Regular Articles
The AL Central is arguably the weakest division in the Major Leagues. The Detroit Tigers, losers of 119 games last season, along with the rebuilding Indians are definitely not going to contend. The Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, and Minnesota Twins all have their flaws, but one team has to win the Division this season My pick for order of finish is the order in which the teams are listed.

Minnesota Twins

Who they lost: A.J. Pierzynski, c (Traded to Giants), Eric Milton, lhp (Traded to Phillies), Eddie Guardado, lhp (Signed with Mariners), Chris Gomez, ss-2b (Signed with Blue Jays), Denny Hocking, if (Signed with Rockies), Kenny Rogers, lhp (Signed with Rangers), Rick Reed, rhp (Signed with Pirates)

Who they gained: Sean Douglass, p (Waived from Orioles), Joe Nathan, p (Traded from Giants), Boof Bonser, p (Traded from Giants), Francisco Liriano, p (Traded from Giants), Matt Guerrier, p (Waived from White Sox), Rick Helling, rhp (Signed with Marlins)

What to expect: The Minnesota Twins should have no problem re-winning the Division. This team won the title last year, and with all the subtractions by other teams, figures to win again. The probably will not even win 90 games this year, but will come out with the best record in the division.

Strengths: The Minnesota Twins have an excellent defense, which is a necessity on the fast turf in the Dome. They also have an abundance of Major League ready prospects that can be dealt for another bullpen arm or another bat. Johan Santana figures to be one of the top 5 pitchers in the league this season.

Weaknesses: The pitching staff is not as strong as in years past, especially with the loss of Rick Reed, Rick Helling, and Joe Mays (Tommy John surgery). The offense is not going to bat many teams into submission, either.

Kansas City Royals

Who they lost: Rondell White, of (Signed with Tigers), Shawn Sedlacek, rhp (Traded to Mets), Jose Lima, rhp (Signed with Dodgers), Raul Ibanez, of (Signed with Mariners)

Who they gained: Scott Sullivan, rhp (Signed from Reds), Matt Stairs, 1b-of (Signed from Pirates), Benito Santiago, c (Signed from San Francisco), Tony Graffanino, ss (Signed from White Sox), Kelly Stinnett, c (Signed from Cincinnati), Juan Gonzalez, of (Signed from Rangers), Jaime Cerda, lhp (Traded from Mets)

What to expect: The Kansas City Royals put together a brilliant run toward the postseason last season but fell short at the end of the season. They figure to be a better team with the addition of Juan Gonzalez to the outfield, but they also lost Raul Ibanez. This team will finish a close second to the Twins first.

Strengths: The Royals have a young core of players like Angel Berroa, Mike Sweeney, Jimmy Gobble, and David DeJesus. They also have do-it-all centerfielder Carlos Beltran. The backend of the bullpen features many power arms, and the rotation has several youngsters who might step up this season.

Weaknesses: The Royals will rely on those youngsters because they do not have much of a veteran presence other than Brian Anderson and Darrell May. Also there will be a Carlos Beltran controversy the entire season over whether the All Star CF has been traded or not.

Chicago White Sox

Who they lost: Bartolo Colon, rhp (Signed with Angels), Tony Graffanino, ss (Signed with Royals), Carl Everett, of (Signed with Expos), Roberto Alomar, 2b (Signed with White Sox)

Who they gained: Cliff Politte, rhp (Signed from Blue Jays), Shingo Takatsu, rp (Signed from Japan)

What to expect: The Chicago White Sox should have won the division last when using Run Differentials. However, Run Differentials are not used, so the White Sox did not win the division. A dropoff in the performance of Esteban Loaiza is to be expected, as well as the improvement of Paul Konerko.

Strengths: The White Sox’s offense will improve this season with Paul Konerko leading the way. Also look for youngsters Joe Crede and Aaron Rowand to finally make the impact everyone was waiting for. Mark Buehrle, the team’s ace, returns and should be ready to pitch like an ace. Demaso Marte will expound on last year’s brilliant stats and continue his dominance.

Weaknesses: The bullpen of the White Sox remains a huge question, especially if Billy Koch is anywhere near the backend of it. The pitching staff will not repeat last season’s performance, so Mark Buehrle must shoulder an even greater load.

Cleveland Indians

Who they lost: Danys Baez, rhp (Signed with Devil Rays), Ellis Burks, dh (Signed with Red Sox)

Who they gained: Scott Stewart, lhp (Traded from Expos), Jose Jimenez, rhp (Signed from Rockies), Terry Mulholland, lhp (Signed from Mariners)

What to expect:
The Cleveland Indians will continue their rebuilding ways, but they will have a stronger Major League club this season. Scott Stewart and Jose Jimenez will set up Bob Wickman; Terry Mulholland will assist the younger starters mature.

Strengths: The strength of this team is the very strong group of prospects they have. Oh yeah, Milton Bradley and Matt Lawton are pretty good in the outfield and David Riske, Jose Jimenez, Bob Wickman, and Scott Stewart should form a strong nucleus for the backend of the bullpen.

Weaknesses: The major weakness of this team is that the strong group of prospects they have is playing at the Major League level. The arms in the rotation are young, and the faces around the diamond are green.

Detroit Tigers

Who they lost: Shane Halter, 3b (Signed with Angels), Eugene Kingsale, of (Signed with Padres), Dean Palmer, 3b (Retired)

Who they gained: Fernando Vina, 2b (Signed from Cardinals), Rondell White, of (Signed from Padres), Jason Johnson, rhp (Signed from Orioles), Carlos Guillen, ss (Traded from Mariners), Ivan Rodriguez, c (Signed from Marlins)

What to expect: The improvements the Detroit Tigers have made should help their woeful offense a little. A heart-of-the-order of Ivan Rodriguez, Dimitri Young, and Bobby Higginson should amount to something. The addition of Jason Johnson to the pitching staff might help slightly.

Strengths: The Detroit Tigers have one of the fiercest catchers behind the plate. They also have a strong double play combo in Carlos Guillen and Fernando Vina. Franklyn German and Fernando Rodney are poised to make an impact at the Major League level as well in the closer role.

Weaknesses: The Tigers have Mike Maroth coming off a 20 loss season, as well as Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Cornejo, both of whom had a spectacular number of defeats. It will be fun seeing if the three youngsters can bounce back from a horrible season like last one’s. The bullpen does not look like a reliable one, nor does the majority of the team’s offense.