Last season the Minnesota Twins won the AL Central before falling to the New York Yankees in the playoffs. The Chicago White Sox gave the Twins a run, but fell short at the end. The Twins won 94 games last year and that was while missing first baseman Justin Morneau for half the season. I would expect the Twins to repeat as AL Central champs, but after that is a crap shoot for second. Here is a preview for the 2011 American League Central.
1st – Minnesota Twins – The Twins have the best shot to win the AL Central in 2011. They have the best catcher in all of baseball in Joe Mauer. If first baseman Justin Morneau can stay healthy, their lineup can definitely put up some runs. Jim Thome can still hit and along with Delmon Yong and Michael Cuddyer, Minnesota will help their rotation out just fine. Speaking of their rotation, Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, and Carl Pavano make up a pretty solid rotation. I’d never thought I’d say the words Pavano and pretty solid in the same sentence, but crazier things have happened. Minnesota lost closer Joe Nathan last year which hurt a bit, but his recovery from Tommy John surgery seems to be going well. The Twins also have Matt Capps and Pat Neshek in the pen to help out.
2nd – Detroit Tigers – The Tigers finished at .500 last year, but will definitely improve on that this year. They will give the Twins a run for their money thanks to the strength of their bullpen. The Tigers have Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit and Joel Zumaya in the pen, almost ensuring they win those close games. After Justin Verlander, their starting pitching is average. Max Scherzer finished strong in 2010 and will look to build on that in 2011. Detroit also has Brad Penny and Rick Porcello in the rotation. Their offense got a nice upgrade with the acquisition of Victor Martinez. Along with Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen, and Austin Jackson, they should be putting up their fair share of runs. Detroit will definitely be competing with the Twins for the Central crown as well as the Wild Card.
3rd – Chicago White Sox – Last year the Sox came in second, and might have a bit of a drop off this year. Chicago should have no problem scoring runs with Alex Rios, Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez, Paul Konerko and the newly acquired Adam Dunn. Their rotation is decent with Mark Buehrle, Jake Peavy, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Edwin Jackson. Their bullpen is average at best, but with Matt Thornton and Will Ohman, they will be tough against lefties.
4th – Cleveland Indians – The Indians have some young talent that will look to grow in 2011. First baseman Matt LaPorta looks to grow on his 2010 campaign and turn into the top level first baseman people say he will be. Cleveland’s rotation is decent with Fausto Carmona, Justin Masterson, Carlos Carasco and Mitch Talbot, but their bullpen could certainly use some work. If center fielder Grady Sizemore can actually play a full season and get back to his 2006 form, their offense should be able to push some runs across. Cleveland’s best offensive weapon, Shin-Soo Choo, should have another solid year for the Indians. And can someone tell me where Travis Hafner has gone??
5th – Kansas City Royals – Ok, so besides Billy Butler and Joakim Soria, who else on this team can actually play? With Zack Greinke moving to Milwaukee, Jeff Francis now looks like their number one starter. That can’t be good. Alex Gordon will eventually play a full season, but is that a good thing? Speaking of someone who never lived up to their potential, former number one overall pick Luke Hochevar had his best season in 2010. He went 6-6 with a 4.81 ERA. Yes, I said that was his best season. The only competition for Kansas City is in the National League with the Pittsburgh Pirates.