No reason to think Detroit can’t do it again

by Dan M | Posted on Sunday, March 30th, 2014

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By Dic Humphrey

DETROIT TIGERS
2013 Record 93-69
Finished 1st
The Tigers have ruled this division in recent years.  They enter the 2014 season with a new manager and a revamped offensive roster.  The other teams in the Central are catching up, but the Tigers are still the team to beat.
Brad Ausmus replaces Jim Leyland as the skipper.  He was somewhat of a surprise choice as he had so little managerial experience at any level.  However, his laid back approach should work well with this veteran laden team.  
The infield looked good on paper when spring training began.  The Tigers have been a sub-par defensive unit the past couple of years.  They moved Prince Fielder to the Rangers for Ian Kinsler (and a whole bunch of payroll relief!).  Miguel Cabrera moves across the diamond from third to first.  That opens third base for highly regarded prospect Nick Castellanos.
Kinsler takes over for Omar Infante at second base.  The plan was to have the superior fielding Jose Iglesias at shortstop, but he is lost for the season with stress fractures in both legs.  Andrew Romine or Alex Gonzalez is currently thought to be the shortstop replacement, but free agent Stephen Drew is still available and tempting.
Even with Fielder gone, this is still a stout offensive unit.  Kinsler moves into the leadoff slot, followed by Torii Hunter, Cabrera, and designated hitter Victor Martinez.  Fielder is a lot of punch to lose, but the offense should be fine and the defense should be better because of the trade.
The projected rotation is Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly.  With those two strong horses at the top, this rotation will be good.
Joe Nathan has been signed as the closer.  If he performs akin to his past two seasons in Texas (80 saves and six blown saves), he will be a solid anchor at the back end of the bullpen.  Joba Chamberlain has been added, but the rest of the pen has question marks.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
2013 Record 92-70
Finished 2nd
Cleveland surprisingly grabbed a Wild Card playoff berth last year under new manager Terry Francona.  They have young players coming into their own that are very good, such as starting pitcher Cory Kluber and second baseman Jason Kipnis.  They have more young players poised to join Kluber and Kipnis, such as Danny Salazar and Lonnie Chisenhall. However, this team will scramble to equal last season.
If any team wins the division besides the Tigers, most believe it will be Kansas City.  Their home grown players such as first baseman Eric Hosmer, left fielder Alex Gordon, and designated hitter Billy Butler are in their prime.  They have an ace at the top of the rotation in “Big Game” James Shields.  They replaced Ervin Santana with Jason Vargas.  Yordano Ventura could be the sleeper in the starting rotation that has a breakout season.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
2013 Record  86-76
Finished 3rd
The Royals have one of the best bullpens in baseball anchored by closer Greg Holland.  They have one of the best farm systems in baseball that should contribute if the initial roster sustains injuries.  The Royals have a very good chance of ending a 29 year absence from the playoffs.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
2013 Record 63-99
Finished 5th
The White Sox lost 99 games last year.  They made a big splash this winter when they signed Cuban defector Jose Abreu to be their cleanup hitter.  They have also added center fielder Adam Eaton.
Pitching-wise, lefty Chris Sale heads the rotation.  John Danks and Felipe Paulino are returning from shoulder surgery.  24 year-old Erik Johnson could be a breakout player.  Overall though, this rotation looks rather ordinary.  Even with a solid bullpen, the White Sox are fighting the Twins for fourth place.

MINNESOTA TWINS
2013 Record 66-96
Finished 4th
Minnesota has done a wonderful job in restoring their farm system in recent years.  They lost 96 games last year, but can’t expect significant improvement until more of the talented farm hands reach the Majors.
Joe Mauer is the only top hitter in the lineup.
The starting rotation added free agent Phil Hughes, but is still the worst in the division, if not the American League.  Closer Glen Perkins and setup man Casey Fien are top notch, but with a nondescript batting order and very ordinary starting rotation, there won’t be all that many games in the balance for this bullpen to finish.

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