2022 American League Central Power Rankings
Many divisions in MLB should have exciting division title races. The AL East, NL East, and NL Central come to mind. Other pursuits of division crowns are expected to be a one-horse race. The American League Central is a prime example of this uncompetitiveness. Of the five teams in the Central, two teams are in the middle of a rebuild and have no shot at contending, two teams have enough talent to potentially squeak into the playoffs through the wild card, and one team should start preparing the champagne. That being said, here are the 2022 AL Central Power Rankings.
Last Place- Kansas City Royals
It truly is a miracle that Salvador Perez was able to hit 48 home runs last year considering that pitchers could have intentionally walked him every at-bat, and faced little-to-no consequences. That same meager lineup will be largely the same in the 2022 season, aside from the fact that elite prospect, Bobby Witt Jr., should play at least half of the season. But beyond Perez and Witt, there isn’t much to be excited about for the Royals this year. The rotation is headlined by an aging Zack Greinke, and young arms Kris Bubic and Daniel Lynch, both of whom had underwhelming rookie campaigns in 2021. The bullpen has almost no dependable relievers, even with the addition of lefty Amir Garrett. There is hope for the future. But that future isn’t close for Kansas City.
Fourth Place- Detroit Tigers
The Detroit Tigers actually out-performed many projections last season. Many algorithms had Detroit winning a meager 67 games, but they ended up winning 77 last year and finished third in the division. However, reality should come crashing down on the Tigers this season. While they do have exciting, young talent like Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene, there are too many
weaknesses on this roster. Javier Baez is certainly an upgrade at shortstop defensively, but it is impossible to know whether Detroit will see the version of Baez that is an MVP candidate, or the one that makes fans change the channel. Beyond elite left-handed relievers Gregory Soto and Andrew Chafin, the bullpen is a nightly game of Russian Roulette. Only in this version, the bullets are in five out of six slots. However, the rotation is where the Tigers will be burned the harshest this season. The staff is led by free agent signing Eduardo Rodriguez, who has a career ERA of 4.16. Casey Mize is looking like a bust of a prospect with each start, and Tarik Skubal gives fans unhealthy heartbeat elevations when he takes the mound. The offense is solid, and there are promising pieces to build around. But this will not be the year where Detroit clinches any kind of pennant.
Third Place- Minnesota Twins
The people running the front office for the Minnesota Twins either have a crystal ball, or need to be fired by the end of this season. After a disappointing last place finish in 2021, the Twins can’t seem to decide whether they’re still postseason contenders, or need to rebuild. Some days they’ll trade away top players for prospects. Other days, they’ll spend big money on questionable free agents. This hesitation to take the team in a clear direction is reflected in the mediocrity of their roster. The offense is composed of three main components: Byron Buxton, whose health is a constant source of doubt, All-Star shortstop Jorge Polanco, and a variety of different pet projects who the Twins are hoping will turn into productive hitters. The rotation would have been decent if it was still 2017, but a staff led by Sonny Gray and Dylan Buddy isn’t exactly striking fear into the hearts of hitters. The bullpen is being held together by Taylor Rogers, and a lot of misplaced optimism. Maybe the Twins can pull off an improbable playoff run this season. In all likelihood, however, the trade deadline will be a busy time of year for Minnesota, and not for the reason fans hope for.
Second Place- Cleveland Guardians
The hopes for a Cleveland Guardians postseason appearance hinge on the performance of their starting rotation. Shane Bieber is a top ten starting pitcher when he is healthy, Zac Plesac has plenty of potential, and Cal Quantrill and Triston McKenzie make up decent third and fourth starters. But everything has to go right for the staff, because the offense will be doing them no favors. Jose Ramirez is a perennial MVP candidate, and Franmil Reyes’ power is elite. However, beyond those two, no one on the Guardians last season had an OPS above .800, hit more than 20 home runs, and tallied more than 60 RBIs. The bullpen is also headlined by two studs, followed by a truckload of mediocre arms. James Karinchak and Emmanuel Clase make up one of baseball’s best 1-2 punches out of the pen. But the Guardians simply did not do enough in the offseason for that bullpen to be trustworthy beyond their two stalwarts. A playoff berth isn’t unrealistic for Cleveland, but a lot of things have to go right.
First Place: Chicago White Sox
Remember how I said the AL Central was a one-horse race? Meet Secretariat. The Chicago White Sox have built a roster that can go toe-to-toe with MLB’s best teams. The offense is a perfect combination of speed, power, and experience. A lineup that boasts Tim Anderson at shortstop, a former MVP in first baseman Jose Abreu, and dark horse MVP candidate Luis Robert is enough to keep opposing pitchers awake at night. The starting rotation features two AL Cy Young candidates with Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito, as well as Dylan Cease who had a breakout year in 2021, and top prospect Michael Kopech. As if that wasn’t enough for teams to worry about, the White Sox have built a World Series-caliber bullpen. Liam Hendriks is the best reliever in MLB besides Josh Hader. Craig Kimbrel, though he struggled with the White Sox after being acquired at the 2021 trade deadline, put together an All-Star season last year. And Kendall Graveman also turned himself into an elite closer with the Mariners last season. It is hard to think of any weaknesses on this roster. The AL Central pennant is going to the White Sox, and it won’t be close.