The AL Central might be a two team race between Detroit and Kansas City, unless Chicago or Cleveland takes a step up this season, while it appears Minnesota is still a year or two away from contention.
Chicago White Sox
Chris Sale is becoming an ace in the starting rotation. Chicago also has two other southpaws in the rotation with Jose Quintana and John Danks, so the White Sox can really give trouble to teams that struggle against left-handed pitching. Jose Abreu has arrived from Cuba and has the talent to help an offensive lineup that struggled at times last season
However, the bottom of the pitching rotation is a huge question mark. The bullpen is also suspect with Nate Jones at a closer. The offense revolves around Adam Dunn who struck out 189 times last season. Gordon Beckham is no longer a power hitter and the rest of the lineup is highly unreliable.
Season wins prediction: Under 76 wins
Cleveland has a solid 1-2 punch in their starting rotation with Justin Masterson and Danny Salazar. Salazar proved himself worthy enough to pitch in the team's playoff game against the Rays last season. The offensive lineup is solid with Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana manning the middle.
The rest of the pitching rotation is mediocre with Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister and Josh Tomlin most likely rounding things out. The bullpen is a mess with John Axford trying to hold down the closer spot. He has struggled the past two seasons and has not pitched well since 2011. The bench is aging and will not help an offensive lineup that failed to score consistently last year.
Season wins prediction: Under 80.5 wins
Despite trading away Doug Fister, the Tigers still have one of the best pitching rotations in the league. Even when Justin Verlander was not at his best last year, Max Scherzer stepped up and become the team's ace. Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello man the third and fourth starter positions of the rotation with Drew Smyly getting the fifth spot. Miguel Cabrera is back for another year as the two time defending MVP. Victor Martinez provides protection and should post better numbers than last season.
There are still question marks in the bullpen. Joe Nathan is an upgrade at the closer position, but he is now one of the oldest players in the league at 39 years of age. There is a lot of uncertainty and question marks in the middle relief spot. Can Bruce Rondon finally pitch to his potential? Offensively, Ian Kinsler has some big shoes to fill as the Tigers traded away Prince Fielder.
Season wins prediction: Over 90 wins
Kansas City Royals
The rotation has improved with Jason Vargas stepping in. The lefty is on his third team in three years, but he will now have a strong defense behind him. Greg Holland was incredible as the closer last year, giving up just 40 hits in 67 innings pitched. Billy Butler and Alex Gordon now have help in the lineup with Omar Infante batting ahead of them. Infante will get on base, while the two big sluggers bring him in.
Mike Moustakas has still not lived up to his potential. Alcides Escobar hit only .234 last year, but he will continue to be in the lineup because he is strong defensively. The bottom of the pitching rotation is shaky with Danny Duffy and Wade Davis among those vying for the final spots, although this will be less of a weakness if Yordano Ventura gets the job.
Season wins prediction: Over 82 wins
It is hard to find reasons to back the Twins. They do still have one of the best hitters in the league with Joe Mauer, plus Josh Willingham will provide good protection in a lineup. They are trying to fill the holes in the pitching rotation with veterans Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes who have pitched well in the past. Glen Perkins is an All-Star closer who converted on 90% of his save opportunities last year.
However, Minnesota's pitching rotation had a horrendous 5.26 ERA last season. Kevin Correia and Scott Diamond were among that group of misfits. Miguel Sano is out for the season with Tommy John surgery. While Perkins is an excellent closer, he might not get many chances with a poor starting rotation and awful middle relief that is likely to blow leads.
Season wins prediction: Under 70.5 wins