Thursday, December 28, 2006

American League Central Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous thoughts and observations about the American League Central.

Chicago – the White Sox starting outfielders averaged 18 HR and 66 RBI last season. The bad news is that 44 of those HR and 120 of those RBI came from Jermaine Dye. Scott Podsednik (3 HR and 45 RBI in 2006) is one of the most overrated players in baseball and Brian Anderson (8 HR and 33 RBI in 2006) hasn’t shown he can hit MLB pitching. If the White Sox get similar levels of production from their left fielder and centerfielder in 2007 then they won’t be making the playoffs this year either. Many rumors have surrounded the possible trade of one of Chicago’s starting pitchers but I think the thing to keep in the back of your mind is the fact that the White Sox have two closers in Bobby Jenks and Mike MacDougal (who just signed an extension). If MacDougal has a good first half – then he will be excellent trade bait to plug any hole for the White Sox come All-Star game time next season.

– suddenly the Indians have a relatively young team. Next year the average age for the infield starters will be just 25-years old and the two big stars – Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner are under contract for reasonable amounts for the next few years. The question for the Indians will be the bullpen which will rely on older players like Joe Borowski, Roberto Hernandez and supposedly soon Keith Foulke for closing down the late innings. It will be interesting to see if youngster Jeremy Sowers can be this year’s Jared Weaver. Personally – I’m not very high on 3rd baseman Andy Marte. It could be wishful thinking on my part hoping that the Red Sox did not give up anything great to get Coco Crisp but I also truly feel that there is more sizzle than steak when it comes to Marte.

Detroit – the Tigers are basically the same team that went to the World Series this year but they have added Gary Sheffield and will have Sean Casey for a full year next season. They will also probably have a healthy Mike Moroth as the 5th starter which gives the Tigers perhaps the deepest rotation in the AL (Boston could be the equal depending how Matsuzaka adjusts to MLB). The Tigers have Chris Shelton and Marcus Thames available as trade chips so they could make a move before spring training.

Kansas City
– I like the direction of the Royals under GM Dayton Moore. Right now they have a young team with quality depth that can be traded to fill in holes on contending teams that will be willing to give up top prospects. The Royals have 3rd base phenom and former College Player of the Year Alex Gordon ready to step up to the big leagues. That moves Mark Teahen to the outfield. Teahen was hot in the second half of the season last year with a .974 OPS after the all-star break and it looks like he’s finally figured out MLB pitching. With Teahen in the OF – that leaves a surplus including Reggie Sanders and Joey Gathright who could be big trade chips for teams needing a CF or veteran corner bat. There is also a surplus at first base with young players like Ryan Shealy, Justin Huber and Ross Gload competing for playing time (Mike Sweeney is pretty much a DH at this point). A trade of one of the young players is very possible but then again there’s nothing wrong with creating a stockpile. If Octavio Dotel comes back strong – then he could be another trade chip come the trade deadline. If the Royals can trade for some pitching and if prospect Billy Butler is as good with the bat at the MLB level as he has been at every other level – then the Royals just could be very competitive in just a couple of years. At the very least they will be fun to watch this season.

Minnesota – the Twins lost starter Francisco Liriano for at least a year to Tommy John surgery and starter Brad Radke for good to retirement. That’s 20% of all the innings pitched last season lost without any real replacement. This team has some stars in Johan Santana, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter but to me they are giving off the vibes of the 1973 Philadelphia Phillies who also had young stars Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Bob Boone and Greg Luzinski but still finished under .500 for the season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Torii Hunter traded if the team got off to a slow start and trading closer Joe Nathan isn’t out of the realm of possibility either if the right prospects are dangled.

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