pWe officially have our 2017 Home Run Derby champ, as Aaron Judge put on a show last night. Tonight we turn our attention to Marlins Park once more, as the games best will square off in the Mid-Summer Classic, better known as the MLB All-Star Game. But that’s not the focus of this article. We are here to talk about the AL Central instead!
In particular, we will be breaking down where the five teams within the division stand at the All-Star Break. The Cleveland Indians, coming off a World Series appearance, were expected to dominate the division. The Detroit Tigers were seen as the second best club. Meanwhile, the remaining three teams entered the season with low expectations.
The Indians are sitting where they should be. The Minnesota Twins are the division’s surprise club. And the Tigers have been a letdown. For more details, keep reading!
1) Cleveland Indians
Coming off the World Series appearance a season ago, big things were expected from the Tribe in 2017. They did not get off to the fastest of starts. But nonetheless, here they are at the All-Star Break with a 47-40 record, good for best in the AL Central. They currently have a 2.5 game cushion over the Twins.
Their big offseason signing, Edwin Encarnacion is a big reason for that turnaround. He started off super cold, but heated up over the last month or so. He now has 18 homers to go along with a .263 batting average. Francisco Lindor has been good, but not great like expected. But Jose Ramirez has been absolutely tearing the cover off the ball, with his .332 average and 17 long balls.
Corey Kluber has been the ace he needs to be, with a shiny 2.80 ERA and 0.99 ERA. Carlos Carrasco has also been strong in the rotation, while the other arms have only been subpar. While things have not been as smooth as the club would have liked, they have still positioned themselves right where they need to be. On top of a fairly weak division.
2) Minnesota Twins
One of baseball’s biggest surprises this season. The Twins, the worst team in baseball in 2016, came out strong in 2017. No one saw this coming, and they even led the division for a pretty lengthy stretch in the first half. Now, they hold a 45-43 record, placing them 2.5 games behind the Tribe, and one game back in the Wild Card.
Miguel Sano, the runner up in the Home Run Derby, is a big reason why. He has launched 21 homers, driven in 62 and is slugging .538. The club has also gotten unexpected results from names like Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler. But they will likely need to add some offense if they want to make that playoff push.
They have also had a few pitchers outperforming expectations to get them where they are. Ervin Santana, a name many had given up on, is pitching to a 2.99 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. Rookie Jose Berrios has also been pitching exceptionally well for the club. While they have been a nice first half story, they are easily a team that could slip into obscurity quickly into the second half.
3) Kansas City Royals
Despite being in the World Series just a few seasons ago, very few people had faith in the Royals leading up to this season. But here they sit, with a 44-43 record. While that may not blow you away, it does put them in the thick of things in the AL. As a result, they are poised to be more along the buyers side, not the sellers side come the end of July.
They are only three games behind the Indians for the division. They certainly have the talent to leap over the Twinkies, meaning the division is not out of the question just yet. Also, in the Wild Card hunt, they are only 1.5 out, positioned fourth. They would need to jump over two of the following three clubs: New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays and the Twins. I don’t know about you, but that certainly seems reasonable.
So despite being loaded with players in their contract years, they team won’t be selling any of those pieces this Summer. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain are going to remain in that Royal blue, in hopes of bringing another surprise run to the city that loves them.
4) Detroit Tigers
Entering the year, the Tigers were seen as the second best team in the division. That simply has not panned out, despite Michael Fulmer pitching his ass off. The club has a 39-48 record. That means they are eight back of Cleveland and 6.5 out in the Wild Card. While it doesn’t sound like a lot of games, the odds are stacked against them.
Justin Verlander has been a huge letdown on the year. Miguel Cabrera is showing his age a bit, as he does not put up the Miggy numbers we are all used to. Victor Martinez’s power is no longer there. Ian Kinsler is only an average bat at this point. The bottom line is, this team needs to get younger. There are too many old faces hogging the playing time for them to win.
As a result, you can expect them to be sellers not only this Summer, but probably in the Winter too. J.D. Martinez is the most likely to go. Verlander, Miggy, Kinsler and Justin Upton are all names that could be swirling around in talks. But 2017 is likely done for the Motor City. Time to look ahead to Lions football.
5) Chicago White Sox
I will keep this short, sweet and to the point. The White Sox, after trading the likes of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton this Winter, were seen as the AL Central dumpster children. And here they sit, with a 38-49 record. That means they are last in the division and in the American League.
They are nine back of the Indians. They are also only 7.5 games out in the Wild Card. But given how many clubs they’d need to jump to have a chance, you can kiss this season goodbye for the South siders. Look for Jose Quintana’s name in trade rumors in the coming weeks.
So there you have it. As we head into the back half of the 2017 MLB season, the AL Central currently has one team in the playoffs. Another team is just on the outside looking in. Can the Twins make the jump up to play in October? Only time will tell.
What are your thoughts on the AL Central as the second half of the baseball season starts up? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!