Today, I will start by talking about one of the upcoming divisions in baseball. First off, this division has been one sided so far by the Royals, but the Twins and Tigers are right there to make a push for the AL Central crown. Now, do not count out the Indians. If Cleveland can stay healthy, they can be a deadly team. Lastly, the White Sox always look good on paper, but never do anything, well that is going to change with some new faces in their lineup. It seems that anything can happen between all five teams in the central. Each team is different in many ways and have their pros and cons. Today, I will pick one player from each team that could be the one factor to why their team could win it all in the central.
The first team that I will mention will be the Twins. The Twins have added a power bat in Byung Ho Park to the lineup, which I think he will adjust quickly to American League pitching, but that one player who could provide a spark to the team on a offensive and defensive level will be Bryon Buxton. The 22-year-old stud is entering his first full season after getting a taste of the professional level last year by participating in 46 games. Buxton did struggle offensively last year by hitting .209 with only 2 homers and driving in 6 RBIs. He is not the guy who needs to get all of the RBIs, but he needs to focus on just getting on base. He will provide a spark at the top of the lineup and when he gets on base lookout because he might steal. He also is good defensively by covering lots of ground and delivering a nice throw to nab runners trying to advance.
Next team on the list is the Indians. I was going to pick Abraham Almonte, but he got suspended for the first 80 games of the regular season. If you are suspended it does not help your team. So, I was left out thinking who could help the Indians reach the next level. It could either be Michael Brantley or Jason Kipnis, but they are injured at some point of the season, which does not help. So I decided to pick Trevor Bauer. The 25-year-old pitcher had a fair 2015 campaign by posting a 11-12 record and along with a 4.55 ERA in 176 innings. He did punch out 170 batters, but needs to lower his walks (79). Now, with 65 games (64 starts) he should be ready to take the next step in his career. If he can lower his ERA to a number near the low four mark or high three mark, it will help his team out. Lastly, if he contributes at a greater rate that rotation can ride their way into the playoffs. Like honestly, Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar, Bauer, and either Anderson or Tomlin is a pretty darn good rotation. Remember folks, pitching wins championships.
In addition to the list, the Tigers have a player that is vocal and leads by example, which the teams need in their clubhouse. He put his own teammate Jose Iglesias in place last year. Yes, I am talking about James McCann! McCann is a old school like catcher, decent offensive product, but a good defender. He calls a good game and is solid in the lower part of the lineup as shown last season. He played in 114 games last year and accumulated 401 at-bats while collecting a total of 106 hits. He batted .264 and drilled 7 dingers over the wall. Also, to go towards his best season, he piled up 41 RBIs and .297 on base percentage. Now defensively, he graded out as one of the better defensive catchers by gunning out 41% of base runners with a league average of 32% and by finishing the season with zero errors committed. If he could provide the same season, it will help give the Tigers the boast they need to battle the Royals for first place.
Furthermore, the White Sox added new faces like Brett Lawrie, Todd Frazier, Jimmy Rollins, Mat Latos, Alex Avila, and Dioner Navarro. Frazier would be the best and most obvious pick, but Mat Latos is the man to watch. First, Latos was suppose to be a perfect fit with Miami last year, but that did not go to plan like the Marlins and him would of liked it to go. Latos had the worst season in his career by going 4-10 and posting an unappealing ERA of 4.95 in 24 games (21 starts). Latos was a bargain this off-season for the White Sox by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $3 mil. That is a low risk with potentially being a high reward. The 28-year-old is looking for a chance to prove to others that he still has what it takes to be a heavily depended starter at the professional level. Mat will rebound from 2015 and end up receiving a nice deal at the end of the season.
Finally, lets wrap this up with the defending World Series champions and AL Central champions, the Kansas City Royals. You already know what product you will get from each player on the roster, but one player is still trying to find his old form (2012 and 2013 form). That man is Kris Medlen. The 30-year-old finally pitched last year after missing the 2014 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. Medlen looked good last year in his 15 games (8 starts). He picked up a record of 6 wins and 2 losses with a low four ERA (4.01) in 58.1 innings. In fact, he will get a bigger workload this year as he will start the season off as a starter instead of easing out of the bullpen like last year. If the Royals can get 160-170 innings from him with a sub three ERA, it will help their rotation and the team to get back into making a deep playoff run.