Every team starts the season tied for first place, and in baseball anything is possible. For the players and fans there are hopes, and even for some, dreams, that their team will be a top their division at the end of the season. With Opening Day less than a month away, here is how I see the American League Central shaping out to be:
1st - Detroit Tigers:
The Tigers were relatively quiet this offseason signing only Tori Hunter and Anibal Sanchez. Tori Hunter was signed to a two-year deal to play in right field, where the Tigers have had troubles finding a player to play on a regular basis and produce consistently. Anibal Sanchez was resigned to a massive five-year, $80 million deal, to give the Tigers one of the best rotations in baseball.
Entering this season the Tigers biggest question mark will be their closer situation. As of now, flame-throwing prospect Bruce Rondon is slated to close out the ninth inning for the Tigers. Questions surround Rondon and whether or not he is ready to be the closer for the Tigers on Opening Day because he has never pitched in the majors and has struggled throughout Spring Training.
If the Tigers are able to remain healthy and their bullpen is able to perform up to their potential, the Tigers will run away with the American League Central.
2nd - Cleveland Indians:
The Cleveland Indians surprised everyone this offseason when they were big spenders throughout free agency. Everyone expected them to be sellers this past winter but instead they were the complete opposite. The Indians added many veteran pieces including Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Mark Reynolds and veteran pitchers Brett Myers, Scott Kazmir, and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Signing all of these veteran players were significant but their biggest move was acquiring pitching prospect Trevor Bauer and center fielder Drew Stubbs in a three team deal. This trade gives the Indians two young, talented players with high ceilings that will help them now and most importantly in the future to be competitive.
Many people do not give the Indians a chance to compete for the playoffs because they are unsure of how the Indians starting pitching will perform. If the Indians starting pitchers are able to perform up to their potential, do not be surprised if they make the playoffs.
3rd - Kansas City Royals:
After years of having a deep farm system, the Royals traded away some of their top prospects to acquire solid major league pitching. The Royals acquired ace James Shields and Wade Davis from the Rays and Ervin Santana from the Los Angeles Angels. These three players along with resigning Jeremy Guthrie will give the Royals a solid pitching staff to go along with their young core of hitters. The improvement of their pitching staff could give the Royals an outside chance of making the playoffs in 2013.
4th - Chicago White Sox:
The White Sox had a quiet offseason and did not do enough to improve their team from last year. Their biggest move this offseason was the decision to not resign catcher A.J. Pierzynski. The Sox also allowed veterans Brett Myers, Kevin Youkilis, Francisco Liriano and Phil Humber to leave via free agency.
Jeff Keppinger was signed to a three-year deal to fill the void at third base, and Matt Lindstrom will provide the White Sox with another veteran out of the pen. These two moves will not be enough for the White Sox to be a competitive team this year.
5th - Minnesota Twins:
The Twins biggest need this offseason was starting pitching. Speedy outfielders Denard Span and Ben Revere were both both traded this offseason. Span was traded to the Nationals for pitching prospect Alex Meyer, while Revere was traded to the Phillies for pitcher Vance Worley.
Besides trading for pitching the Twins signed veteran hurlers Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey. These two players will help provide some stability to their young pitching staff, but they will not make a significant impact. The Twins have a talented core of players, but the lack of solid pitching will hurt their chances of being a competitive ball club.