The AL Central should be one of the most competitive in 2021. Most of the teams have some potential to make the playoffs, but there are only so many playoff spots. Someone in this division will end up getting disappointed. That said, some of these teams have a stronger case for contending for a playoff spot than others. And with that, let’s take a look at my predictions for the AL Central’s 2021 standings:
1. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox are, in some ways, the AL version of the Padres. By that, I mean that something about them just makes them fun. Maybe it’s just shortstop Tim Anderson’s batflips and fun personality, maybe it’s that their the other “Sox” in the league, but there’s something that just draws me to them. They’re headlined by Anderson, third baseman Yoan Moncada, catcher Yasmani Grandal, and 2020 AL MVP Jose Abreu, which is a strong offensive core already. Add to that youngsters Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, and you’re looking real good. Pitching-wise, Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, and Lance Lynn should be at least a serviceable trio, but I’m unsure where else they’ll find starters that can keep them in games. That is, unless Michael Kopech can get back into things quickly.
2. Minnesota Twins
The Twins know team baseball. They don’t have top tier stars, but they do have a lot of really good players, and that team driven baseball is something not seen as much in the MLB today. Most anyone on their team can deliver a big hit in a big moment. I’m really curious to see how Josh Donaldson and Andrelton Simmons do this year. Donaldson had a down year in 2020, but so did many players, and Simmons was a strong signing this offseason. Their pitching should be solid, as Jose Berrios and Kenta Meada are expected to post strong numbers. They should be in the driver’s seat for a Wild Card spot even if they do get beat out by the White Sox.
3. Cleveland Indians
Cleveland’s trade of Francisco Lindor this offseason solidified for me that they’re looking to rebuild in the near future. They’ll continue to trade their stars and gain prospects over the coming years and will probably re-reach contention levels in, let’s say 2030. They should post a solid record this year (provided they don’t trade Jose Ramirez or Shane Bieber), but I don’t think they have the overall firepower to overtake either the White Sox or the Twins. I am curious to see how Eddie Rosario does this year for them after how his development went in Minnesota.
4. Kansas City Royals
The Royals made a few good moves this offseason in signing Carlos Santana and trading for Andrew Benintendi, but will it be enough? Their other pieces in Salvador Perez, Aldaberto Mondesi, and Hunter Dozier will definitely make them intriguing, but I don’t think it’s enough to get them past the teams above unless everyone has a career year. The same goes for their pitching; I don’t think it’s a good sign when Mike Minor is your ace, as he’s been up and down the last few years.
5. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers grabbed some solid talent this offseason, particularly Wilson Ramos and Renato Nunez, but it’s not going to be enough to be truly competitive in the AL Central. The biggest thing for the team to look forward to is the appearance/development of young pitchers Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and Matt Manning, who are all expected to be in majors by the end of the year. Mize’s cup of coffee last year wasn’t particularly impressive (6.99 ERA), but I would be surprised if he doesn’t improve this year.
Those are my thoughts on the AL Central! While I might have the White Sox over the Twins here, they’re really 1a and 1b for me. I wouldn’t be surprised if either ends up on top, and Fangraphs agrees with me, since their projected to have identical records on their site. The Indians and Royals have outside chances for one of the top two spots, but likely it would take some injuries or breakout years for this to happen. Let me know what you think in the comments below! Also be sure to check out Tom Cadmus’ predictions as well, especially his own AL Central rankings!
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