Yesterday was my AL/NL East Preview and I am sure that everyone that read it agreed whole heartedly with my predictions. Ha. Well today we are moving on and previewing the AL and NL Central Divisions for the upcoming year. Keep in mind while reading that I am a diehard Tigers fan, but that has no impact on my decisions and that these are completely unbiased predictions. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Yeah, I know I picked the Tigers. Everyone knew it was coming, but here’s why, and no it’s not solely because of the Joe Nathan injury. Newsflash to all of you picking the Twins this year: THEY HAVE TO PLAY OUTDOOR BASEBALL THIS YEAR! NO MORE METRODUMP (Thank God). The Minnesota Twins of the past decade were built to play in the Metrodump and that’s why they had so much success. They knew all the hops and how to play on that dump of a turf, and that you couldn’t for one second take your eye off that ball in the outfield (who makes the roof the same color as the ball??) Not to mention, the Twins used to crank up there air conditioning system in the 8th and 9th innings when they were losing so it would push homeruns out of the park. No joke there. They have Span, Mauer, Morneau and Cuddeyer and they are all studs for sure, but let’s go to the pitching staff. First of all, they are going to have to get used to pitching in the cold weather of Minnesota early on in the year. The Tigers, Sox, Royals and Indians are all used to it early on while Minnesota is not. Why does this matter? It matters in so many ways. There pitchers will have to get a better grip on the ball and so much more in the cold. How the Twins react to having to play cold weather baseball early on will set the tone for the first half of the season. They will also be minus Joe Nathan, who other then Mariano Rivera has been the most dominant closer of the past decade. There pitching staff has some question marks, especially with Francisco Liriano, who could make them a very, very good team if he returned to his old self.
This gives the edge to the Detroit Tigers. Sure they traded away Granderson and Edwin Jackson, but the return was a 23 year old superstar centerfielder, a lefty reliever who won a ring last year in NY, Mark Schlereth’s son and a pitcher who has 2 different colored eyes (it’s freaky as shit). They also added Johnny Damon to give them some more lefty pop at the top of the lineup to go along with Austin Jackson, the above mentioned centerfielder. They also lost a gold glove second basemen which will be hard to replace, but they will try with their minor league player of the year. If the Tigers get ANY sort of production from Magglio Ordonez (he looks like he’s back on the juice in Spring Training) and Carlos Guillen, they win the Central handedly in my opinion. Jackson and Damon can set the table for Cabrera, Magglio and Guillen and all they have to do is come through. The pitching staff consists of Verlander, Porcello and Scherzer who are a dynamic trio, and then Jeremy Bonderman and Dontrelle Willis will round out the rotation at the 4 and 5 spots, respectively. I take Spring Training with a grain of salt, but the D-Train has an ERA under 1. I don’t know what to think about that…but if those first 3 can stay healthy most of the year then the Tigers look pretty good to me. Enter Papa Grande as the closer, along with a healthy Joel Zumaya, Ryan Perry and Phil Coke in the bullpen and the Tigers should be a contender all year long.
To sum up the White Sox in a couple words: one-dimensional. You cannot rely on the long ball to win baseball games and that’s exactly what the Sox are going to rely on. Quentin, Konerko are all-or-nothing guys. Gordon Beckham is an absolute stud but I don’t think he can carry them offensively. Adding bums like Andruw Jones and Juan Pierre was not a smart move. I feel bad for another addition of theirs, Mark Teahen because he has so much talent but he’s a damn head case, the dude will never figure it out. There pitching is legit, may be the best in the division with Peavy, Buerhle, Floyd and Danks, but they will be the Tigers of 2009 – great pitching and no offense.
Indians will improve, but Jake Westbrook is their ace. Enough said. They might as well call up Harris from Major League. Carmona will bounce back, and they have some nice pieces on offense – obviously Sizemore, Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera but they will not win the division. I do think they will be competitive though, maybe in the second half they will perk up a bit.
The Royals just plain stink, but if you’re looking for 3 fantasy baseball studs look at Zach Greinke, Billy Butler (especially when he plays my Detroit Tigers) and the “Mexicutioner” Joakim Soria.
The moment the Cardinals re-signed Matt Holliday they become the favorite again to win the Central in 2010. They bolster the best 1-2 offensive punch in the NL with Pujols and Holliday (close second to Braun/Fielder, who will previewed next) and on the pitching side, possibly the best 1-2 punch with Carpenter and Wainwright. I’m amazed at both of them – Carpenter comes back from elbow surgery last year and is runner up in the Cy Young and Wainwright has made the transition from being a closer to a starter with no problems whatsoever. Behind them, the Cardinals inked Brad Penny in the offseason and he has looked pretty good so far this spring. Keep in mind his career started in the NL with the Marlins and Dodgers before he bounced around in the
I almost picked the Brew Crew to win the division, but they just don’t have the pitching to hang with the Cards. Their offense is very, very, very good and will probably be the best in the NL Central. When you have names like Braun and Fielder in the heart of the order you can’t go wrong. I expect their offense to get a big boost from 23 year old rookie Elcides Escobar at shortstop and Rickie Weeks, who started off hot last year before injury. Escobar’s emergences lead to the trade of JJ Hardy to the Twins for Carlos Gomez in the offseason. I have one thing to say about Carlos Gomez – stud. He may be the fastest guy in the Big’s, and now with the chance to play every day, instead of pinch running in Minnesota, he may be destined for stardom. The Brewers downfall is pitching. Behind Yovanni Gollardo, Randy Wolf is the only pitcher set in their rotation that had a solid season last year. Jeff Suppan, Doug Davis and Manny Parra are all big question marks after those two. I expect the Brewers to be competitive all season long, but they will fall short in the end.
The reason the Reds haven’t been competitive since early last decade is due to their offense. If the Reds can figure out a way to score runs, they could even challenge for second, and possibly the wild card, but will they? They are going to have to rely on Jay Bruce, who will only be 23 at the beginning of the season, and Joey Votto to carry the offense. Scott Rolen has always been a steady player and will give the offense a boost, as will Brandon Phillips. But will Dusty Baker have the patients to deal with Brandon Phillips all season long? There is no doubt about his talents, but he thinks a little bit too highly of himself – especially for a guy who has never made an all-star team. If the Reds are out of it near the trade deadline, Phillips could be used as trade bait. If they wish to contend, they will need further contributions from Chris Dickerson, Drew Stubbs and Paul Janish.
People may frown on this one, but, yeah, I have the Cubs in 4th. The Cubs offense was disappointing last season, so it has to get better, right? Wrong. They were so bad last year because Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano and Geovony Soto (2008
Remember when Houston had the killer B’s? Man, I loved watching them play! Too bad it’s not like that in
The Pirates have been rebuilding for the last 20+ years and they still stink. For fantasy purposes draft Andrew McCutchen who finished 4th in the NL rookie of the year voting last year. This kid is a dynamite player and could be a 20-20-20 guy in just his second big league season.