The AL Central was shaken up this offseason with a number of game-changing trades and free agent signings. With spring training just around the corner, let's preview the landscape of the new-look AL Central, which promises to be one of the most competitive divisions in 2015.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY SportsRick Osentoski
With new manager Paul Molitor at the reigns, the Twins seem to be in good hands heading into 2015. The front office was smart in signing veterans Torii Hunter and Ervin Santana this offseason to surround their core of young rising stars, but the expectations for two players past their prime seem a bit high. With two of the best prospects in baseball -- Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano -- the Twins have a ton of talent on the horizon, but are likely still a year or two away from making a serious run at the division crown.
Kansas City Royals
After last year's trip to the World Series, the Royals are in a tough spot heading into 2015. Expectations will be extremely high, but the loss of impact players like James Shields, Billy Butler and Nori Aoki will make it hard for KC to repeat last season's success. The front office replaced Butler with 31-year-old designated hitter Kendrys Morales and signed outfielder Alex Rios to fill the void left by Aoki, but neither moves can really be considered upgrades. While the Royals have a solid young pitching staff and one of the best bullpens in baseball, their offense is a glaring weak spot -- one that will severely hinder their chances of winning the division.
APDavid J. Phillip
The Indians didn't make any high-profile, "sexy" moves this offseason, but they did quietly get better. Sure they still lack a right-handed power hitter, but they're hoping that Brandon Moss will bring a much-needed boost to their lineup. With a healthy Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, the offense should be a lot more productive this season. As far as pitching goes, they've got the reigning Cy Young Award winner as their ace, a solid veteran in Gavin Floyd and a number of extremely talented young pitchers to fill out the rotation. With a promising pitching staff and manager Terry Francona steering the ship, the Indians could very easily compete for the division crown in 2015.
For the first time in a long time, the Tigers don’t seem to be the hands-down favorites to win the division that they have been in the past. In fact this year, it’s hard to tell what exactly to expect from the Tigers. Losing Max Scherzer was a big blow and it will be interesting to see which version of Justin Verlander we’ll see for most of 2015. The bullpen was a huge issue for the Tigers last season, but you never really know what you’re going to get out of your relievers from year to year. The offense on the other hand, is a different story. With Victor Martinez is coming off a career year, Miguel Cabrera presumably healthy and the addition of Yoenis Cespedes, Detroit’s lineup will be a force. The Tigers will compete for first place all season long, but they aren’t running away with the division in 2015.
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Chicago White Sox
On paper, the White Sox are the most improved team in the Central this season, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. With Jeff Samardzija as the No. 2 pitcher behind Chris Sale, plus one of MLB's pitching prospects in Carlos Rodon, this rotation has unbelivable potential. Chicago has done a nice job of rebuilding their bullpen, adding reliever Zach Duke and closer David Robertson. The Sox upgraded the outfield by signing Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche, who will both nicely complement slugger Jose Abreu in the lineup. It will be up to manager Robin Ventura to get everybody on the same page and firing on all cylinders. But once it happens, good luck to the rest of the Central.
APM. Spencer Green
Who will win it all?
After years of dominating the AL Central, the Detroit's time on top seems to be winding down. The Tigers won't go quietly though, expect them to battle for first place all the way through the last week of the season. In fact, 2015 will likely be one of the most competitive division races the AL Central has seen in a long time, with the Indians and Royals fighting until the end as well. But when it's all said and done, the White Sox will prevail. The moves they made this season were extremely bold and maybe even crazy ... crazy enough to lead them to a division title. Who will win the AL Central in 2015? Check out our expert predictions: Lindsey Foltin: White Sox Zachary Benau: Tigers Adrian Garro: White Sox Danny Farris: Tigers