weeks...), the Kinsler-for-Fielder trade starts to turn in favor of the Rangers, and the back of the rotation and bullpen combine for an ERA of 1.8 bazillion.

Realistic scenario: First place, possible AL champs.


KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Why they'll win the Central: The Royals won the AL behind a strong bullpen, strong fielding, and many above-average players who aren't exactly stars. They could sneak through again and surprise everyone.
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Why they won't win the Central: Too many free agent losses.  Billy Butler, Nori Aoki, and James Shields-- main players on the 2014 squad-- are out. Kendrys Morales, Alex Rios, and Edinson Volquez are in as subpar replacements. Their best hope is for the young players to use last year's postseason experience to step up their games.

Best case scenario: Yordano Ventura wins 20 and is a Cy Young contender, Sal Perez has an All-Star year, and Alex Rios has one last gasp after a disappointing end to his tenure in Texas, as the Royals contend with the Indians and Tigers and sneak into a Wild Card spot.

Worst case scenario: Rios' downfall continues, the young players prove 2014 was a year of overachieving, the bullpen loses its dominance, and the Royals go from AL Champs to last place.

Realistic scenario: Middle of the pack, somewhere in second to fourth.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Why they'll win the Central: Surely you can't be serious.

Why they won't win the Central: The Twins will improve upon 2014, but that's not saying a whole

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lot. Aside from Phil Hughes and closer Glen Perkins, the pitching staff is terrible now that Ervin Santana is sitting for the first 80 games. Torii Hunter won't make enough of a difference and who really knows what's going to happen with Joe Mauer?

Best case scenario: Mauer regains his form, call-up Byron Buxton quickly becomes a stud, and the pitching staff does just enough to be non-terrible, and the Twins crawl up out of the basement to a third place finish.

Worst case scenario: The Twins remain the Twins and finish fifth.

Realistic scenario: Fourth or fifth place, struggling not to lose 100 games.


PREDICTIONS: 
#1 - Detroit Tigers
#2 - Cleveland Indians
#3 - Kansas City Royals
#4 - Chicago White Sox
#5 - Minnesota Twins
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