We simply cannot wait for the new MLB season to start, and we are counting down the days until that very first pitch is thrown. If you are like us and love the MLB, then you definitely need to have a read on below, as we take a look at each and every team from the AL Central and analyze their chances for success in this brand new season.
Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox will come into 2022 with consecutive playoff appearances under their belt, however it has resulted in back-to-back first round exits. They are hoping that year 2 under manager Tony La Russa will yield better results for them, as they still have a strong batting lineup, pitching staff and arguably the best closer in the American League.
They’ll also come into the year viewed as the only real contender to win this AL Central due to the incompetence of the other four teams. That was the case last year and many believe was part of the reason the Sox looked so bad in the playoffs last year, because they were able to cruise into the playoffs with a huge division lead and looked like a team that hadn’t had to try in many months.
TA doing TA things. #ChangeTheGame | @NBCSChicago pic.twitter.com/O7Ge5bVSeO
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) April 3, 2022
Now entering 2022, Chicago has lofty expectations again and have the 3rd best odds to win the World Series. A big reason for that is their great pitching staff which finished top four last season in both ERA and WHIP. The loss of their star pitcher Carlos Rodin to the San Francisco Giants in the offseason will cause a slight ding to their production but it paves the way for 25-year old Michael Kopech to return to the rotation. Kopech has a lot of promise with a fastball that ranks in the 98th percentile in spin and 96th percentile in velocity.
In 69 ⅓ innings last season, Kopech struck out 103 batters and only walked 24. The Sox should be very excited for his full-time starting role alongside Dallas Keuchel, who is looking to have a huge bounce-back year, and Dylan Cease, who wants to build on a breakout 2021 campaign. For the offense, it will be very scary with young and dynamic talent all up and down the lineup.
They are a patient bunch too, finishing last season with the fourth-most walks (586) and a top 3 on base percentage (.336). Tim Anderson is a fun young star who is just getting better and alongside Luis Robert, Yoán Moncada, José Abreu, Yasmani Grandal, and Eloy Jiménez expect this offense to once again to be amongst the tops in the league. These guys will be your American League Central Champions and the books expect it too, giving them a negative price on the bet. It’s just about if they’ll finally be able to get over that hump and win a playoff series from there.
The Cleveland Guardians made a name change in the offseason but they still have not changed their philosophy on roster-building which is very frugal. Cleveland only signed one MLB free agent this offseason, backup catcher Luke Maile, and will enter the season with the third-lowest payroll in all of baseball. On offense, the Guardians are led by Jose Ramirez, who is one of the best hitters in the American League.
There are still question marks on if he will begin the season with Cleveland as the trade rumors continue to swirl, so that’s something to keep an eye out for. Losing Ramirez would obviously be a huge blow to a lineup that only returns a couple league-average hitters. They will be very reliant on their farm system this year and young prospects like Steven Kwan who is expected to start in left field.
Ernie Clement gets the start in left field tonight.#ForTheLand pic.twitter.com/6ilgCLChFN
— Cleveland Guardians (@CleGuardians) April 4, 2022
Kwan is apart of an outfield group that lacks a lot of pop at the plate but will get a boost from the return of Josh Naylor, who is expected back shortly after the season starts as he continues to recover from his leg fracture. On the pitching side, Cleveland will be happy to be getting ace Shane Beiber back after missing half of 2021 with a shoulder strain. They didn’t make any moves at pitcher, so their hope is that some of their young arms like Zac Plesac, Cal Quantrill, or Triston McKenzie take that next step forward.
The bullpen had the third-best ERA in baseball last season and is expected to be solid once again this year, led by Emmanuel Class who has one of the top fastballs in the league. 2021 was Cleveland’s first losing season in almost a decade so they have been known for their ability to churn their roster and rely on their great scouting and development of their prospects. That is why you can’t completely rule them out as being a competitive team but it will likely be a long year that will see them middle of the pack in the division.
The Detroit Tigers will hope to begin the 2022 season much better than they did the 2021 campaign. It was a disastrous April that saw Detroit win only 8 of their first 27 games and had the worst record in all of baseball. From that point on though, they posted a winning record in four of the next five months en route to going 69-66 the rest of the way.
That surge at the end of the year was led by their young core and made many believe their long rebuild may finally be ending. The front office also believed it and went out and traded for Tucker Barnhart, who is a very good veteran catcher, less than 24 hours after the World Series concluded. $217 million was then spent on free agent pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez and $140 million on infielder Javier Baez. Pairing these veterans with the homegrown talent is the perfect blend that could see the Tigers make the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
Saturday: Tork gets the good news.
Sunday: Tork gets to work. pic.twitter.com/U0FEhWP0SH
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) April 3, 2022
That homegrown talent is highlighted by their rotation that features the young arms of Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal. We should also expect to see center fielder Riley Greene, a consensus top-10 prospect in baseball, get called up at some point this season. I like where this team is headed and if they can bring in another arm or two to beef up their starting rotation, this team could really make some noise in what may be Tiger legend Miguel Cabrera’s last season.
Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals came out of the gates firing and led the AL Central for a bit during the first month of the season but it didn’t last long. In fact, they were only 1 game back of last place by the time it was all said and done. The lone bright spot for Kansas City in 2021 was Salvador Perez who batted .273, with 48 home runs and 121 RBIs. Those numbers were good enough to finish 7th in the AL MVP race and earn Perez his 7th all star nomination.
A lot of fans around baseball are excited for the debut of Kansas City’s top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. The former #2 overall pick will finally get his chance to play shortstop at the big league level in this rebuilding year. The pitching core for the Royals is also young and trying to gain experience at this level. Brady Singer, Daniel Lynch, Kris Bubic, and Jackson Kowar all were able to get a lot of run last season due to the lack of veteran presence in the pitching staff so it should be expected that they take steps forward after a full offseason in the MLB.
Back at it tomorrow.#RoyalsST
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) April 3, 2022
Brady Singer is the one who is expected to take the biggest step forward and become the ace of the future. The former first-round pick back in 2018 got his first full season in 2021 and had a 4.91 ERA which isn’t anything to write home about, but showed plenty of promise. This team has the worst odds to win the division and it makes sense why after not making any notable moves in the offseason. Their rotation will once again be a rollercoaster since the majority of the guys have less than 2 years experience. We aren’t expecting the Royals to make any noise this year.
Last season, the Minnesota Twins were the team tagged with the last place spot in the division at 73-89. It was a disappointment for the organization, who was dead set on making a splash in free agency to make sure they have a much better showing in 2022. That deal finally happened on March 22, when it was made official that the biggest free agent of 2022, Carlos Correa, was signing with the Twins.
The move to bring in the star shortstop immediately made them a team you have to take seriously and was much needed after the departure of third baseman Josh Donaldson. Minnesota also brought in catcher Gary Sanchez and third baseman Gio Urshela, in addition to extending center fielder Byron Buxton’s contract. The pitching staff wasn’t ignored either, as they also traded for former Reds pitcher Sonny Gray and signed free agent Chris Archer.
Week 3️⃣ in the books! pic.twitter.com/6QXN050zxW
— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) April 4, 2022
It’s apparent the Twins’ aggressive approach had to do with seeing an opportunity to make noise in this mediocre division that is wide open after the Chicago White Sox. The expanded playoffs is perfect for a bubble team like Minnesota and with all the moves they made I would not be surprised to see them battling in the wild card game come September.
When the 2022 MLB season does eventually kick off, make sure SportsTips is your go-to destination for MLB picks. We will provide daily MLB picks from our expects, so you can place your bets with more confidence!