Last season, the AL Central was not only the weakest top to bottom in the American League, but you could also argue it was the weakest in all of baseball. While no team last surpassed 88 wins, the AL representative in the World Series came from the Central. Will Detroit win the division for a 3rd straight year? Or will the White Sox be able to fend off a Tigers push? Will Cleveland’s new manager Terry Francona bring back playoff baseball for the Indians? Are the Royals finally ‘there’?
Chicago White Sox: Chicago looks to be primed to make a run at an AL Central title this year and it starts with their rotation. The 1-2 punch of Chris Sale and Jake Peavy will provide solid outings all year but the injury to John Danks might prove to be too costly. It’ll be up to Dylan Axelrod to step up in Danks’ absence. The two biggest question marks for the lineup are will Adam Dunn mash all season long again and can Paul Konerko stay healthy and lead the way in what may be his last season?
Cleveland Indians: The Indians have a lot to be excited about heading into this season and it starts with accomplished manager, Terry Francona. The sheer experience Francona brings to the clubhouse will propel Cleveland past last season’s 68 wins. New additions Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Drew Stubbs, and Mark Reynolds provide the ability to score runs with Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana. The real concern with the Indians will be the starting rotation. Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers are going to have to carry the load if this team is going to be successful in 2013.
Detroit Tigers: The defending AL Champs have everyone back from last year with a key addition in Torii Hunter and a healthy Victor Martinez. This team is built to win now and should run away with the division. But there is one giant hole; the role of closer. The Tigers will start the season with a closer by committee strategy that will rotate Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit, and Octavio Dotel. The rotation is the best in the league with a perennial Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez., and Rick Porcello. Expect to see this team deep in October.
Kansas City Royals: Every year for the past 5 years, the talk about the Royals has been “they are 1 or 2 years away”. This organization has plenty of young talent but its put up or shut up time. James Shields and Ervin Santana join 2012 mid-season acquisition Jeremy Guthrie to form the 2nd best pitching staff in the Central. If Butler, Moustakas, and co. can stay healthy, the KC Royals will be playing meaningful games through September and might see some post-season action.
Minnesota Twins: When you’re Opening Day starter is Vance Worley, you have seen better days. To make this season a success, the Twins need to break up the M&M boys. It makes more sense for Morneau to be dealt purely based on contract size, unless the Twinkies want to absorb some of Joe Mauer’s $23M/year deal. Josh Willingham provided much of the offense last year while having a career year. The only way I can see this team avoiding a 100-loss season is if Willingham duplicates his 2012 stats AND they do not trade Mauer or Morneau. It might be more beneficial to bite the bullet this year and start stocking up for 2014.
Adam Dunn – Chicago White Sox
Michael Bourn – Cleveland Indians
Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Justin Verlander – Detroit Tigers
Billy Butler – Kansas City Royals
Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham – Minnesota Twins
Justin Verlander – Detroit Tigers
Max Scherzer – Detroit Tigers
James Shields – Kansas City Royals
Rookie of the Year
Aaron Hicks – Minnesota Twins
Will the Tigers run away with this division? Is this the last time you can see the M&M boys in Twins uniforms? Comment below!
– Angelo Fileccia (@GODF_TH_R)
Each year, 68 Major League Baseball players (34 from each league) descend upon a pre-determined city to wear tacky uniforms and watch their friends and teammates hit ridiculous home runs. This year, it is Kansas City’s turn to host the All-Star Game.
And as with every year, there are more than 68 deserving players. Even more intriguing sometimes than the players who do make it to the All-Star Game are the ones who got snubbed.
With the game determining home-field advantage for the World Series (one of the worst rules ever created in any game anywhere…ever), stakes have been raised in recent years. Still, with fan vote factoring in and the inevitable, biased manager’s choices to fill out the rosters, players are going to get snubbed.
Here are five guaranteed snubs of this year’s All-Star Game from each league, ten in total:
1. A.J. Ellis, C, Los Angeles Dodgers
Ellis has handled the Majors’ 2nd-best pitching staff flawlessly to this point in the season, and has kept his average fluttering around .330. The most impressive stat that the National League squad will miss out on is his ability to get to 1st base. As of play today, Ellis has racked up an astounding .444 on-base percentage.
The crop of deserving N.L. catchers is just too large this season. You have to think Yadier Molina (St. Louis) and Buster Posey (San Francisco) will make it on fan vote alone. And I can’t see Carlos Ruiz of Philadelphia being snubbed, which leaves no room for the quietest great catcher of the season. Lucroy’s line right now: .343/5/29/.386.
3. James McDonald, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Erik Bedard is getting a ton of credit for his comeback performance in the rotation this season, and deservedly so. But the guy nobody is talking about is the electric righty who has finally put all his talent together into one unhittable package. One that won’t be making the All-Star Game, despite a 2.51 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and .198 batting average against.
4. Anthony Bass, SP, San Diego Padres
Three Up, Three Down’s first MLB player to join the podcast has been stellar since joining the rotation in San Diego. Aside from two hiccups, he’s allowed 3 ER or less in all of his starts in 2012. In 54.1 innings as a starter in 2012, Bass has given up just 22 earned runs. Unfortunately, his run support hasn’t been all that great, so his record doesn’t reflect his performance.
5. Bryan LaHair, 1B, Chicago Cubs
LaHair was a sight to behold for the first month of this season. He’s cooled off considerably, which won’t help him get to Kansas City. Not only is the poor guy going to miss the All-Star Game even with a .301/10/21/.397 line, but he’ll probably lose his starting spot to Anthony Rizzo as soon as the Cubs call him up. I hope LaHair can play outfield!
1. Fernando Rodney, RP, Tampa Bay Rays
David Price is going to get the Rays’ guaranteed All-Star bid, and James Shields might sneak in as well. That leaves the most dominant closer in baseball to this point (you read that right), wondering what he could have done better to get to K.C. It’s a popularity contest, and there just won’t be room for poor Fernando and his 15 saves or 0.38 ERA.
2. Jason Hammel, SP, Baltimore Orioles
I can’t imagine anyone besides Jim Johnson and Adam Jones (who are absolute locks) going to the All-Star Game from the first-place O’s. Despite a ridiculously hot start to the season, Hammel is going to be squeezed out by pitchers like C.C. Sabathia, Yu Darvish and Felix Hernandez. Poor guy. His 6-1 record and 2.78 ERA is going to waste.
3. Derek Lowe, SP, Cleveland Indians
How about D-Lowe this year? The old man still has some nasty sinkerballs in him, and he’s showing it. Lowe has been the veteran anchor on a first-place Cleveland staff, but we all know this kind of success won’t last; ask a Braves fan. Just because we know it’s a fluke, doesn’t mean Lowe and his 6-2 record and 2.15 ERA are any less deserving of a spot.
This may be the biggest snub of them all, but nobody knows who Cook is outside of Oakland. His 0.00 ERA so far in 22.2 innings is incredible, as is his 21 K’s, 4 hits allowed and 0.78 WHIP. But how is Cook going to be selected over Jim Johnson, Jonathan Broxton and Chris Perez for the bullpen? This may be the first time ever a pitcher who hasn’t allowed a first-half run gets snubbed.
5. Billy Butler, 1B, Kansas City Royals
Sigh. What a shame. Playing in his team’s stadium, no less. But you’ve got to understand that the American League DH spot is going to David Ortiz, and the first baseman slots will be filled by Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez. Don’t forget, this is still a popularity contest. Butler has been the best of the bunch at .292/9/32, but he may need the Final Vote to get the spot he deserves.
Who else do you think will be snubbed? Let me know in the comments below! Also, is the home-field advantage rule stupid? Comment away!
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)