Season Previews – American League Central

Okay, same deal –  since you’re here, you know where to go to for a fulsome projection of farm systems and statistical breakdowns of the bench guys. So here’s a pithy take on what to watch in this year’s AL Central, seen through our eyes.

Cleveland Indians

Hang on, you’re playing who in the outfield? Rajai Davis, Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler? Why not go the whole hog and plug in former snooker champion John Parrott or 80s pop harlot Carol Dekker? Sweet heck, is there a more appalling looking section of a wannabe contender than this hot mess? If ever there was a recipe to waste arguably the AL’s best 1-3 pitching punch, this is it. Sure, Michael Brantley will help but by the the time he returns the Indians risk being way off the pace if this bunch of lumberers play like their projections.

The middle infield of wunderkind Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis offers plenty to enjoy and there’ll be many pulling for bouncebacks from ‘clubhouse guys’ Mike Napoli and Juan Uribe, but right now the Indians look bound by their small market payroll.

Unlikely, yet plausible storyline: Mike Napoli returns to left field/busy deadline for the pitching staff.

You’ll be bored by: ‘which team is going to get Salazar/Carrasco at the deadline, Buster?’

Chicago White Sox

On my God, they killed Kenny!

What a way to defibrillate a listing spring after a stealthily positive off-season. Rick Hahn was well on the way to putting paid to last season’s dumpster fire, picking up Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie in solid trades. This year the White Sox had the run support for their ace pitching cohort. But they also had a problem – an adolescent in the clubhouse.

No matter your take on Adam LaRoche’s headline busting retirement that point lingers – his son Drake is 15 years old. No emotional attachment requires such limpet like grip at that age.Sure, Kenny Williams handled the situation poorly and LaRoche behaved like a bum but the whole thing leaves an odd cloud over the South Side which might never clear.

How will they play? God knows, but bring popcorn.

Unlikely, but plausible storyline: ‘Gee Buster, I’m FedExing my ring to Drake. He did this for us.’

You’ll be bored by: this whole bloody song and dance.

Detroit Tigers

They have a saying in Michigan – ‘win it for the corpse’. No, their showbiz fans aren’t extras from The Walking Dead, but they are owned by an 86 year old man who’s no stranger to the miracle of Grecian 2000, Mike Ilitch.

And Ilitch gonna Ilitch – spend big to bring pyrrhic glory before he stumbles off this mortal coil. So Detroit brings in Jordan Zimmerman and Justin Upton to boost a solid, if underperforming team and, on paper, they have the makings of the year’s charming comeback story.

Elsewhere new GM Al Avila steadied a rotten bullpen with some quality arms and made other unshowy but laudable moves. Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez will continue to rake and, hopefully, watching Justin Verlander will be back to being appointment TV. So much to like here.

Unlikely, but plausible storyline: infield fields ground ball cleanly.

You’ll be bored by: Ilitch-opedia. Mike will see his team win the WS if it’s a scene from ‘Weekend at Bernie’s 3’, and you know it.

Kansas City Royals

Oh good, another lead off bunt.

Right, World Series Champs, I get it. But here’s the thing, any team whose offence is built upon a mantra from a single by early 2000s indie rock also-rans, The Soundtrack of Our Lives gets absolutely no votes here. ‘Keep the Line Moving’ wasn’t even their best single for heaven’s sake.

When Steph Curry’s Golden State Warriors revolutionised basketball through three point shooting the kids kicked out against conventional wisdom and bought it. But who in the playground is playing as Alcides Escobar? No-one, that’s who. ‘Escobar at the plate! That ball is…plonked down the third base line for a lead off bunt single.’

To borrow from the great English football coach, Brian Clough – ‘take all your medals and put them all in the bin because you won them all by bloody cheating (and Jonny Gomes).’

Cheating us. Of joy. And you’ll probably do it again.

Unlikely, but plausible storyline: Royals lock out entire all-star team. Ian Kennedy stumbles to the mound with an 8.23 ERA.

You’ll be bored by: games being ‘6 innings long’.

Minnesota Twins

Speaking of joy, here’s some. What do you call an animal with the build of an elephant, the first step of a gila monster, but the grace of coiled asp? Miguel Sano, right fielder.

The hope has to be that Sano’s obvious failings in the field are masked enough by ingenue Byron Buxton and don’t trample his progress as one of the game’s most exciting young hitters.

The Twins are very much the league’s curates egg. Where do you project them from last season’s over-performance and a sedentary off-season bar the addition of Korean bop-meister Byung-ho Park? It’s tricky.

Regardless, and despite their staff of league average arms, the Twins do look to have the position to cause upsets – especially with a stacked farm in the high minors. The well managed outfit could be the sleeper bet in a tough division, but could just as easily end shy of the wild card placings due to the AL’s relative parity.

Unlikely, but plausible storyline: Trevor May’s cat goes viral.

You’ll be bored by: ‘No-one knew if that Korean League power would translate. Turns out it does.’

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