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MLB’s 2020 Shortened Season, Shorter Preview: The AL Central

In a shortened MLB season, who has the best odds at taking the AL West? The Royals? The Twins? The White Sox? The Tigers? How about Cleveland?

Target Field by Andy Witchger is licensed under CC 2.0

MLB’s 2020 Shortened Season, Shorter Preview: The AL Central

Estimated Reading Time: 7 Minutes

The 60 game MLB Season is upon us, and what better way to begin a shortened season than with some truncated analysis and team previews. So we’ve taken the best bits from our “30 in 30” Preview series and put them all in one, easily accessible place.

So let’s dive into the American League Central!

Chicago White Sox – Tim Olsen

The fans of the White Sox have every right to expect a winning team this year. The general manager doesn’t want to dampen those expectations:

“If people want to get excited about this, if they want to have high expectations and high hopes, that’s fantastic,” Hahn said. “All we can do is be transparent about this process and what we are trying to do.

“All we can do is put players in the best position to succeed and augment the roster appropriately as needed. But what it’s really going to be about is it puts us in the position to get to that final goal of contending and winning multiple championships. That’s where I think the excitement should be about what this means for the long term.”

I believe Keuchel and Grandal will prove to be an effective battery on the mound and provide crucial veteran leadership throughout the season. Star Prospect Michael Kopech will come back for the mid-season and will provide much-needed firepower. The improvements of Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez should determine the fate of this team. If Moncada can continue in his MVP trajectory, and/or Jimenez continues to smash the ball, this team should be dangerous.

The window is open. The Indians traded away Cory Kluber, hinted that they might be ready to trade Fransisco Lindor and appear to be ready to take a step back. The Twins won 101 games last season, dominating from start to finish, but can we trust them? Detroit and Kansas City should continue to live in the basement.

The White Sox are so close to winning consistently. This is a team with playoff potential. It will probably fall just a little short and set up sky-high 2021 expectations.

Kansas City Royals – Justin Colombo

For Kansas City, a good 2020 wouldn’t be returning to contention, but more of a return to form. If KC can get solid bounce-back years from Ryan O’HearnNicky Lopez and the recently signed Maikel Franco, as well as a continuation of production from Merrifield, Soler, and Mondesi, 2020 should be lauded as a success.

It would also help their new manager Mike Matheny shake off some of the dust.

From there, the Royals are going to see slow progress akin to that of the early-2010s. The last time the Royals had back-to-back 50-win seasons was 2004 and 2005. That’s where Kansas City is coming from. And with a farm system full of hot prospects, the Royals are rebuilding and that’s not a bad thing for the future. With names like Bobby Witt, Jr., Brady SingerJackson Kowar, and Khalil Lee rising up through the minors, it’s only a matter of time before the Royals are reigning once again.

Detroit Tigers – Justin Colombo

The real promise for the Tigers lies within their farm system.

Bleacher Report ranked their system 11th ahead of the 2019 season, but then bumped them to 9th after the season concluded. With Casey Mize and Matt Manning blazing their way to the majors, primed and ready to join Michael Fulmer, the Tigers are setting themselves up to potentially have a rotation much like the one that brought them to three consecutive ALCS appearances in the early 2010s.

With the potential for a rotation made up of Mize, Manning, Fulmer, and Boyd, the Tigers could have one of the more dominant stables of studs in the league over the coming years.

The Tigers have already secured C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop from division rival Minnesota, adding stability to their lineup without gambling too much. Cron and Schoop were two of the eight Twins hitters to record over 100 hits last season, and there’s nothing better than stealing directly from your competition. It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not a leap.

With Jake Rogers and Willi Castro looking to compete for MLB jobs in Spring Training, these Tigers might just be poised to pounce on the 2020 season. The odds, however, seem to be against a resurgence next season. Then again, the last time the Tigers found themselves under 50 wins they went to the World Series three years later.

When you’re at the bottom, there’s nowhere to go but up.

Cleveland Indians – Joe Danbusky

I also came across a very thorough, very specific theory, offered up here by Chris Davies of In a nutshell – he examines the final week of the regular season – which saw the team’s playoff chances evaporate on September 26th, when they were officially eliminated. Regardless of the “how” or “why” – it is over. The 2019 season is in the rearview mirror. So, let’s have a look at what lies ahead going into 2020.

There were a few question marks surrounding some big names on the roster and what would happen with them. Corey Kluber was traded to Texas in exchange for Delino DeShields Jr. and Emmanuel ClaseJason Kipnis had his option declined, making him a free agent. This also leaves a question mark at second base. Perhaps the biggest question looming over the ballclub – what would happen with Francisco Lindor.

This question has been swirling seemingly forever. Club owner Paul Dolan once told the fanbase to “enjoy him while you can”. Would this be the season he is finally sent packing? Lindor and his agent have been resistant to re-signing with the club, presumably wanting to test the free-agent market after the 2021 season. Will ownership pony up what it will take to keep one of the league’s premier players? As of this writing, he is still on Cleveland’s roster.

With the notable exception of Kluber and Kipnis, the roster is pretty much intact. On the whole, I think Cleveland can once again be competitive in the division. However, they will likely need to avoid any long terms struggles if they hope to keep pace with the Twins – who have had a busy offseason and look to be the favorites.

Minnesota Twins – Justin Colombo

In 2019, the Minnesota Twins broke the 100 Win mark for the first time since 1965. What happened that year? The Twins went the distance in the World Series, but ultimately fell to the Dodgers and Sandy Koufax in seven games.

In 2019, they got swept in the ALDS. Sucks, but still… The Twins won the AL Central and that’s big news.

And they did so with some loud bats and solid arms. In the history of the game of baseball, no team has hit more home runs than the 2019 Minnesota Twins did. With 307 long bombs away, Minnesota was a force to be reckoned with, and one that took the league by surprise.

Who would have thought that Nelson Cruz would hit 41 dingers at the age of 38? Not the Mariners. Who saw catcher Mitch Garver blasting 31 homers in his second full season? No one, don’t lie. And who thought that Marwin Gonzalez, one of the top free-agent targets, would fall to the middle of the pack as Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler stepped up big for manager Rocco Baldelli?

The Twins are a fun team to watch, and even as C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop left for Detroit, the young Twins are even more exciting. Luis Arraez and Willians Astudillo are must watch players as they come into their own. Keep your eyes peeled for some knee-drop dingers this season.

On the mound, the return of Jake Odorizzi was a welcomed sign for the future, and with no second half to downturn during, Jose Berrios could finally dispell some haters. The Twins have the makings to hit the ground running again, especially as the rest of the AL Central rebuilds for the future.

Compiled by Joe Danbusky, Justin Colombo and Kevin Michael Morin.

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