1.) Minnesota Twins
On paper the Twins have the best line up they have ever had. In addition to the 2 MVP award winners hitting 3-4 (Mauer and Morneau), the Twins have a great collection of hitters. Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer can mash with the best of them after combining for 60 home runs in 2009. Denard Span is already one of the best lead off hitter in the division and he has potential to only get better. Orlando Hudson has experience and switch hitting ability will be able to get on base and move runners along for the M&M boys. The wild cards are hitting 7 and 8. If Delmon Young and JJ Hardy are right, the Twins could not only be the best in the division, but one of the best in the American League.
Player to Watch: Danny Valencia might be called up mid season. The only thing he would be asked to do is turn over the lineup batting 9th. Valencia has solid power and can be very valuable for an already dynamic line up.
2.) Cleveland Indians
I may be making a stretch, but if Cleveland is going to show any signs of life this year, they will have to mash. They have moved their best player Grady Sizemore, from lead off to the 2 hole. Personally I think he should be batting 3rd. Asdrubal Cabrera now hitting lead off is one of the most under rated players in all of baseball. Shin Soo Choo is an all star and Johnny Peralta can be great when hes right. Big question mark are injuries. Right now history has gone against what could be their 4, 5, 6 guys in Travis Hafner, Russel Braynon and Matt LaPorta. These three have potential to combine for 75 to 80 home runs, but again I am being very optimistic.
Player to Watch: Carlos Santana is one of the top 10 prospects in all of baseball. His bat is major league ready; Cleveland is just waiting to put all his catching tools together. He should be called up sometime in May and his switch hitting ability resembles former Indians star Victor Martinez to a tee.
3.) Detroit Tigers
The Tigers really did not lose as much as people believe. They still have one of the 5 best players in all of baseball in Miguel Cabrera who has reported in better shape and has quit drinking. This may be the year where he lives up to PECOTA's projections of 40 home runs and 140 RBI. After trades and free agency, Detroit lost Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco but they will be replacing those bats with Johnny Damon and Austin Jackson at the top of the order. Jackson has had a great spring and Damon is a lot more consistent at the plate then Granderson. Question marks will still be is how long can Adam Everett survive not hitting and will Brandon Inge produce the same way he did in the first half of 2009? Also how will Carlos Guillen react to being a permanent DH this year and Scott Sizemore do being an everyday player.
Player to Watch: Their was a lot of feuding going along with the Tigers and Maglio Ordonez on whether he would hit his incentives that paid him $18 million dollars. Maglio did hit that mark and now that it is in the past; he could get back to the level he played in 2007 where he was MVP caliber.
4.) Chicago White Sox
The South Siders may be taking the Twins old approach to hitting this year. They have replaced some of their base cloggers like Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye with guys like Juan Pierre and Alex Rios. Gordon Beckham may be as good as it gets this year at 2nd base. If Konerko and Carlos Quinton are healthy they can provide the power. However the White Sox do have more question marks then guarantees. How much longer can Alexi Ramirez last with out walking. Adruw Jones looks to be on the downward tilt of his career. He tried to bounce back from the collapse he was experiencing the last 2 years but its a long shot he returns to a productive form. Juan Pierre moving to the AL scares me. Mark Teahen was never able to be a full time player on the Royals. How can you expect him to just be good. And how much longer will it be before someone really tries to kill AJ Pierzynski.
Player to Watch: Gordon Beckham may be no surprise but moving him to 2B makes his bat that much more valuable. Let the Chase Utley comparisons begin.
5.)Kansas City Royals
The Royals last year traded really good pitchers for 1 year of really bad bats. They turned Leo Nunez and Ramon Ramirez into Mike Jacobs and Coco Crisp and now they have none of the 4 players going into 2010. Just validating why the Royals suck. Outside of Billy Butler, their is not one keeper among this group. The next guy is Alberto Callapso, but because of his sketchy defense, he is in a position battle with Chris Getz. It may be time to give up on Alex Gordon after experiencing another injury this spring. Yuni Betancourt may be the only player in baseball that nobody wants. Jose Guillen does not want to be there. Posednick, Ankiel, and DeJesus are all out there for their defense. Ankiel would be lucky to repeat what he did in 2008 by hitting 25 home runs. Safe to say that last place should be locked up for Kansas City.
Player to Watch: 2012 may be the day to look forward to as a Royals fan. If former top draft picks, (3B) Mike Moustakas, (1B) Eric Hosmer and (C) Will Myers all pan out they could have a nice young lineup. But again, that is in 2012.
10 Best Players in AL Central
1) Joe Mauer MIN
2) Miguel Cabrera DET
3) Grady Sizemore CLE
4) Justin Morneau MIN
5) Billy Butler KC
6) Gordon Beckham CHW
7) Denard Span MIN
8) Johnny Damon DET
9) Shin Soo Choo CLE
10) Jason Kubel MIN