Major League Baseball Preview: American League Central


Sports writer Barry Svrluga analyzed the 2014 baseball season for The Washington Post. Here is how he sees the teams lining up in the American League’s Central Division:

1. Detroit Tigers

93-69, first, lost ALCS to Boston

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Manager: Brad Ausmus, first season.

Biggest additions: The featured deal brought 2B Ian Kinsler from Texas, but the most significant additions may have been to the ever-evolving bullpen. Six-time all-star Joe Nathan, 39, takes over as closer, and former Yankees phenom Joba Chamberlain could be a primary setup guy.

Biggest losses: 1B Prince Fielder went to Texas for Kinsler, and fourth starter Doug Fister went to the Nationals.

Guy who makes the manager look good: Miguel Cabrera is moving from third to first and is the premier hitter of his generation. His past four seasons: .337/.425/.612, with 156 homers.

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2. Kansas City Royals

86-76, third

Manager: Ned Yost, fifth season.

Biggest additions: Coming off their best season since 1989, the Royals traded for RF Norichika Aoki, who will be joined at the top of the order by new 2B Omar Infante. They plugged a hole in the rotation with LHP Jason Vargas, who has a 3.97 ERA in 120 starts over the past four seasons.

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Biggest losses: Reliever Luke Hochevar (1.92 ERA in 58 games) is done for the year with Tommy John surgery. RHP Ervin Santana was allowed to walk – to Atlanta.

Guy who makes the manager look good: 1B Eric Hosmer is on the verge of becoming a star after hitting .302 in 2013.

3. Cleveland Indians

92-70, second, lost wild-card game to Tampa Bay

Manager: Terry Francona, second season.

Biggest additions: OF David Murphy (.304 in ’12, .220 in ’13) comes over from Texas, and veteran John Axford takes over the closer role he once had in Milwaukee. But Cleveland, coming off its first playoff appearance since 2007, largely stands pat.

Biggest losses: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez and LHP Scott Kazmir combined for 61 starts and 3402/3 innings, and they departed for Baltimore and Oakland, respectively.

Guy who makes the manager look good: Given a lack of star power, Francona made himself look good in his first job since leading Boston to two World Series titles.

4. Chicago White Sox

63-99, fifth

Manager: Robin Ventura, third season.

Biggest additions: After finishing last for the first time since 1989, the White Sox signed Cuban defector Jose Dariel Abreu, who will play 1B and might hit third – making nearly lifetime South Sider Paul Konerko a backup. They traded for 25-year-old CF Adam Eaton, who they hope will lead off for years to come, and they added veteran reliever Scott Downs.

Biggest losses: RHP Gavin Floyd signed with Atlanta.

Guy who makes the manager look good: LHP Chris Sale, an all-star the past two years, had a 4.91 strikeout/walk ratio that was second in the AL.

5. Minnesota Twins

66-96, fourth

Manager: Ron Gardenhire, 13th season.

Biggest additions: From 2001 to 2010, the Twins posted nine winning seasons. Over the past three years, they’ve averaged 97 losses. Their response: Add free agent starters Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes until former Nationals prospect Alex Meyer is ready. Joe Mauer, a former MVP as a catcher, finally moves to first, and former Nat Kurt Suzuki takes over behind the plate.

Biggest losses: 3B prospect Miguel Sano was lost to Tommy John surgery.

Guy who makes the manager look good: Mauer may not hit for much power, but his worst average in 10 seasons is .287, his worst OBP .360. Career marks: .323, .405.