2013 American League Central Preview and Predictions

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AL Central Overview

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The American League Central was arguably the worst division in Major League Baseball in 2012. Not one team in the AL Central won over 90 games last year, and the average wins per team in the division was 75.8, which was good for dead last in the MLB. The AL Central was also the only division in baseball last year to have three teams lose 90 plus games. The Detroit Tigers, who won the AL Central in 2012, would have finished in fourth place in any other division in the American League.

2013 will once again be a tough year for the American League Central. While I believe every team, except the Minnesota Twins, will improve this year, there still are only two teams in the AL Central who have legitimate playoff hopes. The Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers will once again battle for the AL Central crown in 2013. With the Cleveland Indians making some notable off-season moves, they may create a little noise in the beginning of the season, before fading fast in the second half, as they did in 2012. Many believe that the Kansas City Royals have the chance to be a dark horse in the AL Central race, but they too will struggle in the later months of the season.

Ultimately the AL Central race will be very similar to last year, with one difference. The White Sox and Tigers will battle to the wire, however, unlike last season the White Sox will be able to finish this year, and they’ll be crowned the 2013 American League Champions.

Without further delay, here is a full preview of all the 2013 American League Central teams.

Matt Malecha is a MLB writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattMalecha.

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5. Minnesota Twins

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Projected Record: 64-98

Key Additions: Mike Pelfrey, Rich Harden, Vance Worley

Key Losses: Ben Revere, Carl Pavano, Denard Span

Projected Lineup 1. Darin Mastroianni CF 2. Jamey Caroll 2B 3. Joe Mauer C 4. Josh Willingham LF 5. Justin Morneau 1B 6. Ryan Doumit DH 7. Chris Parmelee RF 8. Trevor Plouffe 3B 9. Pedro Florimon SS

Projected Rotation 1. Kevin Correia 2. Vance Worley 3. Scott Diamond 4. Liam Hendriks 5. Mike Pelfrey

The Minnesota Twins are once again in for a rough year. With the departures of Denard Span and Ben Revere, the Twins outfield is very thin in 2013. What’s even more frightening for the Twins is their pitching staff. Not one of their projected starters for this year is a true number one, and their bullpen lacks depth. The good news for Twin fans is that the Twins have a very young squad, who may develop into a contender in a few years. However, other than Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau the Twins lack star power and will once again finish last in the AL Central. Don’t worry Minnesota, in less than seven months you’ll be able to watch Adrian Peterson again.

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4. Cleveland Indians

The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

Projected Record: 71-91

Key Additions: Brett Myers, Drew Stubbs, Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher

Key Losses: Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo, Tony Sipp, Travis Hafner

Projected Lineup 1. Michael Bourn CF 2. Jason Kipnis 2B 3. Asdrubal Cabrera SS 4. Nick Swisher 1B 5. Carlos Santana C 6. Mark Reynolds DH 7. Michael Brantley LF 8. Lonnie Chisenhall 3B 9. Drew Stubbs RF

Projected Rotation 1. Justin Masterson 2. Ubaldo Jimenez 3. Brett Myers 4. Zach McAllister 5. Carlos Carrasco

“I don't know about Cleveland, man, there is nothing going on… It’s bad, man.”

“What’s so good about Cleveland? … You think Cleveland is cool? I’ve never heard anyone say, ‘I’m going to Cleveland on vacation.’”

These two quotes, famously muttered by Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah back in 2010, have been somewhat true in regards to Cleveland sports teams. Unfortunately for Cleveland fans, Noah has been right, no top free agents have wanted to come to Cleveland. However, Indian fans can finally rejoice because this off-season they were able to bring in two key free agents. The additions of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn instantly make the Indians a better team. But maybe the Indians should have used their money on pitching, instead of over paying for both Swisher and Bourn. The Tribe had the second worst ERA in the MLB last year. So while Swisher and Bourn may help ticket sales in April and May, due to their dismal pitching staff Cleveland will once again suffer through a summer of below average baseball.

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3. Kansas City Royals

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Projected Record: 78-84

Key Additions: Ervin Santana, James Shields, Wade Davis

Key Losses: Joakim Soria

Projected Lineup 1. Lorenzo Cain CF 2. Alcides Escobar SS 3. Alex Gordan LF 4. Billy Butler DH 5. Mike Moustakes 3B 6. Salvador Perez C 7. Eric Hosmer 1B 8. Jeff Francoeur RF 9. Chris Getz 2B

Projected Rotation 1. James Shields 2. Jeremy Guthrie 3. Ervin Santana 4. Wade Davis 5. Bruce Chen

“There’s no place like home; there’s no place like home; there’s no place like home.”

For Dorothy, from the movie The Wizard of Oz, her home state, Kansas, was the only place she wanted to be.

For the Royals however, their home, Kansas City, Mo., hasn’t exactly been kind to them lately. The Royals haven’t had a winning record at home since 2000. And while I don't see the Royals making a serious run at the playoffs, I do think the great city of Kansas City will finally see the Royals finish above .500 at home. Royal fans should have a team to be proud of this season. They have basically the same offense from a year ago, which finished 7th in batting average in 2012. And the Royals were able to land some big arms this off-season in James Shields and Ervin Santana, which should help improve their starting staff. The Royals bullpen is also nothing to sneeze at, even with the lose of Joakim Soria. For these reasons, many people are optimistic about the Royals this year. That being said, the Royals are still the Royals. They have no bench and no starting pitching depth, which is why they will find themselves in third place once the season concludes.

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2. Detroit Tigers

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Projected Record: 89-73

Key Additions: Torii Hunter, Bruce Rondon

Key Losses: Delmon Young, Jose Valverde, Ryan Raburn

Projected Lineup 1. Austin Jackson CF 2. Torii Hunter RF 3. Miguel Cabrera 3B 4. Prince Fielder 1B 5. Victor Martinez DH 6. Andy Dirks LF 7. Jhonny Peralta SS 8. Alex Avila C 9. Omar Infante 2B

Projected Rotation 1. Justin Verlander 2. Doug Fister 3. Max Scherzer 4. Anibal Sanchez 5. Rick Porcello

With a healthy Victor Martinez, and the addition of four-time All-Star Torii Hunter the Detroit Tigers should easily defend their AL Central title, right?

Wrong, and here’s why.

For much of the 2012 season, the Tigers weren’t meeting the high expectations given to them. They had the toughest time playing consistent baseball. And while yes, they did come together at the right time, and make a run all the way to the World Series, if it wasn’t for a late season collapse by the White Sox, the Tigers would have been playing golf in October instead of baseball.

A big reason why the Tigers, with all of their talent, struggled to live up to expectations for most of the season last year was because they failed to do the little things. The Tigers committed 29 more errors than the White Sox last year. Hunter should help that number go down in 2013, but when the corner of your infield consists of Fielder and Cabrera, errors are bound to happen. The Tigers also went 21-27 in one-run games in 2012, making them the worst team in the AL Central in close ballgames. While it’s impossible to deny that the Tigers have the most star-studded roster in the AL Central, their inability to do the small things right will end up costing them the chance to win their third consecutive AL Central crown.

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1. Chicago White Sox

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Projected Record: 92-70

Key Additions: Jeff Keppinger, Matt Lindstrom

Key Losses: A.J. Pierzynski, Brett Myers, Kevin Youkilis

Projected Lineup 1. Alejandro De Aza CF 2. Jeff Keppinger 3B 3. Adam Dunn DH 4. Paul Konerko 1B 5. Alex Rios RF 6. Dayan Viciedo LF 7. Alexei Ramirez SS 8. Tyler Flowers C 9. Gordan Beckham 2B

Projected Rotation 1. Chris Sale 2. Jake Peavy 3. John Danks 4. Gavin Floyd 5. Jose Quintana

The Chicago White Sox were the most consistent team in the AL Central in 2012. That’s a big reason why they found themselves in first place for 60% of the season. However, due to a late season slide, the Sox were passed up by the Tigers in the final week of September.

In 2013, the White Sox will have just about the same team. With A.J. Pierzynski not returning, Tyler Flowers will need to produce for the South Siders as their new everyday catcher. Also, the addition of infielder Jeff Keppinger should help lower the White Sox high strikeout total from a year ago.

The main reasons why the White Sox will finish ahead of the Tigers in 2013 are their pitching and defense. With a healthy John Danks, a stronger Chris Sale and a now experienced Jose Quintana, I believe the Sox have the best starting staff in the American League. Also, the White Sox have a good mix of veteran guys and young arms in their bullpen. Playing behind their stellar pitching is the MLB’s best defense from last year. The double play combo of Ramirez and Beckham is deadly and the White Sox outfield never fails to hit a cutoff man. A great defense can be the difference in a division race, and I believe it’s what will separate the Sox from the Tigers.

After the 162 game season is over, Chicago will be given the gift of postseason baseball. And who knows, if the White Sox top starters can dominate a series or two, the Fall Classic may return to the South Side.

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