2017 MLB Season Preview – American League Central

jose-quintana

 

Chicago White Sox

2016 Record: 78-84 • 4th AL Central

O/U on Wins: 73.5 • Under

Moving In: P Derek Holland • 2B Yoan Moncada • P Michael Kopech • P Lucas Giolito • P Reynaldo Lopez • OF Rymer Liriano • RP Giovanni Soto • OF Peter Bourjos

Moving Out: P Chris Sale • OF Adam Eaton •OF Austin Jackson • 1B Justin Morneau • C Alex Avila • P Matt Albers • P Anthony Ranaudo

Key Player(s) in 2017: Carlos Rodon. Departure of Chris Sale and potentially Jose Quintana (at some point) means that Rodon’s progression will need to continue if the White Sox hope to expedite their rebuild. The 2014 2nd overall pick still needs to improve his command, surrender less long balls (23 in 2016),and to further develop his change-up which would give him 2 complimentary pitches to his fastball.

Potential Breakout: Lucas Giolito. Centerpiece of the trade that send OF Adam Eaton to Washington. Former MLB #1 Prospect. Made MLB debut with Washington in 2016 and should start 2017 with White Sox. Projects as front end starter. 6’6 frame, electric stuff (mid 90’s heat and a big ol’ overhand curve). Needs to further develop his command. Averaged close to 3 BB/9 to go along with a K/9 well over 9. Along with Rodon, could help expedite Chicago rebuild and give them two young, controllable arms for the foreseeable future.

Top Prospect: 2B Yoan Moncada • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: P Lance Broadway (15th) over Jacoby Elsbury (23rd) in 2005.

Fantasy Stud: Jose Quintana • 2016 Stats: 13/3.20/1.16/181/5.1 WAR in 208 IP

Money’s Man Crush: Newly loaded farm system. Gives the Pale Hose a chance to compete sooner rather than later, as well as a something they haven’t had in a while; a budding farm system.

2017 Prediction: 5th AL Central

 

encarnacion

 

Cleveland Indians

2016 Record: 94-67 • 1st AL Central

O/U on Wins: 92.5 • Over

Moving In: 1B Edwin Encarnacion • P Boone Logan • 1B Chris Colabello • C Erik Kratz

Moving Out: 1B Mike Napoli • OF Rajai Davis • P Jeff Manship • OF Coco Crisp

Key Player(s) in 2017: OF Michael Brantley. Massive breakout year in 2014 (.327/.890/20/97/6.8 WAR in 611 AB) where he finished 3rd in the AL MVP voting. Followed that up with another solid season in 2015 (.310/.859/15/84/3.4 WAR in 529 AB). Unfortunately for both Brantley and the Indians, Brantley was sidelined with a shoulder injury for all but 11 games in 2016, including the playoffs. Even without (arguably) their best offensive player the Indians were able to make it to Game 7 of the World Series. If Brantley can come back healthy and play up to his potential, you can can pencil the Indians in as one of, if not the favourite in the American League to make it (back) to the World Series.

Potential Breakout: P Trevor Bauer. Despite related incidents and engaging in flame wars via Twitter, Bauer enjoyed a solid 2016 where he set career highs in wins (12), innings pitched (190), and WHIP (1.31). Even with those improvements, Bauer still has more to offer as far as his potential goes. He will need to continue work on his command and control in order to further his development and see more positive outcomes.

Top Prospect: OF Bradley Zimmer • Age: 24 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: 1B Beau Mills (13th) over OF Jason Heyward (14th) and C Devin Mesoroco (15) in 2007.

Fantasy Stud: Andrew Miller • 2016 Stats: 10 W/1.45/.68/123/12 S/3.9 WAR in 74.3 IP

Money’s Man Crush: Francisco Lindor. I say that despite the incessant ball washing that was heaped upon him from the MLB commentators during the 2016 ALCS; as well as his murdering of the Blue Jays during the same series. Hard not to swoon over a switch hitting SS with perennial 20/20 capability (23/19 in 2016). Not to mention that he is pretty decent with the glove too.

2017 Prediction: 1st AL Central

 

Minnesota Twins v Detroit Tigers

 

Detroit Tigers

2016 Record: 86-75 • 2nd AL Central

O/U on Wins: 85.5 • Under

Moving In: C Alex Avila • IF Omar Infante • IF Brendan Ryan • P Edward Mujica • P Daniel Stumpf

Moving Out: C Jared Saltalamacchia • SS Erick Aybar • IF Casey McGehee

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Justin Verlander. The Detroit ace enjoyed a huge “comeback” season in 2016 after posting two straight sub par campaigns. Verlander went 16-8 with a 3.04 ERA in 227.2 innings and added 254 strikeouts, which was good enough for 2nd in Cy Young voting. Verlander’s renaissance season came on the heels of rebuild rumblings in the Motor City and he will need to continue to pitch like the Verlander of old if the Tigers are going to compete in the Central and stave off any rebuild rumours for (at least) another season.

Potential Breakout: Daniel Norris. At this point, people know more about Daniel Norris, the surfing/photographer that lives and travels in a VW Bus during the offseason than they do about Daniel Norris, the southpaw that has shown glimpses of brilliance in a mere 32 MLB starts. While it’s no secret that Norris has the dynamite stuff and smooth mechanics that should enable him to stay in an MLB rotation for years to come, it’s his durability concerns that have caused him to miss out on reaching both his potential as well as making 30 starts in a season. A full, healthy season in 2017 could see Norris set new career highs across the board, not to mention help an aging Tigers team compete against the likes of the Indians and the Royals in the Central.

Top Prospect: Matt Manning • Age: 19 • MLB ETA: 2020

First Round Draft Miss: Kyle Sleeth (5th) over Nick Markakis (7th) in 2003

Fantasy Stud:1B Miguel Cabrera  2016 Stats: .316/.956/38/108/4.9 WAR in 595 AB

Money’s Man Crush: Daniel Norris. Definition of stud both on and off the field. As much as I loved the Blue Jay’s 2015 trade acquisition of David Price, the loss of Norris to Detroit hurt in more than one way. Not only did we lose a young lefty with huge upside but we also lost him to an American League team, and a historic rival of Toronto. For further reading, search “1987 Blue Jays season.”

2017 Prediction: 3rd AL Central

 

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Cleveland Indians

 

Kansas City Royals

2016 Record: 81-81 • 3rd AL Central

O/U on Wins: 80.5 • Over

Moving In: OF Jorge Solar •P Travis Wood • P Jason Hammel • 1B/OF Brandon Moss • P Bobby Parnell

Moving Out: P Wade Davis • DH Kendrys Morales • P Edison Volquez

Key Player(s) in 2017: OF Lorenzo Cain. If it wasn’t for injuries, Lorenzo Cain would’ve (most likely) put up another spectacular season like he had in 2015 when he finished 3rd in AL MVP voting. The Royals will need a big bounce back season from Cain in order to give them a legit shot at competing against the Indians for top spot in the Central. Cain will also want to put up a strong season as he is a free agent at seasons end and could look for a big deal from somebody other than the Royals.

Potential Breakout: OF Jorge Solar. The Royals acquired Solar from the Cubs in exchange for closer Wade Davis. The hope is for Solar to open the season as the everyday RF but that will be up to the play of Solar. During his time in Chicago, Solar showed both moments of brilliance as well as moments of sheer frustration. A breakout year from Solar could make the (possible/eventual) loss of Lorenzo Cain a bit more easier of a pill to swallow.

Top Prospect: Matt Strahm • Age: 25 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: Bubba Starling (5th) over everyone else (Rendon, Lindor, Baez, Springer, J. Fernandez, S. Gray) in 2011.

Fantasy Stud: 1B Eric Hosmer • 2016 Stats:

Money’s Man Crush: 1B Eric Hosmer

2017 Prediction: 2nd AL Central

 

Miguel Sano, Brian McCann

 

Minnesota Twins

2016 Record: 59-103 • 5th AL Central

O/U on Wins: 70.5 • Over

Moving In: C Jason Castro • 1B Ben Paulsen • OF JB Schuck

Moving Out: C Kurt Suzuki • UT Trevor Plouffe

Key Player(s) in 2017: OF Byron Buxton. The legend of Bux was already being written long before the Twins took him with the 2nd overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft. Buxton’s tool set is off the charts. In the field, he’s a plus defender with plus range and a cannon for an arm. At the plate, he has shown some of his power potential but has yet to hit at a consistent clip. His inability to get on base has also rendered his plus speed and base stealing capability essentially moot. While it is sure to be a long year in the Twin Cities, a breakout year from Bux could give the fans at Target something to cheer about. However, another down year could see Buxton starting to look more and more like an Aaron Hicks 2.0 (all glove, no bat) instead of the legendary baseball figure that was being etched out back in his Georgia hometown.

Potential Breakout: P Jose Berrios. Berrios enters the season in competition for the fifth spot in the rotation against Trevor May. While Berrios has the higher ceiling of the two, his dismal debut (3-7/8.02 ERA in 58.1 innings) could give May the inside edge, at least on paper. Berrios will need to drastically improve his command and cut down on the free passes (5.4 BB/9 in 2016). Now I am not trying to be negative in regards to Berrios. I believe that his debut could be a mere bump in what could be a promising career. That promising career could begin as early as this season, it will all depend on Berrios’ approach throughout the season. He should have a rather lengthy leash with the Twins not expected to compete for a playoff spot in 2017.

Top Prospect: Nick Gordon • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2018

First Round Draft Miss: 1B Chris Parmelee (20th) over P Ian Kennedy (21st)

Fantasy Stud: 2B Brian Dozier

Money’s Man Crush: 3B Miguel Sano

2017 Prediction: 4th AL Central

– $

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