As a part of our MLB betting previews for the 2010 season, Cappers Info poses ten questions that should be on the minds of all baseball fans in the AL Central as they prepare to make their MLB picks for the year.
1: Will the M&M Boys continue to light it up for the Twinkies… Any time you've got two guys on your team that combine to bat well over .300 with 58 bombs and a shade under 200 RBIs, you've got something special. That's what the Twins have with 1B Justin Morneau and C Joe Mauer. Mauer hit a whopping .365 last season, which no one expects him to be able to match in '10, but there's no reason to think that this duo won't have just as much run production again for the defending AL Central champs.
2: Does a healthy Jake Peavy give the White Sox the best rotation in baseball… In baseball, probably not. In the AL Central, absolutely. The White Sox traded the kitchen sink and half of their minor league system to the Padres for the right to acquire Peavy in hopes of developing a nasty #1-#3 combination in the front end of their rotation. Peavy's career stats tell the story. He's 95-68 with a 3.26 ERA and a 1.18 career WHIP. As long as fellow starters LHP Mark Buehrle and RHP Gavin Floyd have similar seasons to what they did in '09, the White Sox are going to be lethal.
3: Was picking up Max Scherzer from the D'Backs worth getting rid of both Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson… This is a very interesting question from the Tigers' standpoint, and the answer to it will probably decide whether or not they contend again in 2010. In losing Granderson, 30+ homers and 20+ stolen bases went out the door. Jackson pitched like a Cy Young candidate last season at times. Scherzer has all of the potential in the world and looked great at season's end for Arizona, but this was a costly, costly trade, and anything less than 17 wins and an ERA hovering around 3.50 is going to be a big disappointment for the Tigers.
4: How much longer does Ozzie have… If the Chi Sox don't get off to a good start this year, look for GM Kenny Williams to make the move on Manager Ozzie Guillen before the move gets made on him. Both Williams and Guillen should be ashamed of the way that this team played last year, as it clearly had the potential to win the AL Central. But when push came to shove, it was sell, sell, sell at the deadline. Things have set up nicely again for Chicago, but if they don't go so well, look for Guillen's recent World Series ring to be forgotten and to see him on the unemployment line.
5: Will the Indians show any signs of improvement in 2010… It's really hard to see. This pitching staff is still woeful at best, and the lineup really was crippled was C Victor Martinez was traded from it last year. Keep an eye on 1B Matt LaPorta, who may be the best prospect that the team has going for it right now, but even getting 40+ homers from the slugger isn't going to be enough to help out a team full of budding prospects that are very, very raw.
6: Can someone step up and help out Zach Greinke in KC… The Royals very quietly made a few signings of note in the offseason, including OF Scott Podsednik, OF Rick Ankiel, and C Jason Kendall. Kendall may not seem like a highly coveted free agent signing, but he'll bring his veteran knowledge to a very young pitching staff that badly needs some help. Look for the new catcher for the Royals to step up and help guide some of these young pitchers through tough times in 2010.
7: Is a true ace going to step up for the Twins… This is what really took Minnesota out of the playoffs a year ago and is what will probably keep it down again in 2010. The Twins have a lot of decent looking arms at the front end of their rotation, but Scott Baker isn't the man to lead this team to the Promised Land. Unless something gets back into Francisco Liriano and he becomes a superstar once again, there really isn't an arm in the bunch that has the potential to be that real #1 go-to guy.
8: Is the Damon deal going to work for the Tigers… Talk about spending a boat load of money on a liability! Sure, Damon batted .282 last season with 24 homers, 82 ribbies, and a dozen steals, but how much of that was a product of Yankee Stadium? The porches in one of baseball's newest stadiums are as short as could be, and the wind tunnels there carry balls out of the park that are routine pop flies in other yards. Now, Damon has to move to Comerica Park, where he has to hit the ball a mile to get it out of the stadium, and at 36 years old, he's more of a liability in left field than he ever was before. Spending $8M for this seems like an awfully miserable signing.
9: Has Closer Bobby Jenks had it… Once upon a time, Jenks was one of the most dominant closers in baseball. Last season, he went just 29 for 35 in save chances, including two blown saves in his final three outings of the year before being shut down. Former closer JJ Putz was signed in the offseason, most likely to put some pressure on the White Sox's stopper. If Jenks can't get his act together, he'll be a middle relief man again in a heartbeat.
10: Bottom Line: How will the standings look in the AL Central when the season is said and done… This is the question that we will pose for all six divisions and is the one of most importance. This should be a hotly contested division once again, as the top three teams should all be in it right at the end. None will be able to compete for the Wild Card in all likelihood. Don't be surprised if the season has to get extended by a day again this year… Twins, White Sox, Tigers, Royals, Indians.
Minnesota Twins +2500
Detroit Tigers +3000
Cleveland Indians +8000
Detroit Tigers +2000
Cleveland Indians +5000
Kansas City Royals +7500
Chicago White Sox +2800
Detroit Tigers +3500
Cleveland Indians +8500
Kansas City Royals +10500