1)Chicago White Sox
Before Chicago had a great collection of young up and comers and veterans. Add a true ace and former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy to the mix and you have one of the 5 best rotations in MLB. Peavy showed a glimpse of what he is capable dominating the Tigers twice to close out 2009. Mark Buerhle threw a perfect game last year and is one of the most under rated left handers in the game. Jake Peavy said that Gavid Floyd has potential to be a special pitcher. If John Danks can master the strike zone he can look as good as he did in 2008 Game 163. Toss up for the 5th spot between the veteran Freddy Garcia and rookie Daniel Hudson. Ozzie might go with the experience to start the season.
Player to Watch: Jake Peavy was a Cy Young 2 years ago. He still has ace stuff that can go head to head with any pitcher in all of baseball.
2) Detroit Tigers
Detroit is filled with young POWER arms. Average fastball for the projected starting 5 could be over 93 MPH. The Tigers inked up ace Justin Verlander for 5 more years and was contending for the Cy Young in 2009. His huge strikeout numbers shall continue. 21 year old Rick Porcello stepped up in game 163 in 2009, showing he does have strikeout pitches and will have the leash loosened this year as he steps into that number 2 role. Mad Max Scherzer was part of the Edwin Jackson trade but has very very electric stuff. The 4 spot will be given to Jeremy Bonderman. He has shown more velocity and health this off season so hopes are high as of now. And Dontrelle Willis is trying to overcome a load of issues. He may not be their for long as Armando Galarraga wants to be back in the starting role.
Player to Watch: Rick Porcello will have more weight on his shoulders then he did last year. He proved he can get outs with his plus sinker. Now he is going to have to show he can dominate with question marks in the 4 and 5 holes of the rotation.
3) Minnesota Twins
The strike throwing crop of guys the Twins put together every year has kept them beyond competitive. Opening Day starter Scott Baker was not as bad as he was in 2009 but not as good as he was in 2008. Expect his ERA to still be in high 3's. Nick Blackburn had identical years 2008 and 2009 and that earned him a 4 year deal. He should lead the team in innings again. Carl Pavano is the veteran who came up big down the stretch. He will not be great but his high BABIP in 2009 shows that his ERA should be in the low 4's not over 5 like it was. Kevin Slowey now has 2 screws in his wrist but still has arguably the best control of any pitcher in baseball. If he repeats what he did in 2008 then it just adds to the Twins depth. Fransisco Liriano has been named to the 5th spot but after dominating winter ball and showing flashes of brilliance in spring training; the Liriano of old may be back.
Player to Watch: Fransisco Liriano may never be able to repeat 2006. But from what we have seen so far this spring (20 innings, 2.70 ERA, 30K and 5BB), if he is something in between 2006 and 2008, that is not a number 5 guy. That is a top of the rotation starter.
4) Kansas City Royals
The best pitcher in the game may not be enough. Zack Grienke put it all together last year and won the Cy Young on the worst team in the AL. Gil Meche is still a solid number 2 guy. Luke Hochevar, Brian Bannister, Kyle Davies, Ruben Tejada and even Kyle Farnsworth are all fighting for the last three spots. And yes, I said Kyle Farnsworth. All of the three will do little this year and just keep the spots warm for the evenual 2011 and 2012 rotation guys, Mike Motgomrey and Aaron Crow. Here is an idea that the Royals should have embraced 2 years ago. Keep Leo Nunez and Ramon Ramirez, covert one of them into a closer and move Jokaim Soria to the rotation. He has 4 plus pitches and could have been great along side Grienke.
Player to Watch: Former number 1 overall pick Luke Hochevar has never been solid. But he had some starts in 2009 that still make people think he can be a full time starter.
5) Cleveland Indians
After trading Cy Young winners CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee and extending mysteries Fausto Carmona and Jake Westbrook, you can see why Cleveland is where they are. Optimism points to Westbrook and Carmona who have had really good springs and possibly returning to form. Carmona can be great when he is on. Justin Masterson was one of the centerpieces in the Victor Martinez trade. The big bodied sinker baller may end up being better suited for the bullpen and eventually the Indians closer. Their are 3 guys fighting for 2 spots with David Huff, Carlos Carrasco and Mike Talbot. Huff is a decent guy and Carrasco has been really good in the minors. But they both have a lot of work to do to be effective in the majors.
Player to Watch: The reason why Cleveland extended Fausto Carmona was because they knew they could not keep CC Sabathia. Carmona in 2007 was fantastic. Extending him then looked genius at the time as he is still under team control for possibly 4 more years. He is having a dominant spring with a 0.45 ERA in 20 innings and only 2 walks. If he keeps it up his sinker is one of the best in the game.
Top 10 Pitchers in Division
1) Zach Grienke KC
2) Justin Verlander DET
3) Jake Peavy DET
4) Mark Buehrle CHW
5) Scott Baker MIN
6) Rick Porcello DET
7) Max Scherzer DET
8) Jake Westbrook CLE
9) Kevin Slowey MIN
10)Gavin Floyd CHW