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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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
…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.
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.
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.