Thursday, March 02, 2006
When talking about the Twins' ability to contend it comes down to Peter Gammons-esque conditional statements:
• If the trio of young position players (Morneau, Mauer, Bartlett) hit and…
• if Hunter is healthy and…
• if Castillo and Batista still have a bit left in the tank and…
• the run prevention (pitching and defense) performs to last season’s level, then…
the Twins will compete in the AL Central.
The Twins are borderline contenders, but I’m confident in the young trio, Hunter, Castillo and the kick a$$ pitching will put them in the mix with Cleveland and Chicago.
In Cleveland, the Indians are an interesting club. They are young and strong up the middle, have solid starters, and a few prospects waiting in the wings all while trying to make the postseason. The trade of Coco is a perfect example of Cleveland’s willingness to maybe take a half a step backwards to move two giant steps in 2007. Even if Michaels puts up his customary 380/420 line playing fulltime, there will be a drop off from Coco, but it will be worth six years of Andy Marte.
Marte will team up with Victor Martinez, Sizemore, Peralta, and Hafner over the next few years to form an 800 run offense. The development or acquisition of just league average hitters at first and the outfield corners could turn the offense into a 900+ run machine for the last quarter of the decade. As for this season, the Indians should perform close to last year with the wood. On the mound, the Indians have a solid rotation led by C.C. and Cliff Lee. The relievers will take a step back and be the main reason for a few win drop off in the standings. The arms on the farm could alleviate the issue in the pen.
The Indians are unlikely to win 93-96 games in 2006. The losses of Coco and Millwood without adequate replacements and a regression to the mean for the pen will bring the Indians down to 90 wins. But that should have them in the thick of the A.L. Central race with the organization likely taking control of the division in the coming years.
But not in 2006, this season should belong to the Other Sox. The rotation and pen are stacked – good, deep, and effective. The addition of Javy Vazquez should offset the loss of the defensive wizard, Rowand, in center. The Other Sox run prevention should be just as good as in 2005.
On the other side of the ledger, the acquisition of Jim Thome will be the deciding factor in determining if the Other Sox win more than their 91 Pythagorean win total in 2005. Thome is a high risk – high reward player at this point in his career. It is certainly a gamble. Unfortunately for all of the new Other Sox fans, Kenny Williams did little else to improve his club offensively this past winter. He could have upgraded in the OF or at the hot corner. Regardless, the Other Sox are the favs in the A.L. Central.