As the correspondent for the AL Central, I will be bringing all the news and coverage from the clubs that make up the American League side of the Midwest, stretching from Cleveland to Kansas City.
To get the ball rolling, the all-AL Central team was voted on by members of the CTTP staff, ranking players at each position within each division. On Monday, CTTP’s NL East correspondent Travis Coverston, started off with the All-NL East team as the first in this series.
Last season was the first full season for the Royals catcher. Through a total of 138 games, Perez finished with a stat line of .292/.323/.433, along with thirteen home runs and seventy-nine runs batted in. He would also be an all-star and win the American League Gold Glove Award at catcher, along with being part of a Royals team that would finish above .500 for the first time since 1989. In what was a successful first full season for the twenty-three year old, 2014 could be his breakout year as the Royals will also look to follow up on the success that they and Perez had in 2013.
Voting: Perez, KC; Gomes, CLE; Avila, DET; Suzuki, MIN; Flowers, CWS
The vote for first base was unique, because the winner, Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers, was at third base for the last two seasons, and the runner up, Minnesota’s Joe Mauer was primarily catcher who has now transitioned over to first base. Mauer finished behind Cabrera in the points by a difference of ten. Simply put, Cabrera had not just a stellar 2013, but it was also the continuation of what has been a stellar tenure in Detroit.
Last season, while dealing with a hip and other injuries, Cabrera put together a 2013 season that was almost similar if not better than his triple crown winning season of 2012. With the transition back to first base for Cabrera, it should put less pressure on him defensively unlike at third base. There also should be less pressure on his body as well. It should be another good if not great season for the back to back MVP winner.
Voting: Cabrera, DET; Mauer, MIN; Hosmer, KC; Swisher, CLE; Abreu, CWS
The winner at second base was a close one, by two points, as Ian Kinsler just slightly edged out Jason Kipnis for all-AL Central second baseman. If it had not been for the off season trade of Prince Fielder to Texas for Kinsler, Kipnis would probably be the all-AL Central choice for second base. It was very close, as based on performances last season, these two are very interchangeable.
Last season Kinsler finished with a stat line of .277/.344/.413 with thirteen home runs and seventy-two runs batted in. Kipnis on the other hand, finished with a stat line of .284/.366/.452, along with seventeen home runs and eighty-four runs batted in for the Tribe. In all while Kinsler is the starter, one can make the argument that Kipnis is right there as the back up or late game replacement for Kinsler in this position.
Voting: Kinsler, DET; Kipnis, CLE; Infante, KC; Dozier, MIN; Beckham, CWS
The Cleveland Indians get their first starting member of the all-AL Central team as Asdrubal Cabrera edged out Jose Iglesias of Detroit by difference of five. Cabrera, for the most part, has been the main stay at shortstop for not just Cleveland, but for the American League Central as a whole since coming up to major’s in 2007.
Last year, Cabrera had more or less a down year compared to the numbers that he put up in the years prior. His stat line for 2013 was .242/.299/.402, along with fourteen home runs and sixty-four runs batted in. While the power and run numbers stayed relatively the same, the average, on base, and slugging percentages had a drop off. It should be interesting to see what Cabrera does this season. Also, the rumors of the Indians trading him could come up again. Cabrera has been dangled out on the market before the deadline in seasons prior.
Voting: Cabrera, CLE; Iglesias, DET; Ramirez, CWS; Escobar, KC; Florimon, MIN
Much like at second base, there was another close one as Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas just slightly edged out Tiger’s rookie Nick Castellanos, by a difference of two points. Castellanos, the Tiger’s top prospect, will be making his first full season major league debut after being called up for eleven games in 2013. He is also ranked in Baseball America‘s top fifty prospects as well, and has been considered as having the potential to being all-star.
Back to the winner of this position, Moustakas. His 2013 was a down turn year on paper compared to what he did in 2012, but was still a important member to the Royals. This season, as the Royals look to make further strides, just as Sal Perez will also be doing, so should Moustakas.
Voting: Moustakas, KC; Castellanos, DET; Chisenhall, CLE; Davidson, CWS; Plouffe, MIN
In a decision that was more unanimous than anything else, left fielder for the all-AL Central team is Alex Gordon of Kansas City, who continued his run of success which began in 2011. Last season, Gordon made his first all-star team and won his third consecutive Gold Glove Award as a left fielder. At the plate, Gordon finished the season with a stat line of .265/.327/.422, along with twenty home runs and eighty one runs batted in. He was one of the main contributors for the Royals and will look to continue his success for the Royals, as he is a mainstay in that line up and left field as well.
Voting: Gordon, KC; Brantley, CLE; Willingham, MIN; De Aza, CWS; Dirks, DET
Austin Jackson is the all-AL Central starting center fielder, outpacing second place finisher Michael Bourn by a difference of eight. In 2013 Jackson started the season off in the minor leagues rehabbing, but put together a nice season for the Motor City Kitties batting lead off. His stat line from 2013, was .272/.337/.417, and he did steal fewer bases in 2013 than he did in 2012. He also did not lead the American League in triples like he did in 2011 and 2012. However, he did have a solid season and excelled for the Tiger’s in the American League Championship Series against Boston. 2014 should be no different for Jackson. The exception will be he most likely will have Ian Kinsler batting behind him in the second spot on the Detroit line up, which will be an added boost of speed as well.
Voting: Jackson, DET; Bourn, CLE; Cain, KC; Eaton, CWS; Presley, MIN
In another vote of unanimity, Torii Hunter, wins the right fielder award on the all-AL Central team, outpacing runner-up Norichika Aoki by thirteen points. At the age of 37/38, Hunter put together an excellent all-star 2013 and proved to still be up to defensive and offensive day-to-day tasks that the Tigers needed. He made his first all-star team in two years and put together a impressive stat line of .304/.334/.465, and also hit seventeen home runs and eighty-four runs batted in. It was a stellar season for Hunter, but one that once again ended short of a trip to the World Series. Hunter looks to have another shot at the World Series in 2014 with Detroit, as the Tigers look poised for another trip back to the ALCS once more.
Voting: Hunter, DET; Aoki, KC; Garcia, CWS; Murphy, CLE; Arcia, MIN
In what was the closest ballot, Billy Butler of the Royals edged out Victor Martinez by one point for all-AL Central designated hitter. Either could have ended up as the choice for designated hitter. Much like at second base, Martinez and Butler are interchangeable as both players put up very similar numbers in 2013, with a slight edge to Butler.
In 2013, Butler put up a stat line of .289/.374/.412, along with fifteen home runs and eighty-two runs batted in. It was a downgrade from his all-star 2012 season, but in all, just another productive for the man nicknamed Country Breakfast. He was a major contributor for this Royals team, and it would not be surprising if once again he along with Alex Gordon will be the major contributors for 2014 again.
Voting: Butler, KC; Martinez, DET; Santana, CLE; Dunn, CWS; Kubel, MIN
Luke Hochevar, a one-time starting pitcher for the Royals, is the first one out of the pen for the all-AL Central team. Hochevar began his career as a starting pitcher, but in March of 2013, was shifted over to the a middle relief role. He began to excel, finding his niche as a pitcher after years in and out of the rotation. In this role as a middle reliever, Hochevar finished the 2013 season with a record of 5-2 and an ERA of 1.92 over seventy inning pitched. He also struck out eighty-two and walked seventeen. He truly found his place on the mound in Kauffman, and proved to be successful in the relief role.
Voting: Hochevar, KC; Rondon, DET; Lindstrom, CWS; Allen, CLE; Burton, CLE
Joe Nathan makes his return this season to the AL Central, this time with Tigers, and also makes it as the all-AL Central closer. Last year with the Rangers, Nathan had his best season in recent years. Last season with the Rangers, Nathan saved forty-three games while only blowing three saves. He also finished the year with an ERA of 1.39 while striking out seventy-three, in what was an all-star season.
It’s interesting that the Tigers have the best closer at the start of 2014 season given Detroit’s recent history with the back end of the bullpen. Nathan is the piece that could finally excel in the late innings, something that Detroit has struggled with for the past few years. Nathan edged out Greg Holland by a difference of five points, but really Nathan is the right choice for closer.
Voting: Nathan, DET; Holland, KC; Perkins, MIN; Axford, CLE; Jones, CWS
Five pitchers made every ballot of the top pitchers in the division. The top four pitchers in the AL Central and part of all-AL Central team in the order from one to five are, Justin Verlander, who received eight first place votes. Chris Sale who got two first place votes. Then Max Scherzer, who got one first place. Behind Scherzer, is Anibal Sanchez and Justin Masterson, both of whom got no first place votes, but both very much so deserve to be on this list.
Chris Sale is the only Chicago White Sox player to make our all-AL Central team. No member of the Minnesota Twins made it directly, unless Ricky Nolasco is added to the list, along with Kansas City’s James Shields as they were the two pitchers that finished just outside the top five.
Starting pitching, is really the back bone of this division, even with the talented bats that occupy the American League Central. There is a bounty of front line starting talent whether it be the aces in the Motor City (Verlander, Scherzer, and Sanchez), the masterful pitching of Justin Masterson for the Tribe, then there is Sale for the South-siders, who even on a last-place team, was a master on the hill. If anything, 2014 will just be a continuation of the talent that AL Central has on the mound going for seven or more innings.
Voting: Verlander, DET; Sale, CWS; Scherzer, DET; Sanchez, DET; Masterson, CLE; Shields, KC; Nolasco, MIN
The all-AL Central team:
Chicago White Sox: Sale
Cleveland Indians: Cabrera, Masterson
Detroit Tigers: Cabrera, Kinsler, Jackson, Hunter, Nathan, Verlander, Scherzer, Sanchez
Kansas City Royals: Perez, Moustakas, Gordon, Butler, Hochevar
Minnesota Twins: N/A