If you squint a little you can see the Royals being good and taking this division if the Tigers slip even a little. If you squint a little more you can see an improbable White Sox resurgence. If you squint hard you could even see the Twins’ free agents making them competitive. Don’t hurt yourself on that last one though.
Chicago White Sox - Quite a transformation in progress here as ChiSox seek deliverance from the mire. Revamped outfield features Avisail Garcia, 22, and ol’ man Adam ‘Spanky’ Eaton at 25 years young. If they can’t trade Adam Dunn (they probably can’t) at least they can put him out to pasture at DH for good after signing of 26-year-old Cuban defector Jose Abreu to play first base. Some say they could be sneaky good but Blog sees them essentially being one pitcher injury away from another long year. Is starter Jose Quintana a flash in the pan-a – or is he the man-a?
Cleveland Indians - If you believed in the 2013 Tribe then there’s reason to believe in this year’s vintage. The high-scoring, walk-focused offense is making a return minus Drew Stubbs, who represented the weak link last year. One wonders if David Murphy will represent an upgrade. They lost Ubaldo Jimenez to free agency and will depend heavily on home-grown Danny Salazar to be a part of a playoff rotation. There also are a couple injuries — ol’ man Jason Giambi and center fielder Michael Bourn — that could pose challenges. Has any team in MLB history ever had a deeper bench at DH?
Detroit Tigers - You’ve got sniping between organization and 21-game and Cy Young winner Max Scherzer over money. You’ve got something of a sad situation with Jose Iglesias. You also have two draft picks — Nick Castellanos and Hernan Perez — getting opportunities. [INTRADAY UPDATE: Or not?] You’ve got a new manager, Brad Ausmus, taking over after Jim Leyland’s tearful goodbye. So you’ve got a lot of variables playing into this talented squad, which valiantly is trying to retool without a down-cycle. The most important thing is Miguel Cabrera is healthy. Can he stay that way and can Justin Verlander rebound from a relatively bad year?
Kansas City Royals - Danny Valencia “is not a slouch,” says Bleacher Report. Counters Chevy Chase, he’s a “tremendous slouch.” Well Dannyyyyy? Royals of past would have Valencia starting somewhere but this team is very talented with guys every place including free-agent pickup Omar Infante who is a big upgrade in infield. Who is Yordano Ventura? He’s been compared to every guy in the book this spring including Pedro Martinez. He does have that freakish whip-arm action. Must be a Dominican thing. He’s innings-capped apparently.
Minnesota Twins - Manager Ron Gardenhire lamenting “inconsistent performances” as season is nearly upon us. Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes make starting rotation sort of semi-legitimate in that the pair likely can be there to take the ball all year. Overall you don’t see enough pitching or enough offense for them to separate themselves. Can Oswaldo Arcia keep his roster spot? There’s competition for outfield spots coming from unlikely places.
Predicted order of finish:
* wild card hunt