Baseball 2011 preview: AL Central outlook

Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera sits in

Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera sits in the dugout before a spring training game against the St. Louis Cardinals. (March 11, 2011) (Credit: AP )

1. DETROIT TIGERS

2010 Record: 81-81 (Third place)

Manager: Jim Leyland (sixth season, 418-380, .524; overall 1,488-1,517, .495)

GM: Dave Dombrowski

Last World Series: 2006 (lost to St. Louis, 4-1)

Outlook: With GM Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland both facing expiring contracts, the Tigers brought in C-1B Victor Martinez, RHP Brad Penny and RHP Joaquin Benoit in the hopes of reaching the postseason for the first time since 2006.

Keep an eye on: 1B Miguel Cabrera. He kicked off his spring by getting arrested for driving under the influence, so both his on-field performance and off-field behavior will undergo more scrutiny than usual.

Final word: They need bouncebacks from RHP Rick Porcello and Penny and a healthy year from Benoit, yet in this weak division, the Tigers just might have enough to prevail.

PROJECTED LINEUP BA

CF -- Austin Jackson .293

2B -- Will Rhymes .304

1B -- Miguel Cabrera .328

RF -- Magglio Ordonez .303

DH -- Victor Martinez .302

LF -- Ryan Raburn .280

SS -- Jhonny Peralta .249

3B -- Brandon Inge .247

C -- Alex Avila .228

PROJECTED ROTATION W-L

RH Justin Verlander 18-9

RH Max Scherzer 12-11

RH Rick Porcello 10-12

RH Brad Penny 3-4

LH Phil Coke 7-5

CLOSER Saves

RH Jose Valverde 26

2. CHICAGO WHITE SOX

2010 Record: 88-74 (Second place)

Manager: Ozzie Guillen (eighth season, 600-535, .529)

GM: Kenny Williams

Last World Series: 2005 (def. Houston, 4-0)

Outlook: A turbulent 2010 season, featuring extreme tension between manager Ozzie Guillen and GM Kenny Williams, had a post-mortem featuring proclamations of peace and the signing of DH Adam Dunn.

Keep an eye on: LHP Matt Thornton: He's the White Sox's new closer, replacing the departed RHP John Danks. If he thrives, then the rest of the bullpen can fall into place.

Final word: The addition of Dunn means the White Sox should provide more run support for their often shunned pitchers. The bet here, however, is that the lineup will keep the South Siders out of the playoffs once more.

PROJECTED LINEUP BA

LF -- Juan Pierre .275

2B -- Gordon Beckham .252

DH -- Adam Dunn .260

1B -- Paul Konerko .312

CF -- Alex Rios .284

RF -- Carlos Quentin .243

SS -- Alexei Ramirez .282

C -- A.J. Pierzynski .270

3B -- Brent Morel .231

PROJECTED ROTATION W-L

LH Mark Buehrle 13-13

RH Gavin Floyd 10-13

LH John Danks 15-11

RH Edwin Jackson 10-12

RH Jake Peavy 7-6

CLOSER Saves

LH Matt Thornton 8

3. MINNESOTA TWINS

2010 Record: 94-68 (First place, lost ALDS to Yankees)

Manager: Ron Gardenhire (10th season, 803-656, .550)

GM: Bill Smith

Last World Series: 1991 (def. Atlanta, 4-3)

Outlook: The Twins, winners of the last two AL Central titles and six of the last nine, responded to yet another humbling playoff loss to the Yankees by re-signing RHP Carl Pavano and DH Jim Thome and losing relievers Jesse Crain, Brian Fuentes, Matt Guerrier and Jon Rauch to other clubs.

Keep an eye on: 1B Justin Morneau. He hopes to come back from a concussion that sidelined him for half of last year.

Final word: It's often easy to overlook the Twins, yet it sure seems like they lost ground to their rivals during the offseason. Look for them to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

PROJECTED LINEUP BA

CF -- Denard Span .264

2B -- Tsuyoshi Nishioka ---

C -- Joe Mauer .327

1B -- Justin Morneau .345

LF -- Delmon Young .298

DH -- Jason Kubel .249

RF -- Michael Cuddyer .271

3B -- Danny Valencia .311

SS -- Alexi Casilla .276

PROJECTED ROTATION W-L

RH Carl Pavano 17-11

LH Francisco Liriano 14-10

RH Scott Baker 12-9

RH Kevin Slowey 13-6

LH Brian Duensing 10-3

CLOSER Saves

RH Joe Nathan --

4. KANSAS CITY ROYALS

2010 Record: 67-95 (Fifth place)

Manager: Ned Yost (second season, first full season, 55-72, .433; overall, 512-574, .471)

GM: Dayton Moore

Last World Series: 1980 (Lost to Philadelphia, 4-2)

Outlook: Believe it or not, hope exists for Royals fans. Not this year, necessarily, but a fleet of very highly regarded prospects is on its way. In a couple of years, the Royals might actually field a competitive team. Not this year, though. Did we say that already?

Keep an eye on: 3B Mike Moustakas. LHP John Lamb. 1B Eric Hosmer. C Wil Myers. They are some of those aforementioned prospects, none of whom will begin the 2011 season in the major leagues.

Final word: In case we're not getting our point across, the key is to focus on the future, which is bright. 2011, however? Spare yourself.

PROJECTED LINEUP BA

3B -- Mike Aviles .304

2B -- Chris Getz .237

DH -- Billy Butler .318

1B -- Kila Ka'aihue .217

CF -- Melky Cabrera .255

RF -- Jeff Francoeur .249

LF -- Alex Gordon .215

C -- Brayan Pena .253

SS -- Alcides Escobar .235

PROJECTED ROTATION W-L

RH Luke Hochevar 6-6

LH Jeff Francis 4-6

RH Kyle Davies 8-12

LH Bruce Chen 12-7

RH Vin Mazzaro 6-8

CLOSER Saves

RH Joakim Soria 43

5. CLEVELAND INDIANS

2010 Record: 69-93 (Fourth place)

Manager: Manny Acta (second season, 69-93, .426; overall 227-345, .397)

GM: Mark Shapiro

Last World Series: 1997 (Lost to Florida, 4-3)

Outlook: Oh, to think this was a thriving organization 10 years ago, and a playoff team four years ago. Now, the only title they'll be defending is "Worst attendance in Major League Baseball."

Keep an eye on: C Carlos Santana. The Indians' best young player is coming back from a major left knee injury.

Final word: The Indians simply haven't done well enough on trade returns for players like CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez. That has considerably lengthened the rebuilding process. Prepare for more pain.

PROJECTED LINEUP BA

LF -- Michael Brantley .246

SS -- Asdrubal Cabrera .276

CF -- Grady Sizemore .211

RF -- Shin-Soo Choo .300

C -- Carlos Santana .260

DH -- Travis Hafner .278

1B -- Matt LaPorta .221

2B -- Orlando Cabrera .263

3B -- Jack Hannahan ---

PROJECTED ROTATION W-L

RH Fausto Carmona 13-14

RH Justin Masterson 6-13

RH Carlos Carrasco 2-2

RH Mitch Talbot 10-13

RH Josh Tomlin 6-4

CLOSER Saves

RH Chris Perez 23

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