Our 2012 MLB preview places the eyeball on the best players by position in each division. Find out how the AL Central shakes out and don’t forget to check out our MLB Preview Center.
C – Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers – Carlos Santana is on the come up but Avila was the All-Star in 2011 and there is no reason to believe it was a fluke. The 25-year old with the short, powerful stroke from the left side hit .295 with 19 homers and 82 RBI’s a year ago.
1B – Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers – Last year, this honor went to Miguel Cabrera, now it goes to his newest teammate. Switching from the NL to the AL should pose little problem for one of the game’s great power hitters. Hitting behind Cabrera could lead to a 130-RBI season.
2B – Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians – The talent at 2nd base in the AL Central is downright laughable. Kipnis wins out over Gordon Beckham, Alexi Casilla, Johnny Giavotella, and the trio of Ramon Santiago, Ryan Raburn, and Brandon Inge. Kipnis has potential, and here, that’s enough.
SS – Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians – Alexei Ramirez and Jhonny Peralta are hot on his heels but the big season turned in by Cabrera in ’11 puts him on top of this list. Will he ever repeat his 25-homer, 92-RBI season? It’s doubtful, but at just 26-years old, why not?
3B – Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers – Cabrera is the best right-handed hitter in the American League not named Albert Pujols. And he might be better than Albert. He’s trimmed down and is going to give 3rd base a shot. One thing that isn’t in question is that he will mash on AL Central pitchers all summer long and threaten his 2nd straight batting crown.
Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals – Gordon’s breakout season (.303 avg., 23 homers, 87 RBI’s, 17 steals) coincided nicely with the youth movement in KC. As important as his numbers are, his leadership will be relied on just as much. The Royals need another big season from Gordon.
Jeff Francouer, Kansas City Royals – Frenchy has found his place with the Royals. Like Gordon, and even more so, he is a veteran presence that keeps the young guys loose. Hitting .285 with 20 bombs, 22 steals, and 87 RBI’s doesn’t hurt either.
Brennan Boesch, Detroit Tigers – Boesch gets the nod over teammate Austin Jackson simply because of his offensive prowess. Boesch, hitting 2nd for the Tigers in 2012, is in line for a huge season.
Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers – MVP, Cy Young, bla bla bla. Verlander is the safest bet in the American League to rack up 230 innings, 240 K’s, and 20 wins. He is the face of the Tigers, and at 29-years old, is still in his prime.
Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers – Scherzer fought his mechanics a little bit last year and it cost him some bad outings, which tainted his year-end stats. When he is right, he is as lethal as anybody. Entering his 4th full season as a starter in the big leagues, and at just 27-years old, he has unlimited potential.
Doug Fister, Detroit Tigers – Starting to catch the Detroit Tigers theme here? That’s because the rest of the AL Central is weak. Fister went from good with Seattle to ridiculous with Detroit. He’s only 28 and with a huge offense backing him up, could rack up 17 wins with ease.
Justin Masterson, Cleveland Indians – Masterson is special against righties and if he can find an out pitch against lefties, he will be an All-Star. Only now entering his prime, he has the makeup and repertoire to take the next step.
Bruce Chen, Kansas City Royals – Chen has won 12 games for the scuffling Royals each of the past 2 seasons. His patience and willingness to re-sign has been rewarded with one of the most exciting young offenses in baseball. He’ll need to provide stability to a shaky starting rotation, and he will.
Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers – And one more Tiger makes the list. Going 49 for 49 in save opportunities is difficult to ignore. The dynamic presence of Valverde on the diamond and in the locker room brings just the right mix to Jim Leyland’s team.
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