Expectations: Prince Fielder hopes to live up to his father’s legacy in the Motor City, and the Tigers hope to snap a near 30-year title drought.
Key Addition: 1B/DH Prince Fielder (signed from Milwaukee)
Key Loss: DH Magglie Ordonez (free agent)
Projected Record: 97-65
Summary: Expecations are very high in Detroit as the Tigers are coming off a 95 win season and have signed one of the biggest free agents in Prince Fielder. Fielder allows Miguel Cabrera to move back to third base which is his natural position. The combination of Cabrera and Fielder in the lineup should allow the Tigers to score a tone of runs and take control of the AL Central.
The Tigers also have a very strong pitching staff. Justin Verlander is the reigning AL Cy Young and MVP and was a dominating 24-5 in 2011. Combine that with Max Scherzer and Doug Fister, who can win 15 games this year, and this is one of the stronger rotations in the American League.
Their closer Jose Valverde went 49-for-49 in save opportunities last season.This provides the Tigers with a great back end to games and can assure that none get away.
Detroit will be one of the better teams in baseball this season and has to be a World Series contender.
Expectations: The Royals used to be the laughing stock of baseball. But now they’re loaded with young talent and can only look up.
Key Addition: SP Jonathan Sanchez (acquired from San Francisco)
Key Loss: OF Melky Cabrera (traded to San Francisco)
Projected Record: 82-80
Summary: First baseman Eric Hosmer was arguably the Royals’ best player in 2011 as he hit .293 and hit 18 home runs and knocked in 78 RBIs. Hosmer is one of the top young hitters in baseball and should pick up right where he left off.
Outfielder Jeff Francoeur proved to be a very good signing. Francoeur never really seemed to fit in with the Braves and Mets. But he really was a great veteran presence in Kansas City as he tied for the team lead in home runs (20) and was second in RBIs (87).
In their big move of the offseason, the Royals traded Melky Cabrera to the Giants for lefty Jonathan Sanchez. Sanchez is a nice middle-of-the-rotation guy who will help a Royals team that didn’t have a starter with more than 12 wins. It looks like they unloaded Zach Greinke a year too soon.
Veteran Bruce Chen and youngster Luke Hochevar are back and should be solid. The Royals are an ace away from being a possible Wild Card team in the American League. However, they should compete hard and will be very entertaining to watch.
Expectations: They will finish “juuust a bit outside” the playoff race.
Key Addition: 1B Casey Kotchman (signed from Tampa Bay)
Key Loss: DH Jim Thome (signed with Philadelphia)
Projected Record: 80-82
Summary: The Indians went for it last year and traded for Ubaldo Jiminez. The move didn’t work out as Jiminez ended the season with an ERA over five. However if the Jiminez of 2010 returns, Cleveland could have a nice young rotation with Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin, and Jiminez.
The Indians lineup is pretty much the same. A healthy Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo could go a long way towards a winning season. Carlos Santana will look to get back on track. Santana hit only .239 but did have 27 home runs for an underachieving Indians squad. This was a team who contended for most of last season and could do the same if injuries don’t derail them.
Expectations: Joe Mauer will need to spend more time behind the plate than doing Heads and Shoulders commercials.
Key Addition: SS Jamey Carroll (signed from LA Dodgers)
Key Loss: OF Michael Cuddyer (signed with Colorado)
Projected Record: 70-92
Summary: Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau have to stay healthy and produce if the Twins are going to compete in 2012. The duo only played in 151 games combined last season with less than 70 RBIs. Denard Span is back as the table-setter and provides some speed. Other than that, the Minnesota lineup is nothing to brag about.
The pitching rotation is average at best. Veterans Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano are back and they added Jason Marquis. They lack a number-one starter and that could be a back-breaker for a team that isn’t very talented at the plate. Matt Capps returns as their closer but his opportunities may be few and far between.
Expectations: When they play the Rangers, maybe Nolan Ryan will charge the mound and put manager Robin Ventura in a headlock.
Key Addition: OF Kosuke Fukudome (signed from Chicago Cubs)
Key Loss: Carlos Quentin (signed with San Diego)
Projected Record: 65-97
Summary: Whether the White Sox want to admit it or not, they are in rebuild mode. They shipped Carlos Quentin and closer Sergio Santos out of town this offseason.
They are counting on a solid mix of youth and veterans to get the job done. Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, and Gordon Beckham all had miserable years at the plate. If the trio can get back on track, Chicago has a shot to contend.
Unfortunately, the pitching is just not there. Yes they still have Jake Peavy but this is not the former Cy Young Jake Peavy. He had a 7-7 record with a 4.92 ERA in 2011. Youngster Chris Sale could be the pleasant surprise. He is a former reliever who was solid last year as he had a sub 3.00 ERA.
Chicago certainly will live and die by pitching in 2012.