American League Central Preview
America's pastime returns today which means summer is coming. Fans can now enjoy hot dogs and crackerjacks while watching pitchers toss fastballs, and hitters blast home runs into the outfield seats.
On Opening Night last night, the Houston Astros beat the Texas Rangers for their first American League win since switching leagues. Today is Opening Day for the rest of the Major League Baseball teams.
Here's a quick preview of the American League Central teams in 2013:
Last year, the Detroit Tigers fell in the World Series to the San Francisco Giants, and this year they may be the favorite to get back there from the American League.
The Tigers have the most complete team in the division from pitching to hitting, and are set to win the division title for a second straight year. MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera comes back alongside Prince Fielder, and Victor Martinez is healthy again. Plus, the Tigers signed veteran outfielder Torii Hunter. Their pitching rotation is led by Justin Verlander, 16-game winner Max Scherzer, and a healthy Anibal Sanchez.
Chicago White Sox:
The White Sox may be the only team that may challenge the Tigers. The Sox are led by power hitters, Paul Konerko, and Adam Dunn. They return infielders Alexi Ramirez, and Gordon Beckham, and their pair of young outfielders may be counted on more than ever. Alejandro De Aza hit .281, with nine homers and 26 stolen bases, and Dayan Viciedo hit .255 with 25 home runs last year.
Their starting rotation may be their biggest weakness. They have an ace, Chris Sale. Sale was 21-11 with a 2.89 ERA, but then the rotation gets inconsistent. Jake Peavy was 11-12 with a 3.37 ERA, Gavin Floyd was 12-11 with a 4.29 ERA, and Jose Quintana is coming off his rookie year.
Kansas City Royals:
The Royals may be the most underrated team in the division. The Royals farm system may finally be developed, and this may be their year. They are led by star outfielder Alex Gordon, who hit .303 with 23 home runs a year ago. Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy, and Aaron Crow are all under 25 and appear ready at their shot at the Big Leagues.
Their star may be catcher Salvador Perez, who will start the year on the disabled list. Perez' stat line was .331/.361/.473 in just 158 plate appearances a year ago. Outfielder Lorenzo Cain will get to play a full year after being blocked by Melky Cabrera. Cain hit .303 in 181 plate appearances last year.
The Royals ace will be James Shields, who comes over for heralded prospect Wil Meyers.
The Indians have a new manager, Terry Francona, and paid big money to get free agents Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Brett Meyers, and Mark Reynolds.
Their rotation has potential, but has question marks. Justin Masterson won 11 games last year with a 4.93 ERA and Ubaldo Jimenez lost 17 games. Brett Meyers was a reliever last year, and will have to get used to being in the rotation again. Their closer, Chris Perez is their strongest pitching option. Perez had 39 saves in 2012 for the Indians.
The Twins finished in last place last year, and are young again. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, the M&M boys', will lead the team.
The Twins traded away Ben Revere and Denard Span to make room for outfield prospect Aaron Hicks. Hicks had a fantastic Spring Training, as he hit .350/.397/.650 with four home runs, 16 RBIs, 16 runs, and three stolen bases.
Trevor Plouffe will also look to build off a strong 2012. Last year, the third baseman hit .235 with 24 home runs, 99 hits, 56 runs, 55 RBIs in 119 games played.
Their biggest weakness last year was their pitching. In the offseason, they bolstered the pitching as Opening Day starter, Vance Worley comes from Philadelphia. His best year was in 2011 when he went 11-3 with an 3.01 ERA and 119 strikeouts.
Scott Diamond is ready to build off his fantastic rookie season, where he went 12-9 with a 3.54 ERA and 90 strikeouts. Diamond is scheduled to be back April 12 in the rotation after suffering an injury.
Glen Perkins is the Twins' closer, after going 3-1 with a 2.56 ERA and 16 of 20 in save opportunities.
It should be a fun year for baseball fans as they cannot wait for the umpire to yell, "Play ball!"