Spring Training is almost upon us! The AL Central figures to be an exciting division 2017 that includes the White Sox, Indians, Tigers, Royals, and Twins. One year ago the Indians represented the AL in the World Series. In 2014 and 2015 it was the Royals who represented the AL and fought for a championship. After a long offseason, it’s time to hand out some offseason grades. Who put themselves in a position to improve in 2017?
Chicago White Sox: Grade B+
Key Additions: Derek Holland, Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez, Dane Dunning, Luis Alexander Basabe, Giovanny Soto, Cody Ashe
Key Departures: Chris Sale, Adam Eaton, Alex Avila, Austin Jackson
Personally, I am a big fan of prospects but realistically they are never a sure thing. However, I can’t remember the last time a team completely overhauled their farm system so quickly. The South Side has acquired the top pitching and hitting prospect in two separate deals. The first deal they announced was sending ace starting pitcher Chris Sale to Boston. In return, they received Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, and two lower level prospects. Moncada has an extremely high ceiling having star potential. Kopech has been compared to Noah Syndergaard who has hit 105 MPH on the radar gun. There is some risk with both prospects (that I explained in the AL East offseason preview), but they have All-Star ceilings.
While the first deal with pretty fair for both teams. Chicago absolutely struck gold in their second trade. The White Sox sent Adam Eaton to the Nationals for Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning. Giolito is the number one pitching prospect in baseball who could become a future ace. Lopez is considered a top 20 prospect in baseball and has electric stuff. These two players simply aren’t just prospects having both experienced big league service time. Lopez was even on the Nats playoff roster. Dunning is a heck of a throw in for this trade as he was Washington’s first-round pick this year.
Cleveland Indians: Grade A
Key Additions: Edwin Encarnacion, Boone Logan, Chris Colabello, Steve Delabar, Austin Jackson, Erik Kratz, Michael Martinez, Wily Mo Pena
Key Departures: Mike Napoli, Rajai Davis, Coco Crisp, Chris Gimenez
The Indians reached into their pockets in a big way when they lured Edwin Encarnacion to Cleveland. Encarnacion has hit at least 34 home runs five years in a row and led the AL in RBI’s with 127. He’s a big upgrade over Mike Napoli. Cleveland also gets back Michael Brantley who was hurt all year in 2016. Given the fact that their electric rotation should be healthy in 2017 gives the Indians a great shot of getting to the World Series again. Boone Logan is an excellent left-handed option out of the bullpen. Wily Mo Pena could be the wild card in this. He hasn’t played in the big leagues since 2011 but is a big time power hitter if his heads on straight.
Detriot Tigers: Grade C
Key Additions: Alex Avila, Mikie Mahtook
Key Departures: Cameron Maybin
The Tigers won 86 games last year and literally did nothing this offseason. There isn’t a whole lot to say but this team is aging quickly. It could be now or never before an inevitable rebuilt takes place.
Kansas City Royals: Grade C-
Key Additions: Jason Hammel, Brandon Moss, Jorge Soler, Peter O’Brien, Nathan Karns, Chris Withrow
Key Departures: Wade Davis, Kendrys Morales, Jarrod Dyson, Edinson Volquez
The Royals have a number of impending free agents heading into this season including Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, and others. They appear to be willing to give it another try in 2017 but they probably are worse without Wade Davis, Morales, and Dyson. The tragic loss or Yordano Ventura also stings as well. If things don’t go well the Royals are probably going to blow up this roster at the deadline.
Minnesota Twins: Grade D
Key Additions: Jason Castro, Matt Belisle, Ryan Vogelsong, Chris Gimenez
Key Departures: Kurt Suzuki, Trevor Plouffe
The Twins lost 103 games in 2016. What did they do to improve? They gave catcher Jason Castro $24.5 million over 3 years after he hit a lousy .215 in 2016. That doesn’t make any sense! Losing Suzuki and Plouffe could set the Twins up to somehow be worse in 2017.