AL Central

Predictions

  1. White Sox
  2. Twins
  3. Indians
  4. Royals
  5. Tigers

Detroit Tigers

Key Additions: Robbie Grossman, Nomar Mazara, Wilson Ramos

Key Subtractions: Austin Romine, Jordan Zimmerman, Ivan Nova

Strength: Promising young starting pitching

Weakness: Striking out at the plate

Face of the Franchise: Miguel Cabrera

Player to Watch: Casey Mize

The Tigers have been an incredibly boring, losing team that feels lightyears removed from their World Series appearance in 2012 that featured a team with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, and Prince Fielder. Miguel Cabrera is the only remaining superstar of that team, and they’ve been below .500 for the past 4 years as one of the worst teams in the American League.

The losing is likely to continue to lose this year; however, all that losing has paid off for their hopes of future winning!

They’ve got a solid group of prospects that are starting to hit the league – Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and Matt Manning are all seen as their next big wave of talented pitchers, and they’ve got the #1 overall pick, power-hitting Spencer Torkelson, waiting in the wings when he’s ready for the call-up. This will likely be a season to get the young guys some experience and potentially make value moves from aging contracts for even more youth in some sell-off moves.


Kansas City Royals

Key Additions: Carlos Santana, Mike Minor, Andrew Benintendi, Wade Davis, Michael A. Taylor

Key Subtractions: Alex Gordon (retired)

Strength: Depth and player development

Weakness: When they lose, they lose BAD

Face of the Franchise: Salvador Perez

Player to Watch: Brady Singer

In an offseason where no one was really spending unless they were “contenders,” the Royals went out and made some moves!! It was very refreshing to see a team that was not good last year at 26-34 go out and try to get better. While the Royals have been in re-tool mode ever since their World Series-winning roster has essentially all but evaporated, they went out and got some veteran talent to pair with their young guys with signings like Santana, Minor, and bringing back Wade Davis, and took a shot with Benintendi and Michael A. Taylor as high-ceiling guys that could benefit from a change of scenery in their grand land of barbecue and baseball.

Salvador Perez, who RAKED last year in his limited appearances, will hopefully put up another top-level season as one of the most underrated catchers in the league, and pitcher Brady Singer was their prized prospect call-up last season that made his debut that showed some promise in his limited appearances.

The Royals will struggle with being a level below the top half of their division given their recent losing history. Still, if anyone was to take a significant leap, they made enough moves to change the look of their team that they could easily flip the switch.


Cleveland Indians

Key Additions: Eddie Rosario, Amed Rosario

Key Subtractions: Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, Carlos Santana, Brad Hand, Tyler Naquin

Strength: Starting pitching and pitching development

Weakness: Loss of heart after the trade

Face of the Franchise: Shane Bieber

Player to Watch: Triston McKenzie

Cleveland continues to shoot themselves in the foot one season at a time. In 2019, they traded eventual NL Cy Young-winner Trevor Bauer to the Reds. Last year, after trading away Cy Young-winner Corey Kluber before the season, they were among the most dominant teams to start the season even without him. Then, they dumped an ace-level starter in Mike Clevinger to the Padres mid-year despite looking like a contender; they continued to look solid without Clevinger, Shane Bieber eventually winning the AL Cy Young, but they flamed out and lost in the first round.

Now, their most recent move solidified their small-market mindset as a team that refused to pay their talented players: they hauled off Francisco Lindor, one of the best shortstops in the league, along with Carlos Carrasco to the Mets for pennies because they didn’t want to eventually invest in their superstar. A team as good as Cleveland should be ashamed.

The thing about Cleveland is that they still might be competitive next year; they’ve sustained success from developing their players, but when they DO need to get paid for their accumulated talent, they ship them off instead. This time might be different with the amount of talent that left now, but the reality is they’ll most likely continue to be a factory; Bieber will be back as their ace in a loaded rotation, Jose Ramirez was still an MVP candidate last year, and Triston McKenzie emerged as a 23-year-old pitching phenom that debuted last year and could be their next big project.

They’re still a talented group that consistently figures out ways to win. Still, the front office’s incompetence made them only get significantly worse in a division where everyone else got better.


Minnesota Twins

Key Additions: Andrelton Simmons, Alex Colome, Hansel Robles, J.A. Happ

Key Subtractions: Eddie Rosario, Sergio Romo, Tyler Clippard, Trevor May

Strength: Home Run-hitting

Weakness: Bullpen (and winning a single playoff game)

Face of the Franchise: Nelson Cruz

Player to Watch: Byron Buxton

As good as the Twins have been recently, it might never matter until they win a playoff game now that they’ve lost 18 in a row following their sweep to the Astros last year. Much like the rest of Minnesota sports teams, all they know is pain. And it was a real shame, too, because they looked like one of the most exciting teams in the league last year. For the most part, they’ll be bringing back a similar-looking roster filled with grizzly-bear-sized, fun personalities that hit a lot of home runs in guys like Nelson Cruz, Miguel Sano, or Josh Donaldson. Their free agency activity was pretty much to cancel out their departures- for example. At the same time, they non-tendered one of their key offensive pieces in Eddie Rosario; they made up for it defensively by adding the fielding stud, Andrelton Simmons, AKA Simba. And, with Rosario gone, they now have the opportunity to field Alex Kiriloff in his spot, who made his debut last postseason as one of their top prospects.

Byron Buxton could also be a player who makes a major leap this year; he’s one of the fastest, electrifying center fielders in the league, and had he not suffered injuries from trying too hard and putting his body on the line several times early in his career, he’d be much more known by now. But last year, he remained healthy, and it showed as we finally got to see him at full-strength: a speedy, home-run-hitting phenom. He’s added 25 pounds of muscle this offseason, which could improve his power even further, and it’ll be exciting to hopefully see him out there for a full 162 game season.

The Twins will battle a roster that is one year older than last year, which could regress, but the talent and depth alone will make them competitive for the AL Central crown and another shot at winning maybe ONE playoff game this season…


Chicago White Sox

Key Additions: Lance Lynn, Liam Hendriks, Adam Eaton

Key Subtractions: Alex Colome, James McCann, Nomar Mazara, Edwin Encarnacion, Gio Gonzalez

Strength: Depth in every unit (…and team swagger)

Weakness: Reliance on youth

Face of the Franchise: Jose Abreu

Player to Watch: Yoan Moncada

The White Sox took the league by absolute storm last year with their jersey-unbuttoned, chain-wearing, bat-flipping, high-energy youthful roster, essentially the Padres of the AL. They went from a team rebuilding to a team that has arrived, and even after showing significant strides last year, all they did this offseason was make moves and spend money to win now since they had an early offseason exit. They’re here and here to stay, and their aggression in the market was appreciated in a year where many teams were slow to spend.

Jose Abreu literally won the AL MVP last year, and he might not be the first person you think of; you could think of Luis Robert, the outfielder who almost won Rookie of the Year last year, or Tim Anderson, the loud-mouthed and confident shortstop, or Lucas Giolito, their ace who threw a no-hitter last year. Yoan Moncada was diagnosed with COVID last year and was one of the diagnoses who seemed really impacted health-wise, wheezing just trying to run the bases, and he’ll be back this year looking to make another step fully-healthy.

They’re deep and young in every aspect of the game; their youth could potentially throw them off, especially after hiring Tony La Russa as a manager who might be as out of touch of hire with these guys as humanly possible since he’s 167 years old. Still, they’ve gotten their beaks wet in the postseason last year and will have that experience under their belt on top of having an even deeper roster. If all the pieces work together like cogs in a clock, this team could easily win the American League.


NL Central

Predictions

  1. Cardinals
  2. Brewers
  3. Cubs
  4. Reds
  5. Pirates

Pittsburgh Pirates

Key Additions: A LOT of prospects and Todd Frazier

Key Subtractions: Josh Bell, Jameson Taillon, Joe Musgrove

Strength: They know who they are! A team in rebuild!

Weakness: Winning games

Face of the Franchise: Ke’Bryan Hayes

Player to Watch: Cole Tucker

The Pirates were the worst team in the league in 2020, going 19-41, and guess what? They intentionally got even worse! They dumped pretty much all of their remaining veteran talents for minor leaguers and prospects because they know that they’re in no position to win; therefore, they’re selling away every piece that isn’t developing as opposed to already being developed. You can’t necessarily blame them from a team-building standpoint if you’re all-in on getting younger and acquiring top talents from the draft, but it’s going to be embarrassing to be a fan (or a player, for that matter) of Pittsburgh for a while with all the losing. 

It’s one thing to give away talent or refuse to spend money when you have a chance to compete, but Pittsburgh looked at themselves hard in the mirror and just decided they need to blow everything up, and at least they’re committed to the bit! All Pirates fans can do is start scouting draft prospects and try to fall in love with the personalities of the current players; they may not win for a while, but at least they’re interesting! Steven Brault sings Broadway show tunes!

In the 4 games he played last year, 24-year-old Ke’Bryan Hayes went 5-12 and looks like he could be awesome! Cole Tucker is dating Vanessa Hudgens! It’s the little things, Pirates fans.


Cincinnati Reds

Key Additions: Sean Doolittle 

Key Subtractions: Trevor Bauer, Archie Bradley, Raisel Iglesias

Strength: Striking out the opponent

Weakness: The Bullpen

Face of the Franchise: Joey Votto

Player to Watch: Amir Garrett

The Reds had a very active offseason the year prior to the 2020 season, so their year in which they only squeaked into the postseason and got bounced in round one came as a disappointment. Their fizzle out has only continued now that Trevor Bauer is gone, and they’ve done virtually nothing to get better at all. Starting pitching carried the team, with Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo throwing frequent strikes and Bauer winning the NL Cy Young, so the team batting .212 (!!!) on the year with his departure being that significant a loss is not a good sign; the offense being that bad again would be historic, and it’s unlikely to happen, but they’ll need to do more than just bash home runs with Castellanos, Moustakas, and Suarez to make up for that shaky bullpen.

Amir Garrett re-signing is great for them, though in terms of team morale, probably the toughest guy in the league, considering he tried to fight the ENTIRE PIRATES TEAM in 2019.

The problem with the Reds is that there’s nothing to get excited about except hoping the underperforming pieces from last year take a leap this year. The NL Central isn’t overpowering, but if their inconsistency continues, they’ll get lost amongst the rest of the teams that are simply better.


Chicago Cubs

Key Additions: Joc Pederson, Jake Arrieta, Trevor Williams, Zach Davies

Key Subtractions: Yu Darvish, Kyle Schwarber, Victor Caratini, Jon Lester, Jose Quintana

Strength: Teach Comradery 

Weakness: Consistency

Face of the Franchise: Anthony Rizzo

Player to Watch: Ian Happ

The Cubs may have had one of the most confusing offseasons in the league because there are many signs that indicate doom and gloom, but they still were mildly active in free agency; it felt like a half-measure for a team that was in second place in the NL for a large portion of the season last year. They dealt Yu Darvish for pennies to the Padres, non-tendered key members of the World Series-winning team in Schwarber and Lester, MVP Kris Bryant is in every single trade rumor since he’s reportedly unhappy there as he approaches free agency, and Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo are upcoming free agents as well. Almost all of their pieces from that legendary 2016 team could be out the door if they continue to tear it down and try to build up their incredibly average farm system.

But the moves they made in adding Joc and bringing back Jake Arrieta makes it appear that they still can’t be counted out given the NL Central is still pretty weak; they’ll be competitive as long as they retain their stars, and they seem just to have an aura of positivity in their locker room. David Ross becoming a first-time manager after being a player on that 2016 team, was criticized, but he proved to create great team morale and togetherness; they were the only team with no positive COVID tests all year and played like little-leaguers with organized chants and cheers in the dugout.

The Cubs have never gotten those positive vibes in BOTH the hitting and the pitching over the last few seasons; when the bats are hot, they can’t buy an out. When the pitchers are shoving, they can’t get on base. Their inconsistent nature despite their talent makes it harder to bet on their success pitted against their divisional rivals. Their season is going to have a high-level of variance.


Milwaukee Brewers

Key Additions: Kolten Wong, Jackie Bradley Jr., Brad Boxberger, Travis Shaw

Key Subtractions: Ryan Braun, Alex Claudio, Jedd Gyorko

Strength: Bullpen

Weakness: Scoring runs

Face of the Franchise: Christian Yelich

Player to Watch: Devin Williams

Despite sneaking into the postseason last year with a losing record, the Brewers had an incredibly disappointing season at 29-31 because they simply couldn’t score, essentially in the bottom 5 of all offensive categories. The push that got them into the playoffs didn’t even really matter after their pitching staff that carried them there was derailed by injuries.

2021 could be very different! They had a productive offseason, stealing Kolten Wong from their division rival Cardinals, adding fielding extraordinaire Jackie Bradley Jr., and bringing back Travis Shaw, who hadn’t performed well recently but was outstanding only when he was in Milwaukee in 2017 and 2018. Lorenzo Cain will be back from COVID opt-outs, ace Brandon Woodruff, stud Corbin Burnes, and reigning NL Rookie of the Year, Devin Williams (he has a pitch called the AIRBENDER) will all be back from injury and back in their pitching staff, and former MVP Christian Yelich had a terrible year coming off of surgery last year that he could easily bounce back from. They really just suffered from bad luck, which doesn’t tend to stick.

That being said, they’re a top-heavy team. They’ve got a bullpen and rotation with 2-3 rock-solid arms each and then only half a lineup of consistent hitters. They’ll need to add more depth if they want to be taken seriously.

Milwaukee is a well-run team with a great manager and a trustworthy front office that will always compete and is projected to be even better next season; in this division, they could make a run, but they’ll struggle if their big names don’t show up in pivotal spots like they didn’t last year.


St. Louis Cardinals

Key Additions: Nolan Arenado

Key Subtractions: Kolten Wong

Strength: Fielding

Weakness: Offensive firepower

Face of the Franchise: Yadier Molina

Player to Watch: Kwang-hyun Kim

The Cardinals did something interesting??

Ever since Albert Pujols left for Anaheim, St. Louis has been the model of “winning from a system” with the pieces they have rather than going out and throwing all of their assets at a big name outside of Paul Goldschmidt in 2018. They haven’t played with a lot of flashes, which is more so a compliment to their organizational excellence to find still a way to win, but they got the crown jewel of the offseason by trading for arguably the best third baseman in baseball. They fleeced the Rockies of Platinum Glove-winner Nolan Arenado in exchange for prospects, and Colorado will be paying him $50 million to play for St. Louis. That’s a pretty good haul, if you ask me.

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Arenado will get a chance to shine in St. Louis, and his star-power alone getting added to an already incredibly-run organization makes them the favorite for the division, but the team didn’t do anything else outside of his acquisition to improve so that they won’t be overwhelming favorites. They faced possibly the toughest schedule in the league with their COVID delays. That could have contributed to their underwhelming season, but they were dead last in home runs; they hit for average, so that puts a lot of pressure on the managerial decisions on their pitching and fielding. Jack Flaherty is a young ace who could potentially win a Cy Young down the road. Still, the key piece for them is going to be Kwang-Hyun Kim, who looked great in his debut last year, so if he becomes another consistent, quality starter in their rotation, that could determine whether or not they beat out the Cubs and Brewers for the division title.

The Cardinals are the favorites now, but we’re dying to be impressed. 2021 could be the year they show us something.


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