The Cleveland Indians, who lost the World Series to the Cubs in Game 7 last season, have the scariest rotation and the deepest bullpen in the American League Central.
Who has the best chances to catch them?
Maybe the Detroit Tigers, assuming health in their rotation and growth with their young guys. Former National Jordan Zimmermann had a strong start with his new team in 2016, but neck injuries slowed him the rest of the way.
By all indications, Cleveland will run away with this division.
Here’s a look at the AL Central pitching:
Chicago: The White Sox will be without yearly All-Star and Cy Young Award candidate left-hander Chris Sale, leaving lefty Jose Quintana as the ace, and he’s a good one. He’s an underrated pitcher with a 3.41 ERA in five seasons with the White Sox. ... The rest of the rotation has a prospect, lefty Carlos Rodon, 24, who had a 4.04 in his second season in 2016, and three veterans, right-handers James Shields and Miguel Gonzalez and left-hander Derek Holland. Shields has been a disaster. Gonzalez, a former Oriole, had a 3.73 ERA in 135 innings last season. Holland, 30, is a reclamation project. Holland was a rotation leader in Texas before injuries sidelined him. ... Right-hander David Robertson, 31, is the closer. He’s had 39, 34 and 37 saves in each of his last three seasons. His highest ERA in that time is 3.47. The White Sox are willing to trade Robertson for the right price and the Nationals have had reportedly had interest.
Cleveland: The Indians return a rotation that had the second-best ERA (4.08) in the AL last season. The rotation is strong, young and talented: Corey Kluber is 30 with a 3.14 ERA, Carlos Carrasco 29 and 3.32, Danny Salazar 27 and 3.87, and Trevor Bauer 26 and 4.35. The fifth starter will be Josh Tomlin, 32 and 4.42. ... The closer is righty Cody Allen, who saved 32 of 35 last season with a 2.51 ERA. The Indians added lefty Boone Logan to a bullpen that already has all-world lefty Andrew Miller. Logan limited right-handed batters to a .211 average last year, while lefties hit .142 while he pitched for Colorado. The bullpen also includes right-handers Dan Otero, Bryan Shaw and Zach McAllister.
Detroit: The Tigers ace is right-hander Justin Verlander, 33, who came on strong in the second half (1.96 ERA) after a 4.73 ERA in the first half. ... The Tigers expect righty Zimmermann to be healthy after a neck injury hampered him most of his first season in Detroit. ... The Tigers expect improvement from right-hander Michael Fulmer, the AL Rookie of the Year who went 11-7 with a 3.06 ERA, as well as lefties Daniel Norris and Matthew Boyd. ... Right-hander Anibal Sanchez can contribute assuming health. ... At 35, right-hander Francisco Rodriguez is the Tigers closer. He saved 44 of 49 last season, but his ERA was at 3.24.
Kansas City: With the tragic death of Yordano Ventura, 25, killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic, the Royals ace is left-hander Danny Duffy, who started in the bullpen and ended 12-3 with a 3.56 ERA in 26 starts. The Royals signed right-hander Jason Hammel to a two-year contract to fill Ventura’s spot in the rotation. ... Righty Ian Kennedy (3.61 ERA last season) is at No. 2. ... After that, it’s left-hander Jason Vargas, coming back from Tommy John, and right-hander Nate Karns, a former National who pitched in the bullpen and rotation last year for Seattle. ... Righties Chris Young and Matt Strahm are candidates for the fifth spot. Strahm will be in the bullpen if he doesn’t make the rotation. ... The Royals’ dominating bullpen was the story in the 2014 and 2015 World Series, but it hasn’t the same power this year. Greg Holland is in Colorado and Wade Davis went to the Cubs in a trade, leaving only Kelvin Herrera, who has 360 strikeouts in 356 1/3 innings. Herrera, who has pitched in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, will close. Left-hander Brian Flynn and right-hander Joakim Soria will be setting up.
Minnesota: The Twins’ best starter is right-hander Ervin Santana, who had a 3.38 ERA and seven wins last season, a snapshot of how bad the Twins were. ... The Twins need righty Kyle Gibson to return to his 3.84 ERA from 2015. Last season, he was at 5.07. ... The No. 3 guy is lefty Hector Santiago, who is the classic innings eater, and No. 4 is likely to be right-hander Phil Hughes, 30, who is coming back from shoulder surgery after have a 3.52 ERA in 2014. ... The Twins also have right-handers Ryan Vogelsong, Nick Tepesch, Trevor May and Jose Berrios, their top pitching prospect. ... The Twins added former Nationals right-hander Matt Belisle to their bullpen. Left-hander Glen Perkins, a former closer, is expected to be healthy. Right-hander Brandon Kintzler saved 17 of 20 last season.