Kansas City Royals
Last season: 95-67 (1st)
Last World Series: 2015 (Beat Mets)
Postseason potential: There’s no reason to think the Royals will swoon after winning their first World Series since 1985. All the main pieces remain, including the best infield in the game, including third baseman Mike Moustakas and first baseman Eric Hosmer, who combined for 40 home runs and 175 RBI. Right-handers Yordano Ventura and Edinson Volquez each won 13 games and closer Wade Davis returns after compiling a 0.94 ERA in 67 1/3 innings. They play the best defense in the league, and outfielders Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson each have speed to spare. The Royals remain a cut above the rest of the Central and appear to be a postseason lock.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Last season: 83-79 (2nd)
Last World Series: 1991 (Beat Braves)
Postseason potential: High hopes are on third baseman-turned-right fielder Miguel Sano after his July debut in 2015. Sano hit .269 with 18 homers and should be a Twins cornerstone for years to come. That’s also the hope for slugging Korean import Byung Ho Park, who was signed in the off-season. Aging fixtures such as Joe Mauer and Trevor Plouffe still produce, but it’s becoming time for Sano and center fielder Byron Buxton to lead the offense if the Twins want to contend. Right-handers Phil Hughes, Ervin Santana and Kyle Gibson lead the rotation that helped the club end a streak of four consecutive 90-loss seasons.
Last season: 81-80 (3rd)
Last World Series: 1997 (Lost to Marlins)
Postseason potential: The Indians have quietly cultivated a stellar rotation that includes Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco, all of whom pitched at least 183 innings in ’15 with sub-3.65 ERAs. Add to the mix Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin and closer Cody Allen and the Indians could be the biggest threat to the Royals’ Central supremacy. Shortstop Francisco Lindor was impressive after making his debut in July and finished with a .313 batting average, 12 homers and 51 RBIs. Mike Napoli, who finished ’15 helping the Rangers win the West, should help add pop to the lineup that was near the bottom with 140 homers.
Last season: 74-87 (5th)
Last World Series: 2012 (Lost to Giants)
Postseason potential: The Tigers are the wild card of the division. A lineup seemingly as deep as any in the division, if not the league, coupled with a rotation that includes Justin Verlander, Jordan Zimmermann and Daniel Norris should legitimately contend for at least a wild-card berth. If Verlander returns from an injury-shortened season and Norris, who came to Detroit in the trade that sent David Price to Toronto last July, pitches over an entire season as he did down the stretch then the Royals may not run away with the division. Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton can all still hit. Designated hitter Victor Martinez, who struggled with injuries a year ago, may be in for comeback season at the age of 37.
Chicago White Sox
Last season: 76-86 (4th)
Last World Series: 2005 (Beat Astros)
Postseason potential: Adding third baseman Todd Frazier (35 HR, 89 RBIs) from the Reds gives the White Sox’s weak offense (a league-low 622 runs and a .250 batting average) some added pop. Frazier fits in with Jose Abreu (30 HR, 101 RBI) and Melky Cabrera (12 HR, 77 RBI). Ace Chris Sale (274 strikeouts), Jose Quintana (3.36 ERA) and Carlos Rodon (3.75 ERA) are solid starters, but John Danks and Mat Latos both struggled with ERAs above 4.70. Team chemistry could be an issue in the wake of the Adam LaRoche debacle that saw him retire when management asked him to refrain from bringing his son into the clubhouse. Losing LaRoche’s unproductive bat (.207 BA, 44 RBIs) in the DH spot might be a positive, but the harm caused to the locker room vibe could doom the season before it even began.