Spotlight on the Cleveland Indians
Cleveland has mile-high potential. The rotation of Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and youngers Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Danny Salazar is the best in the American League and are backed up by a top-tier closer in Trevor Bauer. Scoring runs has been problematic. Second baseman Jason Kipnis and outfielder Michael Brantley produced in 2015 and must carry the offense again. Manager Terry Francona is one of the best in the game, but the Indians haven’t experienced postseason success under him. This could be the year.
Best of the Rest
- Kansas City Royals
The defending World Champions proved that consistent hitting and stellar bullpen work make for a successful combination. Both areas should remain as strengths, though second baseman Ben Zobrist and starter Johnny Cueto, two midseason acquisitions, went elsewhere in free agency. Cleveland could take the division, but Kansas City will still reach the playoffs.
- Chicago White Sox
Last winter turned out very poorly for the South Siders and the response was a very quiet offseason. Like rival Cleveland, the White Sox are built around an ace, Chris Sale, and potential aces in Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon. Chicago also brings power, with first baseman Jose Abreu and new third baseman Todd Frazier. But unlike the top two teams, managerial experience isn’t a strength under Robin Ventura.
- Detroit Tigers
Detroit is on a downward trajectory, no matter how many free agent acquisitions they make. Outfielder Justin Upton and starter Jordan Zimmermann could be two great investments, but on an old and unbalanced club, it may not matter. Though the lineup is potent, the pitching staff is sub-par and no young talent is on the way.
- Minnesota Twins
The Twins enjoyed a pleasant 2015, but this year they’ll return to earth and the cellar of the American League. Torii Hunter retired, leaving Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer as the faces of the franchise. This summer will take forever in Minnesota, but rookie Byron Buxton, the top prospect in baseball, is the bright spot.