With 2013 Opening Day just days away, Live Toast is happy to present our sixth and final 2013 division preview, the AL Central, home of the defending league champion Detroit Tigers. The Tigers swept the Yankees in the ALCS en route to their own World Series sweep at the hands of the San Francisco Giants. Detroit has to be the favorites to repeat as division champs, if not league champs as well. You can easily make the argument they have the best hitter and the best pitcher in the game. But they had them last year and the White Sox came very close to edging them out for the division. Both the Indians and the Royals have re-tooled and look like they could improve considerably, and if the Twins stay healthy they should improve on their 66 win total.
You can also take a look at our previews for the AL East, NL East, NL Central, AL West and NL West.
White Sox Preview
· Indians Preview
· Tigers Preview
· Royals Preview
· Twins Preview
2013 Detroit Tigers Preview
The Detroit Tigers are expected to finish what they started in 2013 and win the World Series. In Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera they have the past two MVP winners. Add in a healthy Victor Martinez to what was already a among the leagues's most prolific offenses and the Tigers will be dangerous. Then again the Tigers were behind the White Sox near the end of last season, so they still have to show up and play, especially as much of the division has improved.
Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown last season, the first time that feat has been accomplished since 1967, and gives the Tigers the games best hitter to match with the games best pitcher in Justin Verlander.
Tigers Offensive Outlook
The Tigers could have the most potent offense in baseball, boasting recent Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and the newly-healthy Victor Martinez. Cabrera was the AL's MVP to go with the Triple Crown (what I imagine that crown looking like is to the right), the first time a player has led in batting average, home runs, and RBI since 1967. Fielder has hit at least 30 home runs the past six seasons. Victor Martinez missed all of 2012 with a torn ACL but has been one of the leagues best hitters, batting .330 with 103 RBI with the Tigers in 2011. The Tigers offense also features Austin Jackson (.300 average, 16 home runs), Johnny Peralta (.239 average, 13 home runs) and Alex Avila, who's numbers were down a bit from a monster 2011. And just in case, the Tigers also brought in Torii Hunter from LA, another veteran bat that can only help the offense. Detroit had the second-highest OBP in the AL last season (behind the Yankees), and look to pick up right where they left off.
Tigers Pitching Outlook
Justin Verlander was the MVP and Cy Young winner in 2011 and the Cy Young runner-up in 2012. He was 17-8 with a 2.64 ERA, throwing 238.1 innings with a 1.057 WHIP and an incredible six complete games, the most in the majors. Max Scherzer emerged as a legitimate #2 last season with a 3.74 ERA, 16 wins and 1.274 WHIP. The Tigers gave Anibal Sanchez a five year deal with an option for a sixth year worth $80 million over five years, an indication of the Tiger's confidence in him. Doug Fister is a more than capable starter who has to stay healthy, with Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly rounding out the starters, although barring injuries someone will have to come out of the bullpen.
It looks like rookie Bruce Rondon will not be the the closer on opening day, as had been speculated. The Tigers did not bring back Jose Valverde after he melted down at the end of last season. The Tigers have elected to use a closer by committee to start the season, which could end up being the Tigers' Achilles heel, so don't be surprised if the team makes a trade. Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit and Octavio Dotel bolster the bullpen and could also end up closing if the committee system is scraped.
Tigers Key Off-Season Moves
- Signed free agent CF Torii Hunter (who was with the Angels), C Brayan Pena (Royals), C Brad Davis (Padres, Marlins and Tigers), RHP Shawn Hill (Blue Jays), and 3B Matt Tuiasosopo (Mets).
- Acquired via trade 2B Jeff Kobernus (from Red Sox), LHP Kyle Lobstein (Mets) and C Ramon Cabrera (Pirates).
- Did no re-sign free agent RF Delmon Young (Phillies).
- Did no re-sign free agent 2B Ryan Raburn (Indians), LHP Daniel Schlereth (Orioles), LF Matt Young (Angels), RHP Zach Miner (Phillies), RHP Collin Balester (Rangers), C Omir Santos (Indians), and C Gerald Laird (Braves).
- Traded LHP Andy Oliver (to the Pirates).
2013 Cleveland Indians Preview
The Cleveland Indians brought in manager Terry Francona in 2013. The long-time Red Sox manager led Boston to two World Series titles and hopes to help Cleveland keep up the intensity over a long season. The Indians got off to a great start early last season but could not keep it up, the second time the Indians faltered down the stretch. The additions of Jason Giambi and Nick Swisher adds to the veteran presence on the Indians and should be an asset over the season.
Indians Offensive Outlook
The Indians offense was not very good at scoring runs last year, but some big bats have been brought in to address the point. Michael Bourn, signed to a four-year deal, will bat leadoff for the Indians and with his speed and ability to get on base gives the Indians a good start. Nick Swisher hit .272 with 24 home runs last year and as a "clubhouse guy" should help keep the teams loose over the season. He's hit over 20 home runs the past eight seasons to go with a .361 career OBP.
Mike Aviles does not have a great average but has the speed and defense, with some occasional power, to make a difference. 2B Jason Kipnis is poised to become an offensive powerhouse at second. DH Mark Reynolds played a big part on the surprise Orioles team of last year but strike outs a ton. His six-year batting average is .235 but does average 34 home runs a season. Catcher Carlos Santana will be helped tremendously by the offensive additions. The switch hitter has put up scary offensive numbers. At 42, Jason Giambi had just 89 at bats in 60 games with the Rockies, but with the AL's DH spot he should get more chances. He had just one home run last season but jacked 13 in 64 games in 2011.
Indians Pitching Outlook
The Indians pitching could end up being very bad, again. Cleveland's team ERA of 4.78 with 845 runs given up were the worst in the league last year, and gave up the second-most walks. Justin Masterson will get the start on Opening Day, and while he's been solid, he just doesn't match up with the best pitchers on other staffs. Ubaldo Jimenez has had flashes of brilliance but has not come close to matching the numbers he put up in 2010 when he was an All-Star. Jimenez has to be consistent if the rotation is going to get through the season. Daisuke Matsuzaka had 19 wins once but has largely been unreliable. Brett Myers hasn't had a great spring and Scott Kazmir hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2010, but both are is capable of a solid year.
Closer Chris Perez can be very good if the team can stay competitive. The Indians picked up Trevor Bauer from Arizona during the off-season and he could end up joining the big league club soon. He was Arizona's third overall pick in 2011 and Cleveland has high hopes for him.
Indians Key Off-Season Moves
- Signed free agents 1B Nick Swisher (Yankees), CF Michael Bourn (Braves), 1B Mark Reynolds (Orioles), 1B Jason Giambi (Rockies), RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (Red Sox), 2B Ryan Raburn (Tigers), LHP Scott Kazmir (Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League), RHP Brett Myers (White Sox), LF Ben Francisco (Rays), RHP Matt Capps (Twins), RF Jeremy Hermida (Padres), LHP Rich Hill (Red Sox), RHP Fernando Nieve (Dodgers), and C Omir Santos (Tigers).
- Acquired via trade RHP Trevor Bauer (from the Diamondbacks), CF Drew Stubbs (Reds), RHP Bryan Shaw (Diamondbacks), Didi Gregorius (Reds), RHP Esmil Rogers (Blue Jays), and RHP Matt Albers (Diamondbacks).
- Claimed off waivers LF Russ Canzler and 1B Mike McDade (from the Blue Jays), 1B Chris McGuiness (Frisco RoughRiders), RHP Blake Wood (Royals).
- Did no re-sign free agent DH Travis Hafner (who went to the Yankees), SS Brent Lillibridge (Cubs), 1B Casey Kotchman (Marlins), 3B Jack Hannahan (Reds), RHP Kevin Slowey (Marlins), RHP Dan Wheeler (Royals), LF Thomas Neal (Yankees), RHP Loek Van Mil (Reds), RHP Roberto Hernandez (AKA Fauston Carmona) and LF Shelley Duncan (Rays), RF Aaron Cunningham (Rangers).
- Traded 1B Lars Anderson, SS Didi Gregorius and LHP Tony Sipp (to the Diamondbacks), CF Shin-Soo Choo and 3B Jason Donald (Reds), RHP Jeanmar Gomez (Pirates) and SS Mike Aviles and 3B Yan Gomes (Blue Jays).
2013 Chicago White Sox Preview
The White Sox surprised the league, and especially the Tigers, last season, leading the division halfway through September. But then the White Sox played their worst baseball to close the season. The White Sox are a veteran team that should be able to hang in over the long season but their depth could be an issue.
White Sox Offensive Outlook
The White Sox where among the better offensive teams last season with the third-highest home run totals. Alex Rios was probably the White Sox MVP with a .304 average and 91 RBI and .850 OPS. At 37-years-old Paul Konerko has been with the White Sox for 15 seasons. He had a .298 average with 26 home runs, just about his career average. Adam Dunn had a surprisingly productive 2012 and with 41 homers and 96 RBI gives the offense some pop. 23 year-old left fielder Dayan Viciedo hit .300 with 25 home runs and 78 RBI last season and gives the Sox some young power to counter the aging Paul Konerko (37) and Dunn (33). Catcher Tyler Flowers takes over for long-time catcher AJ Pierzynski. He hit just .213 with 7 home runs and has some big shoes to fill but the front office thinks he can be an impact player.
White Sox Pitching Outlook
As the White Sox's third starter, Gavin Floyd will have a significant impact on Chicago's pitching behind Chris Sale and Jake Peavy.
In Chris Sale Jake Peavy the White Sox have a top of the rotation that can match up with anyone. Gavin Floyd is hit or miss, but over the long haul is an asset. John Danks is still returning from shoulder surgery but is a viable starter. Lefty Jose Quintana had a decent rookie season and should improve in the fifth spot.
The young bullpen was a huge asset last season and played an important part in the White Sox success. Closer Addison Reed ended up with 29 saves in 55 innings pitched and averaged 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Nate Jones can reach 100 MPH and with an assortment of pitches will be a valuable arm out of the bullpen.
White Sox Key Off-Season Moves
- Signed free agent 3B Josh Bell (who was with the Diamondbacks), 3B Jeff Keppinger (Rays), OF Ruben Sierra Jr. (Rangers and the Normal Cornbelters), RHP Andrew Brackman (Reds), C Bryan Anderson (Cardinals), 1B Randy Ruiz (Yokohama DeNA BayStars of the NPB), RHP Matt Lindstrom (Diamondbacks), 3B Steve Tolleson (Orioles), and RHP Tony Pena Jr. (Red Sox in 2011).
- Claimed off waivers 1B Lars Anderson (from Diamondbacks) SS Angel Sanchez (Angels) Zach Stewart (Pirates).
- Did no re-sign free agent 3B Kevin Youkilis (who went to the New York Yankees), C AJ Pierzynski (Rangers), LHP Francisco Liriano (Pirates), RHP Brett Myers (Indians), RHP Anthony Carter (Red Sox), 1B Dan Johnson (Yankees), LHP Will Ohman (Nationals), LHP Scott Olsen (Rangers), and 3B Ray Olmedo (Twins).
- Traded RHP Brandon Kloess (to the Padres).
2013 Kansas City Royals Preview
The Royals went out and upgraded their pitching to match a potent offense in hopes it will be enough to compete for the division. The trade of the highly-touted Wil Myers to the Rays for starter James Shields has gotten some raised eyebrows, but GM Dayton Moore has decided to go for it now.
Royals Offensive Outlook
The Royals offense was among of the league's best, near the top in both hits and batting average. Alex Gordon hit .294 with 14 homers and 72 RBI and a .822 OPS to go with a gold globe in left field. DH Billy Butler continues to be among the leagues best hitters with a .313 batting average, 29 home runs and 107 RBI. Between Gordon and Butler the Royals have two high-caliber batters that make everyone around them better.
In 76 games 22-year-old catcher Salvador Perez hit .301 with 11 home runs and could soon be one of MLB's most productive catchers. 1B Eric Hosmer had a fantastic rookie campaign in 2011 but suffered a sophomore slump in 2012. He is vital to the Royals offense so keep an eye on him. 3B Mike Moustakas batted .242 but had 20 home runs and 73 RBI last season. He was the second overall pick in 2007 and the Royals are counting on him to improve.
Royals Pitching Outlook
Royals' pitching was a big problem for the team and was a main focus for the front office during the off-season. And it should be vastly upgraded with James Shields, Ervin Santana and Wade Davis at the top. Shields has long been a workhorse for the Rays, pitching more than 200 innings for the past six seasons with a career 3.89 ERA, a 1.168 WHIP and 8,8 strikeouts per nine innings. Santana struggled some last season with a 5.16 ERA but his career numbers are solid. In Davis the Royals have a potential stud who dropped his ERA to 2.43 out of the bullpen last season with a 1.095 WHIP and 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings after starting in 2010 and 11.
Closer Greg Hollan was solid last season with a 2.96 ERA, 1.373 WHIP and 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings. Lefty Reliever Donnie Joseph struck out each of the first six batter he faced in spring training and has been great in spring training, so look for him to perhaps join the big league club soon.
Royals Key Off-Season Moves
- Signed free agent 3B Miguel Tejada (who was with the Orioles), LF Xavier Nady (Giants), LF Endy Chavez (Orioles), 1B Chad Tracy (Nationals), RHP Dan Wheeler (Indians), and LHP George Sherrill (Mariners).
- Acquired via trade RHP Wade Davis, RHP James Shields and SS Elliot Johnson (from the Rays), RHP Ervin Santana (Angels), C George Kottaras (Athletics) RHP Guillermo Moscoso (Rockies) and C Brett Hayes (Marlins).
- Did no re-sign free agents 2B Yuniesky Betancourt (who went to the Phillies), C Brayan Pena (Tigers), RHP Joakim Soria (Rangers), CF Jason Bourgeois (Rays), and C Humberto Quintero (Phillies).
- Traded RF Wil Myers, RHP Jake Odorizzi and LHP Mike Montgomery (to the Rays), RHP Vin Mazzaro and 1B Clint Robinson (Pirates), 3B Patrick Leonard (Rays) and LHP Brandon Sisk (Angels).
2013 Minnesota Twins Preview
The fate of the Twins once again will rest on the backs of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, who have not been healthy at the same time in a few years. Morneau has looked good in spring training and both of them need to stay healthy if the Twins are going to compete.
Twins Offensive Outlook
The Twins Target Field saw the Twins win the division its first year in its inaugural season but since the Twins have ended the season in the AL Central basement two seasons in a row.
Mauer and Morneau are very talented offensive players but the Twins also have LF Josh Willingham. LF Josh Willingham had 110 RBI with 35 home runs and a 2.60 batting average and should benefit from a healthy lineup around him. DH Ryan Doumit had a .275 batting average with 18 home runs and 75 RBI. The Twins offense will miss two important starters in Denard Span and Ben Revere, both traded to shore up the pitching staff. Aaron Hicks has turner a lot of heads in spring training and looks like he will start at center and leadoff.
Twins Pitching Outlook
The Twins pitching was a problem last season, giving up the most hits in the league last season. The front office brought in some veteran arms that should make the rotation much improved. The Twins went after some hard-throwing young arms but they might not be ready for the majors quite yet. To start the season the Twins rotation will feature Vance Worley, Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia, none of which inspire much fear. Worley struggled a bit with the Phillies last season with six wins in 23 starts and 4.20 EA, however in 2011 he finished third in Rookie of the Year voting with 11 wins a 3.01 ERA and 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Thirty one-year-old Correia has 11 year of MLB experience and was an All Star with Pittsburgh in 2011, but has a 4.54 career ERA and averages 161 innings a season. Pelfrey is no superstar and is returning from Tommy Johns, but has been a workhorse for the Mets and is another solid veteran. The Twins gambled on 31-year-old Rich Harden, who did not pitch at all last season because of surgery on his rotator cuff. He's been an ace in the past and could join the club as early as June, but around the All Star break is more realistic. LHP Scott Diamond was the Twins' best pitcher as a rookie last season with 27 starts, 12 wins and a 3.54 ERA. Alex Meyer was acquired for Denard Span from Washington and with solid numbers in two years in the minors might be ready to join the team.
Closer Glen Perkins had 16 saves with a 2.56 RBIs 10 strikeouts per nine innings.
Twins Key Off-Season Moves
- Signed free agents RHP Rich Harden (from the Athletics), RHP Mike Pelfrey (Mets), 1B Jeff Clement (Pirates), RHP Kevin Correia (Pirates), LHP Jason Lane (Sugar Land Skeeters), and 3B Ray Olmedo (White Sox).
- Acquired via trade RHP Vance Worley and RHP Trevor May (from Phillies) and RHP Alex Meyer (Nationals).
- Did no re-sign free agents RHP Matt Capps (who went to the Indians) and LF Rene Tosoni (Brewers).
- Traded CF Ben Revere to the Phillies and CF Denard Span to the Nationals.
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