Tuesday, March 28, 2006

2006 Season Preview - AL Central

Home of the World Series Champion White Sox - why have more teams not taken the hint - the New York Blue Sox anyone?

Chicago White Sox
2005 Record: 99-63; Position 1st

Major Off-season Moves:
Add - INF Jim Thome, SP Javier Vazquez
Minus - INF/DH Frank Thomas, OF Aaron Rowand, SP Orlando Hernandez

As a bitter twisted Red Sox fan I have to 'fess up - nothing would have pleased me more than Ozzie Guillen following through with his "if I win the WS, I will quit" threat - please Ozzie, make baseball a quieter, pleasanter place again. Last year, I had the White Sox no better than 3rd... as they went on to win the WS with an 11-1 record in the post-season. This year the Sox have brought back the majority of the winning 25, with improvements at DH and in the already strong rotation, with a slight weakening in CF, with rookie Brian Anderson replacing Aaron Rowand. Given what else has happened in the Central, I find it hard to look beyond the Sox as repeating champions.

2006 Projection: 94-68; Position - 1st
White Sox blog link - ChiSox Daily

Cleveland Indians
2005 Record: 93-69; Position 2nd

Major Off-season Moves:
Add - OF Jason Michaels, SP Paul Byrd, SP Jason Johnson, RP Danny Graves, RP Steve Karsay, RP Guillermo Mota
Minus - OF Coco Crisp, SP Kevin Millwood, RP Bob Howry, RP Arthur Rhodes

A lot of change for a team that came within 5 days of making the play-offs. The last week collapse eased the Red Sox / Yankees path to the play-offs, not that it did either of them much good. When I first started watching the Sox, the Indians were the team that I feared most - a combination of excellent young hitting, with average pitching was a formula for success, but not that final success. The Indians were very bold in disbanding that team - really when Manny made the decision to leave for Boston, the Indians made the decision to retool, and made some excellent trades, and fine drafting to repeat the model. But the loss of Millwood and Crisp has to set this team back a little, and while the team is young, it is difficult to imagine a great deal more upside from some of those players...

2006 Projection: 90-72; Position -2nd
Indians blog link - Let's Go Tribe
Minnesota Twins
2005 Record: 83-79; Position 3rd

Major Off-season Moves:
Add - INF Luis Castillo, INF Tony Batista, OF Rondell White, DH Ruben Sierra
Minus - OF Jacque Jones, SP Joe Mays

Some very strange moves by the Twins - Castillo - good, Batista - bad, White - ok, Sierra - not so ok... This team does have Santana - the AL's best pitcher since the Pedro years, and fans have the emergence of Baker and Liriano to look forward to, but it is difficult to see where the Twins will get enough offense to be competitive with the White Sox, or Indians, over the course of a season. The Twins aren't far away - possibly needing one big bat (Ortiz would have been ok), and one other 'plus bat' to be a very serious threat, but it is difficult to see Ryan making the moves that would bring those rewards.

2006 Projection: 88-76; Position - 3rd
Twins blog link - AaronGleeman.com the blog that started it all for me!
Detroit Tigers
2005 Record: 71-91; Position 4th

Major Off-season Moves:
Add - SP Kenny Rogers, RP Todd Jones
Minus - OF Rondell White, SP Jason Johnson

The Tigers biggest off-field move was the recruitment of Jim Leyland, while on the field, fans can look forward to newly improved, anger managed Kenny Rogers. The signing of Jones, so soon after the Tigers had both Urbina and Percival on the roster tends to suggest that the lessons of those signings weren't quite clear enough - will anyone be at all surprised if the Tigers are looking to sign a FA veteran closer during the winter break in 2006/07?

2006 Projection: 73-89; Position - 4th
Tigers blog link - The Detroit Tiger Weblog

Kansas City Royals
2005 Record: 56-106; Position 5th

Major Off-season Moves:
Add - INF Doug Mientkiewicz, INF Mark Grudzielanek, OF Reggie Sanders, SP Elmer Dessens, SP Joe Mays, SP Scott Elarton
Minus - does Jose Lima count?

Wow... the Colorado Rockies of the AL made a serious commitment to putting a 60 win team out there this year... and I still don't think they will make it. The strange loss of Grienke doesn't help, though replacing his 2005 contribution shouldn't be a stretch for say... Neil M? It is difficult to know what to make of this organization - instead of Bud Selig threatening to award Kansas City the All Star game if they get a new stadium, why not award them the game if they put out back-to-back winning seasons?

2006 Projection: 59-103; Position - 5th
Royals blog link - Royals Authority

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