With the next installment of our division-by-division breakdown, we turn to the AL Central. With a couple of teams entering a rebuilding phase, it’s shaping up to be a two-team race for the division title.

Detroit Tigers

Credit-MLB.com

2017 Record: 64-98, 5th Place AL Central

Notable Additions: OF Leonys Martín, SP Francisco Liriano, SP Mike Fiers
Notable Subtractions: 2B Ian Kinsler, SP Aníbal Sánchez

This time last year, the Tigers’ roster was riddled with big league stars such as Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, and Justin Upton. Now, only Cabrera remains, as he has saw each of his star teammates shipped out of town via trade, initiating Detroit’s rebuild.

Current GM Al Avila has assembled a team that seems destined for another last place finish in the AL Central. The rotation will rely heavily on Michael Fulmer, who’s battled various injuries in his short career.

An injury to Fulmer could prove devastating, as the other options include Liriano, Fiers, Norris, Boyd, and Zimmerman, all of whom have performed below Major League average in recent seasons. The offense is also incredibly underwhelming. Outside of Cabrera, Nick Castellanos appears to be the only above average regular on the team.

This Tigers team is entering a stretch that could bring back memories of the 2001-2003 squads.

Rotation:
1. Michael Fulmer
2. Jordan Zimmerman
3. Francisco Liriano
4. Mike Fiers
5. Daniel Norris/Matt Boyd

Bullpen:
CL: Shane Greene
SU: Alex Wilson
RP: Warwick Saupold

Lineup:
C: James McCann
1B: Miguel Cabrera
2B: Dixon Machado
3B: Jeimer Candelario
SS: José Iglesias
OF: Mikie Mahtook
OF: Leonys Martín
OF: Nick Castellanos
DH: Víctor Martínez

Prediction: 61-101, 5th Place AL Central

Kansas City Royals

Credit-Getty Images

2017 Season: 80-82, 3rd Place AL Central

Notable Additions: 1B Lucas Duda, 3B Mike Moustakas (Re-Signing), SS Alcides Escobar (Re-Signing), OF Jon Jay
Notable Subtractions: 1B Eric Hosmer, OF Lorenzo Cain, OF Melky Cabrera, SP Trevor Cahill, SP Jason Vargas, P Mike Minor, RP Peter Moylan, RP Scott Alexander, RP Joakim Soria

The Royals took quite a hit in free agency, losing their most consistent starting pitcher, as well as two mainstays atop their lineup in Cain and Hosmer. The team is simply not good enough to compete with its current roster construction.

Giving everyday at-bats to young players such as Raúl Mondesí and Hunter Dozier would make more sense than giving them away to veterans like Duda and Escobar. An already weak outfield got even weaker with the PED suspension of Jorge Bonifacio.

The lineup will feature five players 31 or older, and none under age 26. The pitching returns a few familiar faces, as 4/5ths of the rotation will be back, which may or may not be a good thing.

Kansas City’s pen, which was a staple for them during their run of contention, has been depleted. Dayton Moore will need to retool, or commit to the rebuild sooner than later.

Rotation:
1. Danny Duffy
2. Jason Hammel
3. Ian Kennedy
4. Jake Junis
5. Nate Karns

Bullpen:
CL: Kelvin Herrera
SU: Brandon Maurer
RP: Wily Peralta

Lineup:
C: Salvador Pérez
1B: Lucas Duda
2B: Whit Merrifield
3B: Mike Moustakas
SS: Alcides Escobar
OF: Jon Jay
OF: Paulo Orlando
OF: Alex Gordon
DH: Jorge Soler

Prediction: 75-87, 4th Place AL Central

Chicago White Sox

Credit-Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune

2017 Season: 67-95, 4th Place AL Central

Notable Additions: C Welington Castillo, SP Miguel González, RP Joakim Soria, RP Luis Avilán
Notable Subtractions: N/A

The White Sox are on the verge of breaking through with their rebuild. They feature a top-3 farm system in all of baseball, and have an evolving and formidable Major League squad.

Veteran Jose Abreu is the leader of a young clubhouse featuring core players Avisaíl García, Yolmer Sanchez, Yoan Moncada, and Tim Anderson. The staff is just as young, with Reynaldo López, Lucas Giolito, and Carson Fulmer anchored by James Shields.

The bullpen improved with the veteran additions of Soria and Avilán, plus the return of Nate Jones. The White Sox could really surpass expectations this season with a few young players taking the next step, more so on the mound with López, Fulmer, and Giolito.

Rotation:
1. James Shields
2. Miguel González
3. Lucas Giolito
4. Reynaldo López
5. Carson Fulmer

Bullpen:
CL: Joakim Soria
SU: Nate Jones
RP: Luis Avilán

Lineup:
C: Welington Castillo
1B: Jose Abreu
2B: Yolmer Sánchez
3B: Yoan Moncada
SS: Tim Anderson
OF: Avisaíl García
OF: Adam Engel
OF: Nicky Delmonico
DH: Matt Davidson

Prediction: 77-85, 3rd Place AL Central

Minnesota Twins

AL Central

Credit-Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

2017 Season: 85-77, 2nd Place AL Central

Notable Additions: 1B Logan Morrison, SP Lance Lynn, SP Michael Pineda, SP Jake Odorizzi, RP Addison Reed, RP Fernando Rodney, RP Zach Duke
Notable Subtractions: SP Bartolo Colón, SP Hector Santiago, RP Glen Perkins, RP Matt Belisle

The Twins made quite the splash this offseason. They signed one of the best starters on the market to a very team friendly 1 year deal. They also traded for Jake Odorizzi, giving up a mid-range prospect.

After winning 85 games with a suspect rotation in 2017, they attacked the problem head on and are poised for a deep run this season. The lineup features depth and balance from top to bottom, with no shortage of speed or power. The loss of Danny Santana hurts them, but Eduardo Escobar is a capable stopgap in the meantime.

They have a young, controllable outfield in Buxton, Kepler, and Rosario, whom all could hit 20 HR or more. The infield is well-rounded, with Mauer/Morrison holding down 1B/DH duties, and Dozier and Sanó providing no shortage of pop.

Ultimately, the rotation will determine how much success the Twins will have. Berríos, Gibson, Lynn, Odorizzi, Santana, and Hughes is a sure fire upgrade over whatever they were throwing out on the hill last season. If they have a weakness, it would be the back end of the bullpen.

All in all, look for Minnesota to give Cleveland a serious run for the division.

Rotation:
1. José Berríos
2. Jake Odorizzi
3. Lance Lynn
4. Kyle Gibson
5. Ervin Santana/Phil Hughes

Bullpen:
CL: Fernando Rodney
SU: Addison Reed
RP: Trevor Rogers

Lineup:
C: Jason Castro
1B: Joe Mauer
2B: Brian Dozier
3B: Miguel Sanó
SS: Eduardo Escobar
OF: Max Kepler
OF: Byron Buxton
OF: Eddie Rosario
DH: Logan Morrison

Prediction: 89-73, 2nd Place AL Central

Cleveland Indians

Preview AL Central

Credit-Sports Illustrated

2017 Season: 102-60, 1st Place AL Central

Notable Additions: 1B Yonder Alonso
Notable Subtractions: 1B Carlos Santana, OF Jay Bruce, OF Austin Jackson, RP Craig Breslow, RP Joe Smith, RP Bryan Shaw, RP Boone Logan

Cleveland had an incredible run during the regular season in 2017, winning over 100 games. Featuring one of the best 1-2 punches in the game in Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, the Indians have arguably the best rotation in baseball.

If that isn’t enough, they also feature perhaps the best backend bullpen combo, with Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. The offense features star shortstop Francisco Lindor, with MVP candidate José Ramírez flanking his right. Bradley Zimmer should also take another step, cementing himself as a fixture in CF.

Perhaps the best pure hitter in the organization is young catcher Francisco Mejia, who debuted in September of last season. He won’t break camp with the club, but will be a welcome addition sometime during the 2018 season.

Terry Francona is one of the best managers in the game, and he should walk right through the regular season and into postseason baseball.

Rotation:
1. Corey Kluber
2. Carlos Carrasco
3. Mike Clevinger
4. Trevor Bauer
5. Josh Tomlin/Danny Salazar

Bullpen:
CL: Cody Allen
SU: Andrew Miller
RP: Zach McCalister

Lineup:
C: Yan Gomes/Roberto Perez
1B: Yonder Alonso
2B: Jason Kipnis
3B: José Ramírez
SS: Francisco Lindor
OF: Michael Brantley
OF: Bradley Zimmer
OF: Lonnie Chisenhall
DH: Edwin Encarnación

Prediction: 99-63, 1st Place AL Central

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