The Twins feature one of the league’s best power-hitting lineups, but the Chicago White Sox are close to contention again and could make things tough on Minnesota in the Central Division. Here’s a look at how the AL Central teams look heading into the start of the 60-game season July 23.
Low on the list of Twins priorities in the offseason would’ve seemed to be “add more power” to a lineup that broke the MLB record for home runs in a season with 307, but who’s going to say no to another home run hitter? Minnesota added Josh Donaldson to its already potent, veteran lineup and figures to once again try to out-muscle teams at the plate. The bullpen will also continue to be a strength around closer Taylor Rogers and strikeout artists Trevor May and Tyler Duffey.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox have some of the game’s best young players in American Leading batting champion Tim Anderson, third baseman Yoan Moncada, and a pitching staff that includes Lucas Giolito and, when he returns from injury, Michael Kopech. Add to that a minor league system that is still full of top prospects and the offseason additions of veterans like Dallas Keuchel and Edwin Encarnacion, and the White Sox could be in good position to unseat Minnesota in the AL Central.
Cleveland had a disappointing season a year ago, but the team still has young stars in shortstop Francisco Lindor, pitcher Mike Clevinger, and infielder Jose Ramirez. The Indians had a quiet offseason, trading away former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber for Delino DeSheilds and Emmanuel Clase. The team reportedly has aggressively shopped Lindor, so it’s unclear if they’ll try to contend or rebuild, but if the team remains intact, the Twins were a surprise last year and the White Sox may not be quite ready to contend yet, so Cleveland making a run at the division title isn’t inconceivable.
One of two teams in the division that would be threatening 100 losses under normal circumstances, the Tigers at least have a nostalgic quest for future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera to preoccupy them: Cabrera is just 23 home runs short of 500 for his career. Doing that in 60 games seems improbable, but Cabrera is noticeably in better shape than he has been in years. If he gets off to a hot start, that’ll at least give fans a reason to tune in. The team will also show a glimpse of three major pitching prospects – starters Casey Mize, Matt Manning, and Tarik Skubal – in their rotation.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals will avoid a third straight 100-loss season thanks to the shortened MLB season, but that’s hardly a saving grace for a team that was among the game’s best just a few years ago. Hunter Dozier, Jorge Soler, and Whit Merrifield provide some veteran stability in the lineup, but none figure into the team’s long-term rebuilding plans. The team will rely on Brad Keller and Jakob Junis to anchor the starting rotation.