Record: 36-30, 1st place. Top performer: DH/1B Victor Martinez -- .335/.389/.606, 17 HR, 45 RBI, 17 2B in 66 games. Outlook: Most people expected the Tigers to repeat once again as the AL Central champions, but Detroit has not come close to running away with the division at this point in the season. Despite the loss of first baseman Prince Fielder, the Tigers' offense has been one of the best in the American League. Detroit is hitting .275 as a team, second-best in baseball, and has scored 300 runs, good for 12th. The pitching -- namely, the bullpen -- remains a big problem, though. Detroit's team ERA is 4.11, sixth-worst in all of baseball. Tigers relievers have been worse than the rotation, posting a 4.75 ERA, which is the worst among all 30 bullpens. Even former ace Justin Verlander has struggled; he's 6-7 with a 4.98 ERA in his 15 starts. If Detroit doesn't figure out its pitching, and fast, it could be in danger of surrendering its AL Central crown.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY SportsRick Osentoski
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Record: 37-32, 2nd place. Top performer: LF Alex Gordon -- .286/.369/.447, 7 HR, 36 RBI, 20 2B in 69 games. Outlook: The surging Royals are only a half game out of first place (heading into Tuesday) thanks in large part to their current eight-game winning streak. When glancing at the statistics, though, Kansas City has managed to do so by not necessarily doing one thing great but by doing a lot of things well. The Royals have gotten production from nearly their entire lineup, as eight different players have driven in 20 or more runs. Starting pitchers Jason Vargas (7-2, 3.25 ERA) and James Shields (8-3, 3.50) have been the bright spots in the rotation, and closer Greg Holland leads the league with 20 saves. Kansas City hung around in the division race late last year before finishing third. If the Royals can stay in the thick of things down the stretch in 2014, they have a chance to surprise some people.
John Rieger-USA TODAY SportsJohn Rieger
Record: 36-35, 3rd place. Top performer: LF Michael Brantley -- .323/.391/.519, 11 HR, 46 RBI, 49 R in 69 games. Outlook: Cleveland's starting pitching hasn't been particularly good -- the rotation's 4.62 ERA ranks fifth-worst in baseball -- but the bats have carried the Indians to this point. Aside from the breakout year from Brantley, Cleveland has also gotten big production from Lonnie Chisenhall (.365 in 57 games). The Indians have been a bit inconsistent through the season. While they've put together a six-game winning streak, they also endured a six-game losing streak earlier in the season. And they're playing .500 baseball against AL Central foes. In order to hang around in the division, Cleveland's bats will need to stay hot -- and the Indians' starting pitching needs to heat up.
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY SportsGreg M. Cooper
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Record: 33-37, tied-4th place. Top performer: 1B Jose Abreu -- .265/.320/.603, 19 HR, 51 RBI, 15 2B in 56 games. Outlook: The White Sox made a splash by signing Abreu, a Cuban free agent, in the winter. As it's turned out, that investment was money well spent. Abreu took the league by storm in his first month in the majors before landing on the disabled list with an ankle injury in May. Since his return, he's picked up where he left off and has been the biggest bat in Chicago's lineup. The White Sox have also gotten production from guys like Alexei Ramirez (.311, 36 RBI) and Adam Dunn (11 HR, 29 RBI). Starting pitching remains an issue, though, for the South Siders. Lefty Chris Sale is the only starter with a winning record (5-1) as the rotation's 4.74 ERA is the fourth-worst in baseball. The White Sox aren't the only team in the division with pitching problems. Like Detroit, Cleveland and Minnesota, improved starting pitching will be key.
David Banks-USA TODAY SportsDavid Banks
Record: 32-36, tied-4th place. Top performer: 2B Brian Dozier -- .239/.352/.456, 15 HR, 35 RBI, 15 SB in 67 games. Outlook: Few people expected the Twins -- losers of 96 games or more in each of the last three seasons -- to be competitive this year in the AL Central. But here they are in late June, just five games back of first-place Detroit. While the bats carried Minnesota through the first month, it was the starting pitching deserving some credit in May. Now the Twins must get the rotation and the starting lineup to both click at the same time in order to get on a roll. Minnesota signed veteran free agent Kendrys Morales earlier this month, and his addition makes the Twins' lineup a bit more formidable. Yet despite adding veteran starters Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes this offseason, Minnesota's rotation has one of the highest ERAs in baseball at 4.81.