Roundtable: How does the Central Shake Out?

Ready to talk Tigers? Want to hear the opinion of the TigsTown staff on some of the hot button topics of the offseason? Welcome to the TigsTown Roundtable! This week's question: Who will come out on top in the AL Central, and how will the rest of the division fall?

Paul Wezner, Senior Editor
1. Chicago White Sox
2. Cleveland Indians
3. Minnesota Twins
4. Detroit Tigers
5. Kansas City Royals

At this point in time, I just can't see anyone overtaking the Chicago White Sox. The only team that can match up with them offensively is the Cleveland Indians, but the Indians it can be argued don't have a single starter that would be a member of the White Sox rotation. Minnesota on the other hand has the rotation that can match up, but has serious questions about whether their offense can keep them in the game. For them to make a push, they'll have to rely heavily on new acquisitions Luis Castillo and Tony Batista, and hope Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer turn the corner, otherwise their vaunted pitching staff will go it largely without help. The Tigers potentially have components on both sides to make a push, but they'll need every component to fall into place, including the emergence of at least two of the rotation members, as well as big rebound seasons from veterans Pudge Rodriguez, Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez. The Royals young pitchers haven't developed like they anticipated, and will now rely on below average but reliable veterans to carry their offense.

Mark Anderson, Minor League Editor
1. Chicago White Sox
2. Minnesota Twins
3. Cleveland Indians
4. Detroit Tigers
5. Kansas City Royals

I think it's pretty clear that the Sox are the class of the division with an improved offense and and even deeper starting rotation. With the additions of White, Castillo, Batista, the possible return of Kubel, and a resurgence from Justin Morneau, I think the Twins are poised to give the Sox a run at the top before fading late in the year after relying on an aging Brad Radke and youngsters like Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker in the rotation. The Indians did well to acquire Andy Marte, but the loss of Crisp and Millwood will hurt this year. They'll be very competitive, just not quite there this year either. The Tigers, if healthy, are certainly in a position to battle with the Indians for third place, but I can't see them going much higher than that. Too many other things that are far out of their control would have to happen to see them approach the top two slots in the division. Lastly, those pesky Royals could sneak up and surprise some people, coming much closer to fourth place than many would like to believe. They've added some league-average veterans to fill some gaps until guys like Billy Butler and Alex Gordon are ready to go, but the pitching still lags behind. They'll be pesky, but not much more.

Jason Avery, Amateur Baseball Editor
1. Chicago White Sox
2. Minnesota Twins
3. Cleveland Indians
4. Detroit Tigers
5. Kansas City Royals

The White Sox have the deepest pitching staff and have the fewest question marks there, although it remains to be seen if Bobby Jenks was just a flash in the pan last year, or is he truly has matured and becomes a dominant closer. If JimThome bounces back, he and Paul Konerko give them two sluggers in the middle of the order. The Twins could have the best rotation should Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker come through and their bullpen is solid, but the youngsters must step for the Twins to contend. Justin Morneau must also bounce back to key the offense. The Indians will take a step back and could be overtaken by Detroit. Paul Byrd and Jason Johnson will eat innings, but will they be quality innings? Can Bob Wickman continue to perform well as the closer and stay healthy? This club should do well with the bats, but their pitching will have to be very good for them to stay close. The Tigers added Kenny Rogers and Todd Jones, but will that make a big difference? The Tigers first and foremost need Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez to stay healthy. Their presence should help the veterans in the lineup around them and if the Tigers get good contributions from Chris Shelton and Curtis Granderson, they will score runs. However, the central question is whether this pitching staff can emerge and step forward. Jeremy Bonderman has a lot of promise, but hasn't had successful results as of yet. That needs to change. With Rogers, the Tigers have a veteran presence, but he struggled mightily in the second half and the Tigers will need him to deliver. The potential for this team is all over. They could either finish above .500 and stay in the race, or lose over 90 games again. The Royals added veterans Reggie Sanders, Mark Redman, and Mark Grudzielanek, but this team doesn't have the hitting or pitching to make much of a dent in a tough division. David DeJesus is a very good young player to keep an eye on, especially if the Royals continue their trend of dumping players once they get close to being too expensive for them to keep.

Have your own opinion on the issue? Ready to talk about it? State your opinion on the Detroit Tigers Open Message Board and go head to head with the experts!


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