Projecting Where the Minnesota Twins Will Finish in the AL Central in 2013
Projecting Where the Minnesota Twins Will Finish in the AL Central in 2013
Every year it seems that baseball analysts look at the AL Central and they see a weak division with only one or two teams being able to compete for the division championship. It was only a few years ago when the AL Central had several qualities teams—besides the Kansas City Royals—and the division looked as if it could be one of the more difficult and underrated divisions in all of baseball. Lately, the story of the AL Central has been the emergence and dominance of the Detroit Tigers and deservedly so. The Tigers have amassed what may be the best team in the AL Central and quite possibly one of the better teams in the American League. The Tigers possess a balanced lineup and deep rotation with their only real weakness coming at the back end of their bullpen. With the Tigers dominance perceived to be at its height over the next few seasons, it’s difficult to perceive a rebuilding Minnesota Twins’ ballclub with any chance to contend for a division championship over the next few seasons; however, if there is anything I have learned over the years of watching the Twins compete in the AL Central it’s that rarely does what “should happen” actually happen. Look at last season when the Chicago White Sox were projected to finish at the bottom of the division and they competed throughout the season for a playoff birth before losing out late in the season. Every year it seems that a team from this division—or any other division, see the Baltimore Orioles from last season—comes out of nowhere and competes for a playoff spot. Especially with an expanded playoff format, it is even more likely that a story like last year’s Orioles can happen on any given season. With the new scheduling format of playing interleague games throughout the whole season, one must wonder if that will affect any of the playoff races towards the end of the season. At any rate, I have completed my spring training predictions—as it stands today—for how the AL Central will shake out. Note of caution, I went off the beaten path for my predictions simply because I am factoring in the uncertainty and history of a surprise team competing way too much. Everyone has their controversial predictions and to separate myself from the crowd, here are my projections for 2013.
Last Place- Minnesota Twins
Entering an off-season with a lot of question marks in their rotation and lineup, the Minnesota Twins did a nice job of rebuilding their rotation and farm system with the trades of Denard Span and Ben Revere. The Twins' farm system now ranks number two in all of baseball with emerging young pitchers such as Trevor May and Alex Meyer—along with talented position players Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario—leading the way. Even with all of the optimism developed from the off-season trades, the Twins still face a tough road ahead of them for the immediate future. Their pitching staff still is clouded with uncertainty and pitchers that are coming off of arm injuries and their lineup lacks a true top of the order bat to go along with a solidified second basemen/shortstop combination defensively; not to mention, their two best run producers—Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham—are expected to be in trade talks for the remainder of the season. That being said, I believe the Twins will win around 70 ballgames this year and also see some of their young prospects begin to emerge and receive some playing time later in the season at the big league level. While the present is gloomy for the Twins, the future looks promising.
Fourth Place- Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox—when healthy—have one of the better starting rotations in all of baseball with Chris Sale, Jake Peavy, John Danks and Gavin Floyd. The problem the White Sox seem to be running into over the past few seasons is injuries and scoring runs. Their lineup is nothing to write home about with a bunch of questions marks and aging power hitters making up the middle of their lineup. When you consider all of these factors, it is no surprise that the White Sox are projected to finish toward the bottom of the AL Central this season. If the pitching staff gels and remains healthy and the lineup puts up enough runs to win ballgames, the White Sox could be right in the thick of things come the end of the season; however there is just too many injury questions and other questions marks littered throughout their lineup for me to give them my full endorsement of finishing in the top portion of this division. I project the White Sox to win around 80 ballgames this season, with the possibility of them winning upwards of 90 if all things go their way.
Third Place-Kansas City Royals
No team in the AL Central made more of a splash this off-season than the Kansas City Royals when they traded away stud prospect Wil Myers—among others—to the Tampa Bay Rays for starting pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis among others. This sign of “win now” mentality is something that has not been typical of past Royals general managers, but the organization must be feeling the pressure to compete now and have thus sacrificed their future for the present. Nobody can doubt the talent that Shields possesses and the type of impact he could have on a young pitching staff, but to trade your organization’s top prospect for a solid to above average starter is taking a big risk. This trade could very well work out and the Royals could compete in the next few seasons while Myers struggles in Tampa Bay; but the bottom line is the Royals have enough young and talented positions players to compete in this division and the only thing that has been holding them back has been their pitching. Young studs like Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas provide the fire power the team needs to compete in this division, but I believe the other young pitchers surrounding Shields will need an additional year to develop and recover from injuries. It is for this reason that I have the Royals pegged to finish third in the division this season and probably win around 85 ballgames.
Second Place-Detroit Tigers
If you need to take a breather or reconsider the qualifications of my blogging career, please feel free to do so; however, hear me out before you recommend I be checked for my mental health. The Detroit Tigers are going to be picked by 99.9 percent of the baseball writers as being the odds on favorite to win the AL Central; someone has to represent that .1 percent. Luckily for you, that person is me. In my heart of hearts, I believe the Tigers will have a solid season and win the division going away; but my gut tells me baseball is a funny game and it isn’t going to be that easy. Something has told me that the Tigers will struggle to close out games because of their lack of an established closer and it will end up costing them the division, but not a playoff birth. At the end of the day, I still have the Tigers picked to reach the AL Championship Series; but I do not have them winning the division. Their pitching staff is likely the best in the division—in large part because they possess the best pitcher in baseball Justin Verlander—and their lineup is solid top to bottom. The Tigers’ defense may be suspect at times, but I believe the presence of Verlander and Miguel Cabrera will keep the Tigers in contention over the next few seasons.
First Place and 2013 AL Central Champion-Cleveland Indians
Now I may be drinking way too much of the Cleveland Indians kool-aid, but they are my pick for the winner of the AL Central championship in 2013. In all honesty, my vision for this team competing may be horribly blurred due to the fact I have recently completed watching Major League one and two in the past 48 hours; but in all honesty, this team has the pieces to be very good. With a pitching staff highlighted by Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and newly acquired Trevor Bauer, the Indians have a pitching staff that can compete in this division. A lineup that features an emerging star in Carlos Santana, a solid shortstop in Asdrubal Cabrera, a solid second basemen in Jason Kipnis and newly signed centerfielder Michael Bourn, the lineup now has the pieces in place to put up enough runs to compete. The Indians will need to catch a few breaks in order to win this division outright and I think this is the year that it may actually happen. If you are an Indians' fan and think your team could compete for a World Series title, think again. The only reason I have them here is because I am going with my gut feeling and because I am hesitant and concerned about the Detroit Tigers' closer and bullpen situation. All in all, Indians’ fans can be excited that this team has as much promise as the fictional Indians led by Willie Mays Hays and Rick “Wildthing” Vaughn.