With the Kansas City Royals coming off of back-to-back trips to the World Series (winning it all in 2015), the rest of the American League Central is going to have to play catch up this season. I realize that the Royals pitching staff is not as strong as in the past couple of years, especially in the starting rotation. But, will it matter as long as the Royals are as good defensively, not to mention offensively?
The big key to the Royals success has been one thing: a ridiculously dominant bullpen. With closer Greg Holland out for the year, it could be a bit interesting how Wade Davis adapts to his new role as full time closer. Given Kansas City brought back pitcher Joakim Soria, however he is getting long in the tooth not to mention has had a few injuries in his career. Speaking of injuries, I am wondering when some of their arms are going to give out. Kelvin Herrera has thrown a lot of innings these past couple of years, and went deep into the playoffs twice. This right here is the key to Kansas City’s staff: can it stay healthy? A major league pitcher only has so many bullets in their arm, therefore it is unlikely that they can handle a significant workload for too long.
Now the question is who will unseat Kansas City if they don’t win the A.L. Central in 2016. My first pick would be the Cleveland Indians, mostly due to their excellent starting rotation, which is the best in the entire American League. If the Indians don’t hit any better than they did in the past two seasons, they will have a tough time winning the division. I would then go with the White Sox as the second choice to unseat Kansas City, just because they have a strong combination of starting, and relief pitching. The White Sox seem to have upgraded their offense and defense this past offseason, but will it be enough? Time will tell.
Both the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers may have some trouble winning the division, for similar reasons. That being the fact that neither is going to have the pitching. The Twins have a great young core, however not much on the mound. Meanwhile, the Tigers are aging and have bloated contracts that are getting past their prime. If I were to pick between the two that could contend it would be Minnesota just due to the young talent that could surprise (as they did last year), but I don’t think they will sneak up on anyone in 2016.
Overall, this division is probably the deepest in baseball, even though a couple of teams will emerge as the best over the course of the season. It wouldn’t surprise me to see two, maybe even three teams playing in the postseason out of this division, alas the N.L. Central from 2015. I think that the Royals and the Indians are the two best teams, but it wouldn’t shock me to see the White Sox make some serious noise. Considering how tough this division is, it will have to be very loud noise if they are going to make the playoffs, hopefully it will be one.