Tag Archives: Miguel Sano

2015 MLB Preview: AL Central

Even though the Detroit Tigers won the AL Central for the fourth straight year in 2014, the Kansas City Royals had the more memorable season, reaching the postseason and the World Series for the first time since 1985 before losing to the San Francisco Giants in seven games. Despite the relative success of these two squads last year, however, I don’t think either one will be returning to the postseason in 2015. The Minnesota Twins will be better as their highly-touted prospects begin to arrive in the Show, and the Cleveland Indians have a formidable lineup to send out alongside AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. But I think the Chicago White Sox will be the team to end Detroit’s domination of the Central and to take the divisional crown for the first time since 2008.

Divisional Breakdown

  1. Chicago White Sox
  2. Cleveland Indians
  3. Detroit Tigers
  4. Kansas City Royals
  5. Minnesota Twins

Team Breakdown

  1. Chicago White Sox

The White Sox had a fairly discouraging 2014, with the team falling out of the AL Wild Card race after a terrible August. However, there were several bright spots, the most exciting of which being AL Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu. This year, the White Sox will depend on the 28 year old Cuban to be the key cog in a revamped lineup. The White Sox had one of the splashiest offseasons of any team in the league, adding OBP master Melky Cabrera and the powerful Adam Laroche into the fold. These two will be welcome additions into a lineup that doesn’t boast many household names. In addition to the improved lineup, the White Sox boast an imposing trio of starting pitchers: Chris Sale (my Cy Young pick), new acquisition Jeff Samardzija, and the underrated Jose Quintana. Although Sale is currently injured, and although the rest of the rotation is somewhat underwhelming, these three should serve Chicago well come October. Strides were also made to improve a bullpen that was among the worst in the league last season. New closer David Robertson and lefty Zach Duke should help the White Sox lock down a few more games over the course of 2015.

Verdict

Best Case- Sale, Samardzija, and Quintana are dominant, Abreu is an MVP candidate, and the White Sox win the AL Central.

Worst Case- Sale’s foot doesn’t heal properly, Robertson and Duke cannot fix Chicago’s bullpen troubles, and the White Sox are stuck at home in October.

I feel obligated to use this image whenever Chris Sale comes up in a post.

  1. Cleveland Indians

The Indians had a fairly good 2014 season, finishing 3 games back in the AL Wild Card race. Breakout seasons from Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and Michael Brantley, who finished third in the AL MVP race, should have Indians fans very excited for 2015. Overall, this is a pretty solid baseball team. In addition to Brantley, the lineup boasts the underrated catcher Yan Gomes, the powerful Carlos Santana, and the newly acquired Brandon Moss, who should improve production out of right field. And if Jason Kipnis can return to his 2013 All-Star form, the Indians’ lineup might be among the best in baseball. The rotation is also promising, headlined by Kluber and filled with young fireballers. Getting production out of Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer will be particularly important if the Indians hope to compete this year. The bullpen is fairly solid, with no key departures from a squad that finished 7th in the league in reliever ERA. While I don’t know if I agree with Sports Illustrated’s prediction that the Indians will win the World Series, Cleveland will certainly be a formidable opponent in 2015.

Verdict

Best Case- The rotation is overwhelming, Brantley, Gomes, and Kipnis produce at a high level, and the Indians take home the AL Central title.

Worst Case- The young guns in the rotation show little development, the breakout seasons of last year appear to be a fluke, and Cleveland misses the playoffs for the second straight year.

Tests have confirmed that Kluber is not a robot, but he does exude a machine-like efficiency from the mound.

  1. Detroit Tigers

The Tigers missed yet another opportunity to bring home their first World Series title since 1984 when they lost to the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS. Now, they try to do so in an AL Central that has improved, and with a team that is quite different than last year’s. Any lineup with Miguel Cabrera will produce a fair amount of runs. Adding Ian Kinsler, Victor Martinez, and J.D Martinez into the equation in 2014 resulted in the Tigers scoring the second-most of any team last season. Jose Iglesias will return, intent on matching the offensive production and defensive wizardry of his rookie season, newcomer Anthony Gose will try to be a serviceable replacement to Austin Jackson in center, and Yoenis Cespedes will attempt to inflate the value of his next contract with a big season. While the lineup appears to be as strong as ever, Detroit’s rotation and bullpen are filled with question marks. Gone are Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, and Drew Smyly. In their place stand David Price, Alfredo Simon, and Shane Greene. I don’t know that the replacements will be able to match the production of their predecessors, a statement made even more concerning by the fact that no one knows if Justin Verlander will ever be the same pitcher that he was in 2011 again. I believe the Tigers’ rotation will be solid, but I’m not sure that they’ll match the dominance of the 2013 squad. Meanwhile, the team did little to improve what was an absolute mess of a bullpen in 2014. Joe Nathan is back, coming off one of the worst years of his career, and disappointing midseason acquisition Joakim Soria returns as well. It is up to those two, as well as the resigned Joba Chamberlain, to provide some stability to what has been consistently the worst aspect of Detroit’s team.

Verdict

Best Case- Miggy and Victor Martinez are MVP candidates, Verlander and Price look like their old selves, and the Tigers win their fifth consecutive AL Central crown.

Worst Case- The aging lineup is injury-riddled, the new pitching acquisitions can’t match the production of last year’s squad, and the Tigers miss the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

Verlander and Price need to pitch like their old selves if the Tigers are to win this division.

  1. Kansas City Royals

The Royals shocked the world in 2014, sweeping their way to the World Series from the wild card game before finally falling to the San Francisco Bumgarners– sorry, the San Francisco Giants in seven games. Unfortunately, after losing three key members of that magical run- James Shields, Nori Aoki, and Billy Butler- and not matching some of the louder moves of their divisional rivals, I don’t think they’ll be returning to the postseason. The lineup is still quite solid and defensively elite, with Gold Glovers Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, and Alex Gordon all back at their respective posts. Newcomers Alex Rios and Kendrys Morales will attempt to produce at DH and RF, but both had fairly mediocre 2014s, which can be tough to come back from on the wrong side of 30. The rotation is solid, but will certainly miss its former ace Shields. Flamethrower Yordano Ventura and his fellow young gun Danny Duffy headline a staff that could be one of the better rotations in baseball, provided that Edinson Volquez can replicate his success of 2014. Chris Young is a nice end-of-the-rotation addition as well, and the signing of Kris Medlen (who will return later in the season from Tommy John surgery) could play a key role down the stretch. The core of the much-discussed Kansas City bullpen stayed relatively unchanged, with closer Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and Kelvin Herrera all returning. If they can perform as they did last year, the Royals will win a lot of close games.

Verdict

Best Case- Perez, Hosmer, and Gordon show they’re among the best at their positions, the rotation holds together despite the loss of Shields, and the Royals snag another wild card spot.

Worst Case- Morales and Rios aren’t suitable replacements, the rotation looks weak without Shields, and the Royals drop out of the wild card race by mid-September.

Ventura, seen here at his Rockettes audition, will bring 100+ MPH heat at the top of KC’s rotation.

  1. Minnesota Twins

The 2014 Twins were pretty bad, finishing in last place in the Central and not even getting a glimpse of the future after disappointing injuries to their two top prospects, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. While I don’t expect the Twins to be in contention this year, Minnesota could be a dangerous team come 2016. The lineup is filled with potential. Buxton and Sano are still stuck in the minors for the time being, but Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia have shown promise in the outfield, and Brian Dozier is one of the better second basemen in the league. Torii Hunter is back in Minnesota, returning to the team with which he spent the first nine full years of his career. While Buxton may very well steal his job when he finally arrives in the Bigs, Hunter will provide valuable veteran leadership (and may serve to put more Minnesotan butts in the seats). The rotation had the highest ERA of any AL team last year, but the addition of Ervin Santana should make things a little better. Phil Hughes had a terrific 2014 season and was rewarded with a 3-year, $42 million extension. Hughes and Santana alone aren’t enough to fix Minnesota’s pitching problems, though, and the back end of the Twins’ rotation will probably struggle. The bullpen is decent, with All-Star Glen Perkins closing games, but it is not very deep. The Twins may yet decide to pursue free agent closer Rafael Soriano to shore up their staff.

Verdict

Best Case- Buxton and Sano come up and impress, Arcia and Hicks emerge as key long-term pieces, and the Twins enter 2016 as a playoff favorite.

Worst Case- Buxton and Sano are again bitten by the injury bug, the rotation is a mess, and the window for contention moves even farther away than it already is.

On the bright side for 2015, Joe Mauer’s hair is still presumably dandruff-free.

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2014 MLB Preview: AL Central

Hello, baseball fans, and welcome to the second divisional edition of College Sports Town’s 2014 MLB preview. Today, I’m going to take a look at the AL Central. This division is fairly top-heavy, but most of its teams are up-and-coming young squads with real potential. The difference is whether or not that potential will be realized this year. The Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox both have stores of promising young players to match with veteran stars, although the White Sox are closer to utilizing their prospects than the Twins. The Indians and Royals will continue to battle for position in the AL wild-card hunt this year, just as they did last season. And the Tigers will finally bring home a World Series title for the first time since 1984.

Divisional Breakdown

1. Detroit Tigers

2. Kansas City Royals

3. Cleveland Indians

4. Chicago White Sox

5. Minnesota Twins

Team Breakdown

1. Detroit Tigers

2013 was a great season for the Tigers. Max Scherzer brought home a Cy Young award, Miguel Cabrera won his second straight MVP (third in a row for a Tiger), and Detroit made it to the ALCS. This season will be better, however, because the Tigers will be able to finally claim the World Series title they have been in close pursuit of for the last three years. The lineup will look slightly different, but still will be among the best in baseball. Gone is the pudgy but powerful Prince Fielder, but into the lineup enters the still-potent Ian Kinsler. While the lineup protection Fielder afforded Miggy will be missed, Cabrera is moving back to a vacated first base, which should focus him more on the offensive side of the game (first base is both easier to play than third and Miggy’s natural position). Joining Cabrera and Kinsler are veterans like consistent outfielder Torii Hunter and the streaky Austin Jackson, as well as Nick Castellanos, a promising rookie third baseman. Sadly, Jose Iglesias will be out most of the year, so look for the Tigers to make a move for a shortstop soon. While there isn’t as much pop in the lineup as in years past, just having Miguel Cabrera at this point in his career pretty much guarantees you a top ten offense. Besides, the Tigers have one of the best rotations in baseball. Despite a confounding trade of the talented Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals, the Tigers have the reigning AL Cy Young winner in Scherzer, the 2011 AL Cy Young and MVP Justin Verlander, and the reigning AL ERA champion Anibal Sanchez (seriously, Miami, quit trading with Detroit). Even though Verlander’s stats took a bit of a hit last year, he seemed to return to form in the postseason. This trio is arguably unparalleled in the MLB, and Rick Porcello isn’t bad, either. Last year the big question mark was the bullpen, but the Tigers are banking on the newly acquired Joe Nathan to close out games. I think that gamble will prove to be a good one.

Verdict

Best Case- Cabrera wins his third straight MVP, one of the members of the  the pitching trio wins the Cy Young, and the Tigers win the World Series.

Worst Case- Cabrera can’t play through injuries, Verlander continues to decline, Scherzer is dealt, and the Tigers barely manage a wild-card spot.

Verlander will soon have everything a guy could want: a ring, awards, and Kate Upton!

Verlander will soon have everything a guy could want: a ring, awards, and Kate Upton!

2. Kansas City Royals

The crushed dreams of Kansas City denizens are slowly being patched together. After a long period of losing, 2013 saw the Royals involved in a wild-card race. They missed out on a spot then, but 2014 will be the year the drought ends. Years of high draft picks paid off, both in terms of developed prospects and stars traded for with prospects. The Royals’ lineup is formidable. Norichika Aoki will be an improvement leading off, and Omar Infante has some pop and a fine glove. Adding those to a lineup which includes young gun Eric Hosmer, All-Stars Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez, and slugger Billy Butler should be a dangerous combination. They might not hit a lot of home runs, but they should be putting a good amount of runs on the board.Their rotation is headlined by James Shields, who is likely in his last year with the Royals. Following Shields, who finished 11th in the AL Cy Young voting in 2013, are the decent Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie, along with the underrated Bruce Chen. If the Royals can extend their youth movement into the pitching staff effectively with prospects Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy, it will improve their playoff prospects. In the bullpen, All-Star closer Greg Holland is among the best in the game, and, when healthy, Luke Hochevar is a nice set up man.

Verdict

Best case- Shields is a Cy Young candidate, Perez and Hosmer are All-Stars, and the Royals break their playoff drought with a wild-card berth.

Worst case- Hosmer and Mike Moustakas fail to develop further along with Ventura and Duffy, the Royals can’t break into the playoffs, and Shields departs soon after the season ends.

Unlike Lorde, being a Royal runs in Salvador Perez's blood.

Unlike Lorde, being a Royal runs in Salvador Perez’s blood.

3. Cleveland Indians

Following an off-season in which the Indians made a big splash by signing Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, and new manager Terry Francona, the Indians snagged a wild-card spot. Content with the composition of the squad, the Indians had a quiet off-season. This team might fall behind a bit due to its lack of moves in an extremely competitive AL wild-card race, but the Indians are still a dangerous ball club. The core of the lineup is made up of All-Star Jason Kipnis, the powerful Carlos Santana, and the solid Michael Brantley. The performances of Nick Swisher and Asdrubal Cabrera are more difficult to predict, due to the inconsistent natures of their 2013 seasons, but the Indians will prosper if the two produce. New outfielder David Murphy is fairly underrated and should be a nice addition to the lineup. The lineup is solid, but the rotation is where this team is really promising. If the young pitching staff can produce at the level they are expected, the Indians will make the playoffs for the second straight year. All-Star Justin Masterson is the ace, as well as the oldest of the bunch at 29. The most promising prospects are former Diamondback Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar, a 24 year old who throws absolute gas. Also promising are Carlos Carrasco, Zach McAllister, and Corey Kluber. The Indians only need a few of these guys to produce in order to have a good shot at the postseason. The bullpen is fairly uncertain as well, with John Axford taking over the closing job. Axford, polished sophomore Cody Allen, and Bryan Shaw will have to step up in the Indians’ revamped bullpen.

Overall, this team is difficult to forecast. They have many pieces in place; they just need a few lucky breaks for their gambles in the pitching staff to come through.

Verdict

Best Case- Salazar and Bauer are electrifying, Kipnis and Masterson are All-Stars, and the Indians snag a wild-card spot for the second consecutive year.

Worst case- The inexperienced rotation falters, Swisher and Cabrera derail the lineup, and the Indians lose their gambles and their chance at a postseason spot.

Kipnis hopes to be celebrating like this in 2014.

Kipnis hopes to be celebrating good times in 2014.

4. Chicago White Sox

The White Sox had a disappointing 2013, finishing last place in the AL Central under manager Robin Ventura. In response, they made a nice splash in the off-season. As a result, this White Sox squad should be improved, although not quite good enough to contend for a wild-card spot. The lineup could potentially be very effective. The young trio of Cuban Jose Abreu and former Diamondbacks Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson, as well as summer acquisition Avisail Garcia,  have the potential to be in the core of the White Sox lineup for the next decade, but likely won’t contribute too much this year. The ChiSox retained the terribly-disappointing Adam Dunn, as well as franchise icon Paul Konerko for another year, who will be joined in the infield by the unpredictable Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham. If their play, along with outfielder Dayan Viciedo, returns to past levels, the White Sox will be much improved. The rotation is fairly top-heavy, but it is headlined by one of the most exciting young pitchers in the league: 24 year old Chris Sale. Already a two-time All-Star, Sale is followed in the rotation by the decent duo of Jose Quintana and John Danks, then Felipe Paulino, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012, and Erik Johnson, who had a nice showing in September call-ups. The rotation will likely miss Hector Santiago, traded to Arizona in the deal for Eaton, as much as the bullpen will miss Addison Reed, also traded to Arizona for Davidson. The bullpen was completely revamped over the off-season, which probably a good thing considering the ChiSox were 23rd in bullpen ERA last year. Scott Downs, Roland Belisario, and Matt Lindstrom were all signed in the off-season, but it remains to be seen if Nate Jones can serve as an adequate closer. Overall, the White Sox are closer to contention, but their pitching staff outside of Sale needs improvement.

Verdict

Best Case- Sale wins the Cy Young, Jose Abreu hits 35+ HR, and the White Sox are in contention until after the All-Star break.

Worst Case- The rotation after Sale is worse than imagined, Abreu is a bust, and the White Sox crash and burn for the second straight year.

The White Sox hope that Jose Abreu lives up to his contract.

The White Sox hope that big acquistion Jose Abreu lives up to his contract.

5. Minnesota Twins

The Twins had a difficult 2013, but there is hope for the future. The Twins spent an unusually large amount in free agency to shore up their pitching staff, which was the second-worst team in the majors in team ERA last season. While the rotation should be improved, the lineup does not look too impressive. Outside of Joe Mauer (who has been converted to full-time first baseman) and Brian Dozier, the lineup is filled with replacement level players. This year’s lineup will likely be even worse than last year’s, despite the addition of C Kurt Suzuki, because of the midseason trade of former MVP Justin Morneau. Even more upsetting than the current state of the lineup is the stalling of the arrival of one of Minnesota’s saviors. The best slugger in the minors last season, Miguel Sano, was expected to be called up midseason, but Sano will miss the entire year with Tommy John surgery. Twins fans can hope one of the best prospects in all of baseball, Byron Buxton, will arrive in the upcoming season, but it seems unlikely that he’ll make the show this year. Hopefully for Minnesotans, the rotation will be better. Still, it is made up of cast-offs. Ricky Nolasco is likely the ace of the staff, which is already a risky proposition, and he is followed in the rotation by shaky starters Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, and Phil Hughes. For Minnesota to be any good this season, each one of these pitchers will have to have a career year, which seems unlikely. Outside of Mauer, the star of the team might be closer Glen Perkins, who saved 36 of the Twins’ 66 wins. Those two will probably be the only bright spots for the Twins this year, outside of the All-Star Game at Target Field, but don’t worry, Twins fans. 2015 will bring a healthy Sano and a more developed Buxton, and the prospect of facing those two will keep Chris Sale and Max Scherzer up at night.

Verdict

Best case- Mauer wins a batting title, Perkins saves 40 games, the patchwork rotation holds together, and the Twins contend until August.

Worst case- Mauer gets injured again, the rotation completely falters, and the Twins finish 2014 in the cellar of the Central.

This logo will serve as a sole light in the darkness that is the Twins' 2014 campaign.

This logo will serve as a sole light in the darkness that is the Twins’ 2014 campaign.

There you have it. The Tigers will win the AL Central once more on their way to a World Series championship, and the Royals will break their own postseason drought. Thanks for reading this edition of College Sports Town’s divisional preview. Next time, I’ll be forecasting the AL West. Will the Mariners’ wild off-season lead to a postseason appearance?Check back tomorrow to find out!

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