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Article:AL Central Preview

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1st Place: Detroit Tigers


1. CF Curtis Granderson
2. 1B Carlos Guillen
3. 3B Miguel Cabrera
4. RF Magglio Ordonez
5. DH Gary Sheffield
6. SS Edgar Renteria
7. C Ivan Rodriguez
8. 2B Placido Polanco
9. LF Jacque Jones/Marcus Thames


RHP Justin Verlander
LHP Kenny Rogers
RHP Jeremy Bonderman
LHP Dontrelle Willis
LHP Nate Robertson
SU: Fernando Rodney
CL: Todd Jones

The Tigers pushed themselves ahead of the rest of the AL Central after the blockbuster deal in December that landed them Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Cabrera makes the Tigers offense one of the best (if not the top) offenses in the league. Their pitching has some question marks, but so does every other team in the division. Verlander is solid, but Bonderman and Willis are coming off sub-par years and need to pitch like they're capable of. Getting a full season out of Kenny Rogers should help. The bullpen, led by Todd Jones, is fragile and a little thin at the moment, but the team is expecting Fernando Rodney to start the year healthy, and Joel Zumaya back by mid-season. If that happens, the Tigers will be one of the front runners for the AL Pennant.

2nd Place: Cleveland Indians


1. CF Grady Sizemore
2. 2B Asdrubal Cabrera
3. DH Travis Hafner
4. C Victor Martinez
5. 1B Ryan Garko
6. SS Jhonny Peralta
7. 3B Casey Blake
8. RF Franklin Gutierrez
9. LF Jason Michaels


LHP C.C. Sabathia
RHP Fausto Carmona
LHP Jake Westbrook
RHP Paul Byrd
LHP Jeremy Sowers
SU: Rafael Betancourt
CL: Joe Borowski

The Indians return the same starting lineup and pitching staff as last years bunch, minus Kenny Lofton. I think they should have re-signed Lofton for depth in the outfield, but they should do ok without him. Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez and Grady Sizemore are all-star players and all 3 have MVP type talent. The starting rotation looks solid, lead by Sabathia and Carmona. Outside of Betancourt though, I'm not too up on their bullpen though, and thats where they may have some problems. They should be able to score enough runs to keep up with the Tigers, but their bullpen may not be able to keep teams off the board. This should be the year Betancourt takes over the closers job. They have two youngsters in Asrubal Cabrera and Franklin Guttierrez to keep an eye on who could be huge lifts if they can produce offensively. As they stand now, I just can't see them finishing above the loaded Detroit Tigers .

3rd Place: Chicago White Sox


1. CF Jerry Owens
2. SS Orlando Cabrera
3. LF Nick Swisher
4. DH Jim Thome
5. 1B Paul Konerko
6. RF Jermaine Dye
7. C A.J. Pierzynski
8. 3B Josh Fields
9. 2B Danny Richar


LHP Mark Buerhle
RHP Javier Vazquez
RHP John Danks
RHP Jose Contreras
RHP Gavin Floyd
SU: Scott Linebrink
CL: Bobby Jenks

The White Sox should be in the thick of things in the AL Central all year. Although they don't have a true, proven leadoff hitter, their lineup has plenty of punch and shouldn't have any problem scoring runs. The middle of the order is aging a bit, but can still hit. The additions of Nick Swisher and Orlando Cabrera give the lineup speed and versatility. I'm not sold on their starting rotation just yet. Buerhle and Vazquez should be fine, but after those two, it gets a little shaky. John Danks and Gavin Floyd are playing big roles in the rotation and neither has been successful in the bigs yet. They also could use another solid arm in the rotation in place of Contreras who has been on a steep decline. The bullpen is solid with Jenks and Linebrink closing teams down in the 8th and 9th innings.

4th Place: Minnesota Twins


1. CF Carlos Gomez
2. 2B Brendan Harris
3. C Joe Mauer
4. 1B Justin Morneau
5. LF Delmon Young
6. RF Michael Cuddyer
7. 3B Mike Lamb
8. DH Jason Kubel/Craig Monroe
9. SS Adam Everett


LHP Francisco Liriano
RHP Livan Hernandez
RHP Kevin Slowey
RHP Boof Bonser
RHP Scott Baker
SU: Pat Neshek
CL: Joe Nathan

The Twins lost their two top players from a year ago (Torii Hunter & Johan Santana) and although they got some good young players in return, it looks like '08 will be a year of transition for the Twins. Their starting staff is loaded with talent as well as a whole bunch of questions. Liriano has to return to his 2006 form and Scott Baker will have to resemble a young Brad Radke if the Twins are going to have any shot in this division this year. Their bullpen is once again one of the better ones in the league with Matt Guerrier, Pat Neshek and Joe Nathan holding down the 7th, 8th and 9th innings. They also have some young talent in their lineup with Delemon Young, Joe Mauer and Carlos Gomez. They have the pieces in place to be good, but it may take a year or two for them to develop.

5th Place: Kansas City Royals


1. CF David DeJesus
2. 2B Mark Grudzielanek
3. LF Mark Teahen
4. 3B Alex Gordon
5. RF Jose Guillen
6. 1B Billy Butler
7. DH Ross Gload/Joey Gathright
8. C John Buck
9. SS Tony Pena


RHP Gil Meche
RHP Brian Bannister
LHP Zack Greinke
RHP Brett Tomko
LHP Jorge De La Rosa/RHP Kyle Davies
SU: Ron Mahay
CL: Joakim Soria

Once again, the Royals have very little hope in the AL Central, but things look to be on up for Kansas City. All the young talent accumulated over the years is starting to form a decent, young lineup. I think at least one of their youngsters (Mark Teahan, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon) will breakout and have an all-star year this season. They also have Joey Gathright waiting in the wings who if given a full time job could very well steal 75+ bases. Their pitching isn't very good, but they appear to have a set rotation going into the season, which is better than they've had in years past. Meche, Bannister and Grienke are all capable big league arms, and Joakim Soria is one of the bright young closers in the game today.

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