Welcome to the Gigantic Sox and Dawgs 2014 MLB preview. Over the next few days 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.
We will also select a MVP candidate and Cy Young candidate for each team no matter what their predicted team outcome is.
Also added this year is some home stadium information along with dates the teams will play against the Boston Red Sox. The red shaded games are at Fenway; the blue shaded games are road games.
This preview was sculpted over the off season with some mild tweaking as we went along prior to publication. It comes from a culmination of reading many hours of baseball research.
I hope you enjoy this look at the upcoming season.
Yesterday we looked at the NL Central, Sunday was the NL West, Monday was the AL West and today it’s the AL Central.
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American League Central
Detroit is the class of the division and has been the last couple years and will be again in 2014. Last season we saw the resurgence in Kansas City and Cleveland start to pay off as the Indians were a wild card team and the Royals hung in well into September. For the third consecutive season there’s a new manager in the division and this time it’s in Detroit who had to replace the retired Jim Leyland.
1. Detroit – Manager Brad Ausmus (1st year)
After losing in the ALCS to the Boston Red Sox manager Jim Leyland decided to walk away after 8 years in Detroit. While unable to win a title in that time he did lead the Tigers to two World Series appearances. Taking over is Dartmouth College grad and CT native Brad Ausmus who is considered one of the top young baseball people in the game. The Tiger lineup has a few changes with Prince Fielder in Texas as Ian Kinsler came over in the deal, back-to-back AL MVP Miguel Cabrera moved from 3B to 1B and the left side of the infield is young with 3B Nick Castellanos and SS Jose Iglesias. The rotation is top notch as they had another AL CYA winner in Max Scherzer and the backend issue has been solved by signing FA closer Joe Nathan.
Home Field: Comerica Park; Playing Surface: natural grass Opened: 2000; Capacity: 41,255
2013 Attendance: 3,083,397 (3rd in AL)
Key Players: 1B Miguel Cabrera; C Alex Avila; SP Justin Verlander; DH Victor Martinez; RP Joe Nathan
MVP Candidate: 1B Miguel Cabrera
Cy Young Candidate: SP Justin Verlander
ROY Candidate: 3B Nick Castellanos
Key Additions: Mgr. Brad Ausmus; 2B Ian Kinsler; 3B Nick Castellanos; IF/OF Steve Lombardozzi; OF Rajai Davis; RP Joe Nathan, RP Joba Chamberlain; RP Ian Krol
Possible lineup: Kinsler 2B; Hunter RF; Cabrera 1B; Martinez DH; Jackson CF; Avila C; Dirks LF; Castellanos 3B; Iglesias SS
Possible rotation: Verlander; Scherzer; Sanchez; Porcello; Smyly
Games against Red Sox in 2014: May 16-18; June 6-8
2. Kansas City – Manager Ned Yost (5th year/11th overall)
The Royals contended in 2013 nearly to the end before falling off and I expect the same this year as they and the Indians will battle for second in the division and one of the two AL Wild Card spots. Kansas City strengthened the rotation by adding Jason Vargas and bringing back Bruce Chen and the top of the order by adding Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante. Billy Butler could find himself as deadline bait should they need an arm or a bat. Kansas City and Cleveland are really kind of 2A and 2B in this division and closer to Detroit than to Chicago and Minnesota.
Home Field: Kauffman Stadium; Playing Surface: natural grass; Opened: 1973; Capacity: 37,903
2013 Attendance: 1,750,754 (12th in AL)
Key Players: 1B Eric Hosmer; 3B Mike Moustakas; DH Billy Butler; SP James Shields; SP Wade Davis
MVP Candidate: 1B Eric Hosmer
Cy Young Candidate: SP James Shields
ROY Candidate: SP Yordano Ventura
Key Additions: SP Jason Vargas; IF Danny Valencia; 2B Omar Infante; RF Norichika Aoki; OF Carlos Peguero; SP Bruce Chen; IF/OF Jimmy Paredes
Possible lineup: Aoki RF; Infante 2B; Hosmer 1B; Butler DH; Perez C; Gordon LF; Cain CF; Moustakas 3B; Escobar SS
Possible Rotation: Shields; Guthrie; Vargas; Davis; Duffy
Games against Red Sox in 2014: July 18-20; September 11-14
3. Cleveland – Manager Terry Francona (2nd year/14th overall)
The Indians made a nice run in 2013 earning a wild card in the first year under Terry Francona. Now they need some more of that magic and for the pitching both in the rotation and the bullpen to help carry them. They could probably use another big bat in the middle of the lineup and may peddle SS Asdrubal Cabrera in a package to try to get one near the deadline because prospect SS Francisco Lindor appears ready to make the jump. The Indians surprise move of the winter is they’ve announced they are moving Carlos Santana, one time catching prospect, from the DH/1B slot to the teams every day 3B. Really. With that I’d imagine they will try to get 43 year old Jason Giambi into the lineup more regular as the DH. Does this really make them a better team?
Home Field: Progressive Field; Playing Surface: natural grass; Opened: 1994; Capacity: 42,241
2013 Attendance: 1,572,926 (14th in AL)
Key Players: 3B Carlos Santana; 1B Nick Swisher; CF Michael Bourn; 2B Jason Kipnis; SP Justin Masterson
MVP Candidate: 2B Jason Kipnis
Cy Young Candidate: SP Justin Masterson
ROY Candidate: SS Francisco Lindor
Key Additions: RF David Murphy; 1B David Cooper, IF Dave Adams; RP John Axford; RP Josh Outman; C Matt Treanor; SP Shaun Marcum; RP Matt Capps; RP Scott Atchison; OF Jeff Francoeur; IF Justin Sellers
Possible lineup: Bourn CF; Kipnis 2B; Swisher 1B; Santana 3B; Bradley LF; Murphy RF; Giambi DH; Cabrera SS; Gomes C
Possible rotation: Masterson; Kluber; McAllister; Salazar; Marcum
Games against Red Sox in 2014: June 12-15; June 2-4
4. Chicago – Manager Robin Ventura (3rd year)
The White Sox made an effort this off season to strengthen the corners of the infield by signing Cuban FA 1B Jose Abreu and getting 3B Matt Davidson a former 1st round pick from Arizona for RP Addison Reed. They also changed their CF by getting Adam Eaton in the three way deal with the Diamondbacks and Angels that saw Mark Trumbo and Tyler Skaggs switch uniforms too. So Rick Hahn has injected 3 good young players into the lineup and if the bullpen performs as it did last season, they could see an improvement in the standings.
Home Field: U.S. Cellular Field; Playing Surface: natural grass Opened: 1991; Capacity: 40,615
2013 Attendance: 1,768,413 (10th in AL)
Key Players: SP Chris Sale; CF Adam Eaton; LF Alejandro De Aza; 1B Jose Abreu; DH Adam Dunn
MVP Candidate: LF Alejandro De Aza
Cy Young Candidate: SP Chris Sale
ROY Candidate: 1B Jose Abreu; SP Erik Johnson
Key Additions: 1B Jose Abreu; SP Erik Johnson; 3B Matt Davidson; CF Adam Eaton; C Adrian Neito; SP Felipe Paulino; RP Ronald Belasario; RP Scott Downs
Possible lineup: Eaton CF; De Aza LF; Abreu 1B; Dunn DH; Garcia RF; Davidson 3B; Ramirez SS; Beckham 2B; Flowers C
Possible rotation: Sale; Quintana; Danks; Johnson; Paulino
Games against Red Sox in 2014: July 7-10; April 15-17
5. Minnesota – Manager Ron Gardenhire (13th year)
The Twins have a beautiful ball park and some loyal fans and they’ll need both to continue to draw because if they don’t get big contributions from free agent signees SP Ricky Nolasco and SP Phil Hughes, they will sink and quickly. They only have 2 prospects at AAA but one, SP Alex Meyer, has a chance to be a starter and you could see him by June. After that 6 of the remaining Top 10 are High A level ballplayers or lower, so help from within isn’t coming anytime soon. They’ve also moved All-Star and batting champ Joe Mauer from C to 1B and brought in Kurt Suzuki to catch. Suzuki is above average but he isn’t Mauer in any aspect of his game. The move should help keep Mauer healthy which is the most important thing for the Twins.
Home Field: Target Field; Playing Surface: natural grass; Opened: 2010; Capacity: 39,021
2013 Attendance: 2,477,644 (7th in AL)
Key Players: 1B Joe Mauer; LF Josh Willingham; SP Ricky Nolasco; RP Glen Perkins
MVP Candidate: 1B Joe Mauer
Cy Young Candidate: RP Glen Perkins
ROY Candidate: SP Alex Meyer
Key Additions: DH Jason Kubel; C Kurt Suzuki; SP Phil Hughes; SP Ricky Nolasco; SS Jason Bartlett
Possible lineup: Presley CF; Dozier 2B; Mauer 1B; Willingham LF; Kubel DH; Arcia RF; Plouffe 3B; Suzuki C; Florimon SS
Possible rotation: Nolasco; Correira; Hughes; Worley; Pelfrey
Games against Red Sox in 2014: June 16-18; May 13-15
Tomorrow, in Day 5, we will preview the NL East.
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