Look for the standings to be similar to 2014. After winning the division last year, look for starting pitching and a solid bullpen to balance a Detroit team known for its potent offense. A mix of veterans and young talent will help Kansas City contend. However, expect the Royals to be one of the AL wild card teams in the dual wild card system. Although the team upgraded exceptionally, expect Cleveland to be on the outside of wildcard hunt due to the new faces at the plate and on the mound. I see the White Sox in a battle with Cleveland for third place. Expect an increase in wins due to improvements offense and in the pitching rotation. Former Twin Paul Molitor is now manager and has veteran starting pitchers to begin the rebuilding a young team. Expect growing pains in Molitor’s first season in Minnesota.
Detroit Tigers (90-72 in ‘14, 1st place in AL Central)
Justin Verlander (15-12, 4.54 ERA, 206 IP, 159 K’s), David Price (15-12, 3.26 ERA, 248.1 IP, 271 K’s) and Anibal Sanchez (8-5, 3.43 ERA, 126 IP, 102 K’s) are the “Big Three” of Detroit’s rotation. To succeed, manager Brad Ausmus must get a rebound year from Verlander and a full season from Sanchez. Price must be an ace while Verlander attempts to regain his 2011 form.
Joe Nathan (5-4, 4.81 ERA, 58 IP, 54 K’s, 35-for-42 saves), Joakim Soria (2-4, 3.25 ERA, 44.1 IP, 48 K’s) and Joba Chamberlain (2-5, 3.57 ERA, 63 IP, 59 K’s) are three members of the Tigers’ bullpen to keep an eye on in 2015. All three relievers struggled in their first season with the team. Look for a bounce back years from these veterans.
Miguel Cabrera (.313, 25 HR, 109 RBI 52 2B) had another MVP caliber year but injuries caught up with the Tigers’ star preventing him from winning consecutive MVP awards. Ian Kinsler (.275, 17 HR, 92 RBI) had a solid first year in Detroit. Kinsler’s move out of the leadoff spot to the middle of the order allowed him to see more pitches and provide protection for Cabrera and DH Victor Martinez (.335, ) Jose Iglesias (.303, 3 HR, 29 RBI) is back from shin fractures in both legs. Expect a slow start but a solid season from a good shortstop. Nick Castellanos had big shoes to fill at third base when Cabrera moved back over to first following the trade of Prince Fielder to Texas. Castellanos did not disappoint (.260 BA 66 RBI, 31 2B). Expect another solid season. Alex Avila (.218, 11, HR, 47 RBI) had a down 2014 season due to injury. Look for a healthy Avila behind the dish in 2015.
Anthony Gose had a down 2014 (.226, 2 HR, 13 RBI, and 15 SB). Expect solid season from a player getting his first chance to start regularly. J.D. Martinez had a breakout 2014 (.315, 23 HR, 76 RBI, 30 2B) and carried the team when Cabrera was either held out of the lineup to rest or injured. I’m interested to see if Martinez can put up those numbers again. Yoenis Cespedes’ (.260, 22 HR, 100 RBI, 36 2B) moment from 2014 is throwing out Howie Kendrick at the plate last year while with the Oakland Athletics. I don’t see any change in Cespedes’ production this season although he is with his second team in less than half a season.
Kansas City Royals (89-73 in’14, 2nd place in AL Central)
Chris Young (12-9, 3.65 ERA, 165 IP, 108 K’s), Edison Volquez (13-7, 3.07 ERA, 192.2 IP, 140 K’s) and Yordano Ventura (14-10, 3.20 ERA, 183 IP, 159 K’s) are three pitchers to keep an eye on this season. Ventura burst onto the scene last season as a rookie. Chris Young bounced back with the Mariners last year after failed comeback attempts with the Nationals and the Mets. Edison Volquez showed flashes of his 2008 form in’14 in his lone season with the Pirates which included a postseason appearance. Expect solid seasons from Ventura and Volquez. I think Safeco Field had something to do with Young’s success last season. Look for a slight regression to begin the season from both Young and Ventura.
Brandon Finnegan (1-0, 1.29 ERA, 7 IP, 10 K’s), Greg Holland (1-3, 1.44 ERA, 62.1 IP, 90’K’s, 46-for-50 saves and Wade Davis (9-2, 1.00 ERA, 72 IP, 109 K’s) were cogs in the Royals’ late inning bullpen success in ’14 and expect the same from the latter two. I’m unsure about Finnegan due to his lack of regular season experience.
Eric Hosmer (.270, 9 HR, 58 RBI, 35 2B), Omar Infante (.252, 6 HR, 66 RBI, 21 2B), Alcides Escobar (.285, 3 HR, 50 RBI, 34 2B), Mike Moustakas (.212, 15 HR, 52 RBI, 21 2B) and catcher Salvador Perez (.260, 17 HR, 70 RBI, 28 2B) contributed offensively last year. For the team to contend this season these players must produce at the same level as last season. I look for Moustakas to show better plate discipline to help his batting average.
Alex Gordon (.266, 19 HR, 74 RBI, 34 2B) finally found his niche last season in left field. Lorenzo Cain, the prize prospect from the Zack Greinke trade in 2010 (.301, 5 HR, 55 RBI, 29 2B) showed his potential as a possible leadoff hitter going forward. Alex Rios had two productive years in Texas and provides the Royals with the veteran experience in a young outfield. Expect more outfield assists from the outfielders patrolling Kauffman Stadium.
Cleveland Indians (85-77 in ‘14, 3rd in Central)
Corey Kluber (18-9, 2.44 ERA, 235.2 IP, 269 K’s), Carlos Carrasco (8-7, 2.55 ERA, 134 IP, 140 K’s) and Trevor Bauer (5-8, 4.18, 153 IP, 143 K’s) are three starters to track in 2015. Expect a slight regression from Kluber. I see Carrasco and Bauer taking a step forward in solidifying the back third of the rotation.
Cody Allen (6-4, 2.07 ERA, 69.2 IP, 91 K’s, 24-for-28 saves), Scott Downs (0-4, 5.06 ERA, 38 IP, 25 K’s) and Anthony Swarzak (3-2, 4.60 ERA, 86 IP, 47 K’s) are three bullpen arms to track this season. Allen had a break out season last year and solidified his spot as the Tribe’s closer. Swarzak and Downs are two veterans brought in to help bolster middle relief, an area where I feel the Indians struggled and lost close games during the 2014 season.
Carlos Santana (.231, 27 HR, 85 RBI, 25 2B), Jason Kipnis (.240, 6 HR, 41 RBI, 25 2B, 22 SB), Jose Ramirez (.262, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 10 2B, 10 SB), Lonnie Chisenhall (.280, 13 HR, 59 RBI, 29 2B) and Yan Gomes (.278, 21 HR, 78 RBI, 25 2B) make up the projected infield for the 2015 Indians. Gomes and Santana were the offensive firepower for Cleveland a season ago, while Kipnis’ and Chisenhall’s production was skewed by a handful of big games mixed in between unproductive times. I’m unsure of what to expect of Ramirez due to his lack of service time.
Michael Bourn (.257, 3 HR, 28 RBI 10 RBI), Brandon Moss (.234, 25 HR, 81 RBI, 23 2B) and Michael Brantley (.327, 20 HR, 97 RBI, 23 SB) will be an intriguing outfield trio to watch in 2015. Bourn and Brantley have roamed Progressive Field together for the past two seasons while Moss is new to the fold following a trade in the offseason. Expect growing pains offensively from Moss but once comfortable the Indians should get over the offensive hump.
Chicago White Sox (73-89, 4th in Central)
Chris Sale (12-4, 2.17 ERA, 174 IP, 208 K’s), Jeff Samardzija (7-13, 2.99 ERA, 108 IP, 103 K’s) and Jose Quintana (9-11, 3.32 ERA, 200.1 IP, 178 K’s) are the primary starting pitching for Chicago this season. Look for these three pitchers to lead a revival on the South side.
David Robertson (4-5, 3.08 ERA, 64.1 IP, 96 K’s 39-for-44 saves), Zach Duke (5-1, 2.45 ERA, 58.2 IP, 74 K’s) and Javy Guerra (2-4, 2.91 ERA, 46.1 IP, 38 K’s) are three bullpen arms to monitor this season. Expect strong first seasons in Chicago from both Robertson and Duke and another solid one from Guerra.
Jose Abreu (.317, 36 HR, 107 RBI, 35 2B), Marcus Johnson (No MLB experience), Alexei Ramirez (.273, 15 HR, 74 RBI, 35 2B), Conor Gillaspie (.282, 7 HR, 57 RBI, 31 2B) and Tyler Flowers (.241, 15, 50 RBI 16 2B) is the expected starting infield. I see Abreu and Ramirez laying the foundation of a formable 1-2 punch in the future.
Melky Cabrera (.301, 16 HR, 73 RBI, 35 2B), Adam Eaton (.300, HR, 35 RBI, 26 2B) and Avisail Garcia (.244, 7 HR, 29 RBI). Cabrera was signed in the offseason that has brought expectations offensively as did Eaton’s production last year. To see how Cabrera adjusts to taking a leadership role shall be an experiment to watch.
Minnesota Twins (70-92 in ’14 5th in Central)
Ervin Santana (14-10, 3.95 ERA, 196 IP, 179 K’s), Phil Hughes (16-10, 3.52, 209.2 IP, 186 K’s) and Tommy Malone (6-4, 4.22 ERA, 118 IP, 75 K’s) make up a veteran starting rotation for a Twins’ team that has struggled in that area the previous four seasons. Look for Santana and Hughes to be mainstays of the rotation with Malone being the bridge to the back end of the starting staff.
Glen Perkins (4-3, 3.65 ERA, 61.2 IP, 66 K’s), Casey Fien (5-6, 3.98 ERA, 63.1 IP, 51 K’s), Brian Duensing (3-3, 3.31 ERA, 54.1 IP, 33 K’s) are three bullpen arms I look to have rebound years. Yes, Perkins’ stats look good, but the ERA is misleading. Duensing and Fien are veterans from whom first year manager Paul Molitor needs to have consistent seasons from to shore up middle and late relief, respectively.
Joe Mauer (.277, 11 HR, 47 RBI, 35 2B), Brian Dozier (.242, 23 HR, 71 RBI, 33 2B), Danny Santana (.319, 7 HR, 40 RBI, 27 2B, 20 SB), Trevor Plouffe (.258, 14 HR, 80 RBI, 40 2B) and Kurt Suzuki (.288, 3 HR 61 RBI, 34 2B) are the anticipated infielder starters. After a down 2014, expect Mauer to hit closer to .300 in 2015. Dozier put up gaudy numbers last year but he needs to take a step forward in batting average and run production, respectively. Santana played all over the field last year successfully. I’m unsure of what to expect from him in 2015. Kurt Suzuki was an All-Star in 2014 and I’d expect similar numbers from him in 2015 without the recognition.
Aaron Hicks (.215, HR, 18 RBI, 8 2B), Torii Hunter (.286, 17 HR, 83 RBI, 33 2B) and Oswaldo Arcia (.231, 20 HR, 57 RBI, 16 2B) are the projected starting outfielders. Hicks struggled last season and I am not sure what to expect from him after an inconsistent 2014. Hunter was brought back to Minnesota to mentor Hicks. Expect similar production from the longtime fan favorite. I expect Arcia to hit for a higher average and increase his RBI total.
Check out our AL West Preview