The AL North has been pretty steady the past few years with hartel's Cleveland Indians winning the division easily with a record of 94-68. And although Cleveland is likely to will the AL North in Season 8, this division is becoming much more competitive with a new owner in Toronto and a overhaul in Minnesota.
Here is the predicted order of finish for the AL North:
1. Cleveland Indians - hartel
Last Season: 94-68 - First Place
Prediction: 92-70 - First Place
The Indians weren't very active in the offseason, relying heavily on the growth of their younger players. The Indians can expect improvement from several young players including: 24 year old Eddie Conway (L) who was 17-10 with a 5.20 ERA last year. The Indians ace will be entering his third full season in the MLs. 24 year old Bernard Williams (L) should be the Indians 5th starter this year and Walt Moore (24) should help improve the bullpen which already has24 year old Frank Bong and Roy Woodson, who had 43 saves in 46 opportunities last year.
On the offense, Karl Parker retruns in LF after a 47 HR, 144 RBI All-Star year. Richard Pong is an emerging SS with great range and 27-year old David Vargas returns as the Indians All-Star catcher. Butch Mahoney will be patrolling CF with outstanding range and should assist the Indians pitching staff.
With some y0ung and emerging stars, the Indians should continue their strangle-hold on the AL North.
2. Minnesota Twins - buy-express
Last Season: 78-84 Third Place
Prediction: 84-78 - Second Place
The Twins were very active on the free-agent front. The key additons include two top of the rotation pitchers. Lefty Quinn Grace was 13-10 with a 1.25 WHIP last year and moves into the starting rotation along with Jamie Bruske, 13-12 with a 1.37 WHIP. Stretch Rando, picked up in the Rule 5 Draft should offer some stability in the bullpen. The Twins other key additions come from their talent rich minor league system. Esteben Furcal will add significant pop to the lineup with a .330-41-164 season at AAA. Sean Conine (25) will also be patrolling the OF coming off a .329-41-141 season at AAA. And Tony Martinez will replace the departing Dennis Lee at catcher. Martinez is 22 and hit .336-22-119 at AAA.
The Twins also return many solid players from a year ago who should improve with another year under their belts. MacBeth Coomer is a 25 year old SS, Brian Katou (25), Jomas Rodriquez (23), and Al Dali (24) should all improve over Season 7 and Jack Jodie, Gill Cosby and Dickie Owen return as proven veterans.
3. Detr0it Tigers - gull1
Last season: 80-82 Second Place
Prediction: 82-80 - Third Place
Detroit hasn't added any big name players this offseason, but with a young pitching staff returning, Detroit should continue to be in the hunt for a playoff spot. Detroit returns some proven stars. Malcom May, although overpaid, is still a top of the rotation pitcher. Detroit will have his $20 mil. off the books next year, so that should help.
All-Star Will Appier returns to anchor the bullpen. Appier was one of the best closers in the league last year with 43 saves in 44 opportunities. He reduced his WHIP from .097 in Season 6 to an unbelieable .082 last year. At only 26 years old and still improving, Appier will cause teams to fear the 9th inning. Teaming up with Appier is Turk Gilbert who posted a 1.20 WHIP last year. Together they form one of the best 1-2 cominations in the Majors.
On the offensive end, Detroit looks for improvement from 25 year old Guillermo Unaminon. With a strong bullpen and quality veterans in the starting rotation, Detroit should finish above .500 again this season.
4. Toronto Blue Jays - indiansrck27
Last Season: 57-105
New owner and GM indiansrck has infused new life into this dormant franchise. Bosting a starting rotation under 25 years old, Toronto should be poised to make some noise in the AL North in the years to come.
Key Additions: The Blue Jays added some quality young players including 24 year old pitcher Dave Prichett and 24 year old C Pablo Soriano taken in the Rule 5 Draft. Together with 24 year old IF Doug Daal, 24 year old LF Jeff Matthews and 21 Ruben Vallarta (L - 17-5 in AA last year) the Blue Jays have added lot of quality youth to their roster.
The team returns Brendan Bryant in LF (892 OPS last season). The starting rotations consists of Prichett, Vallarta, Wayne Jones (25 years old 1.34 WHIP last year), Sam Bryant R (24) and Trevor Blake L (25). Added to the mix is 26 year old Ryan Hodges who had a 1.03 WHIP in 76 major league innings. The combination of youth and talent should add for a big season for the Toronto Blue Jays and should lay the foundation for a strong run in the division for years to come.