Tagged: Minnesota Twins

Winter Meetings Recap: Day Three

Happy Holland Days

Derek Holland

Derek Holland

The Texas Rangers are going all-out in their efforts to land free agent Zack Greinke.

In an effort to clear payroll and a spot in the starting rotation, they are fielding calls on left-hander Derek Holland.Only 26 years old, the Rangers signed him to a 5-year, $28 million extension this March, making him extremely valuable to both the Rangers and a potential trade partner. He wouldn’t command Wil Myers, but would have to bring top prospects like Jake Odorizzi or John Lamb back to Texas in return. In 2012, Holland went 12-7 in 27 starts with a 4.67 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP with a 7:3 K:BB ratio – good for a WAR of 1.7. The Brewers and Twins are also calling Texas GM Jon Daniels about the lefty.

Super Trade in the Works?

The Rangers are also trying desperately add Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton in exchange for a starting shortstop, but Texas is unwilling to surrender either one of Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar, leading them to explore a mulit-team deal, in which the Royals are said to be included in. The other team said to be included is the Cleveland Indians, who are shopping shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and could be dealt to Arizona in this scenario.

Of course, all of this is barring whther or not Josh Hamilton re-signs with the Rangers. If Hamilton goes back to Texas, this deal is likely off the table.

Here’s how it could shake down as of right now:

  • Rangers get: OF Justin Upton + other(s)
  • Dbacks get: SS Asdrubal Cabrera + other(s)
  • Indians get: RHP Trevor Bauer/LHP Tyler Skaggs + other(s)
  • Royals get: LHP Derek Holland + other(s)

Is this deal likely to happen? Probably not. Trades like this generally fall apart due to the number of teams involved. The Royals would have to give up a number of prospects if everything goes through, being as they aren’t currently open to dealing an everyday player or Wil Myers in almost any trade.

There are other reports that the Rays are in on the deal with the Rangers making their way out of it. In that scenario, the Royals could wind-up with either James Shields or Jeremy Hellickson.

Thinking Local

Royals, among others are in on Shaun Marcum. He had a 3.70 ERA last season for the Brewers, but was only able to make 21 starts before missing the rest of the season due to an elbow issue.

Free agent pitchers with elbow issues are likely going to sign incentive laden one-year deals. Given the fact that Marcum will be 31 by the time the 2013 season rolls around, the Royals could get him on the cheap if he really wants to pitch in Kansas City – which is his hometown incase you haven’t heard that before from everyone who writes about the Royals for the past six months.

Teams are wary of Marcum because his fastball velocity, which usually sits anywhere between 86-89 mph, has dipped down to around 81-83 mph. He underwent Tommy John surgery back in 2008, and there is the fear that he may require undergoing the procedure for a second time.

Let’s Stay in Touch

Anibal Sanchez

Anibal Sanchez

Although they likely won’t be able to afford either one of them, the Royals are reportedly keeping in touch with free agent RHPs Anibal Sanchez and Kyle Lohse.

Both Sanchez and Loshe are seeking mulit-year deals in excess of $15 million per season. Until Zack Greinke decides where he wants to pitch for the next 5+ years, it’s unlikely that either Sanchez or Loshe sign a deal. Greinke is going to set the market for free agent starting pitchers this offseason and will likely drive up the price of many of the remaining available top starters.

The Royals are also keeping tabs on RHP Ryan Dempster. It’s been reported that they offered Dempster a two-year, $26 million contract last week, only to have Dempster turn it down because he’s looking for a three year deal. Right now, Dayton Moore is unwilling to give the extra year that Dempster is holding out for. The Brewers and Red Sox are also showing interest.

Not Even Close

That’s how former Royals closer Joakim Soria characterizes the Royals offer to him.

Incase you haven’t heard, Soria and the Texas Rangers have agreed to a two-year, $8 million deal.

Soria knows that the Royals have a great bullpen and acknowledges that the team has greater needs right now. He went on to thank the fans and organization for the six years he spent here.

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Would You Rather…

Even with last night’s failed-comeback attempt in Houston, the Royals (29-36) are just a mere five games behind the first-place White Sox (35-32).

Since May 1st, the Royals are 22-20 – a .550 winning percentage. Now, over an entire season, a .550 win% comes out to an 89-73 season. The White Sox current .522 win% paces them at 84-78. If the Royals didn’t have that dreaded 12-game-should-never-be-spoken-of-again-losing streak, we could be talking about being in first place in a weak, weeeaaaak AL Central.

But, it is what it is.

     Team                        Record     Games Back    Last 10 Games

  1. Chicago White Sox            35-32                0                         3-7
  2. Cleveland Indians             34-32                0.5                     4-6
  3. Detroit Tigers                    32-34                2.5                      7-3
  4. Kansas City Royals     29-36              5.0                    5-5
  5. Minnesota Twins              26-39                8.0                     5-5

The Royals have 19 games to go until the All-Star break: a pair of three-game series’ at home against the Cards (34-33) and the Rays (37-29), a pair four-game series’ in Minnesota (26-39) and Toronto (34-33) , and a three-game series’ in Detroit (32-34).

Now… say the Royals win at least 10 of the 19 games, which would put them at a record of at least 39-45. And say they are still within five games or less of the division lead.

And also say you’re Dayton Moore.

Do you pull the trigger on acquiring a veteran starter/veteran starter in a contract year in exchange for an impact prospect(s)?

OR

Do you stand pat with what you have and promote from within?

Which would you rather do?

(I’m going to be using a lot of unnescessay-nonsensical dashes now, so bear with me.)

Let’s take a look at this. The Royals, realistically, have been building for 2013,’14, and ’15 – when their now-young nucleus should be complete and ready for winning. By then, Hosmer should be an MVP candidate, Moustakas should be one of the top power-hitting 3B in the AL, Gordon and Butler should be battled-tested and grizzled veterans, Escobar should have a few Gold Gloves, Wil Myers should be coming into his own in right field, and Perez should be handling a rotation filled out by Duffy, Odorizzi, Montgomery, Lamb, and enter free agent signing here.

I don’t know about you, but I would love it if this complete pipe-dream of a team were all together at the same time in Kansas City competing for a division title and battling in the post-season come the next three-to-four years. And ideally, they should and will be.

Say you choose this option. In doing-so, you acknowledge that, although your team may be winning and playing average-to-good baseball, you don’t believe that this team is capable of winning a championship right now. The fan-base may be upset and players may regret buying all-in early on in the season just to see their hard-work go unrewarded. Afterall, your minor league wins, numbers, stats, rankings, what have you… don’t mean squat when it comes to winning at the big league level.

In turn, however, you didn’t mortgage your future for unknown and maybe long-shots at winning your division, league, and the World Series.

But what if we have a shot at it now? What if 2012 really is “Our Time”?

Would you kick around the idea of shipping off some of our prized prospects a la (God forbid) Wil Myers or Mike Montgomery for a frontline starter in order to make a playoff push? Or even dealing veterans like Jeff Francoeur, Jonathan Sanchez, Jonathan Broxton, or the increasingly sexy Yuni Betancourt for a mid-rotation starter?

Say you choose this option and you deal one-to-two top prospects for a top-of-the-rotation-type guy. Typically these guys are only available when they are at our nearing the end of their current contract – meaning you’re dealing years of control and potential for a right here, right now, what have you done for me lately pitcher; all the while knowing that you don’t have much more than a snowball’s chance of keeping him long-term (much like how the Brewers got CC Sabathia in 2008). It’s basically an all-or-nothing shot.

You could also, as an alternative, deal a replacable veteran for something less in return. Maybe it’s a mid-rotation starter or a power bullpen arm (like the Royals need another one…). The deal would open a void in your roster which would potentially be filled by the likes of prospects Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, Christian Colon, David Lough, Derrick Robinson, etc. – all of which are unproven commodities. There’s no guarantee that any one of these prospects would step right in to their big league role and succeed immediately. A deal like this could possibly net the Royals a loss in terms of production, but a surplus in terms of experience.

So, Mr./Mrs. GMDM, what’s your call? Do you stand pat and keep building? Or do you take a chance and make a deal?

Tuesday Recap: The Draft, Verdugo, and Another Shutout

Tuesday was a busy day for the Boys in Blue.

The Draft: Rounds 2-15

Apparently Kyle Zimmer wasn’t enough for the Royals. One day after taking Zimmer 5th overall, the Royals selected a total of seven pitchers in rounds 2-15 (3 college, 4 high school).

The Royals took Vanderbilt lefty Sal Selmon in the 2nd round of the 2012 MLB Draft. Photo Credit: Karl B. DeBlaker

They started the day by taking Vanderbilt lefty Sam Selman with pick no. 66. Selman,21, hasn’t been a front-line starter for the Commodores, but he’s a guy that Royals scouts saw get better as the season went on. The Royals took Louisiana high school lefty Colin Rodgers, 18, with their 3rd round pick, their first selection from the high school ranks. Rodgers is currently commited to play baseball at Auburn. He possesses a plus-curveball that normally sits between 75-78 with a sharp break. The Royals addressed their biggest organizational need by selecting three pitchers with their first three picks.

Kansas City finally selected their first position player in round four by selecting Stanford infielder Kenny Diekroeger with the 133rd overall pick. Diekroeger was selected out of high school in the 2nd round by Tampa Bay in the 2009 draft. Opting rather to attend Stanford, Kenny turned down a signing-bonus of $2 million from the Rays. He saw his numbers dip a little bit during his time at Stanford, but Royals scouting director Lonnie Goldberg still sees great potential – “We think this guy has plus-plus makeup. We’re anxious to get a wood bat in his hand. We think he has a ton of upside.” – Goldberg to Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star. During his time at Stanford, Kenny played third base his freshman year before shifting over to shortstop for his sophomore season. He then shifted across the infield again during his junior season by moving over to second base.

They didn’t waste any time picking up their second position player in the next round, drafting catcher Chad Johnson. No, not that Chad Johnson. This Chad Johnson is a high school catcher out of Illinois. The left-handed hitting catcher’s clame to fame is hitting a homerun into the right field seats of Busch Stadium.

Rounds 6-15 went as follows:

6. Zach Lovvorn RHP, Oxford HS (Alabama)

7. Fred Ford 1B/OF, Jefferson Community College (Missouri)

8. Alfredo Escalera-Maldonado OF, Pendleton HS (Florida)

9. Daniel Stumpf LHP, San Jacinto Junior College (Texas)

10. Alexis Rivera OF/1B, Montverde Academy (Florida)

11. Zeb Sneed RHP, Northwest Nazarene Junior College (Idaho)

12. Jackson Williford 2B, Ramona High School (California)

13. Hunter Haynes LHP, Mexico High School (Missouri)

14. Mike Morin C, University of Utah

15. Dylan Sons LHP, Halifax County High School (Virginia)

The draft concludes today with rounds 16-40 taking place via conference call.

Verdugo Promoted, Smith Optioned

Ryan Verdugo

After another rocky outing, the Royals decided to option lefty Will Smith back to Omaha and promote lefty Ryan Verdugo.

Will Smith sandwiched one quality outing with two sub-par starts. He was 1-2 in those three starts, allowing 14 runs in 14 innings pitched.

Verdugo was 3-1 in 11 starts for Omaha and sported a 3.61 ERA. Although he’s been a exclusively a starter this season, he’ll serve his time in Knasas City as a member of the bullpen – likely as a long-reliever.

Verdugo may not be in Kansas City for long, as manager Ned Yost anticipates the Royals adding a position player to the roster before Friday when the Royals travel to Pittsburgh to continue their road portion of interleague schedule. In the mean time, he’ll wear #62 – the number he wore for the Royals in spring training.

The Royals acquired Ryan Verdugo last November, along with lefty Jonathan Sanchez, from the Giants in the Melky Cabrera trade.

Speaking of Interleague Play…

When the Royals travel to Pittsburgh this Friday, don’t expect to see Eric Hosmer roaming the right-side of the infield.

Instead, you’ll be seeing Hoz snagging flyballs in right field.

In an effort to maximize offense, the Royals plan to use Billy Butler at first base. In turn, Hosmer will be in right field, thus shifting Jeff Francoeur to center field and Jarrod Dyson to the bench.

Hosmer got a handful of innings in the outfield this spring in preparation for interleague play.

Pitching and Defense Does it Again

Bruce Chen pitched seven scoreless innings Tuesday night against the Minnesota Twins. Photo Credit: John Sleezer

For the third time in the past five games, the Royals have shutout their opponent.

It all got started last Friday when Felipe Paulino, Kelvin Herrera, Greg Holland, and Jonathan Broxton combined for a three-hit shutout over the A’s (final 2-0). They matched that 2-0 victory over the A’s by earning another 2-0 shutout over them that following Sunday. The bullpen combination of Herrera, Holland, and Broxton worked just as well this time behind starter Vin Mazzaro.

Then last night came. Bruce Chen pitched a masterful seven innings  against the Twins. He surrendering only four hits, striking out five, and walking zero. Greg Holland followed suit by striking out the side in the eighth. Broxton came in to close the ninth in typical Jonathan Broxton fashion (one hit, one walk, tying and winning runs on base).

The only offense the Royals got (and needed, apparently) came in the bottom of the second. With two outs, after reaching on a fielder’s choice, Eric Hosmer swiped second base off of Twins starter Francisco Liriano. The move paid off when Brayan Pena brought Hosmer home on a single to left field.

The Royals will look to take the series  2-1 tonight at The K. Felipe Paulino (3-1, 1.70 ERA) will take the hill for the Royals. he’ll be pitted against the recenelty promoted Twins righty Nick Blackburn (1-4, 8.37 ERA).

Etc.

  • The Royals are 7-3 in their last 10 games. They have outscored their opponents 42-34 in that stretch.
    • Jonathan Broxton has recorded a save in six of the last ten games.
  • They have won their last three series’, and have won six of their last nine series’.
  • Six Royals are listed among the leaders in the balloting for the All-Star game: SS Alcides Escobar (4th), DH Billy Butler (4th), 3B Mike Moustakas (5th), 2B Chris Getz (5th), OF Jeff Francoeur (10th), and OF Alex Gordon (13th).
  • The Royals are averaging nearly 23,000 fans at home this season thus far. At this point last season, they were averaging just over 17,600 fans per home game.

Royals News and Notes From the Weekend

*UPDATE*

Given the rainout last night, the Royals and Tigers will play just a two game series. The game will be made up on Sept. 24, a mutual off-day.

Duane Below will lose his start and will shift back to the bullpen for the series.

Tuesday @ 6:05 CT: KC Luke Hochevar vs. DET Rick Porcello

Wednesday @ 12:05 CT: KC Jonathan Sanchez vs. DET Justin Verlander

* * *

At 6-15, the Royals are tied with Minnesota for 4th place in the Central, but are only 5.5 games behind the 1st place Cleveland Indians (11-9).

Here’s a quick recap of what happened this weekend:

  • Before Friday night’s game, the Royals swapped centerfielders with the Storm Chasers by re-calling Jarrod Dyson and optioning Jason Bourgeois. Given the unfortunate Lorenzo Cain injury news, Yost figured that the team needed an infusion of speed. Dyson figures to get most of the playing time in center while Cain recovers from his hip injury. Mitch Maier will move back into his normal role as the fourth outfielder.

Alex Gordon robs Danny Valencia of a homerun. (Photo Credit: Hannah Foslien / Getty Images)

  • During the bottom of the 2nd inning on Friday, Alex Gordon robbed Danny Valencia of a lead-off HR. Despite his Gold Glove season in 2011, this was the first time Alex has taken a homerun away from anyone.“I’ve always wanted to rob a guy on a catch since I started playing in the outfield. That was my first one. Just brought it down and threw it back in. I acted like I’d done it before.” – Gordon told Bob Dutton of The Star.
  • After giving up four runs in four innings in Friday’s 8-7 win over the Twins, spot-starter Everett Teaford was optioned back to Tripole A Omaha, while right-hander Nate Adcock was summoned up from the same club. The move was made, not because of Teaford’s performance, but because the Royals’ bullpen needed a healthy arm who could fill the long-releif role. Given that starters generally get four days off between starts, shifting Teaford back to the bullpen after he replaced Duffy in the rotation would have put the Royals at a disadvantage. Therefore, Adcock was brought up from Omaha. Nate had been solid in Omaha before his call-up, going 3-1 in four starts with a 1.37 ERA.
  • The Royals and Twins were rained out on Saturday, causing the game to be rescheduled for Saturday June 30th at Target Field in Minnesota. It will be a day-night double-header.
  • Bruce Chen got lit up for six runs in 2.2 innings yesterday in the Royals’ 7-4 loss to the Twins. He may have been the victim of the small strike zone set by home plate umpire Larry Vanover, forcing him to use more of his pitches out and over the plate.
    • Nate Adcock took over for Bruce in the middle of the third inning and gave the team exactly what they needed: he went the rest of the way (5.1 innings), giving the rest of the bullpen another day off, and kept the Royals in the game by only giving up one run.
  • Mike Moustakas (3) hit his third homerun of this season yesterday off of Minnesota’s starter Jason Marquis. Moose has been one of the team’s hottest hitters over the past week, seeing his batting average go from .229 on April 21 to where it stands now at .315. He’s 12-for-27 (.444) during that stretch with 5 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K.
  • Billy Butler has been maybe just as hot as Moose. After going hitless in the four games against Toronto, Country Breakfast has been on a tear – going 10-for-23 (.435) in the Royals last five games with 3 HR, 7 RBI, and 4 R. He’s currently on a five-game hitting streak.
  • Alex Gordon has been on fire lately as well. He’s 8 for his last 21 (.381) with 2 HR, 5 RBI, and 7 R.
  • On the flip side, Eric Hosmer has seen his batting average drop below the Mendoza line (.188) and is hitless in his last 14 AB’s. He has no doubt seen a lot of hard luck this season, as many of the balls that he hit have just been at-him balls. Opposing infields have been putting shifts on when Hosmer steps in the box, forcing him to try to hit everything the other way, which is that much more difficult to do when you’re going through a slump.
    • Hosmer and the Royals received a major scare last night when Hosmer took a Glen Perkins fastball off his right-hand when he check-swung at a pitch. He laid on the ground for a moment to collect himself before getting up and finishing the AB. Hos finished the game at first and didn’t show any signs of pain.

Eric Hosmer holds his hand after being hit by a Glen Perkins pitch in the eighth inning on April 29. (Photo Credit: Hannah Foslien / Getty Images)

Coming Up:

The Royals will travel to Detroit for a three-game series against the Tigers.

The Tigers (11-11) are in quite a funk right now, losing 8 of their last 10 games while being outscored 67-33.

They are also currenlty dealing with the Delmon Young hate crime issue.

The Tigers swept the Royals nearly two weeks ago in Kansas City, but they only outscored the Royals 10-6. The Royals had the tying and/or go ahead run on base in the bottom of the 9th in two of the three games.

Here are the matchups for the series:

  @ 

Monday @ 6:05 CT: KC – Luke Hochevar (2-1, 4.98 ERA) vs. DET – Duane Below (2-0, 0.00 ERA)

Don’t let Duane Below’s numbers deceive you. He is making his first start of the season – in place of Doug Fister. He’s only appeared in 5 games this season for a total of 12 innings.

Tuesday @ 6:05 CT: KC – Jonathan Sanchez (1-1, 6.75 ERA) vs. DET Rick Porcello (1-2, 6.45 ERA)

Rick Porcello has combined for just 7.2 innings and has given up 17 hits and 14 runs (13 ER) in his last two starts.

Wednesday @ 12:05 CT: KC – Luis Mendoza (1-2, 6.00 ERA) vs. DET Justin Verlander (2-1, 2.45 ERA)

Verlander hasn’t gone less than 6.0 IP in any of his starts this year, is averaging nearly a K per inning (37.1 IP, 35 K) and has only surrendered 8 BB and 1 HBP. On the otherhand, he hasn’t trown less than 102 pitches in each of his 5 starts and is averaging 111 pitches per outing. Verlander has been in a bases-loaded situation only once this season, which was in the bottom of the 9th against the Royals. He struck out Alex Gordon with a 100 mph fastball at the knees. This guy is filthy.

2012 AL Central Position Rankings

I’m not going to claim that there is any science behind my rankings here. I based them off of last year’s performance, their age, injury history, and whether their career is on an upward trend (+), a downward trend (-), or maintaining (=). So with no further ado…

Catchers

Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images North America

1. Alex Avila – Tigers +

Alex Avila is also on the rise after a breakout year in 2011 which saw him make the All-Star roster. He’s always had great hands behind the plate, but his bat came around in a big way last year.

2. Carlos Santana – Indians +

Carlos Santana is young switch-hitting catcher who hits for power and plays well enough to stick behind the plate. He’ll continue split time at 1B/DH a la Victor Matinex (his idle and mentor), but will start behind the plate most days. Guys with talent along his lines will always be highly coveted.

3. Joe Mauer – Twins =

Joe Mauer has really seen his career take a wrong turn, due to both injury and a power-sapping ballpark. His bat will always be there, but his power seems to be fading along with his ability to stay behind the plate.

4. Salvador Perez – Royals +

Salvador Perez is young, defensively sound, and already has the trust of the Royals’ pitching staff. Even if he hits .250, he’ll be a top 10 catcher for years.

5. A.J. Pierzynski – White Sox –

A.J. is getting old, his arm is deteriorating, and Tyler Flowers will soon replace him in the White Sox lineup.

First Base

1. Prine Fielder – Tigers +

Prince is clearly the best 1B in the division. His weight and defense will move him to DH permanently in the somewhat-near future, but his bat is what separates him from the rest of the pack.

2. Paul Konerko – White Sox =

Paul Konerko seems to get better with age, but his time will soon be up. His age will soon push him from the field, though his bat will hold value for at least 2 more years. Until then, Pauly will continue to serve as the White Sox captain.

3. Eric Hosmer – Royals +

Hosmer could the second best 1B on this list right now. He’s already proven that he can compete at the highest level despite only being 22 years old. He hits for power and average and will win a Gold Glove one day.

4. Justin Morneau – Twins –

Justin Morneau might not ever fully recover from his concussion a few years ago. That said, barring a huge 2012, his career appears to be closer to over than in it’s prime.

5. Casey Kotchman – Indians =

Casey Kotchman had a great season with Tampa Bay in 2011, but it only earned him another 1-year deal. He’s known for his premium defense and lack of power for a 1B. He’s destined to platoon 1B this year with either Matt LaPorta or Russ Canzler.

Second Base

Photo Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki/US Presswire

1. Gordon Beckham – White Sox =

Second Base is easily the weakest position within the division. So as the only guy at the position to receive full playing time over the past few seasons with the division is Gordon Beckham. He basically wins by default. He has seen his production dip in each of his three big league seasons so far though since he moved from 3B to 2B.

2. Jason Kipnis – Indians +

Kipnis is a plus hitter and a fairly good defender which he showed all throughout his time in the minors. He got a taste of the bigs last season and should win the starting job in Spring Training.

3. Johnny Giavotella – Royals +

Gio technically hasn’t earned the starting job in Kansas City. But all he has to do is out-hit Chris Getz this spring, which shouldn’t be too daunting of a task considering that’s what Gio does. His defense will be good enough as long as he hits like he did in Triple A in 2011.

4. Ramon Santiago – Tigers =

Ramon Santiago has been a serviceable career switch-hitting backup infielder who will battle Ryan Raburn and Brandon Inge this spring for the starting spot in Detroit.

5. Alexi Casilla – Twins =

Alexi Casilla is yet another 2B within the division who enters ST as the starter, but will have to battle Luke Hughes and Tsuyoshi Nishioka for playing time. He’s a switch-hitter with good speed, but has yet to start or even play for an entire season.

Shortstop

Photo Credit: Jason Miller/Getty Images North America

1. Asdrubal Cabrera – Indians +

Asdrubal had a career year in 2011, earning his first All-Star appearance and placing 20th in the AL MVP voting. Known more for his speed and flashy defense, Cabrera showed legitimate power for the first time in his career.

2. Jhonny Peralta – Tigers +

Jhonny Peralta is having a career renaissance since coming to Detroit and being moved over to 3B. But with the signing of Prince Fielder shifting Miggy back to 3B, Peralta is forced to move back to SS. He’s definitely good enough offensively to stick, but his range at short has to improve if the Tigers want to be even average defensively.

3. Alexei Ramirez – White Sox =

At 30 years old, the Cuban Missile keeps on producing. He hits for a respectable average, flashes power, plays solid defense, and has never missed any significant time. Aside from Pual Konerko, he’s the most stable and consistent guy on the White Sox roster.

4. Alcides Escobar – Royals +

Alcides Escobar may be the best defensive SS in the division. He may also be the worst offensive SS in the division, but that’s easy to say when he’s matched up against the likes of Asdrubal, Jhonny, and Alexei. He stepped up his offensive game big time after the All-Star break in 2011. His glove is good enough to be Gold and he’s quick between the bases. If he can hit .265 consistently, he’s a prototypical SS.

5. Jamey Carroll – Twins –

Jamey Carroll has never been “the man” at a position at any time in his career. But the Twins are giving him a chance this year, a year in which he turned 38 years old, to win the everyday job at short. He’ll battle Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Trevor Plouffe for playing time. He’s always had a good eye at the plate and still shows the ability at 38 years old to swipe a base or two when needed. Given his Utility background, his defense is average at best.

Third Base

Photo Credit: USA Today

1. Miguel Cabrera – Tigers +

Miggy is the best hitter in the division, and arguably in all of baseball. At his current pace, he’s well on his way to a Hall of Fame career. In 2012, he’ll switch back to 3B, the position he played back when he was traded to Detroit. He was moved over to 1B two weeks later for obvious reasons. The question is: Will he be able to effecitvely make the transition back to third without letting it impact his offense?

2. Mike Moustakas – Royals +

Moose has the highest potential of any 3B in the AL Central apart from Miguel Cabrera. He struggled for most of 2011 in KC, but found his stroke in the last few months of the season. As he gets more acclimated to big league pitching, his power will really begin to show.

3. Danny Valencia – Twins +

Danny is a solid everyday major league 3B. His offense won’t wow you and neither will his defense. He’ll always be a middle of the pack guy in my opinion. 2011 was his first full season in Minnesota, so it’s reasonable to expect his performance to improve.

4. Brent Morel – White Sox +

Like Valenica, 2011 was Morel’s first full big league season. His offense hasn’t been anything to brag about, as he is known more for his defense. He’ll continue to hit in the bottom third for the White Sox in 2012 barring a miracle offensive breakthrough.

5. Jack Hannahan – Indians =

Jack Hannahan is a prototypical bench guy. He’s a light-hitting, solid defensive 3B/1B who should be a late-inning defensive replacement. He got significant playing time with the Tribe in 2011. But 2012 should be different. Although he’s listed as the starter on the current depth chart, he’ll be battling top prospect Lonnie Chisenhall. I fully expect Chisenhall to win that battle this spring and Hannahan to return to the bench.

Left Field

1. Alex Gordon – Royals +

Gordon has always had the potential to be great, and in 2011 he finally proved that he could be. Alex was arguably the most valuable guy on the royals roster last season. He set career highs in almost every category, lead the league in OF Assists, and won his first Gold Glove. So it’s safe to say that the position switch went well for him.

2. Delmon Young – Tigers =

For a while, it seemed like Delmon Young was finally realizing his true potential in Minnesota before being trade to the Tigers last season. He seems to have lost his way at the plate, seeing his power numbers take a big dip. He also seems to have lost a step or two in the field, as he appears to be visibly slower in the field and on the bases. But he’s only 26, so he has plenty of time and talent to right the ship.

3. Dayan Viciedo – White Sox +

Viciedo is a legitimate power hitter in the mold of Miguel Cabrera. He’s a short, stocky hitter who will mash the ball at the big league level. His defense will probably never come around, but his bat will be good enough to find him a position. He’s played both LF and RF as well as 1B and 3B. His future may be as a full-time DH.

4. Michael Brantley – Indians +

Michael Brantley is an interesting player. He’s a guy who has been called upon mostly to replace the oft-injured Grady Sizemore and Shin Soo Choo until last season, where he proved he was capable of taking over the everyday job in left. He possesses good speed and a little bit of pop and is good enough defensively to be an everyday CF, which is where he’ll begin 2012 due to Grady Sizemore’s back issues.

5. Ben Revere – Twins +

Ben Revere is another young guy who earned his initial playing time due to an injury (Denard Span). Although he’s primarily a center fielder, a healthy Span means Revere will get most of his playing time in left. He should be a great leadoff hitter for the Twins in the years to come and he’ll always be one of the quickest guys on the field.


Center Field

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1. Austin Jackson – Tigers +

Austin Jackson may be the best overall athlete in the division. He can hit for average and a little bit of power, which should come with experience. He strikes out a ton, which right now puts a hamper on his ability to be a leadoff hitter, which is where he belongs. He’s a great defensive center fielder and will probably earn a Gold Glove or two before his career is over.

2. Grady Sizemore – Indians –

If he could stay healthy, Grady Sizemore could be one of the best players in baseball. He has it all: a good eye, power, speed, a Gold Glove, and iron guts. But if his body keeps him from displaying his skills, he may never get to show off his full potential.

3. Denard Span – Twins +

Despite an injury-riddled 2011, Span is still a solid outfielder. He and Ben Revere are essentially the same player, although Span’s bat has a little more pop. Great defense, good speed. He’s a quality leadoff guy. If he can stay healthy, he should be a key player for the Twins.

4. Lorenzo Cain – Royals +

If it weren’t for the career years by Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera, and Jeff Francoeur, Lorenzo Cain would have been in the lineup everyday for the Royals in 2011. He’s a great athlete who plays terrific defense and has shown he can be solid at the dish. Right now, he’s the biggest question mark in the KC lineup.

5. Alejandro de Aza – White Sox =

Alejandro de Aza is relatively unknown at this point in his career. He’s been around the league a while, serving primarily as a backup OFer capable of playing all three positions well. He is capable of hitting well and has a good eye at the plate, but lacks average power. He could wind up as either their starting CF or LF, depending on who wins the battle between him and super-sub Brent Lillibridge.

Right Field

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1. Jeff Francoeur – Royals +

Like the other two Royals outfielders in 2011, Jeff Francoeur revitalized his career. He’ll always be a hacker at the plate and will never take as many walks as he should, but Frenchy seemed to figure out how to be successful in spite of those parts of his game last season. He has one hell of an arm (just ask Michael Taylor of the A’s) and plays surprisingly good defense (just ask Dustin Ackley of the Mariners). Here’s to hoping Frenchy’s 20/20 season was no fluke.

2. Shin Soo Choo – Indians =

You may argue that Choo should be at the top of the RF rankings, and you’d probably be right and completely justified. Choo missed almost half of the 2011 season due to multiple injuries, but before those injuries his season was a far cry from his 20/20 season in 2010. He has 30/30 potential and possesses one of the better outfield arms in baseball.

3. Josh Willingham – Twins =

Josh Willingham should be the equivalent to Jason Kubel in Minnesota. His average will hover around .250-.260 and his defense could use some improvement, but he’s the thumper that you want in the top half of your lineup. And given the losses of Kubel and Cuddyer and the injuries to Morneau and Mauer, he may be the only Twinkie who hits 20+ HR in 2012.

4. Alex Rios – White Sox –

Rios had a terrific season for the Pale Hose in 2010, but a forgettable 2011. Alex used to be one of the premier up-and-comers in baseball before coming to Chicago. He saw his plate prowess take an enormous hit and his power numbers dwindle. At 31 years old, Rios appears to be on the wrong side of his career arc.

5. Brennan Boesch – Tigers +

Brennan Boesch is one of the better unknown or un-thought of hitters in the AL. He has shown he can hit for average and power (of both gap and HR variety) while maintaining the ability to get on base. His defense and speed are average at best, but his bat is his key. I can see him as Nelson Cruz-type hitter in the coming years.

Designated Hitter

1. Billy Butler – Royals +

Country Breakfast is arguably the best DH in baseball today. Most people forget that he’s only 25 since he’s been in KC for the better part of four years. He’s always been a solid gap-hitter (evidence by three stright 40+ doubles campaigns), but fans and coaches alike are waiting for his power to really surface. He’s shown up to ST in better shape, hoping to earn some reps during the season at 1B. But no matter the outcome of that, his bat will be a mainstay in the Royals’ lineup.

2. Travis Hafner – Indians –

Pronk hasn’t been able to play a full season since 2007, back when he was one of the most feared hitters in the league. But when healthy, Pronk can still deliver the long ball, especially against righties. But his key, especially at 34, is to stay healthy. He holds no defensive value, so he has to hit to keep his job.

3. Adam Dunn – White Sox –

The Big Donkey had the worst year of his career in 2011, and possibly one of the worst offensive seasons in MLB history. Now we all know about Adam Dunn. He is a “Three True Outcomes” kind of hitter, meaning he’ll mostly either hit a home run, strikeout, or take a walk. At his size, and given Paul Konerko, Dunn will probably serve as a DH for the rest of his career. But in order to do so, he has to be able to stay way above the fabled Mendoza line.

4. Ryan Doumit – Twins =

Ryan Doumit has always been an offense-first catcher, a quality that typically doesn’t last too long in the majors. But as a backup catcher, 1B, RF, DH, Doumit has real value. He could be one of the more interesting players in the Twins’ lineup this season.

5. Ryan Raburn – Tigers =

The DH position is going to be a revolving door for Detroit for the foreseeable future, given the presence of Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fiedler, and Victor Martinez. But with V-Mart out for the season, the job may fall mostly into the hands of Ryan Raburn, who will also be battling for the 2B job. Raburn has power, but not much plate discipline. So the DH spot in their lineup may just go to whoever has the hot hand at the time.

*Seriously, I love that the big 3 DH’s in this division have some of the best nicknames in the league. That’s just awesome.*

Aces

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1. Justin Verlander – Tigers +

Two no-hitters. An AL MVP award. Need I say more?

2. Ubaldo Jimenez – Indians =

Ubaldo Jimenez has all the tools to be a truly dominant pitcher, including a fastball that sits in the upper 90’s. He managed to out it all together back in 2009 and 2010, but seemed to struggle for both the Rockies and Indians last season. He’s still young, projectable, and has ace upside.

3. John Danks – White Sox +

Danks, too, had a rough go of it in 2011, especially at the beginning of the season through the end of May, where he went 0-8 in 11 starts. He rebounded to finish the season respectfully, however. The White Sox gave Danks a large extension this offseason, showing that they believe in his upside. He is easily the best left-handed starter in the division.

4. Carl Pavano – Twins –

Carl Pavano has enjoyed late-career success with the Twins, and is truly the leader of their pitching staff. He hasn’t missed a single start over the past two seasons, showing that his Yankee injuries are behind him. At 36, Carl likely only has a few years of pitching left in him. But his mustache seems to have brought some virility to the veteran.

5. Luke Hochevar – Royals =

As a former number one overall pick, Luke should be higher on this list. He’s struggled mightily up until after the All-Star break last season, where he posted a winning record, a decent ERA, and one of the best ground ball rates in the league thanks to a quality sinker. Luke needs to keep up what he started last year if he wants to keep his place in the Royals’ rotation though.

Closers

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1. Jose Valverde – Tigers +

Papa Grande was the best closer in baseball in 2011, converting 100% of his save opportunities on his way to winning the MLB Delivery Man of the Year award. So with Verlander starting games and Valverde finishing them, the Tigers have the perhaps best starter-closer combo in the MLB.

2. Joakim Soria – Royals +

Joakim the Dream had his worst season to date last year due to a cutter that just wouldn’t cut. He set career worsts in blown saves and ERA, and even lost his closing role for a week in June. Soria rebounded to finish the year in typical fashion, however, leaving little doubt to his role with the team in 2012. He still has the potential to be the best closer in Royals history and could be even better than that.

3. Chris Perez – Indians +

Chris Perez has become a filthy closer for Cleveland after solidifying the role in mid-2010. He earned himself his first All-Star invite in 2011 and handled left-handed hitters even better than righties. The Tribe has formed a formidable bullpen, and Perez is right at the hear of it all.

4. Matt Capps – Twins –

As a set-up man, Capps has been solid. He even had a good season as a closer when he split a season between the Nationals and the Twins, earning him a spot on the All-Star team. He filled in for an injured Joe Nathan upon becoming a Twin, but never could win the job away from him, converting only 15 of 24 save opportunities in 2011. He enters 2012 as the de facto closer for Minnesota, but will have to be better than he was last season.

5. Addison Reed – White Sox +

Addison Reed made his major league debut last season, appearing in six games and finishing two of them. He’s been rated as one of the top 100 prospects by Baseball America and projects to be the White Sox’ closer of the future. Given they have no other real formidable options at the position, Reed has the best shot of earning the job this spring.