The weather is getting warmer. The days are getting longer. Spring training is in full swing, and you can almost smell the freshly cut grass, hot dogs and peanuts of your local ballpark. The Rangers and Astros will kick off the season in just a few short weeks, and it is now time for a round of useless division predictions so we can all start getting our mind out of basketball mode and into its baseball preset. If you saw the Orioles finishing in second place in the notorious American League East or the Oakland A’s winning the AL west, then these projections aren’t useless. As it stands, we never know what twists and turns will take place over the course of 162, but we’re going to try to look into the future and see where things will stand come October.
American League Central:
Minnesota Twins, 5th place
This rebuild job is still a ways away from nearing completion. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are still a couple of the most feared hitters in the game when they are healthy, but the key phrase in that is “when they are healthy”. The starting rotation, led by new addition Vance Worley, is shaky at best, and the bullpen isn’t much better. But, like the Padres, they play in a gorgeous ball park.
Cleveland Indians, 4th place
The Indians could be the American League’s 2013 version of the 2012 Orioles or A’s. Terry Francona was hired over the winter to head the ship, and the additions of Nick Swisher, Michael Bourne, Drew Stubbs and Mark Reynolds will make them formidable. The hole with the tribe is the starting pitching, led by Justin Masterson. If some miracle is performed where Ubaldo Jimenez can regain the form he had in Colorado, the Indians could be in a position to make some noise. If a few breaks are caught, they could hang around till August, but the curse of Cleveland looks too big to overcome.
Chicago White Sox, 3rd place
They lost their motor of the last eight seasons when A.J. Peirzynski took his catching talents to Texas, and they failed to add anything over the winter that would make you think they can win the division. Paul Konerko is another year older, Alex Rios could be an all-star or he could be a glorified AA centerfielder, and Adam Dunn will reach 200 strikeouts yet again. All the hopes and aspirations on the South Side reside with Chris Sale at the top of the rotation, and they should be about a .500 team, but I don’t expect much else.
Kansas City Royals, 2nd place
It’s that crazy itch again, the same one that made me choose the Pirates to win the NL Central. Maybe it is something about the central divisions. The Royals are finally primed to get close to 90 wins, and if the Tigers falter, could potentially win the division. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are going to have to breakout, and James Shields is going to have to be the ace they traded for when they gave up super prospect Wil Myers. This is the year the Royals put the finishing touches on their rebuilding project and push it into “win now” mode. Of course, they could always go back to their Royal ways and find a way to win 72 games and finish 12 games back.
Detroit Tigers, 1st place
The defending American League champs are just as dangerous a year later. Justin Verlander is still awesome, as is Miguel Cabrera. Prince Fielder has a year under his belt in Motown, and they get Victor Martinez back from an injury that kept him out for all of 2012. They signed Torii Hunter in the offseason, coming off one of the best seasons of his career in Los Angeles. This is the best team in the division, and they should win it going away. If Cabrera can keep up his consistent greatness, followed by Fielder, Martinez and Hunter, the Tigers should be poised to defend their American League championship crown.