The Royals seem to be for real and the defending champion Tigers are showing no signs of slowing down. The Twins continue to play good baseball and are getting surprisingly good pitching thus far. The White Sox have won five in a row entering the week and play the struggling Indians. I believe the White Sox have what it takes to get back into the race, but I cannot say the same for the Indians. Their whole team is inconsistent, which is a recipe for disaster over 162 games in a highly competitive division.
Corey Kluber: Cleveland Indians:
After starting the season winless, Kluber silenced the critics last week pitching an incredible game in St. Louis. He threw 8 innings, allowing only 1 hit while striking out 18 (the most strikeouts by an AL pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1996). He has two starts this week adding to his value in matchup formats. He faces the White Sox on the road and the Reds at home. Let’s see if he can string a couple of solid starts together and bring his overall statistics back to where they belong.
Aaron Hicks: Minnesota Twins:
In his first couple of go arounds in MLB Hicks played incredible defense, but couldn’t hit at all. This year, he didn’t make the team out of spring and was sent to AAA to work on his hitting. He added a leg kick, and has recently been swinging a hot bat. Last week he was called up from the minors and has gotten off to a solid start for the Twins. He is worth keeping an eye on. The talent is there, he just needs to prove he can excel in the show.
David Murphy: Cleveland Indians:
Entering 2015, there was no clear role for David Murphy in the Indians crowded outfield. Due to some early injuries and struggling hitters, he was given everyday at bats against RHP and has made the most out of it. He enters the week hitting .315 with an .826 OPS. Last week he was given a chance to bat cleanup, and was very effective. He’s likely available in most formats, so I suggest keeping an eye on him. If he continues to see time in the four hole of the Indians lineup, he will start to rack up RBI as well.
Kyle Lobstein: Detroit Tigers:
He’s the only Tigers starter that I haven’t talked about so far this season. He is the least known commodity in the rotation, and is quietly doing a great job filling in for the former CY Young award winner and MVP, Justin Verlander. He has two starts this week and will look to continue his consistent pitching. The Tigers rotation has been strong this year, and Lobstein is making it a difficult decision on what to do with him when Verlander returns. If you throw out his last start against the Twins, his overall numbers are very impressive. There is still no timetable for Verlanders return, so ride “Lobster” while he’s still in the rotation. The Tigers will score him a ton of runs.
Ranking the AL Central Closers:
1) Greg Holland: KC Royals:
He is as automatic as it comes in the 9th inning or later. Cold blooded, electric stuff, and an amazing K/9 inning rate. With all the amazing arms in this bullpen, Holland’s job is still as secure as it gets. In my opinion, he’s the best closer in the AL, and may be the best in all of baseball.
2) David Robertson: Chicago White Sox:
The Sox needed a closer more than any team in baseball after the disaster that was their bullpen in 2014. They paid Robertson a lot of money to come to Chicago, and he hasn’t disappointed. He learned from the greatest of all time in Mariano Rivera, and provides consistency and experience to a young, up-and-coming bullpen.
3) Joakim Soria: Detroit Tigers:
I spoke a lot about Soria earlier this year following Joe Nathan’s injury. He has been better than expected since taking over the closer’s role and has provided the Tigers with an anchor in the bullpen. Entering 2015, the critics all said that the pen was the Tigers weakness. Soria has done a great job in making sure they were all wrong (including myself). He’s going to have a lot of save opportunities as the closer of this power house offense, which is why I have him 3rd and not 4th on the list.
4) Glen Perkins: Minnesota Twins:
This is a guy who doesn’t get the credit I think he deserves. He’s extremely reliable, consistent, and has held down the closer role in Minnesota for three years and counting. The biggest downfall to Perkins is that the arms in front of him in the bullpen are suspect, and I question whether or not they can hold down leads and get him the ball. I should add that in any other division, Perkins would be higher than 4th on the list. The Central is loaded with top tier closers.
5) Cody Allen: Cleveland Indians:
Entering 2015 I would have had Allen ranked 3rd on this list. His early season struggles definitely have an impact on my opinion, but it’s worth noting that he has turned it around over the last few weeks. Even with his struggles, he wasn’t taken out of the closer role, and that just goes to show the confidence that the organization has in him going forward. Allen is one of the up-and-coming players at the position and is s future All-Star.
I stand by my belief that this is the best and most competitive division in baseball this year. At least 4-of-5 teams should finish over .500 and have a chance to make the post season. The White Sox are the most interesting team to me. They are coming into their own and still have 30 games to play against the Royals and Tigers. I don’t see the Twins keeping up their success, but hey, who thought the Astros would be leading the AL West after 40 games? Anything is possible in this day and age. If you have any questions or comments, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.