Thursday, February 11, 2016

AL Central storylines to watch in 2016

With Spring Training just around the corner (pitchers and catchers report one week from today!), there are many questions surrounding the defending World Champion Kansas City Royals. Can they win a 3rd straight AL pennant? Is Ian Kennedy really worth $70 million? Did the team do enough to stay competitive with the rest of the AL Central?

Regarding that last question, I thought it would be worthwhile to check out the rest of the Royals’ division to see what they did this offseason and determine any storylines worth keeping an eye on as the 2016 MLB season draws near:

Minnesota Twins (2015 record: 83-79, 2nd place)
The Twins were surprisingly decent in 2015 behind a few stars (Brian Dozier, Miguel Sano) and despite not really being great at anything. Their closer Phil Hughes saved 32 of 35 games, but their offense was incredibly mediocre, ranking 26 in batting average and 28 in OBP. Their offseason moves were pretty much adding a Korean slugger (Byung Ho Park) and watching veteran Torii Hunter retire. They also have the top rated prospect in all of baseball in Byron Buxton and I would expect him to see extended time in the MLB this season. However, unless one of their pitchers breaks out with a shutdown season, they probably won’t make the playoffs. The real storyline to watch in Minnesota is WILL THE TWINS BEGIN OFFERING KIMCHI FRIES IN THEIR CONCESSION OPTIONS now that they have a Korean player on their team? I would be hugely in favor of Kimchi Helmet Fries:
Cleveland Indians (2015 record: 81-80, 3rd place)
The Cleveland Indians have been the trendy pick to reach the World Series for a few years now, and they grossly underachieved in 2015. I attended the Houston Astros Opening Day in 2015 when they played Cleveland, and that game was a remarkable harbinger of the Indians’ entire season: Great starting pitching, mediocre bullpen, and complete lack of timely hitting. The Indians lost 2-0 that day. Ha! This offseason, the Indians added Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis, hoping to keep their core players intact (Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes). They also added Joba Chamberlain to the delight of Royals fans everywhere, and apparently now offer a hot dog covered in fruitloops. Seriously. A hot dog covered in sugary breakfast cereal. The Cleveland Indians are a prime candidate for why America is so messed up.

The 2016 Indians squad have a formidable trio of starting pitchers in Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco, as well as a young stud in Franciso Lindor. They might be the team that challenges the Royals for the AL Central title, or they might be the team that delivers diabetes to all of northeast Ohio.The storyline to watch in Cleveland this year is CAN JOHNNY MANZIEL BURN THE CITY TO THE GROUND BEFORE ANY CLEVELAND SPORTS TEAM WINS ANOTHER CHAMPIONSHIP?
Chicago White Sox (2015 record: 76-86, 4th place)
The 2015 White Sox were terrible on defense, terrible at pitching, and terrible hitters. The only thing they were good at was fighting the Royals, and since they signed the MLB’s biggest assclown Brett Lawrie, we can expect more fighting in 2016. Chicago made many offseason moves, adding the solid bat of Todd Frazier, catchers Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro, and pitcher Mat Latos. The 2016 Sox will have power potential at 1B (Jose Abreu), DH (Adam Laroche), 3B (Frazier), and if Melky Cabrera can bounce back, the OF. Adam Eaton is a solid leadoff man, and Chris Sale, David Robertson and John Danks make for a solid pitching trio, although Robertson is worthless if the Sox never have a late-inning lead. The south side of Chicago could be a tough team in 2016, but the storyline to watch is WILL THE CUBS MAKE THE WORLD SERIES? Let’s be honest, no one cares about the White Sox and the most entertaining aspect of the team is that Brett Lawrie wears a huge set of bullseyes:
Detroit Tigers (2015 record: 74-87, LAST PLACE HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!)
In 2003, the Detroit Tigers set the American league record for most losses in a season, a fact that I never get tired of repeating. In 2015, the Tigers were one of the worst teams in baseball. They fired their GM, watched Miggy Cabrera sit out due to injury for the first time in his career, cycled through the worst relievers in baseball, traded off Yoenis Cespedes and David Price, saw Justin Verlander pitch in the fewest games since his debut season, and watched the Kansas City Royals run the table on the entire league. Sucks to be you, Detroit! So the Tigers promptly went out and purchased every free agent they could, dropping huge chunks of change on Justin Upton, Jordan Zimmerman, Francisco Rodriguez, Cameron Maybin, and Mike Pelfrey. It would be nice to have their money, but it has been amazing watching them squander their riches since they have won ZERO WORLD SERIES TITLES SINCE 1984. Suck it douche bags. The storyline to watch in Detroit is when will their 86-year old owner Mike Ilitich finally kick the bucket? He already appears to be a corpse straight from The Walking Dead:
(By the way, this photo has not been doctored in any way. Mike Ilitch really does look like a corpse)

So there you have it, the storylines to keep an eye on in the AL Central. I will be posting my predictions, expectations, and thoughts about the 2016 Royals in the coming days and weeks, so be sure to check back in. In the meantime, if you have never had kimchi fries, crawl out from the rock you live under and go have some.