Last season, the AL Central was dominated by two teams. The first half of the season, it was all the Cleveland Indians. After they flamed out, the Tigers took over – winning the division by 15 games. The Twins and White Sox both took unexpected plunges after they placed first and second in the division respectively in 2010. All the while, the Royals were busy promoting talent from their #1 ranked farm system
Before the All-Star Break, the Royals took their lumps, going 37-54 and getting outscored 449-402. During this time, rookies Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy, Louis Coleman, Nate Adcock, Everett Teaford, and Tim Collins were getting their feet wet at the Major League level, while fellow rookie Aaron Crow was busy earning a spot on the AL All-Star roster. Gordon, Melky, and Frenchy were forming (at least offensively) the best OF in all of baseball. Billy Butler was still a doubles machine, but wasn’t putting up the power numbers that the fans and organization were looking for (until that unforgettable series in Boston). Matt Treanor and Brayan Pena were doubling up behind the plate, Escobar’s bat was ice cold then red-hot while his glove was consistently pure gold, and Chris Getz was… well… Chris Getz. The rotation got knocked around quite a bit. As did Vin Mazzaro …
Post All-Star break, the Royals went an unimpressive 34-37. They did, however, outscore their opponents 328-313. With August came the debuts of Johnny Giavotella and Salvador Prerez. Gio put up lower numbers than expected, while Perez dominated behind the plate as well as in the batter’s box. The Royals’ highlight of the second-half was their 7-game winning streak in mid-September against the hapless Twins and White Sox. Regardless, this showed me something: these young guys, this entire roster, played like they were in the middle of the pennant race. Every game was exciting. Nobody seemed like they were going through the motions of a lost season, because this season was anything but. It was a stepping stone, building block, spring board… however you want to put it. And they knew it, too.
So with that all said, this is how I see the most winnable division in baseball shaking down in 2012:
1. Detroit Tigers
2. Kansas City Royals
3. Cleveland Indians
4. Chicago White Sox
5. Minnesota Twins
I think that the Tigers’ pitching staff will be what allows them to just squeak by the Royals this year, as it is just that much better than those of their division foes. Offensively, the Royals should have one of the top 10 offenses in the league (#8 according to Buster Olney). I don’t buy into the hype of the Indians’ pitching staff. The White Sox are selling off their top pieces left and right, and the Twins are in the middle of a re-building process.
2012 is going to be a huge step in the right direction for Kansas City, and may possibly invigorate a hungry fan-base for a strong run for a division title in 2013.