The White Sox go into the upcoming season as one of the favorites to win the A.L. Central, but it’s not going to be a cakewalk. The Tigers have improved, the Twins have lost a number of key components but are always strong and the Indians and Royals seem to be making strides as well.
The following is a thumbnail rundown of the Sox’s Central opponents and how they’re constituted going into the new season–in order of their finish in 2010. As we all know, the Pale Hose finished in second place behind you know who.
Our perennial nemesis has suffered a number of key losses, primarily Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Brian Fuentes and Jon Rauch in the bullpen, second baseman Orlando Hudson, shortstop J.J. Hardy and infielder Nick Punto. But we know full well, they’ll be a contender once again. Minny still has All-Star catcher Joe Mauer, outfielders Denard Span, Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer, reliever Matt Capps, re-signed DH Jim Thome and starter Carl Pavano and are counting on comebacks from Joe Nathan, Justin Morneau and Pat Neshek. The Twins could get a huge boost if Japanese export Tsuyoshi Nishioka pairs up successfully with Alexei Casilla in the middle of the infield.
C-DH Victor Martinez, reliever Joaquin Benoit and free agent outfielder Magglio Ordonez were the key additions over the winter. Along with Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer at the top of the rotation, the monster bat of first baseman Miguel Cabrera and the solid play of third baseman Brandon Inge and shortstop Jhonny Peralta, these Tigers will be growling. Detroit is also counting on a young group headed by outfielders Austin Jackson, Brennan Boesch and Ryan Rayburn and second baseman Will Rhymes. A comeback by reliever Joel Zumaya would also be a key factor in their run at the division title.
The Tribe has a long way to go and were silent over the winter in terms of major acquistions. Cleveland appears to have a young, improving pitching staff with folks like Fausto Carmona, Justin Masterson and Carlos Carrasco, and some good young players like shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, first baseman Matt LaPorta, outfielder Michael Brantley and arguably their best player, outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. A big question mark centers around erstwhile star centerfielder Grady Sizemore and if he recovers from his injury problems. Based on the current roster, it’s improbable that they could gain on the Sox, Twins and Tigers in the standings.
We’ve been waiting a long time, but it finally appears as if KC is on its way with several blue-chip prospects. In fact, six of MLB.com’s Top Prospects are in the Royals system. Part of this youth movement has come from the Zack Greinke trade, which brought the likes of shortstop Alcides Escobar, outfielder Lorenzo Cain and pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress. Other “can’t missers” include first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas and hurler Mike Montgomery. That’s the good news. The bad news is that odds are that very few, if any, will make an impact in 2011. In the meantime, the Royals will have to count on a group of players led by Billy Butler in the field and starter Luke Hochevar and closer Joakim Soria on the mound to get them out of the cellar. Their odds to escape aren’t very good.