The news site of Marywood University

The Wood Word

The news site of Marywood University

The Wood Word

The news site of Marywood University

The Wood Word

MLB Division Previews: AL Central

Photo credit/ Sabrina Resuta, Vincent Goldschmidt

Minnesota Twins
In a span of two years, Minnesota went from the cellar of the AL Central to winning the division title, winning a playoff series and coming within a couple games of battling for the AL pennant. Minnesota will look to win their fourth division title in six seasons.

One of the key bats in the Twins lineup is Byron Buxton, who is coming off a subpar year and will look to play in over 100 games, which is a feat he’s only accomplished once in his career back in 2017. Third baseman Royce Lewis has been excellent when he remains on the field, which has been an issue since being a prospect. Shortstop Carlos Correa saw a dip in his numbers on both sides and will look to return to his elite production level. Alex Kirilloff will get an opportunity to be in the lineup everyday and build off of his production from last season. Right Fielder Max Kepler produced his best season since 2019, launching 24 home runs and producing a .816 OPS. Edouard Julien had a successful rookie season and will be the everyday second baseman for this season. The 2022 eighth overall pick Brooks Lee will have an opportunity to debut this season, though it remains to be seen what position the team will utilize him at.

The starting rotation will be without AL Cy Young runner up Sonny Gray. Pablo López was acquired from Miami and in his first season in the Twin Cities, he produced his first All-Star campaign, finishing seventh in AL Cy Young voting. Though his strikeout numbers increased, Joe Ryan will look to return to his 2022 form. Bailey Ober has become a reliable arm in the rotation, proving so over the last three seasons. Chris Paddack has been riddled with injuries since joining the Twins, and will look to be a solid piece in the rotation. Minnesota has one of the most elite closers in baseball, with Jhoan Durán being lights out since debuting in 2022.

Though many players have underproduced or been injured, Minnesota was able to win the division. With a healthy squad in 2024, Minnesota has a great chance to repeat.

Story continues below advertisement

Cleveland Guardians
Last season was the first time Cleveland hadn’t finished in the top two spots in the division since 2015. The team remains relatively similar to last year and will look to exit the middle of the pack.

José Ramirez continues to make a case to be considered as baseball’s best third baseman, knocking 36 doubles and 24 home runs, while swiping 28 bags. Steven Kwan has been elite since joining the big club, drilling 36 doubles, stealing 21 bases and winning his second straight Gold Glove. The Naylor brothers, Josh and Bo, will be two big bats for the middle of the lineup. Second baseman Andreś Giménez struggled at the plate, but improved on the basepaths and remained sure-handed at second base, winning his second consecutive Gold Glove. Cleveland’s top prospect Brayan Rocchio will look to show off his power to the gaps and speed on the base paths, like he did with the Columbus Clippers, Cleveland’s AAA affiliate.

The rotation remains similar to last season, with Shane Bieber looking to build up his stock with his free agency looming. Gavin Williams, Logan Allen and Tanner Bibee were all excellent in their first seasons in the show. Triston McKenzie missed a majority of the 2023 season due to injury and will look to return to the elite production he showed in 2022. The bullpen is headlined by Emmanuel Clase, one of the most feared pitchers in today’s game, with Sam Hentges and James Karinchak being supporting pieces in the ‘pen.

Cleveland is a team that is going to be overlooked, but with the talent the team has, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Cleveland win the division.

Kansas City Royals
Kansas City has been subpar at best since winning the 2015 World Series. Despite its struggles, Kansas City is looking prime to be a legitimate threat in the division.

Bobby Witt Jr. is quickly becoming one of the MLB’s best young talents and Kansas City put their faith in him, signing Witt Jr. to an 11-year, $288.7 million contract. Longtime catcher Salvador Pérez earned his eighth All-Star nod last season, popping 23 long balls and driving in 80 runs. Vinnie Pasquantino will look to remain on the field after his season was cut short after a shoulder injury. MJ Melendez has yet to show off the offensive production from when he was a prospect at the big league level. Kyle Isbel, Michael Massey and Maikel García are three of the young, unproven bats that Kansas City will want to contribute offensively this season.

Cole Ragans will be atop the Royals’ rotation, after being elite since coming over from Texas last season. Brady Singer regressed after his breakout 2022 season and will look to bounce back. Kansas City brought in Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo to be reliable arms, after both were phenomenal with San Diego last season. The Royals brought in Nick Anderson and Will Smith to help an underwhelming bullpen.

Though Kansas City hasn’t been a legitimate threat in nearly a decade, the young core of players it has can help the Royals be the future of the AL Central.

Detroit Tigers
Detroit hasn’t been above .500 since 2016, though last season was promising, improving 12 wins from 2022 to last season. The Tigers will look to continue to improve, with a chance to clinch a Wild Card spot.

After a lackluster rookie season, Spencer Torkelson popped 31 home runs and 34 doubles, driving in 94 runs. Riley Greene improved in all offensive categories last season, despite only playing five more games. In his first full season, Kerry Carpenter proved to be one of the key bats in the lineup for Detroit. Prospects Parker Meadows and Colt Keith, who was given a six-year contract despite not logging a major league at bat, will have a chance to prove themselves as starters in Detroit’s lineup. Since moving to the Motor City, Javier Báez hasn’t been able to prove he was worth the six-year pact with him.

Over the past two seasons, Tarik Skubal has shown flashes of being elite and will look to sustain it over a whole season. Similarly to Skubal, Matt Manning is looking to be elite over an entire season. Detroit brought in Jack Flarherty and Kenta Maeda to be veterans in the rotation. A pair of arms to look out for from Detroit’s bullpen is Alex Lange and Jason Foley, who both had solid 2023 seasons.

The Tigers are a young team, but many of them have shown flashes of being great. If the Tigers are able to be consistent throughout the season, Detroit could be a force to be reckoned with.

Chicago White Sox
The SouthSiders have regressed each of the last two seasons and it seems like its trend of struggles will continue.

Despite the team being woeful, Luis Robert Jr. was a superstar, ripping 36 doubles, popping 38 home runs and swiping 20 bases, en route to his first All-Star nomination and Silver Slugger. First baseman Andrew Vaughn has been on a trend producing more power and will look to keep that routine going. Eloy Jiménez was finally able to remain on the field, after being plagued with injuries the last two seasons. The rest of the projected starters are looking to bounce back after subpar seasons, such as Andrew Benintendi and Yoán Moncada.

The two top arms of the White Sox, Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease struggled to find any consistency throughout the season. The rest of the arms in the pitching staff have been underwhelming or haven’t logged enough innings to have an opinion.

Chicago will be in the cellar of the AL Central and it’s hard to see any other outcome.

All stats are from Baseball Reference as of March 3, 2024.

Contact the writer: [email protected]

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Vincent Goldschmidt
Vincent Goldschmidt, Sports Editor
Vincent Goldschmidt is a sophomore Multimedia Communications Major, on the track of Sports Media, and is the Sports Editor for the Wood Word. Along with his Wood Word work, he hosts a sports talk show, He Knows Ball, on VMFM 91.7, serves as the Sports Director and a Sports Anchor for TV-Marywood, and commentates for Marywood Athletics.
Translate »