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American League Central 2020 Preview

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Hey, there’s a chance the Royals win this, right?

Minnesota Twins v Cleveland Indians Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Due to the shortened season, Royals fans are going to get a lot of looks at the Central Division opponents, with 40 of the 60 games on the schedule coming inside the division. The division has been considered light in recent years because three teams - the Royals, Tigers, and White Sox - were all rebuilding. But Chicago should be ready for a step forward, and the Royals and Tigers may have some hot pitching prospects that could make them a tougher opponent than in past years.

Chicago White Sox

2019 record: 72-89

2019 pythag: 69-92

2020 ZIPS projection: 30-30

Notable additions: Steve Cishek, Cheslor Cuthbert, Edwin Encarnacion, Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, Nomar Mazara

Notable losses: Welington Castillo, Jon Jay, Ivan Nova, Yolmer Sanchez

The White Sox had a splashy off-season, spending nearly $200 million on free agents like Yasmani Grandal and Dallas Keuchel. They want to integrate those stars with a strong nucleus of talent with the flamboyant Tim Anderson, slugger Yoan Moncada, and two of the brighter young outfielders in the league - Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert. Lucas Giolito took a big step forward in the rotation last year, and the Sox will hope Dylan Cease can do the same this year, but don’t expect to see prospect Michael Kopech this year, he has opted out of playing due to concerns over COVID-19.

White Sox projected lineup

Pos. Hitter BA OBA SLG PA HR rWAR
Pos. Hitter BA OBA SLG PA HR rWAR
SS Tim Anderson .335 .357 .508 518 18 3.7
3B Yoan Moncada .315 .367 .548 559 25 4.8
1B Jose Abreu .284 .330 .503 693 33 2.0
C Yasmani Grandal .246 .380 .468 632 28 2.4
DH Edwin Encarnacion .244 .344 .531 486 34 3.0
LF Eloy JImenez .267 .315 .513 504 31 1.5
RF Nomar Mazara .268 .318 .469 469 19 0.7
CF Luis Robert Played in the minors
2B Leury Garcia .279 .310 .378 618 8 1.3
Bench Hitter BA OBA SLG PA HR rWAR
C James McCann .273 .328 .460 476 18 3.7
IF Cheslor Cuthbert .246 .294 .379 330 9 -0.6
IF Danny Mendick .308 .325 .462 40 2 0.5
OF Nicky Delmonico .206 .265 .286 68 1 -0.5
OF Adam Engel .242 .304 .383 248 6 0.6

White Sox projected pitching staff

Pit Pitcher ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 WAR
Pit Pitcher ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 WAR
RHP Lucas Giolito 3.41 3.43 176.2 11.6 2.9 5.7
LHP Dallas Keuchel 3.75 4.72 112.2 7.3 3.1 2.0
RHP Reynaldo Lopez 5.38 5.04 184.0 8.3 3.2 0.6
RHP Dylan Cease 5.79 5.19 73.0 10.0 4.3 -0.1
LHP Carlos Rodon 5.19 3.62 34.2 11.9 4.4 0.1
Pit Bullpen ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 WAR
RHP Alex Colome 2.80 4.08 61.0 8.1 3.4 1.1
RHP Kelvin Herrera 6.14 4.58 51.1 9.3 4.0 -0.4
LHP Aaron Bummer 2.13 3.41 67.2 8.0 3.2 2.9
RHP Steve Cishek 2.95 4.54 64.0 8.0 4.1 1.9
LHP Jace Fry 4.75 4.90 55.0 11.1 7.0 0.2
RHP Evan Marshall 2.49 4.30 50.2 7.3 4.3 1.8

Cleveland Indians

2019 record: 93-69

2019 pythag: 93-69

2020 ZIPS projection: 31-29

Notable additions: Emmanuel Clase, Delino DeShields, Cesar Hernandez, Sandy Leon, Domingo Santana

Notable losses: Tyler Clippard, Jason Kipnis, Corey Kluber, Dan Otero, Kevin Plawecki, Yasiel Puig, Danny Salazar

The Indians missed the playoffs for the first time in four seasons last year, but instead of looking to improve their team, they actually traded away former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. They didn’t seem to address their cloudy outfield mix either, but the Indians always seem to find a way to keep churning out talented young players and win every year. This year, you could see arms like Aaron Civale make an impact, or rookie James Karinchak out of the bullpen.

Indians projected starting lineup

Pos. Hitter BA OBA SLG PA HR rWAR
Pos. Hitter BA OBA SLG PA HR rWAR
2B Cesar Hernandez .279 .333 .408 667 14 1.6
3B Jose Ramirez .255 .327 .479 542 23 3.4
SS Francisco Lindor .284 .335 .518 654 32 5.0
1B Carlos Santana .281 .397 .515 686 34 4.6
DH Franmil Reyes .249 .310 .512 548 37 0.4
RF Tyler Naquin .288 .325 .467 294 10 1.5
CF Oscar Mercado .269 .318 .443 482 15 2.5
C Roberto Perez .239 .321 .452 449 24 4.0
LF Brad Zimmer .000 .010 .000 14 0 -0.2
Bench Hitter BA OBA SLG PA HR rWAR
C Sandy Leon .192 .251 .297 191 5 -0.6
IF Mike Freeman .277 .362 .390 213 4 1.2
OF Greg Allen .229 .290 .346 256 4 0.5
OF Jordan Luplow .276 .372 .551 261 15 2.0
OF Domingo Santana .253 .329 .441 507 21 0.5

Indians projected pitching staff

Pit Pitcher ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 WAR
Pit Pitcher ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 WAR
RHP Shane Bieber 3.28 3.23 214.1 10.9 1.7 4.5
RHP Mike Clevinger 2.71 2.49 126.0 12.1 2.6 4.1
RHP Carlos Carrasco 5.29 4.41 80.0 10.8 1.8 0.1
RHP Aaron Civale 2.34 3.40 57.2 7.2 2.5 1.5
RHP Zach Plesac 3.81 4.94 115.2 6.8 3.1 1.8
Pit Bullpen ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 WAR
LHP Brad Hand 3.30 2.80 57.1 13.2 2.8 1.1
RHP Nick Wittgren 2.81 4.17 57.2 9.4 2.3 0.9
RHP James Karinchak 1.69 0.78 5.1 13.5 1.7 0.1
RHP Adam Cimber 4.45 4.36 56.2 6.5 3.0 0.0
LHP Oliver Perez 3.98 3.56 40.2 10.6 2.7 0.4
RHP Phil Maton 6.14 5.04 36.2 8.1 2.9 -0.5

Detroit Tigers

2019 record: 47-114

2019 pythag: 49-112

2020 ZIPS projection: 25-35

Notable additions: C.J. Cron, Cameron Maybin, Ivan Nova, Austin Romine, Jonathan Schoop

Notable losses: John Hicks, Matt Moore, Tyson Ross

The Tigers are still pretty dreadful as they continue to rebuild. They did import a few Major League-quality hitters from the Twins in C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop, but the lineup will likely struggle to score runs all year. The pitching staff does get Michael Fulmer back after he missed a year recovering from Tommy John surgery, and he joins Matt Boyd and Spencer Turnbull, although you may see some trades to make room for a promising crop of pitchers that could be ready this year, including former #1 overall pick Casey Mize.

Tigers projected starting lineup

Pos. Hitter BA OBA SLG PA HR rWAR
Pos. Hitter BA OBA SLG PA HR rWAR
SS Niko Goodrum .248 .322 .421 472 12 1.6
2B Jonathan Schoop .256 .304 .473 464 23 1.6
DH Miguel Cabrera .282 .346 .398 549 12 -0.1
1B C.J. Cron .256 .311 .469 499 25 1.7
3B Jeimer Candelario .203 .306 .337 386 8 0.5
LF Christin Stewart .233 .305 .388 416 10 -0.3
RF Cameron Maybin .285 .364 .494 269 11 1.6
C Austin Romine .281 .310 .439 240 8 0.7
CF JaCoby Jones .235 .310 .430 333 11 -0.1
Bench Hitter BA OBA SLG PA HR rWAR
C Grayson Greiner .202 .251 .308 224 5 -0.7
IF Dawel Lugo .245 .271 .381 288 6 -0.5
IF Jordy Mercer .270 .310 .438 271 9 0.6
OF Harold Castro .291 .305 .384 369 5 -0.4
OF Victor Reyes .304 .336 .431 292 3 1.2

Tigers projected pitching staff

Pit Pitcher ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 WAR
Pit Pitcher ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 WAR
LHP Matt Boyd 4.56 4.32 185.1 11.6 2.4 3.7
RHP Ivan Nova 4.72 4.98 187 5.5 2.3 2.3
RHP Spencer Turnbull 4.61 3.99 148.1 8.9 3.6 2.3
LHP Tyler Alexander 4.86 4.15 53.2 7.9 1.2 1
RHP Michael Fulmer Did not pitch
Pit Bullpen ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 WAR
RHP Joe Jimenez 4.37 4.66 59.2 12.4 3.5 0.6
RHP Buck Farmer 3.72 3.88 67.2 9.7 3.2 1.5
RHP Jose Cisnero 4.33 4.66 35.1 10.2 4.8 0.3
RHP Bryan Garcia 12.15 5.31 6.2 9.5 6.8 -0.4
LHP Gregory Soto 5.77 5.4 57.2 7 5.2 0.4
LHP Daniel Norris 4.49 4.61 144.1 7.8 2.4 2.9

Kansas City Royals

2019 record: 59-103

2019 pythag: 64-98

2020 ZIPS projection: 26-34

Notable additions: Greg Holland, Maikel Franco, Trevor Rosenthal

Notable losses: Cheslor Cuthbert

Like the Tigers, the Royals are rebuilding, but they have a few stars in their lineup that will be able to help them score more runs. Home run champ Jorge Soler was finally healthy and able to show his full power, and Whit Merrifield continued to pace the top of the lineup. The Royals will look for a full season from Adalberto Mondesi, as well as more stability out of a bullpen that finished fourth-worst in all of baseball in reliever ERA.

Royals projected starting lineup

Pos. Hitter BA OBA SLG PA HR rWAR
Pos. Hitter BA OBA SLG PA HR rWAR
CF Whit Merrifield .302 .348 .463 735 16 3.7
SS Adalberto Mondesi .263 .291 .424 443 9 2.4
RF Hunter Dozier .279 .348 .522 586 26 3.2
DH Jorge Soler .265 .354 .569 679 48 3.6
C Salvador Perez Did not play
LF Alex Gordon .266 .345 .396 633 13 1.3
3B Maikel Franco .234 .297 .409 428 17 -0.6
1B Ryan McBroom .293 .361 .360 83 0 0.0
2B Nicky Lopez .240 .276 .325 402 2 0.1
Bench Hitter BA OBA SLG PA HR rWAR
C Cam Gallagher .238 .312 .365 142 3 0.2
1B Ryan O'Hearn .195 .281 .369 370 14 -1.5
IF Erick Mejia .227 .333 .273 27 0 0.0
OF Franchy Cordero .333 .450 .400 20 0 0.2
OF Brett Phillips .138 .247 .262 79 2 0.3
OF Bubba Starling .215 .255 .317 197 4 -0.8

Royals projected pitching staff

Pit Pitcher ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 WAR
Pit Pitcher ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 WAR
LHP Danny Duffy 4.34 4.78 130.2 7.9 3.2 1.9
RHP Brad Keller 4.19 4.35 165.1 6.6 3.8 2.8
RHP Jakob Junis 5.24 4.82 175.1 8.4 3.0 1.0
LHP Mike Montgomery 4.95 5.52 91.0 6.8 3.4 0.3
RHP Brady Singer Did not pitch
Pit Bullpen ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 WAR
RHP Ian Kennedy 3.41 2.99 63.1 10.4 2.4 1.4
RHP Scott Barlow 4.22 3.41 70.1 11.8 4.7 0.9
RHP Jesse Hahn 13.50 6.86 4.2 13.5 11.6 -0.4
RHP Trevor Rosenthal 13.50 6.87 15.1 10.0 15.3 -1.2
RHP Greg Holland 4.54 4.76 35.2 10.3 6.1 0.0
RHP Jorge Lopez 6.33 5.55 123.2 7.9 3.1 -1.3

Minnesota Twins

2019 record: 101-61

2019 pythag: 97-65

2020 ZIPS projection: 32-28

Notable additions: Alex Avila, Homer Bailey, Tyler Clippard, Josh Donaldson, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda

Notable losses: Jason Castro, C.J. Cron, Kyle Gibson, Martin Perez, Jonathan Schoop

The “Bomba Squad” paced baseball with a record 307 home runs, with five players topping 30 home runs. The offense scored 939 runs, second-most in the league. The pitching got a revamp behind ace Jose Berrios, with the team trading for Kenta Maeda, and signing free agents Rich Hill and Homer Bailey. The shortened season may help those arms stay healthy enough to win the division, but winning a short-series in the post-season may be another matter.

Twins projected starting lineup

Pos. Hitter BA OBA SLG PA HR rWAR
Pos. Hitter BA OBA SLG PA HR rWAR
RF Max Kepler .252 .336 .519 596 36 4.1
SS Jorge Polanco .295 .356 .485 704 22 4.8
DH Nelson Cruz .321 .392 .639 521 41 4.4
3B Josh Donaldson .259 .379 .521 659 37 6.0
LF Eddie Rosario .276 .300 .500 590 32 1.7
C Mitch Garver .273 .365 .630 359 31 4.1
2B Luis Arraez .334 .399 .439 366 4 1.8
1B Miguel Sano .247 .346 .576 439 34 3.0
CF Byron Buxton .262 .314 .513 295 10 3.1
Bench Hitter BA OBA SLG PA HR rWAR
C Alex Avila .207 .353 .421 201 9 1.4
IF Ehire Adrianza .272 .349 .416 236 5 0.7
IF Marwin Gonzalez .264 3.220 .414 463 15 1.8
OF Jake Cave .258 .351 .455 228 8 0.8
OF LaMonte Wade, Jr. .196 .348 .375 69 2 0.1

Twins projected pitching staff

Pit Pitcher ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 WAR
Pit Pitcher ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 WAR
RHP Jose Berrios 3.68 3.85 200.1 8.8 2.3 3.3
LHP Rich Hill 2.45 4.10 58.2 11.0 2.8 1.1
RHP Kenta Maeda 4.04 3.95 153.2 9.9 3.0 1.2
RHP Homer Bailey 4.57 4.11 163.1 8.2 2.9 2.0
RHP Jake Odorizzi 3.51 3.36 159.0 10.1 3.0 3.6
Pit Bullpen ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 WAR
LHP Taylor Rogers 2.61 2.85 69.0 11.7 1.4 2.5
RHP Sergio Romo 3.43 3.68 60.1 9.0 2.5 0.6
RHP Trevor May 2.94 3.73 64.1 11.1 3.6 1.3
RHP Tyler Duffey 2.50 3.06 57.2 12.8 2.2 0.9
RHP Tyler Clippard 2.90 3.89 62.0 9.3 2.2 1.3
RHP Zack Littell 2.68 3.62 37.0 7.8 2.2 0.9

Poll

Who will win the American League Central Division

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Chicago White Sox
    (22 votes)
  • 8%
    Cleveland Indians
    (17 votes)
  • 1%
    Detroit Tigers
    (3 votes)
  • 33%
    Kansas City Royals
    (69 votes)
  • 45%
    Minnesota Twins
    (94 votes)
205 votes total Vote Now