AL Central Division Preview

By ED ZURGA / GETTY IMAGES

David Carey – March 18, 2021

Following the American League across the country we land in the AL Central Division. In this preview we’re aiming to condense a summary of the shortened 2020 season, a brief recap of the team transactions, lineup previews and team analysis into a brief read which can give you a good sense of things to come in 2021.

2020 Standings

Standings courtesy of MLB.com

The top 3 teams in the division were incredibly close down the stretch and it led for an exciting finish to the 2020 regular season. Minnesota won the division with a 36-24 record, 1 game better than both Cleveland and Chicago. In the post season Minnesota was beat by Houston who then went on to beat Oakland before eventually losing in the ALCS to Randy Arozarena and the Tampa Bay Rays. Chicago and Cleveland finished just a game below Minnesota which goes to show this Division could have easily been won by each of these teams. The bottom 2 teams, Kansas City and Detroit, finished in predictive spots which likely continue in placement for 2021.

Chicago White Sox

2021 Win Total Projection: 90.5

The White Sox are flat out HOT going into 2021. They have one of the most exciting lineups around the league and feature elite level pitching from Starters through Closer. I liked the trade for Lance Lynn out of Texas the signings of both SP Carlos Rodon and Closer Liam Hendricks. On paper the White Sox look every bit as capable of contending for the ALCS with the Yankees at the plate as well as on the mound. Projected by most to win a very close division over Minnesota, it shouldn’t come a surprise if the we see the White Sox in the ALCS.

Team Transactions

  • Tue, Oct 27 James McCann, C – Declared Free Agency
  • Tue, Oct 27 Jarrod Dyson, CF – Declared Free Agency
  • Thu, Oct 29 Leury Garcia, CF – Signed ( 2021)(team option exercised)
  • Thu, Oct 29 Gio Gonzalez, P – Declared Free Agency (team option declined)
  • Thu, Oct 29 Edwin Encarnacion, 1B – Declared Free Agency (team option declined)
  • Thu, Nov 19 Emilio Vargas, P – Acquired Off Waivers From Arizona
  • Tue, Dec 1 Carlos Rodon, P – Not Offered Contract and Became Free Agent (non-tendered)
  • Tue, Dec 1 Nomar Mazara, RF – Not Offered Contract and Became Free Agent (non-tendered)
  • Mon, Dec 7 Lance Lynn, P – Traded From Texas (for RHP Dane Dunning, three-player deal)
  • Wed, Dec 9 Adam Eaton, RF – Signed as Free Agent ( 2021; Opt 2022)(one-year contract)
  • Thu, Jan 14 Reynaldo Lopez, P – Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Thu, Jan 14 Lucas Giolito, P – Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Sun, Jan 17 Liam Hendriks, P – Signed as Free Agent ( 2021-2023; Opt 2024)(three-year contract)
  • Sun, Jan 31 Carlos Rodon, P – Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)

Projected Lineup

  1. Tim Anderson, SS
  2. Yoán Moncada, 3B
  3. Yasmani Grandal, C
  4. José Abreu, 1B
  5. Eloy Jiménez, LF
  6. Luis Robert, CF
  7. Andrew Vaughn, DH
  8. Adam Eaton, RF
  9. Nick Madrigal, 2B

Rotation

  1. Lucas Giolito, RHP
  2. Dallas Keuchel, LHP
  3. Lance Lynn, RHP
  4. Dylan Cease, RHP
  5. Carlos Rodón, LHP

Closer: Liam Hendriks, RHP

Cleveland Indians

2021 Win Total Projection: 81.5

The Indians are trending away from the top of the in the AL Central but its not to say that they are going to be rolling over by any means. What has been regarded as one of baseball’s most talented group of pitchers for years has slowly transitioned into a group of younger and lesser known players compared to the likes of Carrasco, Kluber and Bauer. The departure of long time SS Francisco Lindor the the Mets leaves an opportunity for Gimenez and Hernandez as middle infielders that could make an impact both at the top of the lineup and in the field come 2021. Look for Cleveland to finish in the middle of the AL Central division this coming season and fight for a Wild Card spot.

Team Transactions

  • Thu, Oct 29 Carlos Santana, 1B – Declared Free Agency (team option declined)
  • Thu, Oct 29 Domingo Santana, RF – Declared Free Agency (team option declined)
  • Tue, Dec 1 Tyler Naquin, CF – Not Offered Contract and Became Free Agent (non-tendered)
  • Wed, Jan 6 Andres Gimenez, SS – Traded From NY Mets (for SS Francisco Lindor, six-player deal)
  • Wed, Jan 6 Amed Rosario, SS – Traded From NY Mets (for SS Francisco Lindor, six-player deal)
  • Thu, Jan 28 Cesar Hernandez, 2B – Signed as Free Agent ( 2021; Opt 2022)(one-year contract)
  • Wed, Feb 3 Eddie Rosario, LF – Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)

Projected Lineup

  1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
  2. José Ramírez, 3B
  3. Eddie Rosario, LF
  4. Franmil Reyes, DH
  5. Josh Naylor, RF
  6. Bobby Bradley, 1B
  7. Andrés Giménez, SS
  8. Roberto Pérez, C
  9. Oscar Mercado, CF

Rotation

  1. Shane Bieber, RHP
  2. Zach Plesac, RHP
  3. Aaron Civale, RHP
  4. Triston McKenzie, RHP
  5. Cal Quantrill, RHP

Closer: James Karinchak, RH

Detroit Tigers

2021 Win Total Projection: 68

The Tigers project to finish at the bottom of the AL Central this season and also finish in the bottom 5 of the MLB. Its no surprise given their -69 run differential from 2020 and 318 runs allowed. I look to more of the same from Detroit in 2021 as their starting rotation is fairly weak. In the off-season the Tigers added Jose Urena who, although hit a 18.26 K% back in 2018 has trended downward in 2019 and 2020 while seeing his BB rate climb to 12.5%. Look for this group of pitchers to give up plenty of runs in 2021. With the mediocre lineup they feature, its unlikely that they will be able to be supported by enough runs to be competitive in a top loaded division.

Team Transactions

  • Tue, Oct 27 C.J. Cron, 1B – Declared Free Agency
  • Tue, Dec 22 Jose Urena, P – Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Mon, Jan 4 Robbie Grossman, LF – Signed as Free Agent ( 2021-2022)(two-year contract)
  • Mon, Jan 11 Michael Fulmer, P – Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Thu, Jan 14 Matthew Boyd, P – Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Thu, Jan 14 JaCoby Jones, CF – Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Thu, Jan 14 Jeimer Candelario, 3B – Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Thu, Jan 14 Jose Cisnero, P – Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Thu, Jan 14 Buck Farmer, P – Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Thu, Jan 14 Daniel Norris, P – Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Thu, Jan 14 Niko Goodrum, 2B – Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Thu, Jan 14 Joe Jimenez, P – Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Thu, Jan 28 Wilson Ramos, C – Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Thu, Feb 4 Jonathan Schoop, 2B – Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Thu, Feb 11 Nomar Mazara, RF – Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)

Projected Lineup

  1. Robbie Grossman, LF
  2. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, DH
  4. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
  5. Renato Núñez, 1B
  6. Willi Castro, SS
  7. Wilson Ramos, C
  8. Nomar Mazara, RF
  9. JaCoby Jones, CF

Rotation

  1. Spencer Turnbull, RHP
  2. Matthew Boyd, LHP
  3. José Ureña, RHP
  4. Michael Fulmer, RHP
  5. Daniel Norris, LHP

Closer: Bryan Garcia, RHP

Kansas City Royals

2021 Win Total Projection: 72

I really liked the off-season moves that Kansas City made bringing in some talent to round out their lineup. Merrifield is a great leadoff hitter and now he will be followed by Andrew Benintendi who was acquired via trade from Boston. The top of the lineup is strong and Salvador Perez is an above average hitter at the catcher position. I expect the top of the lineup to setup Santana and Soler well in the 4/5 spots to drive in plenty of runs. Looking to the pitching rotation KC finished very close to the league average in most categories including ERA, WHIP and K/9. This is a fairly pedestrian group that won’t be able to provide playoff level upside but will prevent KC from being last place.

Team Transactions

  • Tue, Oct 27 Alex Gordon, LF – Retired
  • Tue, Oct 27 Greg Holland, P – Declared Free Agency
  • Tue, Oct 27 Ian Kennedy, P – Declared Free Agency
  • Tue, Oct 27 Matt Harvey, P – Declared Free Agency
  • Mon, Nov 30 Mike Minor, P – Signed as Free Agent ( 2021-2022; Opt 2023)(two-year contract)
  • Mon, Nov 30 Michael A. Taylor, CF – Signed as Free Agent ( 2021; Opt 2022)(one-year contract)
  • Mon, Nov 30 Jesse Hahn, P – Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Mon, Nov 30 Franchy Cordero, CF – Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Mon, Nov 30 Jakob Junis, P – Signed ( 2021)(avodis arbitration)
  • Tue, Dec 1 Jorge Soler, RF – Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Maikel Franco, 3B – Not Offered Contract and Became Free Agent (non-tendered)
  • Tue, Dec 1 Hunter Dozier, 3B – Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Mon, Dec 7 Carlos Santana, 1B – Signed as Free Agent ( 2021-2022)(two-year contract)
  • Thu, Jan 14 Adalberto Mondesi, SS – Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Thu, Jan 14 Brad Keller, P – Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Tue, Feb 9 Andrew Benintendi, LF – Traded From Boston (for OF Franchy Cordero, three-team deal)
  • Sun, Feb 28 Hunter Dozier, 3B – Signed ( 2021-2024; Opt 2025)(four-year contract extension)
  • Thu, Mar 4 Jarrod Dyson, CF – Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)

Projected Lineup

  1. Whit Merrifield, RF
  2. Andrew Benintendi, LF
  3. Salvador Perez, C
  4. Carlos Santana, 1B
  5. Jorge Soler, DH
  6. Adalberto Mondesi, SS
  7. Hunter Dozier, 3B
  8. Michael A. Taylor, CF
  9. Nicky Lopez, 2B

Rotation

  1. Brad Keller, RHP
  2. Mike Minor, LHP
  3. Danny Duffy, LHP
  4. Brady Singer, RHP
  5. Kris Bubic, LHP

Closer: Greg Holland, RHP

Minnesota Twins

2021 Win Total Projections: 89.5

Minnesota had a busy off season looking to keep pace in the division with the previously discussed Chicago White Sox. In 2020 the Twins pitchers allowed the fewest HR’s by any team in the MLB while their hitters combined for the 6th most in the MLB. Minnesota will likely be chasing Chicago for the division title this year but stand a good chance at making playoffs. If they can repeat the success’ of 2020 they can surely heat up closer to playoffs with an above average lineup and rotation.

Team Transactions

  • Tue, Oct 27 Ehire Adrianza, SS – Declared Free Agency
  • Tue, Oct 27 Sergio Romo, P – Declared Free Agency (team option declined)
  • Tue, Oct 27 Jake Odorizzi, P – Declared Free Agency
  • Tue, Oct 27 Trevor May, P – Declared Free Agency
  • Tue, Oct 27 Rich Hill, P – Declared Free Agency
  • Tue, Oct 27 Marwin Gonzalez, LF – Declared Free Agency
  • Tue, Oct 27 Tyler Clippard, P – Declared Free Agency
  • Tue, Oct 27 Nelson Cruz, RF – Declared Free Agency
  • Tue, Oct 27 Alex Avila, C – Declared Free Agency
  • Tue, Dec 1 Jose Berrios, P – Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Tue, Dec 1 Eddie Rosario, LF – Not Offered Contract and Became Free Agent (non-tendered)
  • Tue, Dec 1 Taylor Rogers, P – Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Tue, Dec 1 Byron Buxton, CF – Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Tue, Dec 1 Mitch Garver, C – Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Tue, Dec 1 Tyler Duffey, P – Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Thu, Jan 21 J.A. Happ, P – Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Sun, Jan 31 Andrelton Simmons, SS – Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Wed, Feb 3 Shaun Anderson, P – Traded From San Francisco (for OF LaMonte Wade Jr.)
  • Thu, Feb 4 Nelson Cruz, RF – Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Thu, Feb 11 Alex Colome, P – Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Wed, Feb 17 Matt Shoemaker, P – Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)

Projected Lineup

  1. Max Kepler, RF
  2. Josh Donaldson, 3B
  3. Jorge Polanco, 2B
  4. Nelson Cruz, DH
  5. Miguel Sanó, 1B
  6. Luis Arraez, LF
  7. Mitch Garver, C
  8. Andrelton Simmons SS
  9. Byron Buxton, CF

Rotation

  1. Kenta Maeda, RHP
  2. José Berríos, RHP
  3. Michael Pineda, RHP
  4. J.A. Happ, LHP
  5. Matt Shoemaker, RHP

Closer: Taylor Rogers, LHP (closer likely by committee)

To close things out for the AL Central I predict the White Sox to take the division and be a top contender for a world series opportunity. Minnesota is the #2 team in the division for me. Cleveland is a wild card level team in my mind and a fair step down from the Twins. It won’t surprise me if they trend downwards throughout the season after losing some talent and potentially look to rebuild towards a new group of stars in 2022/23. Kansas City doesn’t appear to have the tools to do any damage in the playoffs and given that I see them finishing 4th in the division it would really surprise me to see them make playoffs. Lastly, we can safely assume Detroit is going to be bad this year. I’m not talking about the worst team in the league, but I do think that they are a significant ways away from competing in the division and in the American League.

Thanks for checking in with us for this divisional breakdown. I hope you’ve enjoyed our content and will check back with us next week as we take a look at the AL West Divison where onlyl 1 team in 2020 possessed a winning record.

David Carey – March 20, 2021

One thought on “AL Central Division Preview

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: