The AL Central predictions are starting to heat up as we are less than a week from Opening Day 2016! Last season the Kansas City Royals ran away from everyone in the division, on their way to winning the 2015 World Series. K.C. can do something an AL team hasn’t done in a while if they return to the fall classic – prove they are really the best team in the majors. The Royals will try to make their third straight trip to the World Series this October as they attempt to be the first back-to-back World Series winners since 2000, when the New York Yankees won three straight championships.
How will the AL Central finish in 2016? Here are my predictions along with the Las Vegas odds to win the AL Central crown and the total number of wins each team will have this season.
1. Detroit Tigers
While the Tigers finished in last place last season, the talent to go from worst to first is in place. When healthy Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter in the game, and when you add newly acquired Justin Upton to a lineup that includes Victor Martinez, JD Martinez, Ian Kinsler and Nick Castellanos, you should be able to score some runs on a daily basis! The pitching staff may have lost Max Scherzer and David Price over the course of two seasons, however they still have Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and now Jordan Zimmerman. Very quietly, the best addition this off season may have been adding catch Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The Tigers were weak at the catcher position, however adding Saltalamacchia to up-in-comer James McCann could make Detroit have the best 1-2 catcher tandem in the league. A “worst to first” climb is in the cards for Detroit.
2. Cleveland Indians
Something about this team is intriguing. Not many big names jump out at you at first glance, but having a projected top four hitters of Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, Michael Brantley and Mike Napoli is pretty solid. I have always been a fan of Cleveland manager Terry Francona, and if anyone can make the most of what he has its Francona.
3. Kansas City Royals
I know, how can I pick the Royals to finish third when they are the best team in the AL two years in a row. Because, that’s baseball! The lineup will once again be stacked with power hitters like Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer, but I don’t think the pitching will be as effective this season as it was the last two. KC and the Tribe battle for 2nd place and a wild-card spot, but Cleveland squeaks it out in the end.
4. Minnesota Twins
Paul Molitor and the Twins had a rough start to the 2015 season by getting swept by the Detroit Tigers, however the rookie manager went on from there to do a great job in his first season on the job in Minneapolis. The Twins finished in second place last season with a 83-79 record – but things may be a bit tougher in 2016. Joe Mauer is a beast and leadoff hitter Brian Dozier has become one of the best in the game, however I see the Twins finishing fourth (or fifth) this season. If so, All-Star closer Glen Perkins may make for great trade bait from a contender.
5 Chicago White Sox
The good news for Sox fans is they may not finish in last, but they will be no higher than 4th. This team to me is a ball of confusion. With Chris Sale and Jose Quintana as the one-two punch, they should have high hopes, but the quality after Sale and Quintana drops off. Quintana has had a solid ERA the last 2 seasons (under 3.50) but just can’t seem to compile a winning record. Sale on the other hand is one of the best in the game and should do well once again this season. Even numbered years have been kind to Sale in the past, and this is 2016 so watch out! In 2012 Sale finished 17-8, and in 2014 he went 12-4. Following a tough season last year of 13-11, look for Sale to bounce back.
Over/Under Win totals 2016 (Bovada)
Kansas City Royals — 85.5
Cleveland Indians — 84.5
Detroit Tigers — 81.5
Chicago White Sox — 80.5
Minnesota Twins — 78.5
Odds to Win AL Central 2016
Kansas City Royals — +130
Cleveland Indians — +220
Detroit Tigers — +300
Chicago White Sox — +550
Minnesota Twins — +650