AL EAST | AL CENTRAL | AL WEST | NL EAST | NL CENTRAL | NL WEST
I’m committing myself to watching every team this season, at least one full game each.
No longer will I load up MLB.tv after work, wait to see which games are being played at a UK friendly time, then refuse to watch another Tigers @ Royals game.
There must be at least one reason to watch a full 9-innings from every single team, right? It’s time I found them.
Here’s what I’m most excited for, in the AL Central.
Let me start with the 2020 projected lineup (Provided by RotoChamp)
- Max Kepler
- Jorge Polanco
- Nelson Cruz
- Josh Donaldson
- Eddie Rosario
- Mitch Garver
- Luis Arráez
- Miguel Sano
- Byron Buxton
Steamer has just the lineup alone mashing 235 HR in 2020. Compared to the 307 the entire roster hit in 2019, that’s already a mouthwatering prospect before we begin.
However, there’s only one person I want to talk about.
Luis Arráez has to be the most talked about player (beyond the free agents) in every single podcast I’ve listened to during the offs-eason. A guy who has a prospect Future Value of 40+ (Scored out of 80) on Fangraphs, Arráez has suddenly become must watch TV. He maintained triple digits wRC+ through his six years in the minors and was promoted to the Twins in 2019. He ended last season through 366 plate appearances with a slash line of: .334/.399/.439 and a wRC+ of 125.
Why am I so excited?
In 2019, his contact % when swinging on pitches outside the zone was 89.5%.
Is that good?
With a minimum 350 PA, he tops the charts for all of baseball, when making contact on pitches outside the zone. To add a little more context, the estimate average percentage for a Major League player is around 66%.
But wait, is he swinging at everything outside the zone and getting lucky? Well, he has a 26.9% swing rate at pitches outside the zone.
What does that mean?
Lets compare that to Mookie Betts, he swings at 21.4% of pitches outside the zone. What about Mike Trout? Swings at 20.5% of pitches outside the zone. So it’s not like he’s going wild, and getting lucky on these hits.
In fact, his contact % whenever he is swinging at pitches (Inside and outside the zone) is 93.3%.
NINETY THREE POINT THREE PERCENT.
He made contact 93.3% of the time he swung the bat in Majors, during 2019. Needless to say, this was the highest in all of baseball. The estimate table has the average for this around 80%.
Watch the Twins for power, study the Twins for Luis Arráez.
What are the Indians doing? I mean this in a very broad sense, because I’m not sure anyone really knows. Are they attempting to enter a rebuild? Are they trying a “soft” rebuild? Are they still confident they can contend for the divisional title?
I don’t know. What I do know, is there are plenty of reasons to still watch the Cleveland Indians.
Francisco Lindor, yes.
Carlos Santana, best ever season in 2019, yes.
Jose Ramirez going off after the All-Star Break, yes.
Pitching is where it’s at for me in Cleveland.
I’m looking forward to seeing how Shane Bieber goes into 2020, after such a good second season in the Majors. Throwing 257 strikeouts, the third most in the Majors, causing 35% of swings on pitches outside the zone, which helped lead to a 14% swinging strike rate.
Bieber wasn’t the only one making hitters look silly, despite only pitching 24.1 innings in the first half of 2019, Mike Clevinger still managed to rack up 169 strikeouts, over 126 IP.
Interestingly though, he only managed two hit by pitches through last year. I’m pretty confident that will increase in 2020, especially prior to the All-Star Break as the Indians face off against Houston a few times. Clevinger has some thoughts about that…
Mike Clevinger speaks his mind about the Astros scandal. 🔥💯pic.twitter.com/LEC3T1gmp0— Chase Denton (@ChaseDenton_) January 24, 2020
Chicago White Sox
A question that causes plenty of off-season debate is: “Who won the off-season?”
If the answer to that question is; “Who did the most stuff?”, then the Chicago White Sox has officially won the off-season.
Since the 21st November they acquired:
They traded for Nomar Mazara
And produced a contract extension for Jose Abreu.
So that’s it, the White Sox are taking the division? I don’t think they are that level yet, but they are becoming very watchable.
Yoan Moncada cutting 50+ strikeouts off of his 2018 totals, whilst adding 8 dingers to his end of season total is most certainly a move in the right direction. We saw a huge jump in his offensive WAR numbers, meaning we might be finally seeing what the prospect writers were so excited about all those years ago when he was traded from the Boston Red Sox in the Chris Sale trade.
An infield consisting of Yasmani Grandal behind the dish, Jose Abreu at 1B, Nick Madrigal at 2B, Tim Anderson at SS and Moncada at 3B, get me pretty excited to watch some South Side baseball at the still awfully named Guaranteed Rate Field.
Image by Forbes
Kansas City Royals
Well, this is where it starts to get tricky.
Or does it?
Jorge Soler ended the year with 48 dingers, the most in the American League and third overall for baseball. The team were second in stolen bases with 117. Their relief corp had the…highest BABIP .324), that’s a thing? Right?
Ok I’m struggling, but remember, this team has made some moves to try and ensure it sells some tickets in 2020.
They got Maikel Franco to play third. He’s…fine?
The jersey font is cool?
I’m genuinely struggling.
In fact, I’m done.
Jorge Soler is the thing I’m looking forward to, that’s it.
The Tigers are very much in the same camp as the Kansas City Royals, except they have a rather good starting pitching prospect called Casey Mize. You may have heard of him, he was the number 1 overall pick in 2018 and he’s expected to be on the roster by mid-2020. However, if he impresses in Spring Training, the Tigers may go all out, not worry about service time considerations (See Kris Bryant’s recent arbitration case) and throw Mize into the rotation from the get go.
His Fangraphs scouting report contains this lovely paragraph of mouth watery goodness:
Mize has hellacious stuff. His four-pitch mix has actually gotten better since college because he and the Tigers successfully added greater demarcation between his cutter and slider, the latter of which now has more two-plane sweep.
Who doesn’t want to watch that? Keep in mind, Fangraphs don’t even have Mize as the number one prospect on the team. There’s also another RHP by the name of Matt Manning taking hold of the number one spot. He’s not expected until 2021, but you never know.
Image by Bleacher Report
If Mize doesn’t break Spring Training camp with the big league team, there is always the hope of seeing glimpses of the old Miguel Cabrera we all once knew.
And if that fails to happen, then follow Jed – @TigersJUK on twitter. He might even bet to get another tattoo, if the Tigers manage to do something slightly unthinkable and beat a top team.