The AL Central, in my mind, is going to be one of the tougher divisions to pick this season. They're really isn't a clear-cut favorite, but here's my take:

1st Place, Minnesota Twins


Francisco liriano


I think the Twins will stay the most consistent in this division because of their starting pitching. Scott Baker is vastly underrated and Francisco Liriano looks like he's fully healthy and ready to rock after finishing strong in '08. If he stays healthy all year, he should be amongst the AL Cy Young candidates. Their lineup is also young and has the potential to be very good. I think Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are ready to take another step and become even better ballplayers than they've been. Both of those guys should be in the AL MVP discussion come September as well. The only question I have with the Twins is with their bullpen. It's still led by Joe Nathan and Jesse Crain, but it's not as strong as it's been in years past as they have some unproven guys down there playing some big roles. Still though, their pitching should hold up and their offense should be good enough to score consistently, so I see the Twins coming out of a mediocre AL Central.

2nd Place, Detroit Tigers



I like the Tigers finishing towards the top of this division if they can keep their pitching staff somewhat healthy. Both the bullpen and starting rotation have been nailed by injury over the last few seasons in Detroit, and it's caused the team to underachieve. They certainly do have talent in their starting rotation, but Bonderman is a huge question mark after starting only 4 games in '08, and their fifth spot is still undetermined at this point. Their bullpen also has question marks as they've got some injury issues there as well and a new, sometimes-shaky closer in Brandon Lyon. I do like their lineup again, as they should have no problem scoring runs, especially with those top 5 hitters. The Tigers will probably have a handful of players in the all-star game come July, but unfortunately for them, that doesn't mean they will be playing October baseball.

3rd Place, Cleveland Indians



It's tough not to appreciate the way Cleveland's gone about business, producing a solid, homegrown team that is getting better and better. I really liked the add of Mark DeRosa, and Grady Sizemore is a stud and a perennial MVP candidate, but Vic Martinez and Travis Hafner need to rebound in a big way for the Tribes' offense to be at full-strength. They have some major questions in their rotation after Lee and Carmona, and things could get really messy there once the season starts. They are counting on two guys (Carl Pavano and Anthony Reyes) who combined for only 72 big league innings last season. Their bullpen should be nails, as Betancourt should rebound from a tough '08 season and Kerry Wood should provide plenty of stability to the back end. If only they had another arm or two that they could count on a little more than they are with their 3-5 starters, they would probably division favorites, but as they stand now, I don't think they could hit with Detroit or be able to pitch with the Twinkies.

4th Place, Kansas City Royals


  • CF Coco Crisp
  • SS Mike Aviles
  • LF David DeJesus
  • RF Jose Guillen
  • 1B Mike Jacobs
  • 3B Alex Gordon
  • DH Billy Butler
  • C Miguel Olivo
  • 2B Alberto Callaspo


  • RHP Gil Meche
  • RHP Zack Greinke
  • RHP Kyle Davies
  • RHP Brian Bannister
  • LHP Horacio Ramirez
  • SU: Juan Cruz
  • CL: Joakim Soria

The Royals have the potential to field their best team this decade if they all stay healthy and break camp together. They have a nice mix of youth and veterans in their everyday lineup and a lot of those players aren't as good as they're going to be yet. I also really like their bullpen and think it can be the best in the AL Central. Soria and Cruz are supported by Kyle Farnsworth and Ron Mahay and shouldn't have a problem shutting the doors on teams when they have the lead. Their starting rotation is still a work in progress. Meche and Greinke are legit leaders, but then things get a little less stable. This division isn't a great one though, and a lucky break here or there could catapolt the Royals into relevance. I look at them a lot like I looked at Tampa Bay last season. The Royals aren't as good as last season's Rays, but they have similar squads and the Royals have a much easier division to play in.

5th Place, Chicago White Sox

Lineup- [2]

  • CF Jerry Owens
  • SS Alexei Ramirez
  • LF Carlos Quentin
  • DH Jim Thome
  • RF Jermaine Dye
  • 1B Paul Konerko
  • C A.J. Pierzynski
  • 3B Josh Fields
  • 2B Brent Lillibridge


  • LHP Mark Buehrle
  • RHP Gavin Floyd
  • RHP Jon Danks
  • RHP Bartolo Colon
  • RHP Jeff Marquez
  • SU: Octavio Dotel
  • CL: Bobby Jenks

A lot of people are predicting the demise of the ChiSox this season, but not many have them finishing last in the division. Their top three starters alone could have them avoid finishing fifth, but I just don't see '09 being a good year for Ozzie Guillen and Co. Their lineup is getting very old and so is their bullpen. Carlos Quentin and Alexei Ramirez are both rising stars, but I don't know how much Dye, Thome and Konernko have left in the tank. They still hit home runs, but they don't get one base and are nowhere near the threats they were just a couple of seasons ago when they won the World Series. I've been wrong with predictions before, and I'm going to be wrong again, but something is telling me that this team is really going to be a mess.

Trevor Cole The San Francisco Giants Blog

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