James Neveau

2017 MLB Preview: American League Central Predictions

The Indians are poised to repeat as division champs as the Royals, Tigers chase them

The 2017 Major League Baseball season is nearly upon us, and around the sports world there is only one question on the minds of fans: who will win it all?

To help answer that question, we’ll be offering our predictions for which teams will make the playoffs in 2017, and which players will help them as they strive to get to the promised land.

1 Cleveland Indians

2016 Record: 94-67

Key Additions: Tim Cooney, Edwin Encarnacion

Key Losses: Marlon Byrd, Rajai Davis

Summary:

The Indians were one win away from winning the World Series last season, and in all likelihood they’re going to be one of the favorites to win the title this year. They have the pitching staff necessary to do the job, and their offense has gotten a bit better thanks to the addition of Encarnacion to the mix. Add in the likelihood that the team won’t get decimated by injuries like they did last year, and the rest of the American League has a big task on its hands as they try to track down the Tribe.

2 Kansas City Royals

2016 Record: 81-81

Key Additions: Jason Hammel, Jorge Soler, Travis Wood

Key Losses: Wade Davis, Kendrys Morales, Edinson Volquez

The Royals are a team that always seems to get hammered by preseason analytics, and this season is going to be a fascinating one to see whether or not they can overcome those odds and get back into the postseason. They’ll have to hope that Soler can stay healthy as he looks to take over a spot in their outfield, and if they can get players like Ian Kennedy, Hammel, and Wood to contribute to their rotation, then they’ve got a very real shot at winning either the division or a wild card berth.

3 Detroit Tigers

2016 Record: 86-75

Key Additions: Daniel Stumpf

Key Losses: Cameron Maybin, Jarrod Saltalamacchia

The Tigers have some solid pitchers in their rotation, including Justin Verlander and Michael Fulmer, and they still have a few solid bats in the mix with Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, and JD Martinez all on the team. It just never seems like the team can put everything together in terms of health and performance, and they’re one of the hardest teams to forecast for the coming year. Can they get a better season out of Jordan Zimmermann? Will guys like Cabrera stay healthy and on the field?

4 Minnesota Twins

2016 Record: 59-103

Key Additions: Jason Castro

Key Losses: Tommy Milone, Kurt Suzuki

The Twins lost over 100 games last year, but there are reasons for optimism in the Twin Cities. The team is loaded with talented prospects in its minor league ranks, and some of those players have begun making their way to the big leagues, including Miguel Sano. It’s unclear at this point whether they’ll be ready to contend or not heading into the new season, but it wouldn’t be all that shocking to see the Twins get out of the gate strong and force management to keep players like Brian Dozier around.

5 Chicago White Sox

2016 Record: 78-84

Key Additions: Derek Holland, Yoan Moncada

Key Losses: Adam Eaton, Justin Morneau, Chris Sale

A lot of people are just assuming that the White Sox will take a big step back this season without Sale in the mix and with players like Todd Frazier and Jose Quintana likely on the trading block, and while the standings will likely reflect that, there are still reasons for optimism with this bunch. They are laden with young talent in their minor league system, and players like Moncada should come up and make an impact at some point this season.

Add to that the presence of guys like Carlos Rodon and Tim Anderson on the big league roster, and things look like they’re going to be turning around at some point soon, so the Sox could surprise some folks this year.

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