Although you could easily view the AL Central as the Cleveland Indians to lose, the competitively uninspired division actually offers much more intrigue than you would initially think. For starters, the Minnesota Twins were incredibly tactful yet relentless when it came to pursuing free agents such as starting pitchers Lance Lynn (3.43 ERA last season) and Jake Odorizzi (4.14 ERA last season). While the Chicago White Sox can hardly be expected to compete for the division this year, their talent-laden farm system led by the prospect Eloy Jimenez could slowly begin to emerge onto the White Sox’s major league roster sooner rather than later. In a sport where it takes 162 games to decide the regular season definitively, anything can happen and the Indians would do well to realize that nothing is given and that they will need to prove themselves to be the World Series contenders that they have been over the last couple of seasons.
5. Detroit Tigers
With a new manager at the helm in Ron Gardenhire combined with a relatively youthful roster that will most likely have to struggle through some growing pains this year, the Tigers will view this season as a rebuilding one. Even with veterans such as Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Jordan Zimmerman who will provide the necessary leadership and, to a degree, production to help their young teammates develop smoothly, the Tigers no longer have the consummate star power that they have had in years past. It may be a grueling season for the fans and players of the Tigers, but at least this organization has the requisite pieces to eventually allow this organization to be competitive again in the near future.
4. Chicago White Sox
Entering their second season of rebuilding, the Chicago White Sox can be expected to bring up more of their intriguing young talent to the majors to give fans at least a modicum of hope for the future. Even if the White Sox bevy of exciting prospects fail to completely pan out this season, at least first baseman Jose Abreu can provide a few sparks here and there to keep things interesting for what will most likely be another underwhelming season. If the starting pitching can be slightly less dismal than it was last year (the White Sox best starter that had 12 starts or more posted an ERA of 4.15), the White Sox may actually be able to avoid finishing last in the division this season.
3. Kansas City Royals
Although the Royals were not especially active during the offseason, they were at least able to reacquire the third baseman Mike Moustakas and signed former All-Star starting pitcher Clay Buchholz. In a season where several teams appear to be tanking shamelessly, the Royals are at least attempting to reload their roster rather than blow it all up and start from scratch. While the loss of Eric Hosmer to the San Diego Padres definitely stings as the first baseman provided the majority of Kansas City’s offensive production, they at least have an adequate starting rotation that could take a step in the right direction if Danny Duffy can build off his solid success from 2017.
2. Cleveland Indians
While it may be blasphemous to suggest that the loaded Cleveland Indians will finish anywhere but first in the AL Central this year, their once dominant starting rotation was actually less than impressive last season. Of their five starting pitchers that started in 21 games or more only two had ERA’s under 4 in 2017 (Corey Kluber: 2.25, Carlos Carrasco: 3.29). Losing Carlos Santana to the Phillies will detract somewhat from the Indians power hitting abilities, something that this team will still need to rely on if they hope to get on base consistently in 2018.
1. Minnesota Twins
Thanks to their persistence and intelligence when it came to acquiring impressive free agents at a discounted price, the Twins (at least on paper) were able to go from an intriguing wild card contender to serious competitors for a division title. While the additions of starting pitchers Lance Lynn and Jake Odorizzi will go a long way in strengthening the back end of their starting rotation, the addition of Logan Morrison will help immensely in allowing the Twins offense to take a promising step towards being fairly prolific in 2018.