BASN’S HOT STOVE WITH TEE MACK!

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Updated: February 23, 2016

 

 

 

BASN’S HOT STOVE 2016

By Tony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus

 

 

NEW HAVEN, CT (BASN) — Now that the Super Bowl is done and all the collective All-Star weekends have come to a close, it’s time to focus on the one thing that makes us think warmer thoughts — spring training.

 

 

By the time you read this, pitchers and catchers for all 30 MLB squads will have started their preparations for the 2016 campaign. The rest of the players aren’t too far away as well. Over the next few days, we’ll take a brief peek at all six divisional races heading into camp.

 

 

Not really making predictions, but more so taking an educated look at what to watch for during the upcoming season. Today, we start at the home of the reigning world champs, the AL Central.
Teams are listed in order of their 2015 finish:

 

 

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1. KANSAS CITY ROYALS

 

 

Like any defending champion, K.C. had some player defections (RHP Johnny Cueto to Giants, 2B Ben Zobrist to Cubs). However, the nucleus of OF Lorenzo Cain, 1B Eric Hosmer, C Salvador Perez, and others will keep the Royals in contention and beyond. Bringing in starter Ian Kennedy and former closer Joakim Soria will add more depth to one of the game’s most underrated pitching staffs. Look for the battle at second base between versatile veteran Omar Infante and postseason hero Christian Colon to be an early theme in Arizona.

 

 

 

 

 

2. MINNESOTA TWINS

 

 

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After an awful start, Paul Molitor’s bunch were fighting for a wild-card berth up until the final day of the season. Much like the Royals were before their postseason run, Minnesota is on the rise. Despite the presence of reliever Glen Perkins, the only thing missing for the Twins is consistent starting pitching. Adding Korean star Byung-ho Park will help pump up an offense that statistically was one of the worst (26th overall in team batting average) in the majors. Watching the development of Minnesota’s projected outfield of Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, and Miguel Sano will be a constant for the season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. CLEVELAND INDIANS

 

 

 

There are some “baseball folks” who think that Cleveland could make a postseason run similar to the Mets of 2015. The young rotation of Corey Kluber, Carlos Corrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer,and Cody Anderson are the backbone of the organization. They don’t get as much hype as the boys from Gotham do, but they have equal ability. How far Terry Francona’s team goes will depend on their hitting. Adding OF Rajai Davis and 1B/DH Mike Napoli will help. But they’ll need a healthy Michael Brantley and a bounce back season from Jason Kipnis to make a solid playoff run.

 

 

 

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4. CHICAGO WHITE SOX

 

 

 

Even though they’ve improved their win total over the last two seasons, that other team in Chi-Town has gotten all the pub during the off-season. Adding All-Star 3B Todd Frazier and versatile Brett Lawrie in trades takes some pressure off 1B Jose Abreu in the lineup. However, they need Chris Sale to remain healthy at the top of the rotation for them to be a part of the mix. While lefties Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon have shown they can be effective starters, the development of righty Eric Johnson — pegged to replace Jeff Samardzija — will be an early story to watch in April.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. DETROIT TIGERS

 

 

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After years of being the team to beat in the Central, the bottom fell out last year on the boys from Motown. It cost longtime GM Dave Dombrowski his job and would lead to a huge roster shakeup. New GM Alex Avila was busy during the off-season adding pieces to a franchise that fell on hard times quickly. Jordan Zimmerman was plucked from D.C. to aid the starting rotation. Francisco Rodriguez, Justin Wilson, and Mark Lowe were signed to bolster a disappointing bullpen. They also took the plunge and inked All-Star Justin Upton to a six-year deal as well bringing back former No. 1 pick Cameron Maybin. Now the pressure will be on manager Brad Ausmus to blend the mix back into a playoff run and beyond.

 

 

Next: The NL East.

 

 

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