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2023 AL Central Preview: Cleveland’s To Lose?

ALDS Yankees Guardians

(Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

2023 AL Central Preview: Cleveland’s To Lose?

Week five of our 2023 MLB division previews at Vendetta Sports Media is upon us. Today, we have the AL Central.

The AL Central has been much maligned over the past few seasons. The division has been hard-pressed to produce a successful team in the American League playoffs. The last team to advance past the ALDS in this division was the 2016 then-Indians, who were one win away from a World Series championship.

Cleveland won the division again in 2022 for the first time since 2018. While the Guardians were the best team in the division, they only won 92 games, which was the lowest tally of any division winner in all of baseball last season.

Who will win this division in 2023? Let’s get to predicting!

5th Place: Detroit Tigers

2022 was nothing short of a dumpster fire, freefall, total collapse (insert cliche) for the Detroit Tigers.

Just imagine spending $100 million in free agency and then winning 11 fewer games than you did the season before. That’s what Detroit did. Some actually predicted the Tigers to win the AL Central in 2022. They would go on to win 66 games.

They need Javier Báez to return to form right now. Not later, now. Or else that contract might end up looking worse than Chris Davis’.

The Tigers brought in Austin Meadows to be a power guy — and he almost comically — hit zero home runs in 2022 after hitting 27 the season before. The power numbers were also way down for future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera. Did I mention the Tigers’ entire team collapsed last year? That includes prospect Spencer Torkelson, who struggled mightily in his first season as a big leaguer.

The rotation needs to prove itself in 2023. None of the starting five guys in their rotation started more than 20 games last year. That won’t get it done. Casey Mize will be coming off Tommy John. But hey, Matthew Boyd and Michael Lorenzen were decent pickups.

Detroit’s bullpen is just ok. They traded All-Star Gregory Soto and got a pretty decent return in Matt Vierling and Nick Maton. José Cisnero was excellent in a small sample size of 25 innings.

Look, Detroit. It can’t get any worse than it did in 2022. You will likely be very bad again. Cut your losses and get prospects for your good players as you did with Soto.

Projected record: (67-95)

4th Place: Kansas City Royals

It has been a very, very long time since 2015. That’s when the Kansas City Royals won the World Series. Now, they are a shell of their former selves.

It’s hard to imagine that the Royals will be any worse than they were last season when they won only 65 games, but I doubt they’ll be any better. They didn’t do very much to improve this team, besides dismissing Mike Matheny.

Bobby Witt Jr. is this club’s best player and is still only 22 years old. Vinnie Pasquantino had a breakout year in 2022 and should only be helped by the new shift rules. Star prospect M.J. Melendez looks to be the real deal. Aside from those three, it’s hard to find anything to like in that starting lineup besides old man Salvador Perez.

The same goes for the rotation. Some good pieces but nothing great. Brady Singer got better with every start last year. But around him? Zack Greinke might be their Opening Day starter. I’m shocked they gave Jordan Lyles the contract they did when he hasn’t proved much at the major league level.

They have some decent bullpen pieces they could trade off at the deadline or keep around, particularly Scott Barlow. They also acquired Josh Taylor from Boston. Hey, Aroldis Chapman is on this team! Maybe he needs to get out of the bright lights like Joey Gallo.

It’ll be another building year for Kansas City. In a few years, they could get back to contention, but I don’t like their odds for the 2023 AL Central.

Projected record: (69-93)

3rd Place: Chicago White Sox

Similar to the Tigers, just about everything that could have gone wrong for the Chicago White Sox did go wrong in 2022. The Tony La Russa hire was a disaster waiting to happen. He just looked so goofy in those “Southside” Sox jerseys.

Aside from La Russa, there were injuries galore for the 2022 White Sox. The 81-81 Sox lost just about everyone in their lineup at one time or another.

If they stay healthy, this lineup looks to be pretty potent. Tim Anderson is everyone’s favorite player. Luis Robert Jr. is a star in the making who still hasn’t quite bloomed yet. Yasmani Grandal was brought in to hit for power and simply didn’t in 2022. Losing the heart and soul of the team over the past few years in José Abreu sucks, but they signed Andrew Benintendi to the biggest contract in White Sox history as consolation.

The Mike Clevinger situation was really cloudy, but apparently, he might not face discipline as of today. As for the rest of the rotation, Dylan Cease had a career year in 2022, while Lance Lynn took a step back. The same goes for Lucas Giolito, who really struggled last year.

Reynaldo López was solid out of the pen last season, as was Kendall Graveman. Young prospect Garrett Crochet will be back from injury in 2023. Some of the worst news in this offseason was when Liam Hendricks was diagnosed with cancer. Not only does that hurt the Sox, but he is such a lovable player. We’re all rooting for you, Liam.

The ceiling is very high for these White Sox if they stay healthy. They’ll need Lynn and Giolito to come back better than they were last season. I can genuinely see them winning this division if it all goes right. If they’re competitive, expect Chicago to make moves at the deadline to boost this roster.

Projected record: (84-78)

2nd Place: Minnesota Twins

After all the drama, Carlos Correa decided to return to his former squad, the Minnesota Twins for the 2023 season and beyond.

The Twins had a disappointing end of last season. They led the AL Central for the majority of the season last year until it all fell apart, going 15-29 down the stretch. They finished with 78 wins.

What the Twins did do this offseason is got better.

Joey Gallo’s season should be really interesting with the shift ban and his escaping the spotlight. Byron Buxton and Correa are about as good as it gets to lead off a lineup. Christian Vázquez was an under-the-radar signing and is a big upgrade over Gary Sanchez. They shipped off batting champ Luis Arraez but bolstered their rotation by doing so.

Pablo López is an excellent return for Arraez. Sonny Gray was productive again last year. Joe Ryan was in the AL Rookie of The Year conversation at times last year. This rotation could end up being very strong in 2023.

Jhoan Duran was one of the best relievers in baseball last season. Duran and Jorge López make a really good closer duo. Aside from that duo, the bullpen is hit or miss. That could very well be their downfall.

Like the White Sox, expect them to address needs at the deadline, which they didn’t do last season.

Bringing back Correa infused life into this franchise. They will have some buzz in 2023, and I have high expectations for this team. I just don’t believe they did enough to pass Cleveland for the division title.

Projected record: (89-73), 3rd AL Wild Card

1st Place: Cleveland Guardians

I love the Cleveland Guardians. Like the Twins, they only got better this past offseason.

Mike Zunino and Josh Bell were excellent pickups at positions of need. Remember the Francisco Lindor deal? Well, the returns for Lindor were Amed Rosario, who was second on the team in plate appearances with 670 and All-Star Andrés Giménez might be the best defensive player in baseball. José Ramírez is still probably the best-hitting third baseman in the sport.

Not to mention star Josh Naylor‘s brother Bo will be in the big leagues soon. Cleveland has an excellent farm system, too.

What about the rotation? Well, Shane Bieber quietly almost won another Cy Young last season. Triston McKenzie broke out in a huge way and will likely be Cleveland’s two-starter. The rest of the rotation still has a lot to prove.

Emmanuel Clase was the American League’s best reliever last season. He was a huge part of their division title. James Karinchak looks like he’s on drugs but in good ways. Cleveland quietly had stars all over the bullpen last year, but they didn’t add to it this offseason, which disappointed me.

This is still the best team in this division. No one has proved me otherwise. It’s Cleveland’s to lose.

Projected record: (93-69) 3rd Seed in AL

There you have it, my 2023 AL Central preview. This will be an uber-interesting division down the stretch of the season.

This division will be very top-heavy in 2023. Detroit and Kansas City aren’t going to win the division in 2023, but any of the White Sox, Twins, or Guardians could win this division and I wouldn’t be surprised. Although, the Guardians have the brightest future and the best current roster.

I’m tired of seeing the Yankees and the Astros every season in the ALCS. I really hope one of these teams wins a playoff series in 2023.


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