AL Central Preview

It’s the Cleveland Indians’ division and we’re all just living in it. For the foreseeable future, the Indians will dominate this division by their mere existence, but hope might be on the way for others.

Cleveland Indians

2018 Record: 91-71, 1st Central

Postseason: Lost in ALDS

Hello to: Carlos Santana, 1B/DH; Carlos Gonzalez, OF; Hanley Ramirez, DH; Jake Bauers, OF/1B; Kevin Plawecki, C; Jordan Luplow, OF; Chih-Wei Hu, P; Nick Wittgren, P; Oliver Perez, P; Ryan Flaherty, INF; Dioner Navarro, C.

So long to: Michael Brantley, OF; Edwin Encarnacion, DH; Andrew Miller, P; Cody Allen, P; Yan Gomes, C; Yonder Alonso, 1B; Yandy Diaz, 3B; Erik Gonzalez, 2B.

2019 Forecast: Thanks to a perpetually weak division, the Indians have baseball’s Schrodinger’s Window – a championship window that is always closing, but remains open at all times. While Cleveland is a hard fourth in any power ranking of American League teams, this is a club with a lot of talent on the mound an in the field with enough offense to put away most opponents. Not having Francisco Lindor for at least the first two weeks of the season will hurt, but shouldn’t affect the Indians’ quest for another division crown in any way. A rotation fronted by Corey Kluber and the incredibly online Trevor Bauer can match any 1-2 punch in baseball, and likely top all but a few. The bullpen is solid, but may need work if the Indians seek pennants and trophies. 

Look out for: After a one-year vacation in Philadelphia, noted “Fortnite” enthusiast Carlos Santana makes his return to Cleveland, having hit 24 home runs and driving in 86 runs with the Phillies a season ago. With 2019 being his Age 33 season, there could be a chance that Santana won’t be as vital to the Tribe as he had been during his first stint spanning from 2010-17, but his bat in spring training was hard to stop with four dingers and a .397 average. If he comes anywhere close to being a .300 hitter with similar to-scale numbers, Santana might snag a few sentimental MVP votes. 

Kansas City Royals

2018 Record: 58-104, 5th in Central

Postseason: Did not qualify 

Hello to: Billy Hamilton, OF; Brad Boxberger, P; Chris Owings, INF/OF; Chris Ellis, P; Martin Maldonado, C. 

So long to: Brandon Maurer, P; Nate Karns, P; Jason Hammel, P.

2019 Forecast: So, Salvador Perez is expected to miss the entire season, giving the Royals less hope than previously imagined. At least there’s still some shine from that 2015 World Series win, right? The team’s inexperience in 2018 won’t be as much of a hinderance in 2019, but there’s a long road to hoe in Kansas City. Whit Merrifield might be the best player in the division that you hadn’t heard of until reading his name in this post. Chris Owings is a solid acquisition as Kansas City tries its hardest to avoid a repeat of 2018’s disaster. 

Look out for: Shhhhh … Shhhh. Billy Hamilton can’t hurt you any more, Pirates fans. Hamilton should fit in very well with a team that loves to run once it gets on base. He swiped 34 bags a season ago, while seeing dips in a few offensive stats. While the adage states that you can’t steal first, Hamilton will be the first to actually succeed if he ever finds a loophole. 

Detroit Tigers

2018 Record: 64-98, 3rd in Central

Postseason: Did not qualify

Hello to: Josh Harrison, 2B; Matt Moore, P; Tyson Ross, P; Jordy Mercer, SS; Brandon Dixon, 2B.

So long to: Victor Martinez, DH; Jose Iglesias, SS; Francisco Liriano, P; James McCann, C; Alex Wilson, P; Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C; Artie Lewicki, P.

2019 Forecast: The lineup is mediocre. The pitching may cause PTSD in fans. The offseason was less than inspiring. What do we call this act? The Detroit Tigers! There’s good in the Tigers clubhouse, but getting good on the field might be a ways away. Thankfully, they’ll have the Royals to set the floor in the AL Central for another year, but pulling a playoff rabbit out of their hats might be a tough to-do without a lot of self-destruction from about 10 teams in the American League. At least the hats look as baller as ever. 

Look out for: Josh Harrison, who might be underrated if you believe other previews, comes to Detroit after a stint in Pittsburgh as the blue-collar everyday guy. Harrison was nicked by nagging injuries in 2018, having maybe his worst full season in the majors. Harrison, if healthy, will be better for the Tigers than he was for Pittsburgh in 2018. Plus, his double-play buddy Jordy Mercer made the trip to Detroit. No word on if that package deal unlocks some sort of Backyard Baseball bonus, like keeping the Webber twins together. 

Minnesota Twins

2018 Record: 78-84, 2nd in Central 

Postseason: Did not qualify

Hello to: Marwin Gonzalez, INF; Nelson Cruz, DH/OF; Jonathan Schoop, 2B; Blake Parker, P; C.J. Cron, 1B; Martin Perez, P.

So long to: Joe Mauer, 1B; Robbie Grossman, OF/DH; Logan Morrison, 1B/DH; Logan Forsythe, 2B; Ervin Santana, P; Matt Belisle, P; Alan Busenitz, P.

2019 Forecast: There may not be need for name tags in the Twins clubhouse, but a lot of new faces will play under the watchful gaze of Minny and Paul at Target Field. While it’ll be weird to not see Joe Mauer suiting up, Minnesota quietly did work to avoid a repeat of 2018’s disappointment. This team will be a load to handle offensively and could be a year away from making noise on the mound as well, the Jose Berrios should take a step forward this season as the Twins’ de facto ace. This won’t be a team that challenges the Indians in 2019, but it should frustrate them quite a bit. 

Look out for: There are a lot of great pieces for the Twins, but we’re here for Willians Astudillo and his prodigious baserunning. Just google it. It’s awesome. While Astudillo will be the guy behind Jason Castro on the catching depth chart, every time that he tries to leg out any kind of extra base, you’ll see the video soon enough. 

Chicago White Sox

2018 Record: 62-100, 4th in Central

Postseason: Did not qualify

Hello to: Ivan Nova, P; Yonder Alonso, 1B/DH; Kelvin Herrera, P; Alex Colome, P; Jon Jay, OF; James McCann, C; Brandon Guyer, OF; Ervin Santana, P.

So long to: Avisail Garcia, OF; Matt Davidson, DH/INF; James Shields, P.

2019 Forecast: What exactly are the White Sox? They’ll have a lineup that boasts some 20-home run guys from a season ago, which makes you think that the Southsiders are a keg-league softball team. If the cleat fits … Unfortunately, their 656 runs scored were almost lapped twice by the 848 that they allowed. Pitching is a glaring need for Chicago, and Ivan Nova – he of a 9-9 record and a 4.19 ERA with the Pirates in 2018 – is not the answer. They’ll be fun, but not successful. 

Look out for: Eloy Jimenez. Dude is going to bop. Maybe not on a 30-homer, 100-RBI pace, but he and Jose Abreu will do some damage in the middle of that Chicago lineup. The kid is electric and should inspire some buzz in Chicago if he produces. If anything, check the kid out when the White Sox are on.  

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