By Lauren Woode
Follow her on Twitter: @LaurenIsLive
The Detroit Tigers have to start fresh after laying an egg in the 2012 World Series. They should top the American League Central Division easily in 2013. The team added Torii Hunter in the outfield. He’s a great leader in the clubhouse and a right handed batter in the lineup. Victor Martinez is another clubhouse leader who returns to the team after suffering from an ACL injury. If Miguel Cabrera has another great season and if Prince Fielder can hit a little better this year, they’ll be great offensively. They have good starting pitching after Verlander. Drew Smyly and Rick Porcello are battling for the fifth spot in the rotation. Filling the closer position is tricky for the Tigers. The spotlight is on rookie Bruce Rondon, but in camp he’s still working on his mechanics. If he’s not ready to close at the start of the season, they’ll probably look to the rest of the bullpen to fill in as needed. There is a four man battle for left field as well with Berry, Boesch, Dirks and Garcia. It is the Tiger’s division to lose. This year they need to finish strong.
The Kansas City Royals are tearing it up in spring training, which could very well mean absolutely nothing, but I’m picking them to finish second in the AL Central. They upgraded their starting pitching in the offseason. Their rotation will include James Shields, Wade Davis, Ervin Santana, Jeremy Guthrie and a fifth starter to be named. If the Royals can hit too, they’ll have a good chance at a winning season. Their camp seems so upbeat because they actually believe they can win. Practically everyone is knocking the cover off the ball this spring: Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Jeff Francoeur, Mike Moustakas. Even Eric Hosmer is a valuable asset to Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Keep your eye on the Royals in 2013.
My third spot goes to the Cleveland Indians under new manager Terry Francona. You knew Francona couldn’t stay away from baseball for long. Who knows what happened with the Red Sox, but it wasn’t all his fault. Cleveland picked up Jeremy Giambi, Michael Bourn, Drew Stubbs, Nick Swisher, Ryan Rayburn, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Trevor Bauer. Mike Aviles is killing it for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, so he should come back to the Indians motivated to play. The starting rotation is solidifying with Masterson, Jimenez, Myers, and McAllister so far. The Indians reloaded their team in the offseason from top to bottom and will start turning the ship around in 2013.
I am slotting the Chicago White Sox fourth in the division. There is just something missing from all of the management interviews I’ve heard in the offseason, from both Chicago teams actually: optimism. Management admits they are still building prospects and are not looking to win now. The last man standing from the 2005 World Series team is Paul Konerko after Pierzynski’s exit to the Rangers. They signed starting pitcher Chris Sale last week. I know they made a run at Detroit towards the end of last season, but I don’t see any fire on the South Side this year.
The Minnesota Twins are coming up last for me. Their pitching is suspect again this year. They made some additions with Vance Worley, Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, Rich Harden and Rafael Perez, but many are coming off of surgeries. If hitters Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer can stay healthy, they may come out of last place in the division, but not too much higher.
Think I’m expecting too much from the Royals and the Indians? Am I dismissing the White Sox and the Twins? Let me know! Hit me up @LaurenIsLive on Twitter.
Next up, the NL Central…