Ranking the lineups in the AL Central
One of the busiest Winter Meetings in the history of the league-wide get together has come and gone, but for the Indians, the flurry of activity may have made the trip to the road to the top of the AL Central that much more difficult.
While they might have started things off with a deal to land All-Star first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss from Oakland, the Indians were rather quiet for the rest of the meetings. Meanwhile, the rest of the AL Central kept incredibly busy.
With the litany of moves this offseason from the White Sox, Twins, Royals, Indians and Tigers that bolstered what was an already solid division, which lineup is the best at the moment following these recent transactions?
1. Detroit Tigers
Well, the strengths of this group are pretty obvious.
Kinsler, Cabrera, Martinez, Cespedes and Martinez are a portion of the lineup that not even the best of pitchers would want to go through and, as it stands right now, there's no efficient way to prepare for any one of these good to outstanding bats. Adding Cespedes to replace Torii Hunter gives Detroit another power threat to an already scarily power-heavy lineup and while Cespedes may strikeout more than his predecessor, he'll hit more bombs as well.
Of course, the bottom of the lineup leaves a lot to be desired, and the leadoff spot may see some changes throughout the season, but overall the Tigers easily boast the best lineup in this division, if not in baseball as a whole.
2. Kansas City Royals
There's a reason this team went to the World Series last year and there's no reason to think, looking at this lineup, that they can't be in contention to get there once again.
While the Tigers two through six hitters are indeed baseball's best, the Royals are certainly not far behind, as Gordon, Hosmer, Perez, Morales and Moustakas will certainly strike fear into opposing pitchers throughout the 2015 season. That being said, as is the case with Detroit as well, just how good will the other four hitters in this lineup be? If they can produce, the Royals offense should be neck-and-neck with the Tigers for the majority of the season. If not, they could fall far behind and even be looking up at the Indians.
3. Cleveland Indians
While the Indians lineup isn't quite up to the lofty standards set by the Tigers and Royals, it could certainly prove to be one of the league's most formidable as well.
At this point, it's all about "if's."
If Bourn, Kipnis, Moss and Swisher can be who the Indians projected them to be when signing them - or in Moss' case, trading – then the Indians could be the Kansas City Royals of the 2015 season. If Michael Brantley can continue his MVP form in 2015 and Santana's offense settles in at first base, the top of the Indians lineup may be the best in the Central. If Lonnie Chisenhall can be the "Lonnie Baseball" we saw in the early months of last season, the bottom of the order could be one to watch as well.
Unfortunately, "if's" are far from sure things and in the case of the Indians, that means they're still looking up at the others as the class of this division.
4. Chicago White Sox
All of a sudden, with the additions of Jose Abreu in 2013 and Adam LaRoche in 2014, the Chicago White Sox lineup is starting to take shape. Granted, there are massive holes at both the top and bottom of the order, but the core is there.
Abreu has certainly become maybe the most feared young hitter in the American League, LaRoche provides added power that was not there prior and if Viciedo and Garcia can provide consistency at any level the White Sox may be the up-and-comers to look out for in this division. In addition, Alexei Ramirez has certainly come into his own atop the White Sox lineup which should only add that much more depth.
Gillaspie, Flowers nor Garcia— along with whomever sits atop this lineup at this juncture— isn't really going to cut it in a division with so many outstanding hitters and players from top-to-bottom, meaning that the core of this order will have to carry the White Sox if they do indeed want to go anywhere next season.
5. Minnesota Twins
Ah, and then comes Minnesota, patiently waiting for their young studs to progress through the Minor League system and make an instant impact at the Major League level.
To be completely frank, this lineup leaves a ton to be desired, but maybe with new Twins manager - and one of the greatest hitters of all-time - Paul Molitor holding the reigns it can improve. Mauer is still one of the best pure hitters in the game and Dozier was a machine in 2014, but outside of those two it's hard to see where there will be any serious production. Maybe the monstrous Kennys Vargas breaks out and becomes an Abreu-type player or Arcia starts putting bat-on-ball to produce some power of his own, but, again, neither of those things seem very likely.
Overall, if I'm a Twins fan, my patience is starting to wear thin and hopefully the stars of tomorrow, who's dominance has been foretold for the last couple of years, will finally see the light of Target Field and offer hope for a better 2015.
1. Detroit Tigers- Middle of the order may be the best we've seen in a while.
2. Kansas City Royals- Very, very solid from top to bottom.
3. Cleveland Indians- "If's" could take this lineup from the middle to the top.
4. Chicago White Sox- Big holes, but bigger potential, especially in the middle.
5. Minnesota Twins- Patience is a virtue.
There is no doubt that the AL Central is one of the most improved divisions in baseball following the recent happenings in San Diego and while it may seem that the lineups of the Tigers, Royals and Indians belong in that particular order, don't be surprised to see any of those three offenses atop this division when all is said and done.
IF he's producing at a 2013 level (minus the slump) francona will want to give him as many PA's as possible, and i personally would welcome seeing kipnis get a shot to lead off. between the .366 OBP, the power and the ability to steal a base. he'd give brantley 20-30 more RISP AB's.
even if he's not hitting for power, ditto for swisher, who's hit either 2nd or 6th most of his career. if he just gets his OBP back up around .350 that would look awfully attractive in front of brantley, santana & moss.
brantley drove in nearly 100 runs despite bourn & acab/jram posting OBP's of . about .315 & .300 respectively. give brantley another 50 RISP PA's with a .360 & .350 OBP guy hitting 1 & 2.
they're big IF's, but those two guy just produce at 2013 levels, and this offense scores runs.
White Sox are similar to Tigers but have a bit more speed through out.
Royals have zip power and lotsa speed,Maury Wills and the Dodgers all over again only there's no Koufax and Drysdale.
Twins had some guys have career years last season and still finished dead last,still these guys are better hitters than you think.
Tribe has a nice blend of power and speed when everybody is healthy.If Chisenhall is your worst hitter you're doing pretty good.
Lot of if's for every team but the ceiling is the highest for the Tribe in terms of runs scored in this division.They don't even really need great seasons out of everybody just having guys play 130-140 games would make them better.
Last two years they have added Abreu, Melky, Eaton, Laroche.
Three excellent OBP guys combined with a top 3 run producer in the game.
If they get anything from Gillaspie, Flowers & Garcia then I think they are clearly no.2 behind Detroit.
Not as many question marks as Cleveland
2. Indians have the potential to be very close to Detroit by being solid up and down if we get bounce backs from Swish/Kip and Moss stays healthy and productive. They can also be pretty bad if those 3 guys stay on the same trajectory they set last year. The mean of those two potential outcomes still puts the Tribe squarely in the #2 spot.
3. White Sox are better than people think. Abreu may soon overtake Miggy as the scariest bat in the Division. Eaton might be the best leadoff hitter in the division. Laroche is an upgrade over Dunn and Garcia has a bunch of upside.
4. Royals have a bunch of guys that look like they may never quite reach their lofty projections. Gordon's a great player but still a guy that I wouldn't necessarily think of as "scary"
5. White Sox
The gap between the Indians and Twins is small, and if the Twins prospects pan out, they will end up slightly ahead. The Royals and White Sox are also very close for the 4/5, but the back half of the White Sox order is so bad that the Royals squeak by.
Not to go all FJM on this piece, but the other non-sensical passage is, "There's a reason this team went to the World Series last year…" The Royals went to the World Series because of run prevention. Decent rotation, outstanding bullpen, and outstanding defense. Their offense had almost nothing to do with it.
For the Tigers, also some "ifs"......Miggy has been injured the last two seasons and got to wonder if that continues. Of course, it reduces his production from "other worldly" to merely "top 10." Will VMart be able to keep it up.....he's getting old. And finally, JD Martinez could have a sophomore slump. Still.....a great lineup.
For what its worth, Buster Olney referred to the AL Central as the best division in baseball in his winter meetings recap. Its hard to disagree. He specifically made a reference to how much better the pitching is in our division compared to the AL East. It is quite ridiculous. I look forward to reading the pitching rankings. I expect there to be quite a debate about the top spot between us and Detroilet.
This particular statement is a real doozy. 3 of those 5 guys had OBP under .290 and OPS under .700 in 2014. Any pitcher afraid of that doesn't belong in MLB.
Very explosive lineups if everyone plays they way they're capable. What I do like about the Indians is that they can dip down into farm system and get a nice bat so it won't be a big drop off. This is a big deal and often overlooked by ppl in MLB when doing analysis