2014 AL Central Preview
Chicago White Sox
2013 Record: 63-99
Key losses: LHP Hector Santiago, RHP Addison Reed, RHP Gavin Floyd, 3B Brent Morel
Key additions: 1B Jose Abreu, CF Adam Eaton, 3B Matt Davidson, LHP Scott Downs, RHP Ronald Belisario, RHP Felipe Paulino, RHP Mitchell Boggs
Sportsbook Projected Win Total: 76.5
2014 Projection: The White Sox challenged the Tigers hard in 2012, but in 2013 the White Sox hit hard times. They basically watch some players walk this offseason and re-loaded with some new talent. Mitchell Boggs had a difficult 2013 but when he’s on, he has the stuff that should play well in Chicago. Chicago still has questions about how much offense it can get in the infield. But there’s no doubting that the White Sox have had a very good winter in adding pieces like Eaton and Downs. Replacing Gavin Floyd will be tough, but the addition of Boggs and Eaton should help if not improve on this loss. I think Abreu is a solid pickup and could surprise. However, these are a mix of young pieces that can help now but you won’t see the impact in a year or two. They are better than the nightmare of 63 wins, but they aren’t ready for .500 yet.
Final Record: 75-87
2013 Record: 92-70
Key Losses: RHP Matt Albers, LHP Rich Hill*, RHP Ubaldo Jimenez*, LHP Scott Kazmir, OF Jason Kubel, RHP Chris Perez, RHP Joe Smith, RF Drew Stubbs
Key Additions: RHP David Aardsma, IF David Adams, RHP Scott Atchison, RHP John Axford, OF Jeff Francoeur, IF Elliot Johnson, RHP Shaun Marcum, CF Nyjer Morgan, RF David Murphy, LHP Josh Outman
Sportsbook Projected Win Total: 82.5
2014 Projection: Success hit Cleveland one year too soon, and now fans will look to get back to the playoffs again. After an impressive turnaround that took them back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007, the Indians have been rather quiet this winter. I think it’s only realistic to think this team will fall back a bit in 2014. Beyond the addition of OF David Murphy, The Indians activity has only been remaking the bullpen, with likely closer John Axford as the big sign. The losses of Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez leave Cleveland searching to replace some import numbers. Remember Cleveland took a flyer on Kazmir and it paid off. Now they have a rotation that has promise but only Justin Masterson is the experienced starter. To get back to the playoffs, the Indians are counting on pitchers like Zach McAllister, Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco to come up big. I like the addition of Jeff Francoeur and they already have solid starters in house. They are banking on Swisher, Michael Bourn, and Asdrubal Cabrera having better years than last year and getting into the playoffs. But I think they come up short in 2014.
Final Record: 85-77
2013 Record: 93-69
Key Losses: RF 1B Prince Fielder, RHP Doug Fister, SS Jhonny Peralta, 2B Omar Infante, RHP Joaquin Benoit, RHP Jose Veras, Mgr. Jim Leyland
Key Additions: 2B Ian Kinsler, RHP Joe Nathan, OF Rajai Davis, LHP Ian Krol, Util. Steve Lombardozzi, RHP Joba Chamberlain, Mgr. Brad Ausmus
Sportsbook Projected Win Total: 91.5
2014 Projection: The Tigers are clearly the best in this division and there is no reason to see them losing their grip. The Tigers, on paper at least, are a little better last year than this year. The off season saw the Tigers move the big contract of Fielder for Ian Kensler. I think they made the smart move to move his money to save for their two studs. But they still have to replace Fielder and the departed Doug Fister. I think the Nathan signing is smart and a big upgrade over Benoit. There is still enough talent on this team to win a lot of games. The next key is extending their award winners, Max Scherzer and Miguel Cabrera. But this is still the team to beat with a solid rotation anchored by the trio of Verlander-Scherzer-Sanchez. They may have growing pains with new manager Brad Ausmus but they talent will overcome that. It would be unwise to bet against this team taking the division, but the playoffs are a different beast. The lack of rings to go with this talent is disturbing and something that needs to be addressed ASAP.
Final Record: 91-71
Kansas City Royals
2013 Record: 86-76
Key Losses: RHP Ervin Santana, LHP Will Smith, 2B Chris Getz, RF David Lough
Key Additions: RF Norichika Aoki, 2B Omar Infante, IF Danny Valencia, LHP Jason Vargas
Sportsbook Projected Win Total: 85.5
2014 Projection: The Royals are ready for the show now, and the proof is on the field. The young lineup is a year old and better, but the pitching staff has question marks. Coming off their first winning season since 2003, the Royals effectively targeted their needs. The Royals have possible AL MVP candidate in Eric Hosmer, and they will score enough to win in 2014. With a improved bullpen, they can hold on to leads they let go in 2013. The Royals solidified right field and second base, respectively, by trading for Norichika Aoki and singing Omar Infante. They replaced free agent starter Ervin Santana by signing lefty Jason Vargas and traded for Danny Valencia as a potential backup. However the loss of Santana is huge and hurts their one two punch of Shields/Santana. The rotation behind James Shields is a downgrade to me, but the offense is ready to pick up the slack. This team got off to a terrible start in 2013 but got hot and showed the promise I talked about in the offseason. They must get it going early in 2014 and not play from behind or they can have trouble of reaching the playoffs.
Final Record: 88-74
2013 Record: 66-96
Key loss: C Ryan Doumit
Key additions: RHP Ricky Nolasco, RHP Phil Hughes, C Kurt Suzuki, OF Jason Kubel, LHP Sean Gilmartin
Sportsbook Projected Win Total: 65.5
2014 Projection: 2013 was a tough on in Minnesota, but they have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. The Twins have had a surprisingly busy offseason and brought back Guerrier, a longtime Twin who had left to sign with the Dodgers. The move has some upside and bring in Phil Hughes in the big Target Field is a win-win. But the organization still hasn’t added another bat to the lineup. After adding starters Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, the only position players they added were Kubel and Suzuki. The future is bright in Minnesota though, but they are a year away of really making noise in the Central. With Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, this franchise could be back in 2015. For now, last place is realistic to see them in this division but a fast start could be in the cards.
Final Record: 70-92
*denotes Wild Card Team