2019 Mid-Season A.L. Central Report: Questions, Questions, Questions, Like, Are The Twins For Real?

Is the American League Central the worst in baseball? Are the Minnesota Twins actually a title-contender? Is stout the best kind of beer known to man? These questions to be answered here today. The answer might just be “Hell yes” to all of the above.

While the White Sox are a shade under .500 and have had to fight to get there, the Minnesota Twins started hot and stayed hot. They have had a stranglehold on the division and there are plenty of reasons why. The Twins have 10 players already with double-digit home runs, and soon to be 11 the next time Byron Buxton hits one out.

They’re also sixth in Major League Baseball in quality starts and fifth in Earned Run Average. The staff has been solid week-to-week and month-to-month. The weak link in the starting rotation, Michael Pineda, and his tendinitis-laden knee just came off the injured list and he has looked a lot better than his ERA of four-and-a-half would indicate.

It’s somewhat shocking that Minnesota received so little respect from all star voters. Okay, it’s not shocking, but it is sad. Only two All-Stars made it: Jorge Polanco (fifth in the league in batting) and Pitcher Jake Odorizzi (tied for second in wins.). Jose Berrios also made the team, named as a replacement for Odorizzi, which was probably who should have been named in the first place, seeing as Berrios is top-ten in three categories.

In Cleveland, the pitching has been virtually identical to Minnesota’s but the offense has not. They have first baseman Carlos Santana and shortstop Francisco Lindor and then a lot of… meh. The Indians are behind the Twins by 30 points in batting average and by 57 in home runs.

Chicago is either brilliant and a year ahead of schedule in their rebuild or they are home to a bunch of players having career years and should be traded now before anyone else figures it out.

Shortstop Tim “Bat-flipping’s Jackie Robinson” Anderson is one reason why this team has gained the lofty moniker of “Almost Average.” Speed, power and (finally) average are a nice trio of skills. But he’s not the one with a surprising 2019. Catcher James McCann came off of a .220 batting average in 2018 to hit .316 in the first half of this year and secure an All-Star berth . Third baseman Yoan Mercado is hitting 73 points above his average last year with already as many homers. Are these guys for real? Wouldn’t want to be the general manager making that decision because only one of them likely is.

Sadly for Chicago, the pitching has not experienced similar revelations. Ten pitchers have tried starting and seven have ERAs over 5.00

If only they had a couple more decent starters, they might have had a chance. This is where your numbers guys and your talent evaluators make their money. My hunch tells me to trade what they can for starting pitching and hope like hell they have a lineup of the future.

Then there’s the Kansas City Royals whose last decade of boom or bust is now decidedly on bust. The Royals hoped they might have a season like Chicago’s but are having a season much like… the Royals of last year. 

So most of their pieces are up for a trade. One would think Adalberto Mondesi and Whit Merrifield would not be among them. Hunter Dozier looks promising at third. Keep them.

Pitcher Homer Bailey might be okay enough to garner some interest and Alex Gordon has emerged from an awful 2018. He’s played his entire career in Royal blue. Sometimes, a player and a team just can’t stand to part ways. Plus, in order to rebuild, you have to have something to build on.

The fact that Kansas City and Detroit are so bad has certainly helped Chicago’s cause (12-7 against both clubs combined) as both look for more talent.

For the Tigers, the question is also who gets traded and who has the better rebuilding plan, them or the Royals? Detroit outfielder Nicholas Castellanos is a solid offensive piece a la David Freese, but he’s nothing you can’t live without if some high level prospects are on the table. Miguel Cabrera could help someone in a stretch drive. He still hits for average, but age has robbed him of his power (5 HRs). He would also come with a very, very high price tag. Then there’s Harold Castro. This is the guy you keep. He’s hit for average at every level. And even though he has just one home run in 100 at-bats. He can play just about every position. Look at the Dodgers. That’s how they’ve built their team.

Pitching wise Detroit has one starter in Spencer Turnbull who looks like a solid major-leaguer and and one average career reliever in Shane Greene who’s having a career year. Turnbull should be the building block while Greene and over-achieving starter Matthew Boyd are obvious trade bait. It’s another long summer for Tigers fans. But, maybe next year, they…catch Kansas City?

What does it all mean? They are the worst division. Cleveland can’t catch Minnesota with only half of the hitters and the same pitching. Last year, Cleveland was a .500 club that did just enough to win a weak division. This year Minnesota seems ready to excel and take victories by force. That’s a big difference.

And yes, stouts are the best beer ever made. Cheers!

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