2019 AL Central Predictions and Previews

Chicago White Sox

Preview: The White Sox are still in the middle of a rebuilding stage. Chicago has been stockpiling a long list of highly touted prospects. It’s still too early for the White Sox to contend, but they will enter the 2019 season with hopes that their young talent is developed and competes. Returning veterans for the ChiSox include star 1B Jose Abreu, reliable backstop Welington Castillo, and RHP out of the bullpen, Nate Jones. The Sox also decided to add some veteran talent to perhaps help smooth the young guys’ transition and develop. This offseason they added power-hitting Yonder Alonso, outfielder Jon Jay, SP Ivan Nova, and relief pitchers Kelvin Herrera and Alex Colome. An interesting prospect to look for on the White Sox this year is SP Michael Kopech, who is expected to play his rookie season this year. Kopech has been a highly rated prospect since he was drafted in the first round of the 2014 draft straight out of high school. The White Sox are hoping for Kopech to be a huge part of their future. There are two other young players that the White Sox are looking for a breakthrough from: 24 year old SP Lucas Giolito and 23 year old middle infielder Yoan Moncada. Both Giolito and Moncada struggled last season, failing to meet expectations. After a rough couple of years for south siders, 2019 could show a much improved White Sox team that could show signs of a team that will be ready to contend within the next few years.

Prediction: 70-92

Cleveland Indians

Preview: On paper, Cleveland’s lineup going into the 2019 season does not look nearly as dangerous as it has for the past three years. By the looks of it, much of the offensive production is going to be left to SS Francisco Lindor and 3B Jose Ramirez. From last season, the Indians have lost several starters such as outfielders Michael Brantley, Melky Cabrera, 1B Yonder Alonso, DH Edwin Encarnacion, 3B Josh Donaldson, and C Yan Gomes; not to mention several key bench players. The Indians did, however, bring DH Carlos Santana back to Cleveland. Santana will likely be relied on heavily in the middle of the order to drive in runs. The strength of the Cleveland Indians continues to be their starting pitching rotation. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Mike Clevinger all return to the rotation after putting together a great season of pitching last year, combining for 782.1 innings in 2018. The bullpen seems to be average at best for Cleveland but ninth inning leads should be safe as closing duties will be left to LHP Brad Hand who posted a 2.75 ERA last season while racking up 32 saves. As a team with many questions heading into the 2019 season, their starting rotation should be enough to give them as good of a chance as any to win the AL Central.

Prediction: 80-82

Detroit Tigers

Preview: In the middle of a rebuilding stage, Detroit is far from contending. They have holes to fill across the board. Like any rebuilding team, their main focus this year should be to develop young talent. The Tigers do have two veterans that could provide some power in the middle of the lineup– 1B Miguel Cabrera and RF Nick Castellanos. Castellanos could give the Tigers some trade value around the trade deadline to perhaps add some more prospects. The player that will have the attention of Detroit this year should be 25 year old SP Michael Fulmer. He struggled with a 3-12 record and a 4.69 ERA last season after posting a 3.06 ERA in 2016 and a 3.83 ERA in 2017. Fulmer has shown that he can be a top-of-the-rotation guy, but last season may have embedded doubts in the heads of the Detroit faithful.

Prediction: 61-101

Kansas City Royals

Preview: The Royals come into the season with a lot of question marks, but they are a team that could contend in a weak division like the AL Central. The Royals have no superstar players in the lineup, but they have a multitude of guys that can contribute. Perhaps the most intriguing player in the KC lineup is 23 year old SS Adalberto Mondesi. Despite striking out at a high rate last season, Mondesi finished 2018 with a .276 batting average with 14 HRs and 32 stolen bases. Mondesi is looking to build upon this and add to what looks to be a superb generation of shortstops. This past offseason, the Royals added speedster Billy Hamilton from Cincinnati. Hamilton has yet to find a groove at the plate through five full seasons in the big league; however, he has proven to be able to cause complete chaos on the base paths when he does get on. Last season, Hamilton impressively stole a career-low 34 bases (not including his 13-game 2013 campaign). He stole over 50 bases each season prior to 2018. The best player on this team, most would agree, is 2B Whit Merrifield. Merrifield posted a .304 batting average with 45 stolen bases last season. Merrifield will need to put together another all-star caliber season for the Royals to have a chance to win the division. C Salvador Perez is also back behind the plate for KC as he has been their reliable backstop for the last seven years. Perez hopes to continue to provide power in the middle of the lineup while remaining one of the more reliable backstops in the league. The starting pitching rotation looks to be a weak spot in Kansas City. The Royals are hoping for RHP Brad Keller to build on his rookie season in which he posted a 3.08 ERA in 140.1 innings pitched. The bullpen looks to be manageable as it will provide a multitude of arms- a mix of veterans and young guys- that turned in a decent 2018 season. Closing duties are likely to be handed to right-hander Wily Peralta who was 14/14 in save opportunities last season. In a division that is wide open, the Royals are absolutely looking to contend in 2019.

Prediction: 72-90

Minnesota Twins

Preview: After missing the postseason in 2018, Minnesota is looking to get back into October baseball after adding three new power bats to the lineup- 1B C.J. Cron (30 HRs and .816 OPS in 2018), Jonathan Schoop (21 HRs in 2018), and DH Nelson Cruz (37 HRs and 97 RBIs in 2018). Helping Cron, Cruz, and Schoop to produce runs this season will be outfielder Eddie Rosario (.288 BA and 24 HRs in 2018). Another addition to the Twins roster this season is utility man, Martin Gonzalez. Gonzalez can play a variety of different positions and is productive at the plate. His productivity resulted in helping the Houston Astros win the 2017 World Series. Three-fifths of the starting rotation looks to be solid as Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson are both coming off a solid year and Michael Pineda is returning from injury. The bullpen doesn’t have an established closer, but it has a few guys who look ready to take on that role. Blake Parker is one of those candidates. RHP Parker is coming off back to back good years out of the Angels bullpen where his ERA was 2.54 in 2017 and 3.26 in 2018. He racked up 22 saves in 28 opportunities. The Twins are another team that could easily contend for the AL Central division title.

Prediction: 82-80

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