This is obviously the most important division as the Tribe is not only in it, but plays 76 games (19 each) against these teams.
Tigers: Home (4/10-12, 6/22-24, 9/10-13); Road (4/24-26, 6/12-14, 9/4-6)
White Sox: Home (4/14-15, 7/23-26, 9/18-20); Road (4/20-22, 5/18-21, 9/7-9)
Twins: Home (5/8-10, 8/7-9, 9/28-10/1); Road (4/17-19, 8/14-16, 9/22-24)
Royals: Home (4/27-29, 7/27-29, 9/14-17); Road (5/5-7, 6/2-4, 9/25-27)
The Tribe better hope they do not get off to a slow start in 2015 because 17 of the first 20 games are in the division, all in a row after the opening series in Houston. The month of September is also critical as 27 of the final 30 games are in the division as well, with the lone exception the season finale against the Red Sox. As things stand now, the Tribe could catch a break as 14 of the final 17 division games are against the Royals and Twins, the two teams a lot of pundits have finishing in the bottom of the division.
Minnesota Twins (70-92, 5th)
Key Losses: Kris Johnson (SP), Jared Burton (RP), Yohan Pino (SP), Anthony Swarzak (RP), Chris Colabello (UT), Chris Parmalee (UT)
Key Adds: Torii Hunter (RF), Shane Robinson (OF), Ervin Santana (SP), Tim Stauffer (RP), Blaine Boyer (RP)
Projected Position Players: Kurt Suzuki, Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier, Danny Santana, Trevor Plouffe, Oswaldo Arcia, Jordan Schafer, Hunter, Kennys Vargas
Projected Bench: Josmil Pinto (C), Eduardo Escobar (IF), Eduardo Nunez (IF), Chris Herrmann (UT)
Projected Rotation: Phil Hughes, Santana, Ricky Nolasco, K Gibson, Tommy Milone
Projected Bullpen: Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing, Casey Fien, Stauffer, Mike Pelfrey, J.R. Graham, Boyer
For a team that finished as far back as they did last year, the Twins were pretty quiet this offseason. GM Terry Ryan brought back fan favorite Hunter, who is not likely to keep putting up a 110 OPS at age 38. They did splurge for Santana and re-upped Hughes. But the other big contract form last offseason, Nolasco, does not feel like it is going to end well.
Ryan most likely stood pat as the Twins farm system is chock full to the gills with prospects. OF Bryan Buxton and 3B Miguel Sano both are in AA this year and with strong seasons might make late season call-ups. But both are coming off injury plagued season. I don't see any real improvements anywhere, so I think the Twins finish last again with a very similar record. Let's say 68-94 as I feel the rst of the division is very tough. ZIPS has them at 74-88.
Chicago White Sox (73-89, 4th)
Key Losses: Moises Sierra (OF), Paul Konerko (DH), Matt Lindstrom (RP), Felipe Paulino (RP), Donnie Veal (RP), Ronald Belisario (RP), Chris Bassitt (SP), Josh Phegley (C), Marcus Semien (2B), Andre Rienzo (SP), Dayan Viciedo (LF)
Key Adds: J.B. Shuck (OF), Zach Duke (RP), Adam LaRoche (DH), Jeff Samardzija (SP), David Robertson (CL), Dan Jennings (RP), Melky Cabrera (LF), Brad Penny (SP), Emilio Bonifacio (UT), Matt Albers (RP), Kyle Drabek (RP), Geovany Soto (C)
Injuries: Nate Jones (RP- July), Jacob Petricka (RP-April), Chris Sale (SP-April)
Projected Position Players: Tyler Flowers, Jose Abreu, Micah Johnson, Alexei Ramirez, Conor Gillaspie, Cabrera, Adam Eaton, Avasail Garcia, LaRoche
Projected Bench: Soto, Carlos Sanchez, Bonifacio, Shuck
Projected Rotation: Sale, Samardzija, Jose Quintana, Jonathan Danks, Hector Noesi
Projected Bullpen: Robertson, Petricka, Duke, Zach Putnam, Javy Guerra, Maikel Cleto, Jennings, Eric Surkamp, Albers, Drabek
Here is the hot pick for the most improvement in the division. GM Rick Hahn was super active this year. He added Samardzija to the two dominant left handed starters Sale and Quintana. But Danks is still hanging around and I don't think Penny has anything left, so the back end of the rotation still has question marks. If uber-prospect Carlos Rodon is ready though, that would be another scary lefty to face. But other Rodon, the farm feels a tad bare.
Hahn also improved the lineup with Cabrera and LaRoche, but there are still decent holes left at catcher and second. I mean, NRI Johnson appears to have won the second base job this spring. I don't have much faith in Eaton and Gillespie, but boith did have good years in 2014. The entire bench was replaced and the bullpen was remade, but not enough for my tastes. I think there is enough improvement for the Sox to make a playoff push, but I think they fall just a bit short at 82-80. ZIPS has them at 78-84.
Kansas City Royals (89-73, 2nd, Wild Card)
Key Losses: Justin Maxwell (UT), Nori Aoki (RF), Scott Downs (RP), Raul Ibanez (DH), James Shields (SP), Josh Willingham (OF), Liam Hendriks (RP), Billy Butler (DH), Brett Hayes (C), Jayson Nix (IF), Aaron Crow (RP), Francisco Bueno (RP), Johnny Giavotella (2B)
Key Adds: Moises Sierra (OF), Brian Flynn (RP), Kendrys Morales (DH), Kris Medlen (SP), Alex Rios (RF), Edinson Volquez (SP), Franklin Morales (RP), Chris Young (SP)
Injuries: Tim Collins (RP - out for season); Luke Hochevar (RP-May); Medlen (July)
Projected Position Players: Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Omar Infante, Alcedis Escobar, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Rios, K. Morales
Projected Bench: Jarrod Dyson (OF), Erik Kratz (C), Christian Colon (IF), Paulo Orlando (OF)
Projected Rotation: Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, Volquez, Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie
Projected Bullpen: Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Frasor, Young, F. Morales, Louis Coleman, Flynn
And now we get to the AL World Series representative, who proved Billy Beane's theory, that once the playoffs start, it a free-for-all (paraphrased). I actually liked how the Royals did their magical run last year. Pitching, defense and team speed. I only wish the Tribe defense was half as good. But GM Dayton Moore had a number of key pieces leave (Shields, Butler) and I don't believe their replacements (Volquez, Morales) match their production.
With how thin their line was to even get to the playoffs, that doesn't bode well for 2015. They will still play great defense mostly, but I think Rios is done. I also feel like Perez misses a good chunk of time after playing almost the entire second half last year. Ventura and that bullpen is very scary, but the rest of the rotation feels more like meh to me. I think they slide back to 1 79-83 finish. ZIPS has them at 78-84.
Detroit Tigers (90-72, 1st)
Key Losses: Danny Worth (SS), Phil Coke (RP), Torii Hunter (RF), Jim Johnson (RP), Max Scherzer (SP), Andy Dirks (OF), Justin Miller (RP), Ezequiel Careerra (OF), Pat McCoy (SP), Evan Reed (RP), Don Kelly (UT), Robbie Ray (SP), Risk Porcello (SP), Eugenio Suarez (SS)
Key Adds: Anthony Gose (CF), Josh Zeid (RP), Shane Greene (SP), Yoenis Cespedes (LF), Alex Wilson (IF), Alfredo Simon (SP), Tom Gorzelanny (RP)
Injuries: Miguel Cabrera (1B-April), Victor Martinez (1B-April), Bruce Rondon (RP-May), Justin Verlander (SP-April)
Projected Position Players: Alex Avila, Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, Julio Igelsius, Nick Castellanos, Cespedes, Gose, J.D. Martinez, V. Martinez
Projected Bench: James McCann (C), Andrew Romine (IF), Rajai Davis (OF), Hernan Perez (IF)
Projected Rotation: David Price, Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Simon, Greene
Projected Bullpen: Joe Nathan, Joaquim Soria, Al Alburquerque, Gorzelanny, Joba Chamberlain, Rondon, Ian Krol, Blaine Hardy
Finally, we get to the four time defending division champ. For the second year in a row, they finished ahead by one game. This is a veteran laden roster with very little room for error. They still have All-World Cabrera, former Tribesman Victor and another dominant lefty in Price. GM Dave Dombrowski did make a good number of moves. The add of Cespedes is fine, but I don't feel like J.D. Martinez can repeat his 2014. Gose in center is nothing special, but he add to address it after sending Austin Jackson out for Price.
The loss of Scherzer could be devastating if Verlander doesn't return to his 2012 levels (he won't). I like the Greene pick-up, but I don't think Simon will survive in the AL. And this team has very little depth, on the 25, the 40, and down on the farm. But the good news is Ilitch will pay for any improvements needed. Any significant time lost by Sanchez, Cabrera or Victor would likely prove fatal to any postseason this year. Especially since the bullpen appears to be a smoldering gas can again. I think they finish at 87-75. ZIPS has them at 84-78.
I think our division will be the toughest in all of baseball. I can foresee a finish where all four of the Tribe, Tigers, White Sox and Royals finish above 0.500. I didn't preview the Tribe, but it would have been a very short review with Brandon Moss the only real major roster change. I predict the Tribe reverses one year gap from 2013, edging out the Tigers by one game, with the white Sox close and the Royals flaming out towards the end.
So what say you? Put your rankings below.