Forecast: All White Sox All The Time In The A.L. Central…In A Bad Way
MINNESOTA: The twins seem to be a team on the rise but I don’t know if they have enough to rise all the way to the top of the Central Division. They added Nelson Cruz as a DH (37 homers in 2018) which certainly helps. The Twins have a lotta guys who had more than 15 home runs including Marwin Gonzalez at third base who hit 15, second baseman Jonathan Schoop (21 but also hit .233), left fielder Eddie Rosa (24) and first baseman C.J. Cronk 30 with Tampa Bay). All the power’s great but only one of those guys hit better than .260 and that’s a problem. If you keep swinging for the fences and they keep throwing curve balls at you like Houston did to the Dodgers two years ago then you’ve got problems.
On the mound Jose Barrios won 12 games with an ERA under 4.00 as did Kyle Gibson who won 10. Michael Pineda and Jake Odorizzi are fourth starters with career ERAs right at 4.00. They need a fifth starter.
Projection: The pitching comes through as does some clutch hitting, enough to hold off the Indians: 89 wins.
CLEVELAND: The Indians have two guys that hit around .275 with 30 homers and 30 stolen bases. That’s a nice luxury to have. Either Francisco Lindor or Jose Ramirez could hit lead off or cleanup and how out-of-the-box would it be to have a cleanup hitter who can turn a single into a double for the second half of the lineup? The problem is, there is no rest of the lineup. There’s a host of guys with almost no big league experience and averages under .220 in the time they do have. Carlos Santana had a weird 2018. He walked more than he struck out but hit only .229. I think he rebounds, but their offense is a real problem. They’re so desperate they signed Hanley Ramirez. Boston released him last June.
On the mound, you don’t need hitting when you have Trevor Bauer (2.21 ERA) Corey Kluber (2.89 ERA) and Mike Clevinger (3.02 ERA) and Carlos Carrasco (3.38 ERA) as your top four starters. Shane Bieber had a 5K:BB ratio, but he also didn’t miss a lot of bats (.285 BA against). If he improves that, he could be dangerous.
Projection: If Lindor or Ramirez is out for any length of time, the Indians could be this year’s Mets. Great pitching. No wins. They were sub .500 for a good deal of 2018 with this great pitching. That was before they lost a half-dozen good hitters. 87 wins.
KANSAS CITY: Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield led the league in hits, stolen bases (for the second straight year) and great baseball names.This year, Merrifield will have fast friends on the bases and in the field. Adalberto Mondesi stole 32 last year and hit a respectable .276 with 14 HR in just 75 games. Billy Hamilton will blaze about center field and would make an excellent #9 hitter should head man Ned Yost decide to put him there. With an on-base average below .300, you can’t very well have him at the top of the lineup.
On the mound, experience is what the pitching staff needs. Brad Keller appeared 41 games and started 20 of them. He starts opening day. Jakob Junis doubled his career win total last year and threw 180 innings. He’s a solid #4. Lefty Danny Duffy was great in 2014 (2.53 ERA, 1.11 WHIP) but has not been the same since. He hopes to improve on a season that saw an ERA nearly a full run above his career average. But, he has shoulder tightness and will start the season on the disabled list. He’s a #4/5 when he returns, as is Ian Kennedy who has 289 career starts. Who the actual fifth starter will be seems to be up in the air.If the starters can keep Kansas City in games, Kevin McCarthy, Wily Peralta and Kyle Zimmer will be called upon to hold leads and Zimmer may end up saving games. He’s battling back from injury to throw 97 mph pain-free.
Projection: Worst-to-first? Maybe not. But, I wouldn’t be shocked if they win 82.
DETROIT: The Tigers still have Miguel Cabrera, but he’s not getting any younger. He’s 36 this year. Right fielder Nicholas Castellanos appears ready to be the guy. Josh Harrison is a good player. He came over from Pittsburgh. They’re bringing up Christin Stewart. They figure he can strike out 150 times and hit 25 home runs with the big club just as well as he can in the minors. They’ve brought up a lot of other guys too, but I don’t know how they have any real expectations they can produce.
On the mound, good luck to this group with no offense behind them. Biggest surprise? Lefty Matt Moore got another shot after several awful seasons. Good luck to him. Tyson Ross knows what he’s doing, probably a #3 on most clubs. Jordan Zimmerman was really good for Washington before he went to Detroit. Maybe this year he regains his form and is also a #3. Matthew Boyd has improved every year in the bigs. Maybe he joins the others as a #3 as well.
Projection: Their starting pitching is based on prayers. Their offense basically stinks. They’ll try hard, but they’ll lose 92. 70 wins.
CHICAGO: In a race for the bottom last year, the White Sox finished second with 100 losses. Then they signed Yonder Alonzo and John Jay in an effort to get Manny Machado. Nice try. In spring training this year, they did not look like they had any intention of being any better this year. But they are trying to bring up the kids to see what they can do. Keep an eye on Eloy Jimenez. He’s a left fielder who’s hit .300 everywhere he’s been. They could use them at the top of the lineup. Actually they could use him anywhere in the lineup with the group of .240 hitters they have. Also coming out of the minors: Jose Rondon and 422 K’s as minor-leaguer and 37 HRs. Pretty good numbers for a pitcher. Unfortunately, those are his offensive stats as an infielder. He better be the defensive equivalent of Nellie Fox if he’s going to have a chance of staying in the big leagues. That’s right. I just went Nellie Fox. Somehow Rondon managed to hit .285 in his minor league career despite all those strikeouts. Maybe they have the next Javier Baez. Who knows?
On the mound, Carlos Rodon looks like a third starter, Reynaldo Lopez looks like a fourth starter, Ivan Nova is a fifth. According to the Journal of Arthroscopic and Related Surgery, if you have to have a capsular release/debridement procedure, you’ve got problems. Erwin Santana has problems.
Projection: Jose Abreu is the kind a guy you build your franchise around without thinking twice. He missed time last year and now I know what testicular torsion is as a result. It sounds like it hurts…a lot. Hey White Sox fans, this season’s going to hurt a lot too. You’ve got two guys who could win 12 games and maybe a glimmer of hope in Jimenez. But it could be worse. You could have testicular torsion. Be grateful for wins 56 and 57 when they arrive.