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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Previewing the American League Central

Minnesota Twins
2004 finish: 92-70 (first)

Additions: Mike Redmond, Juan Castro

Losses: Henry Blanco, Cristian Guzman, Corey Koskie,

Projected Rotation:
RHP Brad Radke
LHP Johan Santana
RHP Joe Mays
RHP Kyle Lohse
RHP Carlos Silva

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Joe Nathan
RHP Juan Rincon
RHP Jesse Crain
LHP J.C. Romero
LHP David Gassner
LHP Terry Mulholland (non-roster)
RHP Grant Balfour

Projected Lineup:
C Joe Mauer
1B Justin Morneau
2B Luis Rivas
3B Michael Cuddyer
SS Jason Bartlett
LF Shannon Stewart
CF Tori Hunter
RF Jacque Jones
DH Matt LeCroy

Projected Bench:
C Mike Redmond
IF Juan Castro
IF Nick Punto
OF Lew Ford

Top Prospects:
1. Joe Mauer, C
2. Jason Kubel, OF
3. J.D. Durbin, RHP
4. Jesse Crain, RHP
5. Francisco Liriano, LHP

Top Pitcher: Johan Santana
Santana had an OK year last year. All right, he had a pretty darn awesome year and won the Cy Young award after posting a 20-6 record and striking out 265. The left hander was positively stolen out of the Houston organization in the Rule 5 draft in 1999. Expect more of the same this year and for many more to come.

Top Hitter: Tori Hunter
The Twins do not have any really mashers on their team, but have a very lineup with solid MLB hitters. That said, Hunter is the best of the group and he is made even more valuable with his Gold Glove defence in centerfield.

Breakout Player: Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau (tie)
The Twins have two of the best young hitters in the major leagues in their everyday lineup this season. Mauer could hit .300 as a rookie out of the catcher position and play above average defence. He could also eventually add power to his offensive totals. Morneau, a Canadian, battled injuries and illness all winter but should be ready to provide 30 to 40 home runs and Gold Glove defence at first base.

Chicago White Sox
2004 finish: 83-79 (second)

Additions: Dustin Hermanson, Tadahito Iguchi, A.J. Pierzynski, Luis Vizcaino, Jermaine Dye, Scott Podsednik

Losses: Roberto Alomar, Sandy Alomar, Magglio Ordonez, Scott Schoeneweis, Jose Valentin, Carlos Lee

Projected Rotation:
LHP Mark Buehrle
RHP Orlando Hernandez
RHP Jose Contreras
RHP Freddy Garcia
RHP Jon Garland

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Dustin Hermanson
RHP Shingo Takatsu
RHP Luis Vizcaino
LHP Damaso Marte
LHP Neal Cotts
RHP Cliff Politte
RHP John Adkins

Projected Lineup:
C A.J. Pierzynski
1B Paul Konerko
2B Tadahito Iguchi
3B Joe Crede
SS Juan Uribe
LF Aaron Rowand
CF Scott Podsednik
RF Jermaine Dye
DH Carl Everett

Projected Bench:
C Ben Davis
IF Willie Harris
IF Ross Gload
OF Timo Perez

Top Prospects:
1. Brian Anderson, OF
2. Ryan Sweeney, OF
3. Brandon McCarthy, RHP
4. Josh Fields, 3B
5. Sean Tracey, RHP

Top Pitcher: Mark Buehrle
Buehrle has risen from obscurity as a 38th round draft pick by the Sox to become the ace of their staff and one of the best lefties in the game. He has pitched more than 200 innings in each of his four full seasons in the rotation and he significantly improved his strike outs rates last season, which bodes well for the future.

Top Hitter: Paul Konerko
Konerko had an off year in 2003 and his contract looked like an albatross. But he got hot in 2004 and more than justified the $8 million he earned. Only 29, Konerko has eight years of experience in the major leagues, after being a No. 1 pick by the Dodgers out of high school He has the potential to hit 40 home runs, drive in 100 runs and bat .300.

Breakout Player: Neal Cotts
Cotts seems to owe his success more to his funky left-handed delivery than his average 88-93 MPH fastball. That said, he possesses a lot of promise and has always put up solid numbers. He could turn into a very good No. 3 starter in the majors if the Sox ever get tired of throwing veteran fodder Contreras and Hernandez out there.

Cleveland Indians
2004 finish: 80-82 (third)

Additions: Kevin Millwood, Scott Sauerbeck, Arthur Rhodes, Juan Gonzalez, Alex Cora, Jose Hernandez

Losses: Josh Phelps, Omar Vizquel, Rick White, Matt Lawton

Projected Rotation:
LHP C.C. Sabathia
LHP Cliff Lee
RHP Jake Westbrook
RHP Kevin Millwood
RHP Scott Elarton

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Bob Wickman
RHP David Riske
RHP Jason Davis
LHP Rafael Betancourt
LHP Arthur Rhodes
RHP Bob Howry
LHP Scott Sauerbeck

Projected Lineup:
C Victor Martinez
1B Ben Broussard
2B Ronnie Belliard
3B Aaron Boone
SS Jhonny Peralta
LF Juan Gonzalez
CF Coco Crisp
RF Casey Blake
DH Travis Hafner

Projected Bench:
C Josh Bard
IF Jose Hernandez
IF Alex Cora
OF Ryan Ludwick

Top Prospects:
1. Adam Miller, RHP
2. Michael Aubrey, 1B
3. Franklin Gutierrez, OF
4. Brad Snyder, OF
5. Jeremy Sowers, LHP

Top Pitcher: C.C. Sabathia
Sabathia is as good as he is rotund. He is one of the best lefties in the American League despite his 6’7’’ 270 to 300 pound frame. The only real problem with Sabathia is that his weight has put a large strain on his body and he has problems staying healthy.

Top Hitter: Travis Hafner
Hafner was a little older when he finally got the opportunity to play full-time but he made the most of it. He is now, already, one of the most feared young hitters in the league after hitting ..311 .410 .583 and driving in 109 runs. He is a pretty poor defender at first base though and should DH the majority of the time, especially with Ben Broussard at first base.

Breakout Player: Ben Broussard
Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez both broke out last season with great campaigns, and now it is Broussard’s turn. His offensive numbers, .275 .370 .488, were average to below average for a first baseman, but he also offers excellent defence. His offensive numbers have also increased each of the last three seasons and he had solid minor league statistics.

Detroit Tigers
2004 finish: 72-90 (fourth)

Additions: Maggio Ordonez, Troy Percival, Kyle Farnsworth, Ramon Martinez

Losses: Eric Munson, Esteban Yan

Projected Rotation:
LHP Mike Maroth
RHP Jeremy Bonderman
LHP Nate Robertson
RHP Jason Johnson
LHP Wil Ledezma

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Troy Percival
RHP Ugueth Urbina
RHP Kyle Farnsworth
LHP Jamie Walker
LHP Steve Coyler
RHP Franklyn German
RHP Colby Lewis

Projected Lineup:
C Pudge Rodriguez
1B Carlos Pena
2B Omar Infante
3B Brandon Inge
SS Carlos Guillen
LF Rondell White
CF Alex Sanchez
RF Magglio Ordonez
DH Dmitri Young

Projected Bench:
C Vance Wilson
IF Ramon Martinez
OF Craig Monroe
OF Bobby Higginson

Top Prospects:
1. Curtis Ganderson, OF
2. Kyle Sleeth, RHP
3. Justin Verlander, RHP
4. Joel Zumaya, RHP
5. Humberto Sanchez, RHP

Top Pitcher: Jeremy Bonderman
At the age of 22 Bonderman is the Tigers best pitcher, which says something about his promise AND the Tigers lack of pitching depth. That said, Bonderman has filthy stuff and is just starting to figure out how to pitch so the sky is the limit for this young pitcher.

Top Hitter: Magglio Ordonez

Breakout Player: Jeremy Bonderman
Bonderman? What’s he doing here… isn’t he already the Tigers’ best pitcher? Sure he is, but he also possesses the potential to be one of the best in the Major Leagues. He throws a 93-97 MPH fastball, an 83-88 MPH slider (which is harder than some pitchers throw their fastball) and a changeup. Once he learns how to "pitch" instead of just throw, he could be unstoppable.

Kansas City Royals
2004 finish: 58-104 (fifth)

Additions:Jose Lima, Andy Sisco, Eli Marrero, Terrence Long

Losses: Darrell May, Juan Gonzalez, Joe Randa, Desi Relaford, Dennis Reyes, Kelly Stinnett,

Projected Rotation:
RHP Zack Greinke
RHP Jose Lima
RHP Mike Wood
LHP Brian Anderson
LHP Chris George

Projected Bullpen:
LHP Jeremy Affeldt
RHP Nate Field
RHP Mike MacDougal
LHP Jamie Cerda
LHP Andy Sisco
RHP Denny Bautista
RHP Shawn Camp

Projected Lineup:
C John Buck
1B Mike Sweeney
2B Ruben Gotay
3B Mark Teahen
SS Angel Berroa
LF Eli Marrero
CF David DeJesus
RF Matt Stairs
DH Ken Harvey

Projected Bench:
C Alberto Castillo (non-roster)
IF Tony Graffanino
OF Aaron Guiel
OF Terrence Long

Top Prospects:
1. Billy Butler, 3B
2. Denny Bautista, RHP
3. Mark Teahen, 3B
4. Chris Lubanski, OF
5. Justin Huber, C-IF

Top Pitcher: Jeremy Affeldt
Unable to stay healthy in the starting rotation, Affeldt was moved to the bullpen and the Royals hope he, and his nasty left-handed stuff, makes the transition to dominating closer. The Royals, like the Tigers, are weak in pitching depth but Affeldt holds a lot of promise.

Top Hitter: Mike Sweeney
Sweeney is not the hitter he once was, but he is still the best the Royals have to offer. He is capable of hitting above .300 and he knows how to drive in runs, even if he does not quite possess typical first baseman-type power. He is also a smart hitter and rarely gets himself out.

Breakout Player: Zack Greinke
Greinke probably came as close as any other pitcher in quite a few years to being ready for the major leagues right out of high school. Unlike Bonderman in Detroit, Greinke has mastered the ability to pitch, much like Greg Maddux. Unfortunately Greinke does not possess the same stuff as Bonderman or Maddux in his prime. But his repertoire is good enough to make him a very solid major league pitcher, although probably no better than a No. 2 or No. 3 starter.


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