Continuing our eastward journey, we now move onto to the AL Central. Last season the division was dominated by Detroit, as the Tigers finished far ahead of the pack. They look primed to repeat as no other team did much to improve their squad and compete with them, while Detroit has everyone back. However, there is a ton of promise for some teams. The Royals are just beginning to reap the benefits of their very rich farm system and the Indians have young players ready to take the next steps. The White Sox and Twins look to be on the decline, but you never how the season will turn out, so it should still be an interesting season in the AL Central.

1) Detroit Tigers
Detroit has the pieces to repeat as division champs. When Victor Martinez went down it looked bad, but signing 1B Prince Fielder took care of that. Having him behind new 3B Miguel Cabrera form a very potent 3-4 punch. The supporting cast, including CF Austin Jackson, SS Jhonny Peralta and RF Brennan Boesch is solid it’s not inconceivable that every lineup regular could finish the season with a double digit HR total. Justin Verlander is a rock atop the rotation and will continue to put up imppresive numbers. Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello are entrenched behind him, though the latter has consistency issues. Doug Fister will likely not repeat his absurdly low ERA over a full, but is a solid #4 starter. The bullpen is backended by Jose Valverde, a good but not great closer, and a plethora of relievers, with Al Albuquerque, Joaquin Benoit and Octavio Dotel in particular being strong options.

2) Cleveland Indians
Last season for Cleveland featured alot of breakouts and surprises and they look to be on the way up, but not nearly close enough to challenge Detroit for the division. Chief among those breakouts were C Carlos Santana and SS Asdrubal Cabrera who supplied most of the power last year. The squad also saw the surprise emergence of young players in 2B Jason Kipnis and 3B  Lonnie Chisenhall, who should continue to develop. The lineup’s biggest question mar is how Grady Sizemore will fit in. The rotation is a bit of a mystery. Justin Masterson had a solid year and will continue to grow into the staff’s ace, but there are questions of whether Ubaldo Jimenez can regain his dominance and if Derek Lowe can bounce back. If the rotation struggles, at least they know they have a stout bullpen to back them up. Chris Perez will close out games, supported by Joe Smith, Dan Wheeler, Rafael Perez and Vinnie Pestano, who can fill in for Perez.

3) Kansas City Royals
This is the year the Royals take a major step forward. Their offense is young but loaded, with power bats in 1B Eric Hosmer, 3B Mike Moustakas, DH Billy Butler and LF Alex Gordon. 2B Johnny Giavotella and CF Lorenzo Cain are also emerging stars. The pitching staff is talented as well, but there are many more question marks. Luke Hochevar, Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino all struggled but have the skills to bounce back. Bruce Chen was the rotation’s best last season and now the talented but inconsistent Jonathan Sanchez is on board. As for the bullpen, closer Joakim Soria looks to regain his form of a few years ago and Jonathan Broxton is a reclamation project. The team does have Greg Holland, Louis Coleman and Aaron Crow as solid relief options.

4) Chicago White Sox
Like their brethren on the North Side, the White Sox appear to be headed towards a decline. The lineup is packed with power, supplied by 1B Paul Konerko and DH Adam Dunn. There are also a number of young players, such as 3B Brent Morel, 2B Gordon Beckham and LF Dayan Viciedo, who must step up if the team is to climb the standings. The problem is that several players will not hit for high averages, the biggest culprits being Dunn and CF Alex Rios. The rotation will be an issue all season. There is no true ace or workhouse on the staff and while Gavin Floyd and John Danks have potential, they are just too inconsistent. Jake Peavy has not regained his form, but the continued development of Chris Sale is something to watch. There is no clear-cut closer with Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain possibilities and the rest of the bullpen has no real stars.

5) Minnesota Twins
The Twins have fallen a long from their ’09-’10 division titles and it doesn’t look like they’ll be getting back there anytime soon. The offense will be challenged as stars Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau must come back from injury marred seasons. Their best option Michael Cuddyer is gone and the team will need big seasons from 3B Danny Valencia, LF Ben Revere and UT Trevor Plouffe along with new addition RF Josh Willingham. Their rotation is not what it used to be from their division winning days. Who knows if Francisco Liriano will ever get back on track and Carl Pavano is nowhere near the ace Minnesota needs him to be. Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn are solid but unspectacular starters. Gone from the bullpen is Joe Nathan and Matt Capps looks to repalce him and there is no real upside in the rest of the pen.