Royals

A position-by-position look at the newly improved AL Central

Melky Cabrera
Melky Cabrera The Associated Press

Much of the transaction news at baseball’s Winter Meetings last week occurred in the American League Central.

The White Sox, who finished fourth at 73-89, were the most active, added the lumber of Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche along with starter Jeff Samardzija and closer David Robertson.

But everybody got into the act with major pieces.

Slugger Yoenis Cespedes will make the defending division champion Tigers’ lineup that much more potent. The third-place Indians got outfielder Brandon Moss from the A’s, and the Twins landed free-agent starter Ervin Santana.

The Royals acquired free-agent designated hitter Kendrys Morales to fill the hole left by Billy Butler. The reigning American League champions also closed in on signing Alex Rios to fill a spot in right field, but they are are still seeking a starting pitcher.

Here’s a breakdown of the division by prospective starters, rotation and bullpen. Other teams projected lineups are based on MLB.com and other media reports:

FIRST BASE

▪ Royals: Eric Hosmer (.270 BA/.318 OBP/.398 SLG, 9 HR, 58 RBIs in 2014)

▪ Tigers: Miguel Cabrera (.313/.371/.524, 25 HR, 109 RBIs)

▪ Indians: Carlos Santana (.231/.365/.427, 27 HR, 85 RBIs

▪ White Sox: Jose Abreu (.317/.383/.581, 36 HR, 107 RBIs)

▪ Twins: Joe Mauer (.277/.361/.371, 4 HR, 55 RBIs)

Comment: This group includes last year’s AL rookie of the year (Abreu), a two-time MVP (Cabrera), another MVP (Mauer) and two-time Gold Glover who hit .351 in the postseason last year (Hosmer).

SECOND BASE

▪ Royals: Omar Infante (.252/.295/.337, 6 HR, 66 RBIs)

▪ Tigers: Ian Kinsler (.275/.307/.420, 17 HR, 92 RBIs)

▪ Indians: Jason Kipnis (.240/.310/.330, 6 HR, 41 RBIs)

▪ White Sox: Carlos Sanchez (.250/.269/.300, 0 HR, 5 RBIs)

▪ Twins: Brian Dozier (.242/.345/.416, 23 HR, 71 RBIs)

Comment: The White Sox traded Gordon Beckham to the Angels in August and Sanchez filled the role to finish the season. He’ll compete with Micah Johnson for the job. If he continues to hit leadoff or second, Kinsler will have plenty of power behind him with the addition of Yonies Cespedes.

SHORTSTOP

▪ Royals: Alcides Escobar (.285/.317/.377, 3 HR, 50 RBIs)

▪ Tigers: Jose Iglesias (.259, .306, .348, 2 HR, 10 RBIs in 2013)

▪ Indians: Jose Ramirez (.262/.300/.346, 2 HR, 17 RBIs)

▪ White Sox: Alexei Ramirez (.273/.305/.408, 15 HR, 74 RBIs)

▪ Twins: Eduardo Escobar (.275/.315/.406, 6 HR, 37 RBIs)

Comment: The future is now for Iglesias, obtained in July 2013 and played in 46 games, hitting .259. He missed last season because of shin injuries but is believed to be ready to go for 2015. Escobar and second baseman Brian Dozier have been the subject of trade rumors, but the Twins apparently don’t want to part with either one.

THIRD BASE

▪ Royals: Mike Moustakas (.212/.271/.361, 15 HR, 54 RBIs)

▪ Tigers: Nick Castellanos (.259/.306/.394, 11 HR, 66 RBIs)

▪ Indians: Lonnie Chisenhall (.280/.343/.427, 13 HR, 59 RBIs)

▪ White Sox: Conor Gillaspie (.282/.336/.416, 7 HR, 47 RBIs)

▪ Twins: Trevor Plouffe (.258/.328/.423, 14 HR, 80 RBIs)

Comment: Add five postseason home runs to the total and Moustakas finished with 20 home runs in 555 combined plate appearances. But only three of those, plus a .172 batting average, came against lefties.

CATCHER

▪ Royals: Salvador Perez (.260/.289/.403, 17 HR, 70 RBIs)

▪ Tigers: Alex Avila (.218/.327/.359, 11 HR, 47 RBIs)

▪ Indians: Yan Gomes (.278/.313/.472, 21 HR, 74 RBIs)

▪ White Sox: Tyler Flowers (.241/.297/.396, 15 HR, 50 RBIs)

▪ Twins: Kurt Suzuki (.288/.345/.383, 3 HR, 61 RBIs)

Comment: Perez deservedly won his second Gold Glove and is baseball’s iron man behind the plate. The Indians are very happy with Gomes, who hit 21 home runs and ranked at or near the top of several defensive catetories.

LEFT FIELD

▪ Royals: Alex Gordon (.266/.351/.432, 19 HR, 74 RBIs)

▪ Tigers: Yoenis Cespedes (.260/.301/.450, 22 HR, 100 RBIs)

▪ Indians: Michael Brantley (.327/.385/.506, 20 HR, 97 RBIs)

▪ White Sox: Melky Cabrera (.301/.351/.458, 16 HR, 73 RBIs)

▪ Twins: Oswaldo Arcia (.231/.300/.452, 20 HR, 57 RBIs)

Comment: Two major acquisitions here. The Tigers added another power bat and a strong arm with Cespedes. To make room in left, J.D. Martinez will switch to right. The White Sox continued reshaping by adding Cabrera, who hit .301 with the Blue Jays last season. He’ll bat second behind Adam Eaton.

CENTER FIELD

▪ Royals: Lorenzo Cain (.301/.339/.412, 5 HR, 53 RBIs)

▪ Tigers: Anthony Gose (.226/.311/.293, 2 HR, 13 RBIs)

▪ Indians: Michael Bourn (.257/.314/.360, 3 HR, 28 RBIs)

▪ White Sox: Adam Eaton (.300/.362/.401, 1 HR, 35 RBIs)

▪ Twins: Danny Santana (.319/.353/.472, 7 HR, 40 RBIs)

Comment: This is Lorenzo Cain’s spot, for about six innings. Then it becomes Jarrod Dyson’s, and Cain goes to right. Either place, Cain ranks among baseball’s top defenders. The Tigers, who lost Austin Jackson to the Mariners, secured their own athletic speedster to patrol spacious Comerica Park in Gose, acquired from the Blue Jays.

RIGHT FIELD

▪ Royals: Alex Rios (.301/.339/.412, 5 HR, 53 RBIs)

▪ Tigers: J.D. Martinez (.315/.358/.553, 23 HR, 76 RBIs)

▪ Indians: Brandon Moss (.234/.334/.438, 25 HR, 81 RBIs)

▪ White Sox: Avisail Garcia (.244/.305/.413, 7 HR, 29 RBIs)

▪ Twins: Torii Hunter (.286/.319/.446, 17 HR, 83 RBIs)

Comment: The Royals reportedly made a run at Hunter, who wound up back where he started, in a Twins uniform. He’ll turn 40 in July but had 17 home runs and 83 RBIs for the Tigers last season. The Royals got their right fielder on Monday, closing in on a one-year deal with Alex Rios. Moss, obtained from the A’s, will play both corner outfield spots for the Indians.

DESIGNATED HITTER

▪ Royals: Kendrys Morales (.218/.274/.338, 8 HR, 42 RBIs)

▪ Tigers: Victor Martinez (.335/.409/.565, 32 HR, 103 RBIs)

▪ Indians: Nick Swisher (.208/.278/.331, 8 HR, 42 RBIs)

▪ White Sox: Adam LaRoche (.259/.362/.455, 26 HR, 92 RBIs)

▪ Twins: Kennys Vargas (.274/.316/.456, 9 HR, 38 RBIs)

Comment: With Billy Butler off to the A’s, the Royals will plug Morales into the DH. He had a rough 2014, with a .208 average and eight home runs but was a solid hitter until last season. LaRoche, who hit 26 home runs as the Nationals’ first baseman last year, brings a left-handed power bat to the White Sox lineup.

ROTATION

▪ Royals: Yordano Ventura, Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie, Danny Duffy

▪ Tigers: Justin Verlander, David Price, Anibal Sanchez, Shane Greene, Alfredo Simon

▪ Indians: Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, T.J. House

▪ White Sox: Chris Sale, Jeff Samardzija, Jose Quintana, John Danks, Hector Noesi

▪ Twins: Phil Hughes, Ervin Santana, Kyle Gibson, Ricky Nolasco, Mike Pelphry

Comment: The division could lose Max Scherzer and James Shields, but it has added Samardzija and Santana, and Price joined the Tigers for the stretch run last season. Oh, and Kluber is the reigning Cy Young winner. The Royals are on the prowl for a fifth starter.

BULLPEN

▪ Royals: Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Luke Hochevar, Tim Collins, Jason Frasor

▪ Tigers: Joe Nathan, Joakim Soria, Bruce Rondon, Al Albuquerque, Ian Krol, Kyle Lobstein

▪ Indians: Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Scott Atchison, Marc Rzepczynski, Kyle Crockett

▪ White Sox: David Robertson, Jake Petricka, Nate Jones, Daniel Webb, Zach Putnam

▪ Twins: Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing, Ryan Pressly, Casey Fein, Caleb Thielbar

Comment: Robertson collected 39 saves as the Yankees’ closer last season. The Royals’ production from their seventh-, eighth- and ninth-inning pitchers (Herrera, Davis and Holland) was historically good and helped carry the team to the brink of a championship.

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BlairKerkhoff.

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