2013 American League Central Preview
1.Detroit Tigers– Most likely the heaviest favorites to win their division in 2012, the Tigers struggled for the first half of the season before turning it on in time to edge out the White Sox and make it all the way to the World Series before losing to the Giants. In 2013, the Tigers should have even more firepower offensively to add to AL Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder with the return of Victor Martinez, who spent the whole 2012 season sidelined by a knee injury. The only issue the Tigers may face is from their bullpen where young flame-throwing right-hander Bruce Rondon is destined to take over closer duties from Jose Valverde, but may not quite be ready evidenced by a a 5+ ERA in spring training. Despite potential bullpen woes, however, there may not be more of a sure thing for a division winner in all of baseball.
2.Cleveland Indians– The Indians weren’t messing around this off-season. After hiring Terry Francona as their manager, the Tribe acquired all-star players Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, and added infielder Mike Aviles and outfielder Drew Stubbs to what should be a potent offense in 2013. If Justin Masterson can find a way to make that next step in the starting rotation and Ulbaldo Jimenez returns to form, the Indians just may be the Oakland A’s or Baltimore Orioles of 2013.
3.Chicago White Sox– The White Sox were a bit of a surprise last year, coming out of the gate strong and pushing the Tigers in the division until late into the season before fading down the stretch. Adam Dunn—coming off one of the worst offensive seasons in history in 2011—returned to Adam Dunn-like form, walking 100+times, striking out 200+ times, and smashing 40+ home runs for the sixth time in his career. Chris Sale had a breakout season in the rotation last year (17 wins, 3.05 era), but after the lanky left-hander takes the mound there are a lot of question marks. Jake Peavy and John Danks are unlikely to hold up for full seasons, Gavin Floyd is uninspiring, and Jose Quintana is virtually an unknown commodity. Those question marks in the rotation might be enough to keep the White Sox out of contention this year.
4.Kansas City Royals– The Royals were a product of letting young players fight through their mistakes in 2012 en route to just a 72-90 record. On offense, the Royals possess potential stars in Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, but they struggled for long periods of time last season. However, with another season of experience under their belt, a breakout is possible. Add ace and clubhouse leader James Shields to the rotation and the Royals are trending upward. There time will come, but not in 2013.
5.Minnesota Twins– The Twins had an ugly season in 2012, losing just under 100 games. Joe Mauer will continue to compete for batting titles, and Josh Willingham had a great season in which he finally was able to stay healthy, but Rod Gardenhire’s supporting cast is just too weak to hold any optimism for the Twins in 2013.