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A.L. Central Fantasy Preview

Francisco Liriano

The A.L. Central is a glass half empty/half full division. Here you can find some of the best and most dependable players as well as bottom-dwelling schmucks. Let’s be honest here and just point out that you want Twins, Tigers, and White Sox players on your team. If you are backed into a corner, you will settle for some Indians. However, only under dire circumstances should you have to consider Kansas City talent.

Minnesota Twins

The Twins come to the table with two notable fantasy cornerstones and plenty of pitching options. The big questions on everyone’s mind are if former MVP Justin Morneau is fully recovered from his concussion or if Japanese import Tsuyoshi Nishioka is worth the money.

Justin Morneau (1B)

It seemed like he was heading for his 2nd MVP trophy when a concussion ended his epic run last July. In 81 games, Morneau was hitting .345/18/56 when he took a knee to the head in Toronto. There is no question he has the skills and power to be an elite 1B, but concerns with his recovery will make you reluctant to draft him. He is cleared to practive this Spring, but he has not been cleared for action. The Twins are not certain if he will start opening day.

Joe Mauer (C)

One of fantasy’s best backstops snuck his way into some first rounds in 2010 with his explosive, MVP campaign in ’09. He couldn’t match his power from that season (28 HR in ’09 to 9 in ’10), but come on, we should know that having Mauer on your team means 130+ games and great hitting. He had offseason knee surgery, which may bother some owners, but let their hesitation be your reward.

Delmon Young (LF)

Finally arrived in 2010 with 21 HR and 112 RBI with a .298 avg. Like all hitters, Target Field zapped power with only 6 HR. Young had a career high 40% FB rate which explains the increase in power. If power remains same, then he is still a great value with hitting and RBI totals. The best part? He’s still only 25!

Other Hitters

  • Tsuyoshi Nishioka (2B, SS) -The Twins won this “sweepstakes” by bringing in Nishioka. I don’t get the hype. Ok hitting with so-so SB totals. Bill James calls him the next Kaz Matsui, and I won’t disagree.
  • Jason Kubel (LF, RF) - He can’t hit lefties (.225 in ’10) and he can’t hit in the Grand Canyon known as Target Field (.254/.326/.419). So, what’s the point?
  • Jim Thome (1B) - Not bad for 40. While he still clearly has some pop left, we can’t reasonably expect a repeat.
  • Michael Cuddyer (1B, RF) – Had GB% of 50 last season and under .400 SLG against righties. Eek!

Francisco Liriano (SP)

Are we ready to welcome him back? In his best year since Tommy John surgery, Liriano threw a career high 191.2 IP and fanned 201 batters. What do I like about him? Well, he induced a ton of ground balls (54 GB%) and he plays home games at Target field. Hell, he only allowed 9 HR all of last season. The aura of Tommy John surgery will be in the back of your minds, but last season was very encouraging.

Scott Baker (SP)

Baker’s biggest flaw over his career has been the longball. He allowed 23 last season, but Target Feld was not to blame as he allowed only 8 homers at home in 2010. If you do the math, that means he allowed 15 on the road. The skills aren’t a question, but when will he have that elite season?

Joe Nathan (RP)

The Twins are confident Nathan will be set to go for Opening Day after a one year layoff from Tommy John surgery. It may take some time to shake off the rust, but Nathan has a great track record with 36+ saves every season from ’04-’09.

Other Pitchers

  • Carl Pavano (SP) - Not to rain on his bounce-back season of 17 wins and 3.75 ERA, but he can only stay this good if he can continue to keep the free passes down and induce a lot of ground balls. If not, then that stellar 4.76 K/9 will come back to haunt him.
  • Brian Duensing (SP, RP) -Not gonna lie, he gives off the Pavano vibe. Again, must maintain GB% to be effective.

Chicago White Sox

The Central Sox contain some notable power hitters that are worth jumping for and some underrated pitching options. The most notable addition in the offseason was of OF Adam Dunn, who will look to make U.S. Cellular Field his personal playground.

Adam Dunn (1B, LF)

Dunn will fill the role of DH for the first time in his career and as one of baseball’s best pure power hitters, he looks to makes the best hitter’s park in baseball his own personal launching pad. Consistency is his game; Dunn has 7 straight seasons of 38+ HR and 92+ RBI. Every season, he has his shot at 100 R and 100 BB. The only downside? His hitting. Expect the .240 avg and anything better is just a bonus.

Paul Konerko (1B)

Wow! After a few years off from the power game, Konerko exploded (in a contract year) for .312/39/112. He set a career high with a .594 SLG and his hr/f rate spiked all the way to 20%. What does this mean? Regression? Oh, most definitely. Fall off the face of the Earth? Not likely. Another run at 30 HR is likely, especially if he hits in front of Adam Dunn.

Alex Rios (CF)

He’s usually a good bet for 20-20, which makes him a good pick in standard 5×5 formats. He did have inconsistent 1st/2nd half with .305/15/49 before break and .258/6/39 after the break, but hitting in this lineup should make you warm up to drafting him.

Other Hitters

  • Carlos Quentin (LF, RF) - Much of skill is due to favorable home park. Hit 19 of 26 HR at home and hit abysmal .214 on road. Forget 2008.
  • Juan Pierre (LF) - Baseball’s stolen base king (68 in ’10) only holds value with his speed. There’s no doubt he can make a run for 50 SB, but don’t overpay for a one-category stud.
  • Alexei Ramirez (2B, SS) - SS is so shallow, and Ramirez looked more like his ’08 self last season.
  • Gordon Beckham (2B) -Still not quite there yet, but hit almost .100 points higher in 2nd half of last season, which is previewing skills for 2011.

Jake Peavy (SP)

A terrible start to the season and freak shoulder injury puts his 2010 totals in bad light. Posted 1.75 ERA in 36.0 IP in June before detached shoulder muscle cost him rest of season. Recovery is going very well, but may miss first month of season. Still has skills, and sub-4.00 ERA and great K numbers will be there when he returns.

John Danks (SP)

2010 marked the 3rd straight season of 195.0+ IP with sub-4.00 ERA. He is an innings eater with respectable strikeout numbers. Just call him a better Mark Buehrle. Oh, and still only 26 years old.

Gavin Floyd (SP)

Was on pace for career year, but shoulder fatigue led to 5.05 ERA in August and September. Other than that, numbers similar to past few seasons. Like Danks, still young and in prime, so room for improvement is always there.

Other Pitchers

  • Mark Buehrle (SP) - Eating innings is one thing, but complete inability to dominate at the plate (210.1 IP, 99 K) is a red flag.
  • Edwin Jackson (SP) -Returned to ’09 form in 2nd half with 3.90 ERA after break. Induced a lot more groundballs (49 GB%), which is always encouraging.
  • Matt Thornton (RP) -Bobby Jenks left for Boston, so this puts Thornton in favorable position for closer role. Has posted 2.70 ERA and 11.01 K/9 over past three seasons.

Detroit Tigers

Detroit brings to the table some stellar strikeout pitchers, but most notably, slugger Miguel Cabrera. M-Cab is making offseason noise with his off field behavior, but it has never slowed down his performance before. The other noteworthy news was the signing of Victor Martinez, who looks to uphold his value as one of fantasy’s best catchers.

Miguel Cabrera (1B)

I shouldn’t have to go into too much detail, but I’ll humor you. He’s had 30+ HR in 6 of last 7 seasons and had 110+ RBI in each of those seasons. His career-high 38 HR last season and 126 RBI were great, but even more important to note was his 89 walks. Hard to believe he is still getting better, but he is. Still only 27-years-old!

Victor Martinez (1B, C)

Despite some injury troubles, Martinez finished 2010 strong with a .333/7/25 line in September. It seems he can hit consistently well anywhere he plays, but my only concern his his new home field. Victor is the proud owner of .225/.321/.349 in 47 games at Comerica Park.

Other Hitters

  • Magglio Ordonez (RF) -Gruesome ankle injury cut short productive season, but Ordronez is still a great hitter. Not a great power hitter, but still a great hitter.
  • Austin Jackson (CF) - Rookie of the Year runner up scored over 100 runs and swiped 27 bases. Why should you stay away? Only walked 47 times and generous hitting (.393 BABIP) will lead to regression.

Justin Verlander (SP)

Verlander surpassed 200 IP and 200 K for the second straight season in 2010. Granted, he didn’t reach the 269 K mark of ’09, but he lowered his ERA to 3.37 and put up 18 wins. This marks at least 17 wins in 4 of the last 5 seasons. Forget 2008, it was a fluke; Verlander is an anchor for any staff.

Max Scherzer (SP)

After being demoted to the minors in May, Scherzer seemed like a lost cause. Whatever he did, it was the lost piece of the puzzle as Scherzer posted a 2.55 ERA and 8.76 K/9 in 148.0 IP from June through October. His high strikeout rate combined with 40 GB% in addition to playing half his games at Comerica are enough to make your mouth water.

Other Pitchers

  • Jose Valverde (RP) - Minor elbow injury limited time at end of season, but put up typical numbers. Good strikeout numbers and decent ERA…you could do worse with your closer.
  • Rick Porcello (SP) – Had a slight rebound after he was demoted, but poor K-rate (4.65 K/9) reminds you of Mark Buehrle.

Cleveland Indians

Looking at the 2011 Indians, you can’t help but be reminded of the classic sports film “Major League”. To pull a quote from the movie: “Who are these f***in guys?”. While it is true that Cleveland will not be the first, second, or even third place you look for fantasy talent, there are still ownable players to be had.

Shin-Soo Choo (LF, RF)

Choo, despite not having the flash and fame of other outfielders, is one of fantasy’s most consistent contributors. He won’t dominate one single category, but he will hit .300, he will hit 20 HR, and he will steal 20 bases.

Grady Sizemore (CF)

I am putting him here to caution you from drafting Grady as the player you want him to be rather than what he actually is. Grady was once  a superb source of power and speed (in a leadoff role no less), but two straight injury-plagued seasons should have you taking a pass on him.

Other Hitters

  • Carlos Santana (C) - After feasting on minor league pitching, Santana flashed his power potential in limited time until a knee injury cut short his rookie campaign. Has talent to be fantasy’s next big catcher…just not this season.
  • Travis Hafner (1B) -Another Indian who used to be an elite hitter, Hafner is a shell of his former self. He did post .329/.409/.523 after break, but again, let the past be the past.

Fausto Carmona (SP)

Carmona looked like he may have regained his ’07 form with 210.1 IP and a 3.77 ERA. He just needs to stick what he does best: inducing those grounders, which he did plenty of in ’10 with a 56 GB%. If you buy into his rediscovered skills, then you get an innings eater with decent ERA, but little K’s.

Other Pitchers

  • Carlos Carrasco (SP) - Made most of September call up by posting 3.83 ERA and 38 K in 44.2 IP. Will start in rotation to begin season.
  • Chris Perez (RP) - Took over closer’s role and managed 23 saves with 1.71 ERA. Favorable .222 BABIP points to rise in ERA, but don’t completely abandon ship.

Kansas City Royals

…And then their is Kansas City. Oh man, you thought Cleveland had scarce fantasy talent. The fact of the matter is that no player on the Royals last season reached 20 HR and the highest RBI total was 78 (shared by two players). One of those players is one of the only Royals you should draft.

Billy Butler (1B)

Butler has two straight years of .300+ hitting and 45+ doubles. Last season, he made progress by cutting down on strikeouts and raising his walk total. Another solid hitting season is on the way, but he isn’t going to be a power hitter.

Other Hitters

  • Kila Ka’aihue (1B) - After destroying minor league pitching , he had explosive September where he hit 6 HR with 18 RBI and .548 SLG. Won’t dazzle with BA, but he has power potential.
  • Alicedes Escobar (SS) -Escobar has the speed to be deemed worthy at the SS position, it just all depends on where he hits in the lineup.
  • Alex Gordon (3B) - I’m sick of waiting. He’s not worth the time.

Joakim Soria (RP)

The only pitcher worth owning on this staff, and he’s the closer. In his four seasons, Soria has been lights out with a 2.01 ERA and at least 30 saves in three straight (two 40+ saves in that time). He would be considered “elite” at closer if he wasn’t saddled with thr stigma of playing for the Royals, but Soria is a legit option for your team.

Other Pitchers

Uh…nope.

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Discussion

2 comments for “A.L. Central Fantasy Preview”

  1. Being a White Sox fan I’m sure that I’m biased, however I do agree with your assessments on their pitching staff. All 5 starters can help a fantasy team out. When they’re all playing up to their potential, the staff as a whole is top-5 in Baseball no question.
    collegesportswriters.com

    Posted by Kevin Cunningham | March 5, 2011, 7:18 am
  2. at least the Royals have Bruce Chen….ugh. You’re right, there is literally no pitcher other than Soria worth owning.

    Posted by KC Downey | March 6, 2011, 1:23 am

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