by David Joaqui
1. Detriot Tigers
Predicted Record in 2012: 97-65
This team couldn’t have gotten any better than they were last year, right? Wrong. They make a huge move and sign Prince Fielder, and now have Fielder and Cabrera to take this team to the promise land. The pitching staff still has Mr. MVP Justin Verlander and a new more confident Doug Fister, coming off a great postseason, to lead off the starting rotation. Austin Jackson has another year under his belt and is filling in Curtis Granderson’s shoes very well. The only question-mark I see with this team is whether Valverde can stay healthy, and if he does this team can easily make another ALCS appearance. The line-ups speak for itself.
2. Minnesota Twins
Predicted Record in 2012: 95-67
The Twins might be the only team I see catching Detriot and making a run for the division. If everyone comes out healthy, Minnesota is definitely a force to be reckoned with. The addition of Willingham boosts this offense, and with Mauer and Morneau coming back at 100% the offense might not be better than the Tigers, but it could keep up with them on any given night. The key to this team’s success is the starting rotation; Pavano, Liriano, Baker, Blackburn, and Marquis. Any of these guys could be the ace of this team, but the one person I’m looking at is Baker. Baker is the difference in this lineup, if he is shaky then that’s how I see the Twins season going. If he is on target though, this team could pass the Tigers and make a good playoff run. This is one of my wildcard teams, and a team to watch during 2012.
3. Cleveland Indians
Predicted Record in 2012: 79-83
The Indians this year are the team to keep in your rear view mirror. Very young, talented, and if they could stay healthy can make a run for second place in the Central. As much optimism as I have for this ball club, I still have them finishing third, its the Indians. The biggest headline they’ve made this off-season would be losing Fausto Carmona, or should I say Roberto Hernandez, because of false identification to obtain a visa. Also the Indians sent Matt LaPorta to the minors, who was their key compensation for sending C.C. Sabathia to the Brewers in 2008. And to add insult to injury, they are in last place in the Cactus League this spring training. There is hope for this team though. Masterson and Jimenez are back and lead off that starting rotation. Jimenez is someone I see redeeming himself for last years up and down season, and leading the Indians in wins and K’s, and will be the difference whether this team finishes over .500 or second place. Another key piece for this team is how effective Asdrubal Cabrera is on the offense. He started off hot, but cooled down as the season progressed. This team is still missing a lot of things, but not a team to sleep on, it’s not like they are the Browns or something.
4. Chicago White Sox
Predicted Record in 2012: 73-89
Not that many good things have happened to the White Sox this off-season. Losing manager Ozzie Guillen and their ace Mark Buherle to the Marlins is just the top of the list. They have been struggling in the Cactus League this spring training and have been a mess with their rotation. Manager Robin Ventura just named John Danks the opening day starter, who last year went 8-12 with a 4.33 ERA, but has showed some promise during spring training. What the White Sox are looking forward to is pitcher Chris Sale who would have been their closer, but have decided to transition him into a starter, and could make a big impact into that starting rotation which includes Dank, Peavy, Floyd, and Humber. Offensively the White Sox have a healthy Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, Alexei Ramirez, Alex Rios and A.J. Pierzynski which could spark up the lineup and might just be the only offense this team might get in 2012. I don’t have this team finishing better than fourth in this division, and predicting zero manager blow ups or ejections for this season, but stranger things have happened for this ball club.
5. Kansas City Royals
Predicted Record in 2012: 70-92
The Royals have so many problems that I can’t list. Every year you think this team has potential at making a run in the race, something happens. A very young team, they still have a long way to go. They did help out their starting rotation by acquiring Jonathan Sanchez from San Francisco, but there isn’t much he could do with Chen and Duffy backing him up. But losing Soria at the closer spot is a huge blow to the bullpen. Offensively this team is a train wreck. Eric Hosmer is the only bright light I see in this lineup. If you’re a fantasy owner, this is the team you don’t want to draft anyone from because you never know what might happen. This is my runaway for last place in the Central.