CANTON, Ohio- I’ve finally reached the last division for my predictions for 2017. I saved this division for last because it’s the division that I know the best because it’s the division I cover the most. I started with the N.L. West and now, I finish with the A.L. Central. This might become a three-team race, but a lot depends on if Cleveland can live up to expectations, Detroit can get back on track and if Kansas City can prove to themselves, before the all-star break, that they’re legit contenders. The Twins might surprise people and the White Sox are in a rebuild mode. That doesn’t mean they can’t cause some chaos during the season. Let’s get started.
The Chicago White Sox. The South siders have always been and will always be the “other” or “second” baseball team in Chicago. U.S. Cellular field is located next to I-90 and is just outside of downtown Chicago. With a combination of 78 wins and the trade that sent Chris Sale to Boston, the writing was on the wall that Chicago is looking to the future to be a contender once again. Let’s get the ugliest part of the team out of the way right now. The pitching. Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon are the only two pitchers I like. The South siders do have some hitters in their lineup. Jose Abreu at first base, Todd Frazier at third, Tim Anderson at SS and Melky Cabrera in left. The White Sox will depend heavily on Frazier, Abreu and Cabrera for most of their runs. Pitching wise, it’ll probably be a long year. The White Sox will end 2017 with 60 wins.
The Minnesota Twins. Next year, when it comes to predictions, I’m going to try and talk more about the team the ballpark and some other things I can think about regarding each team. I should’ve done it this year, but I wanted all the predictions to have the same type of structure. But, I’ll start next year’s new structure with this division. Target field is a very beautiful park and you have to really make good contact on a ball to hit homeruns in this park. It’s located right next to Target Center (Home of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves). Last year, the Twins finished with 59 wins. Before I give you their 2017-win total, here are some things about the Twins. Despite a horrible record, Minnesota gave last year’s A.L. Central champion Cleveland Indians a lot of problems. I’m not worried about if Minnesota can score runs. Will the pitching be able to hold the opposing team’s bats in check? Last year, they couldn’t. I actually like some of their positional players. Brian Dozier (second base), Max Kepler (right field), Eddie Rosario (left field), Miguel Sano (third base), Jorge Polanco (SS) and Joe Mauer at first. The pitching is the question mark. Ervin Santana, Hector Santiago are the two best pitchers they have in my opinion. Despite only winning 59 games last year, I’m actually going to pick Minnesota to finish 2017 with 66 wins.
The Kansas City Royals. Kauffman stadium is one of the most beautiful ballparks in all of baseball. The fountains in the outfield, beyond the wall, add to the beauty. It’s also more of a pitcher’s park. Kauffman’s stadium is also located right next to Arrowhead stadium (Home to the NFL’s Chiefs). Why do I have the Royals finishing third? I’m very concerned about the pitching staff. Unfortunately, K.C. lost star pitcher Yordano Ventura in a fatal crash. Can Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Jason Hammel and Jason Vargas keep this Royals team in games? I’m not too sure. Kansas City has some great talent on this team at several positions. Eric Hosmer is at first, Alcides Escobar is at SS, Mike Moustakas plays third base, Alex Gordon is a great left fielder, Lorenzo Cain is out in center and Salvador Perez is a solid catcher. The Royals will be able to score runs. Can the pitching hold up? The Royals will have to make a decision before the trade deadline comes at the end of July. Are we contenders? If not, they’ll have to try and figure out who to trade and who to resign when it comes to players like Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Jason Vargas and Alcides Escobar. Even if the Royals see they can contend, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to keep most of those players. In 2016, K.C. finished with 81 wins. For 2017, I’ll pick the Royals to finish with 85 wins.
The Detroit Tigers. The motor city is a great baseball town and Comerica Park is both beautiful inside and out and I love the Tiger theme throughout the ballpark as well. Comerica is located in downtown Detroit, located right next to Ford Field (Home to the NFL’s Detroit Lions). And soon, the NBA’s Detroit Pistons and NHL’s Detroit Red Wings will also be located near those two facilities. Now, let’s talk about the team. If the Tiger’s entire pitching staff can stay healthy and be productive, Detroit will be very dangerous. From Justin Verlander, Jordan Zimmermann to Michael Fulmer, who won the 2016 AL rookie of the year award. They have quality pitching. As for their positional players, I like Ian Kinsler at second, Justin Upton, Jose Iglesias, Nicholas Castellanos and one of the top hitters in all of baseball, Miguel Cabrera. There isn’t a pitch he can’t hit unless he isn’t trying to. I’ve always liked Victor Martinez going back to his days with Cleveland, but his big problem is staying healthy. In order to be a contender, the Detroit Tigers must keep their key players healthy and need them to be productive. If the Tigers can stay relatively healthy and get productive years out of their key players, I can see them battling for a playoff spot. Detroit ended up with 86 wins in 2016. For 2017, 88 wins.
The Cleveland Indians. The Tribe plays their home games at beautiful Progressive Field (It’s still the Jake to me), in downtown Cleveland. Progressive Field is seated directly across from Quicken Loans Arena (Home of the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers). During the off-season, the Indians expanded the scoreboard in left field and now Cleveland is home to baseballs largest scoreboard. Last year, the Tribe lost game 7 of the World Series in extra innings to the Cubs. During the off-season, Cleveland did some renovating of, not only the stadium, but of their roster. Gone is Rajai Davis and slugger Mike Napoli. The Indians then surprised, not just the baseball world, but the entire sports world, by signing Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion. On top of that, they added depth to their bullpen by signing lefty reliever Boone Logan. With both All-star Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall out due to injury, Jose Ramirez takes over at second to start the season, making room for Yandy Diaz to get playing time at third base. Out in right field, Abraham Almonte will get the start in right. Michael Brantley appears to be healthy. If this team can avoid major injuries to key players and live up to expectations, look out! I’ve also had some recent discussions with a lot of people that are just general fans of baseball about Jose Ramirez. Two years ago, I wanted him out of Cleveland, last year, he was Cleveland’s best hitter with RISP. Some weren’t sure about him yet, others, not too high on him. For me, I don’t expect him to have as good of stats as last year, but I don’t think he’ll have much of a drop off. In other words, I don’t think last year was a fluke. From a pitching perspective, the Indians are loaded. Kluber, Carrasco and Salazar are all great pitchers. I like Josh Tomlins aggressiveness. Can Bauer develop a short-term memory and become a really good consistent pitcher? If so, this pitching staff will only get better. Andrew Miller is a weapon, pure and simple. Shaw and Allen are good pitchers as well. Cleveland won 94 games last year. For 2017, I’m predicting 98 wins.
Excluding the White Sox, this division has a chance to be really good. I think the Twins will be better than most think. Kansas City can go either way, but I think they’ll still be there till the end. The only thing that will be holding back the Tigers from having a good season is injuries and Cleveland is loaded.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Nick Broulis