Opening day is fast approaching. As we get closer to the start of the regular season, LWOS will be releasing a series of bold predictions that we think could play out this year. Here our 2016 AL Central bold predictions.
Francisco Lindor will be an All-Star.
Lindor ended last season on a high note by being named the American League Rookie of the Month for September. He batted .362 with eight doubles, four triples, five home runs, twenty runs batted in, and seventeen runs scored in twenty-seven games for a team that remained in the hunt for the second Wildcard playoff spot until the final week of the season. In ninety-nine games with the Indians last season, Lindor collected 122 hits in 390 at-bats, smacked twenty-two doubles, hit four triples, belted twelve home runs, drove in fifty-one runs. He finished the year with a .482 slugging percentage and .353 on-base percentage.
The best part is that he’s only twenty-two years old. A switch hitter who plays one of the most important positions on the field, Lindor can run, throw, hit, hit for power, and defend. He’s what you call a five-tool shortstop. In the last fifty years, only three shortstops have won the Most Valuable Player award in the American League: Robin Yount, Miguel Tejada, and Cal Ripken.
Sale has been an All Star every year since 2012, the same year he became a starting pitcher for the White Sox. Few pitchers today are more dominant than Sale on the mound. He’s able to save his best fastballs to set-up wipeout pitches and get big outs late in games. His curveball and change-up improve every season, and his slider is one of best pitches thrown by any pitcher in baseball. He even had one of the best stretches by a pitcher last season when he struck out at least ten batters in eight consecutive starts, including a streak of at least fourteen strikeouts in three straight outings.
Even though he missed the first month of the season due to an off-season injury, Sale still managed to finish fourth in AL Cy Young voting. If he pitches anywhere close to his 2015 numbers and the White Sox can improve as a team, Sale could very well be handed the hardware later this year.
The Detroit Tigers will miss the postseason.
The Tigers made two huge signings in starter Jordan Zimmermann and outfielder Justin Upton. They even addressed glaring bullpen issues with the acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez. Still, several of Detroit’s key players are well past their prime and have missed large chunks of recent seasons, including Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez.
Tigers fans hope that this core can make one last push for a World Series. However, with Ian Kinsler reaching thirty-four years old and Miguel Cabrera at thirty-three, it’s very possible we could see a decline in the middle of that thunderous lineup. A lack of depth in the rotation and bullpen will lead to winnable games being lost. The Tigers season could spiral out of control after having doubled down on the ideas of Zimmerman and Upton, along with Cabrera’s enormous deal.
Byron Buxton wins AL Rookie of the Year.
Three years ago, Byron Buxton broke into the top-ten on virtually all prospect lists, and was a consensus top-two prospect each of the last two years. He has never accomplished anything at the major league level, but the Minnesota Twins left an outfield spot open with Buxton in mind due to his immense talent and performance in the minor leagues.
He is an extremely fast runner who should be able to put up solid stolen base numbers throughout his career. While he is not much of a power threat at the moment, he is expected to post at least average numbers once he matures. Critics worry that there is a lot of risk with his lack of pedigree in the MLB, but being drafted second overall in 2010 behind Carlos Correa speaks to the idea that Buxton can be star if things go as planned.
Eric Hosmer will hit thirty home runs.
Eric Hosmer has done a lot of great things for the Royals. He just took home his third Gold Glove award and was a key contributor to their World Series victory. Although it seems Hosmer is content with hitting for average instead of power, he still may not be fully developed in terms of his full potential. Eric Hosmer hit ten of his home runs in the second half of the 2015 campaign. He only hit eight in the first half of the season and played in eight more games during the first half.
If Hosmer can develop his power further in 2016, he is very capable of hitting thirty home runs. He’s well protected in the lineup with Lorenzo Cain and Kendrys Morales surrounding him, meaning he’ll see good pitches to hit. If Hosmer can live up to this bold prediction, he’ll be the first Royals hitter to hit thirty home runs in a season since Jermaine Dye accomplished the feat in 2000.
2016 AL Central Projections:
Kansas City Royals (93-69)
Cleveland Indians (85-77)
Chicago White Sox (81-81)
Detroit Tigers (77-85)
Minnesota Twins (72-90)
Check back later for more bold predictions from LWOS.