Welcome to the Gigantic SOX & Dawgs 2011 MLB preview.  Over the next week you will get a team by team look at its key players, new faces, their potential MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year candidates, their possible starting lineup and rotation as well as a quick summary.

This preview was sculpted over a nearly seven week period this off season with some mild tweaking as we went along prior to publication.  It comes from a culmination of reading so many baseball magazines, periodicals, articles and websites that in some cases I may know a team better that its own management. 

Yesterday we looked at the NL Central, Sunday was the NL West, Monday was the AL West and today it’s the AL Central.

To continue reading, click on the read more button below if you’re on the home page.

American League Central

Detroit Tigers1. Detroit – Manager: Jim Leyland (6th year/20th overall)

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander kneels after Cleveland Indians' Michael Brantley scored from third on a squeeze bunt by Trevor Crowe in the fifth inning of the second game of a baseball doubleheader Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010, in Cleveland.Once again the Tigers intrigue me the most in this division.  They made some changes in the rotation with speculation that Brad Penny, Rick Porcello and Phil Coke will join Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer leaving Jeremy Bonderman out of the mix for now.  They also added a bat in DH/C Victor Martinez.  V-Mart will see some time behind the dish and possibly at first base but look for Alex Avila to be the starting backstop come opening day with Victor as the designated hitter.  I really like this team and I think they will not only contend but they’re my choice to win the division. The Tigers have built a very solid everyday lineup and have a lot of power arms in the pitching staff.  Jim Leyland will be able to do a lot with this club.

Key Players: 3B Brandon Inge; RF Magglio Ordonez; 1B Miguel Cabrera; DH/C Victor Martinez; C Alex Avila

MVP Candidate: Miguel Cabrera 1B.

Cy Young Candidate: Justin Verlander SP.

ROY Candidate: none

Key Additions: DH/C Victor Martinez (FA-Bos); RP Joaquin Benoit (FA-TB); SP Brad Penny (FA-StL)

Possible lineup: Jackson CF; Peralta SS; Martinez DH; Cabrera 1B; Ordonez RF; Guillen  2B; Inge 3B; Bosch LF; Avila C

Possibe rotation: Verlander; Scherzer; Porcello; Penny; Coke

Minnesota Twins2. Minnesota – Manager: Ron Gardenhire (10th year)

Minnesota Twins' Joe Mauer watches after hitting a three-run home run against the Chicago White Sox during the fifth inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010.The Minnesota Twins opened Target Field last year and it was a huge success and they won the AL Central. The team will once again compete for the division with former AL MVPs  Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau along with re-signed veteran DH Jim Thome and RF Jason Kubel swinging the big bats.  The Twins also brought back SP Carl “the porn ‘stache” Pavano, they should have closer Joe Nathan back after missing all of last season with an injury to solidify the back end.  They also have a new double play combo up the middle.  This team is always in contention and it should be another three team race for the AL Central this fall. No team in the last 10-15 has done better at getting the most out of a mid range salary lineup.

Key Players: C Joe Mauer; 1B Justin Morneau; RF Jason Kubel; DH Jim Thome; RP Joe Nathan; SP Francisco Liriano.

MVP Candidate: C Joe Mauer and 1B Justin Morneau

Cy Young Candidate: SP Francisco Liriano

ROY Candidate: SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka

Key Additions: SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka (FA-Japan);

Possible lineup: Spann CF; Casilla 2B; Mauer C; Morneau 1B; Young LF; Cuddyer RF; Kubel DH; Valencia 3B; Nishioka SS

Possible rotation: Liriano; Baker; Slowey; Pavano; Blackburn

Chicago White Sox3. Chicago – Manager: Ozzie Guillen (8th year)

Chicago White Sox's Paul Konerko reacts after being called out on strikes during the 11th inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers in Chicago, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2010. The tigers won 9-7.The Chicago White Sox after missing the playoffs in 2010 the White Sox overhauled their bullpen and signed power hitting DH/1B Adam Dunn, to hit in front of 1B Paul Konerko.  They also kept C A.J. Pierzynski.  The offense will be similar this year in fact they should have more bop with Dunn, which means more HRs and RBI and more Ks. If the rotation holds up they’ll be a player for the division title and possible AL wildcard.  They need Jake Peavy to be healthy and pitch most of the season and right now they do not know when he will be ready although they are hopeful for April.

Key Players: 1B Paul Konerko; 2B Gordon Beckham; CF Alexis Rios; DH Adam Dunn; RF Carlos Quentin; SP Mark Buehrle .

MVP Candidate: 1B Adam Dunn.

Cy Young Candidate: SP Mark Buehrle

ROY Candidate: 3B Brent Morel and RP Chris Sale

Key Additions: 1B Adam Dunn (FA-Was); RP Jesse Crain (FA-Min); RP Will Ohman (FA-Fla); 3B Brent Morel (Rookie)

Possible lineup: Pierre LF; Ramirez SS; Dunn DH; Konerko 1B; Rios CF; Quentin RF; Beckham 2B; Pierzynski C; Morel 3B

Possible rotation: Buehrle; Danks; Floyd; Jackson; Peavy/Harrell

Cleveland Indians4. Cleveland – Manager: Manny Acta (2nd year/5th overall)

The only thing that keeps this team out of the AL Central cellar is the Kansas City Royals.  Tribe fans there is a lot of work to do here and when you’re competing with Detroit, Minnesota and Chicago with decent payrolls and good players it’s hard to keep your head above the water line.  Hopefully the return of a fully healthy Grady Sizemore will help this team.  The real problem is the pitching after Fausto Carmona and Justin Masterson in the rotation they are pretty thin.  Look for great things out of C Carlos Santana.

Cleveland Indians Shin-Soo Choo walks back to the dug-out during an MLB American League baseball game in Detroit, Michigan in this April 9, 2010 file photo. The South Korean slugger agreed to a one-year contract with Major League Baseball's Cleveland Indians and avoided salary arbitration, the team said on Tuesday. The team did not disclose financial terms of the deal but local media reported Choo, who batted .300 with 22 homers, 90 RBIs and 22 stolen bases last season, received a huge raise with his salary jumping to $3.97 million from $461,100.Key Players: CF Grady Sizemore; 1B Matt LaPorta; LF Michael Brantley; RF Shin-Soo Choo; SP Fausto Carmona

MVP Candidate: CF Grady Sizemore

Cy Young Candidate: SP Fausto Carmona

ROY Candidate: SP Josh Tomlin

Key Additions: INF Adam Everett (FA-Det): SS Orlando Cabrera (FA-Cin); OF Austin Kearns (FA-NYY)

Possible lineup: Sizemore CF; Cabrera SS; Choo RF; Santana C; LaPorta 1B; Hafner DH; Nix 3B; Brantley LF; Valbuena 2B

Possible rotation: Carmona; Masterson; Gomez; Carrasco; Tomlin

Kansas City Royals5. Kansas City – Manager: Ned Yost (2nd year/8th overall)

The Royals will once again be the bottom feeders in the AL Central.  Last season they changed managers 35 games into the year dumping Trey Hillman for Ned Yost.  Then this off season they traded away their star pitcher Zack Greinke to Milwaukee.  I don’t see how that will help them get any better.  They also lost SP Gil Meche to retirement just prior to spring training.  Good thing Royals fans are loyal the die hards still turn out all summer long and in 2012 they’ll host the All-Star game.

Pitcher Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals in action during the game against the New York Yankees on August 15, 2010 at Kauffman stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.Key Players: SS Alcides Escobar; DH Billy Butler; CF Melky Cabrera; RF Jeff Francoeur; SP Luke Hochevar

MVP Candidate: RF Jeff Francoeur

Cy Young Candidate: RP Joakim Soria

ROY Candidate: 3B Mike Moustakas

Key Additions: SS Alcides Escobar (Trade-Mil); CF Melky Cabrera (FA-Atl); SP Jeff Francis (FA-Col); RF Jeff Francoeur (FA-Tex); 3B Mike Moustakas (Rookie)

Possible lineup: Cabrera CF; Aviles 2B; Gordon LF; Butler DH; Maier 1B; Francoeur RF; Moustakas 3B; Escobar SS; Pena C

Possible rotation: Hochevar; Francis; Davies; O’Sullivan; Mazzaro

Tomorrow, in Day 5, we will preview the NL East.

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