Aug 9, 2011; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Francisco Liriano (47) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

2012 Predictions for the AL Central

Aug 9, 2011; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Francisco Liriano (47) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

Hello fellow Twins fans. Despite just watching the Angels take away a victory in the Twins’ home opener, I still feel that it’s a very good day to be a writing about the Twins. Even better, it’s my first time writing as a writer for Puckett’s Pond and having a chance to contribute my 2012 AL Central predictions.

Detroit Tigers (98-64)First thought: I guess I’m not alone in predicting that the Tigers will walk away from the regular season wearing the AL Central crown. About every other sportswriter living is predicting this. And for good reason of course…a $214m reason. Namely, Prince Fielder. Stacked with Miguel Cabrera 3-4 in the batting order, I’m planning on closing my eyes every time those two face Nick Blackburn and Jason Marquis. While many question how Cabrera’s defense will play at third, I predict he still will be manning it come mid-October. Doug Fister’s early injury won’t slow this rotation much, which will be among the AL’s strongest in 2012, thanks to adding an All-Star southpaw to it at the trade deadline (more on that later). Final thought: Cabrera, Fielder. Fielder, Cabrera. Doesn’t matter, it’s like potato, po-tot-o. That’s what they do after all, hit taters.

Kansas City Royals (84-78)First thought: The Royals looked quite impressive in their opening series in Anaheim, but let’s be careful in judging any team too early by their first few games. Still, while I envision struggles from veteran starting pitchers such as Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar, and Jonathan Sanchez, I think the highly-touted talent Dayton Moore’s been collecting and slowly introducing at the major league level will start showing scary results this year, en route to their first winning record since 2003 and best record since 1993. Final thought: Salvador Perez will be missed, as will the days when the Twins could chalk up a series with Kansas City as a series win. The Royals will also miss the playoffs.

Minnesota Twins (79-83)First thought: As I mentioned previously, let’s not be too quick to judge a team by their first few games. This is my glass half-full approach with the Twins. Subtracting these first four losses, I predict the team will play .500 ball for the next 158 contests. This is a season where the focus must be on the little things—not just the ball club’s focus (hit-and-run plays, advancing the runner, hitting the cut-off man, taking pitches, avoiding walks, regaining the old “piranha” mentality, etc.) but also the focus of fans (double-digit homers and a hundred games caught for Joe Mauer, 500 at-bats for Justin Morneau, Denard Span getting on base twice a game, Danny Valencia posting a positive UZR, Francisco Liriano contributing a quality start, Carl Pavano notching a strikeout, Matt Capps recording a save). Such a mentality can help fans get through a four-game losing streak while scoring only 7 runs without calling for Ron Gardenhire’s head or inexplicably pleading for Bill Smith’s return. If the Twins can finish with such a record, I will be happy man. I’m not expecting a playoff spot come October, but I do hope to see signs of improvement. I predict that good things will happen, including an above-average first half by Liriano, which will lead to him being dealt to the Detroit Tigers late this summer (a la Delmon Young). With this same positive attitude, I also predict he’ll be dealt for two prospects with a great shot at becoming roster mainstays in Minnesota down the road. Final thought: Regardless of the season’s outlook, if the M&M boys can get back on track, I’ll be hopeful and happy heading into 2013. With both Morneau at first and Mauer behind the plate full-time a year from now, 2013 will be end up even more successful than this year.

Chicago White Sox (73-89)First thought: I have recently found a soft spot for the White Sox. It may have emerged after the departure of Ozzie Guillen and Mark Buehrle, but I think it came after reading Sports Illustrated’s 2012 Baseball Preview, in which they picked the White Sox to finish last in the division. That was the first prediction write-up I’d read that didn’t have the Twins finishing last. Thank you SI. And thank you Chicago—I’ll show that thanks by picking you for fourth place, even if you have a lousy team. Okay, that’s not quite honest. With healthy, productive seasons from Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, and Gordon Beckham, this team could win some games. Still, I’d be surprised if half of those listed will so succeed in 2012. Final thought: The Cubs might not be the only Chicago team to end up as a cellar dweller in six months. If that’s the case, here’s another thanks to them (in advance).

Cleveland Indians (73-89)First thought: Ubaldo Jimenez looked dominant pitching seven innings of one-hit ball his first outing this year before beginning his 5-game suspension for plunking Troy Tulowitzki. In that spring game he looked like the baseball version of Carmelo Anthony delivering a sucker punch—in short, it wasn’t a pretty scene for him in Arizona. The 2012 season as a whole won’t be a pretty scene for him either, or so I predict. This team’s success will depend on pitching and health, and already it’s gotten off to a rocky start in the latter area this year. Grady Sizemore is the first of what will be many injuries to position players and pitchers alike. (As an aside, is something wrong with Chris Perez or is he just an overrated closer? His opening day ninth inning was laughable.) Final thought: All the optimism about Cleveland that began early last season will be gone by the end of this year, as will manager Manny Acta.

Awards – Miguel Cabrera (AL MVP), Matt Kemp (NL MVP), David Price (AL Cy Young), Johnny Cueto (NL MVP), Tampa Bay Rays win World Series 4-2 over Arizona D-backs

My name is Dallin Burgener, the creator of We Are Baseball GMs blog, and now an excited new writer for Puckett’s Pond. Even though I didn’t pick the Twins to win it all this year, I hope to make it clear over the course of this season that I am the most loyal of Twins fans. These predictions were written with the expectation and hope that I’ll be wrong. If the Twins win 100 games and effectively prove my ineptitude in this, all the better. Go Twins!

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Tags: AL Central Carl Pavano Chicago White Sox Cleveland Indians Danny Valencia Delmon Young Denard Span Detroit Tigers Francisco Liriano Joe Mauer Justin Morneau Kansas City Royals Matt Capps Minnesota Twins Nick Blackburn

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