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2024 MLB Division Preview: American League Central

The American League Central is the worst division in baseball. That's no secret. However, someone has to win it and punch their ticket to the playoffs. The Minnesota Twins accomplished it last year with just 87 wins, the fewest by any division winner. In fact, the AL Central produced just one team with a winning record while every other division in the majors had at least three. Although the AL Central is weak, the three teams at the top are going to be in a dogfight down the stretch.

Last Place - Chicago White Sox - 58-104

The White Sox did nothing to improve their roster unless you consider getting Nicky Lopez, Michael Soroka, and Brendan Shewmake a coup. Chicago traded away Jake Burger last August and Dylan Cease after the season. They also replaced Tim Anderson with Paul DeJong and Elvis Andrus with the aforementioned Lopez. Their only hope for the lineup is to have Andrew Benintendi revert back to his first two years with Boston, Eloy Jimenez get to 510 plate appearances, and Yoan Moncada hit like it's 2019.

The White Sox pitching is even worse than their lineup if you can believe it. Garret Crochet starting Opening Day is an interesting choice. After that, Chicago is looking at some combination of Soroka, Erick Fedde, Chris Flexen, Chad Kuhl, and Jake Woodford. They could put Michael Kopech back in the rotation, but that seems unlikely. John Brebbia, Tim Hill, Deivi Garcia, and Dominic Leone look to be the top guys in the pen.

Fourth Place - Kansas City Royals - 64-98

The Royals will get out of the basement this year...but not by much. They still have Sal Perez who is a below-average hitter behind the plate. Michael Massey and Adam Frazier will be the starting second basemen. The left side of the infield is solid with Bobby Witt and Maikel Garcia. The outfield is a problem as MJ Melendez, Kyle Isbel, and Hunter Renfroe will be patrolling the confines of Kaufmann.

As far as the pitching goes, they brought in Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha to solidify the rotation. Their success will depend on how Cole Ragans and Brady Singer do. They will also have Daniel Lynch and Jordan Lyles to round out the staff. The bullpen is decent with Will Smith and Chris Stratton as the main guys. Kansas City adds in Nick Anderson. John Schreiber, and Matt Sauer to the pen.

Third Place - Cleveland Guardians - 84-78

The Guardians bring back most of their team from last year. The Naylors, Bo and Josh, will play catcher and first base respectively. Platinum Glove winner Andres Gimenez will look to get his offense back on track. Jose Ramirez remains at the hot corner. Steven Kwan continues to patrol left field. As for a few new faces in the lineup, new manager Stephen Vogt looks to give Tyler Freeman the keys to centerfield while Brayan Rocchio has impressed enough to win the starting shortstop gig.

On the mound, the Guardians will hope for overall health. Shane Bieber, Tanner Bibee, Triston McKenzie, and Logan Allen are the top four, but they combined for 74 starts in 2023. Cleveland would like to see those four be closer to 120 this season. Carlos Carrasco will fill in as the fifth starter while Gavin Williams is on the mend. The bullpen is led by closer Emmanuel Clase. With James Karinchak, Xzavion Curry, and Sam Hentges on the shelf for a bit, the Guardians will try to get to Clase using Scott Barlow, Tim Herrin, Nick Sandlin, and Hunter Gaddis. Eli Morgan and Tyler Beede also give Vogt some options as a fifth starter or long man as well.

Second Place - Detroit Tigers - 85-77

The Tigers are returning five regulars in their lineup and are hoping the new blood will get them to the next step. Jake Rogers will be behind the plate, Javier Baez at shortstop, Spencer Torkleson at first, and Riley Greene will be in right field. Kerry Carpenter likely takes Miguel Cabrera's spot at DH. Detroit brought in Gio Urshela to man third and are giving Colt Keith the starting second base spot although he has never played in the majors. Mark Canha is in left, and Parker Meadows will play center.

The Tigers will be sending out the rotation of Tarik Skubal, Jack Flaherty, Kenta Maeda, Reese Olson, and Casey Mize. While they lost Eduardo Rodriguez and Michael Lorenzen, they brought in Flaherty on a prove-it deal and the veteran Maeda who can be shifted to the pen if he struggles as a starter. Closer Alex Lange resumes that role while Jason Foley and Shelby Miller set him up. Detroit signed Andrew Chafin to bolster the pen and they will also have Joey Wentz and Alex Faedo as spot starters and long men if need be.

First Place - Minnesota Twins - 86-76

Although Minnesota lost a few players, they replaced them admirably. Donovan Solano is gone, but the Twins brought in Carlos Santana and will have Alex Kirilloff play some first base. Joey Gallo and Michael A. Taylor are gone. However, Manuel Margot came over from the Dodgers and it looks like Rocco Baldelli will be giving Matt Wallner the starting nod in left field. Holdovers, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Ryan Jeffers, and Carlos Correa round out the lineup.

While losing Maeda doesn't move the needle, Sonny Gray leaving sure puts a dent in the starting staff. The Twins will roll with Pablo Lopez, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Louie Varland, and Chris Paddack. With newly acquired Anthony DeSclafani on the shelf for the foreseeable future, there isn't a ton of depth. The bullpen, which was one of the best in baseball last season, took a hit as well. The Twins will be without Jhoan Duran and Caleb Thielbar to start the campaign. However, unlike the starters, Minnesota has some depth in the pen. Griffin Jax, Brock Stewart, and Kody Funderburk are a solid bunch. Steven Okert, Jay Jackson, and Josh Staumont should see their fair share of innings while Duran is out.

Any of the top three teams here can take the AL Central which is why they are separated by one game. The young players coming into their own could make a difference in who wins the division. Lewis and Julien on the Twins, Greene and Meadows on the Tigers, and Rocchio and Freeman on the Guardians will all factor into the title. The health of the pitching is also paramount in deciding this race. Hope you are as excited as I am to get this show started on Thursday.

Main Image Credit:

Royce Lewis for the AL Central Champion Minnesota Twins">

Royce Lewis could play a big role in the Twins repeating as AL Central Champs


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