The Cleveland Guardians made the AL Central appear to be more of a cakewalk than it actually was.
The Guardians and Twins were neck and neck for the division crown heading into September while the White Sox were lurking just a few games back. Then everything fell apart in Minnesota as the Twins’ injuries proved too much to overcome. The White Sox never found that expected gear and continued to sputter along. In the end, the Guardians won the division by 11 games as the only team to finish over .500.
But that was then. 2022 no longer matters as the new season approaches. While the division may not be considered a powerhouse, both the Twins and White Sox should be banging on the door. That may be the case as Fangraphs gives the Guardians a 42.2% chance to win the division, with the Twins and White Sox both projected to be within four games at the end of the year.
The Guardians have improved. Josh Bell should add another solid bat to the lineup and their pitching staff is still excellent. Their youngsters in the lineup should take another step forward, with Steven Kwan a particularly important part of their offensive attack. Whether or not that comes to fruition could determine the balance of the division.
But the Twins and White Sox are better as well. While the Twins bringing Carlos Correa back after a three team odyssey generated the most attention, their acquisitions of Pablo Lopez, Christian Vazquez, Joey Gallo, and Michael Taylor should make a difference as well. The White Sox, meanwhile, filled holes with the additions of Andrew Benintendi, Mike Clevinger, and Elvis Andrus. Even the Royals and Tigers could be a factor, especially if their younger players can take a step forward.
In the end, the AL Central should belong to the Cleveland Guardians when the season concludes. It just may be a more difficult path than they expected.
AL Central predictions:
3. White Sox