The American League Central has been represented in the World Series for three consecutive years. Is it possible that this division is the best in baseball? For all we know, it seems like this could be the case.
In 2016 the Cleveland Indians ran away with the division, beating out the Detroit Tigers by a hefty 8 games. From the very start of the season, Cleveland took command of the division and never looked back. The Indians rode that momentum all the way to their first World Series appearance since 1997, ultimately losing to the Chicago Cubs in 7 games.
The Indians shocked the world, steamrolling past the MLB’s best offense in the Boston Red Sox, during the divisional round of the playoffs and then handily taking the Toronto Blue Jays in 5 games to win the American League Pennant. The Indians stayed out of the spotlight, quietly compiling 94 wins and the second best record in the American League. Can the Indians continue their torrid pace this year or is there another team that is poised to take the reins of the American League Central.
My predictions are as follows:
- Cleveland Indians 98-64
- Detroit Tigers 87-75
- Kansas City Royals 80-82
- Chicago White Sox 70-92
- Minnesota Twins 69-93
I know these picks are not very sexy so I apologize. In fact, these are how each team finished in the division last year.
The Cleveland Indians are one of the best teams from top to bottom. Without two of their best three pitchers, the Indians were able to scratch and claw their way to a game 7 in the World Series. Now that both Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar are healthy, the Indians have one of the deepest rotations in the MLB. Sitting at the 4 and 5 spots in the rotation will be Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin, who both came out of nowhere to have amazing playoff performances. If those two can ride that momentum into 2017, the Indians would have one of the strongest rotations baseball has ever seen.
We don’t stop there with the Indians either. Waiting out in the bullpen is every hitter’s worst nightmare, Andrew Miller. The tall lefty had a season for the record books, establishing himself as the finest closer in the world.
The Indians also have a young and inspiring lineup that manufacture runs at will. From top to bottom they have the perfect blend of speed, contact, and power. The biggest free agent signing of the offseason also went to the Cleveland Indians. Edwin Encarnacion landed in Cleveland, signing a 3 year $60 million contract. Encarnacion provides the power that Cleveland lacked at occasions last season. With a roster like this, it would not be unrealistic to see the Indians make a consecutive appearance in the World Series.
Coming in second place I have the Detroit Tigers. Justin Verlander had an astounding year in 2016 and if he can carry that over into 2017 the Tigers may have a potential Cy Young Award winner. Following Verlander is Michael Fulmer who is poised to be an ace in the future. If you don’t know the name now you should get accustomed to hearing it a lot soon. The Tigers have a lot of good pieces throughout their roster but it is not constructed well enough to take down the Indians. If the Tigers are out of it come July, look for the Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera, to be dealt away for prospects that can help start a rebuilding process in Detroit.
Just one year out of a World Series championship, the Kansas City Royals finished in 3rd place in the American League Central. This year is going to be no different. The Royals have a talented roster but in an extremely competitive division, their talent is not good enough.
For both the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins, the rebuilding processes have already begun. As many of you know, the White Sox dealt away their biggest asset, Chris Sale, to the Boston Red Sox. In this deal they acquired Yoan Moncado, who is ranked as the top prospect in the entire MLB. For the Twins sake, they are simply put, putrid. The Twins are coming off of a 103 loss season and are poised to possibly do it again this year.
Everybody mark it down. The Cleveland Indians are head and shoulders above the rest of the American League Central. If I were a betting man, I would put all my money on the Indians running away with the Central in 2017.