2005 MLB Predictions: AL Central

Joe Beatty

It’s quite the limb to go out on, but the Tigers will come out of nowhere to win the Central. They might have done it last year if Dmitri Young had stayed healthy, and now that he’s back, the Comericans should be the class of the division. Jeremy Bonderman has harnessed his positively unfair stuff, and with the signing of Mags Ordonez, the rest of the staff should be a bit more relaxed knowing that they don’t have to shut the opposing team out to get the win.

Given what the Twins have accomplished over the last few years, it’s hard to drop them very far. They have a great rotation, and it will be exciting to see what Joe Mauer can do with a full major-league season. The X-factor will be the infield, which is left relatively inexperienced after the departure of Christian Guzman.

The Indians are full of young stars, but they are a year away from really being a threat. Jake Westbrook and Kevin Millwood give the Tribe a great 1-2 punch, with the latter a great mentor to the young arms. Bob Wickman has had good years, but is shaping up to be this year’s Todd Jones.

The White Sox are a very interesting team. The rotation could be great, but the years of free agent exoduses have taken a toll on the starting nine. Look for the forgotten Jermaine Dye to have a big reclamation season.

After their Flowers for Algernon season, the Royals went back to their usual basement apartment. It won’t be any different this year, as they have absolutely nobody to hit or pitch. Mike Sweeney will be traded to the Yankees by midseason for three junky prospects and Tony Pena will be the first manager axed this year.

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1. Detroit Tigers2. Minnesota Twins3. Cleveland Indians4. Chicago White Sox5. Kansas City Royals

Tye Smith

The Twins might be the logical pick for this division, but I’m going to take a stab in the dark and choose a team with marginal pitching and injury problems: the White Sox.

Frank Thomas is already on the DL, which doesn’t bode well for this team, but they should have enough bats to make up for the loss of some key players in the offseason. A healthy Thomas along with Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski, Jermaine Dye and the Japanese acquisition Tadahito Iguchi could be dangerous. I emphasize the word could.

Without question, the Twins are the most talented team in this division, and barring any major injuries they should be one of the better teams in the AL. Last year’s AL Cy Young winner, Johan Santana, showed some weakness in his season opener, and if he doesn’t win as many games as he did last year, the outlook for this team darkens.

The Indians could make some noise this year if a few pieces fall into place, but things don’t look good right now. Losing their first two wasn’t the start the Indians were looking for, but hitting a combined .299 during spring ball proved these guys can hit. The Indians have a pretty good pitching rotation, which could prove to be a nice complement to some solid bats, but the real question for this franchise is leadership. They haven’t been the same since they fired manager Mike Hargrove a few years ago, and they might never fully recover.

The Tigers have some exciting bats, but they will struggle mightily with pitching. Dmitri Young, Pudge Rodriguez, Maglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen should provide some offensive excitement for this perennial loser.

The Royals deserve very little if any discussion. They might be the worst team in baseball.

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1. Chicago White Sox2. Minnesota Twins3. Cleveland Indians4. Detroit Tigers5. Kansas City Royals

Asad Kudiya

How can anyone rationally pick against the Twins? I know I don’t have a Twins hat on, but that is only because Fanzz doesn’t carry their hats (punkzz). They are much better than the rest of the division and are going to cruise to another pennant.

I love how the Twins started Brad Radke on opening day when the whole world knows who the real ace of the staff is. Johan Santana is amazing and can shut down just about any lineup in the MLB. The top of the order is really good, with Shannon Stewart leading off, Joe Mauer right behind him and Torii Hunter third.

They have been improving markedly over the past few seasons and it will be tough to improve by another 20 games, but the Tigers are pretty good.Dmitri Young hit three home runs in the first game of the season in the Tigers’ victory and the lineup also contains a couple other power hitters in Rondell White and Ivan Rodriguez. When starting pitchers get hurt early in the year, it usually isn’t a very good sign. For the Indians, C.C. Sabathia is already dealing with an abdominal strain, which puts more pressure on the rest of the rotation.Jake Westbrook is a solid No. 2 starter, but I don’t think he can handle the role of an ace.Kevin Millwood has been shaky and the bullpen is also iffy.The lineup is solid and will be the reason the Indians edge the White Sox for third place.

Magglio is gone and only God knows when Frank Thomas will return.Scott Podsednik led the league in stolen bases last year so he could be a major factor on the bases, if he can get on base.

Marke Buehrle is the ace and is a very good starter. Freddy Garcia has had trouble with the White Sox. Two former Yankees, Jose Contreras and Orlando Hernandez, round out the rest of the staff and are very questionable.

For the Royals, it’s Lima time and last place.

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1. Minnesota Twins2. Detroit Tigers3. Cleveland Indians4. Chicago White Sox5. Kansas City Royals

Matthew Piper

Aaron Boone is back, he’s been shooting 300-400 jump shots a day, and he’s ready to lead the Indians to a division title. After two knee injuries, it’s unlikely he’ll ever reach his former stolen base totals, but he should hit 30 home runs and give the infield a valuable veteran presence in the field.

At 32, Boone serves as an elder statesman on a squad that will rely heavily on youth. Catcher Victor Martinez is a superstar in the making and centerfielder Coco Crisp should become a premier leadoff man.

If Kevin Millwood still has the stuff to be a decent mid-rotation starter and closer Bob Wickman’s arm doesn’t fall off, then the Indians are poised to surprise a lot of people.

They’ll still have a difficult time beating out the Twins and baseball’s best pitcher, Johan Santana. The 26-year-old could hit 300 strikeouts in 2005. Minnesota has great setup men leading to closer Joe Nathan, who is like a Florida hockey team-his appearance sends fans straight to the exits. Behind the plate, Joe Mauer has the potential to be one of the best all-around catchers in history unless his knee forces him to sit on the Johnny Bench all year.

Aaron Rowand emerged as a star in 2004. If he and talented third baseman Joe Crede continue to improve, the White Sox will score plenty of runs. The addition of Scott Podsednik gives them one of the truly fast teams in the league, without sacrificing much power. Japanese second baseman Tadahito Iguchi will be known as “Tad” before long, which makes me happy to think about, at least.

The Tigers grabbed Magglio Ordoez from the Sox, and Detroit will have a fearsome 2-3-4-5 with Carlos Guillen, Pudge Rodriguez, Mags and a revitalized (apparently) Dmitri Young.

The Royals are the only horrible team this year in a division that has long been the laughingstock of the MLB. If you’re a Kansas City fan, you either rejoice over Mike Sweeney’s shot at 25 home runs, or you root for a fight to break out on the field.

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1. Cleveland Indians2. Minnesota Twins3. Chicago White Sox4. Detroit Tigers5. Kansas City Royals