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Fantasy Baseball Division/Minors Update: AL Central


I continue my series on a 1/3 season update for every team in baseball. You can read my pieces on the AL West and NL West by clicking on those hand links there.

Today we look at all of the teams in the AL Central, such as the Twins, the White Sox, the Tigers, and Others! Pre-season, I picked the Tigers to not only win the AL Central but to win the whole enchilada. In this case, that "enchilada" is the World Series, but so far Detroit has had a hard time winning any series and sits six games back of the White Sox and 4.5 games back of the Indians, a team that I thought would be terrible.

The Tigers have gotten production from the players you expected but gotten almost nothing out of the rest of the team. They have a few key stars but they'll need someo ther players to step up if they're going to get back into the race. There is plenty of time for that but this article is only an update of what has happened so far. Here is what has happened so far for teams in the Central of the American League, starting with...

Minnesota Twins (22-34)

Breakout: Josh Willingham

This is the best I could come up with for a team that has struggled for most of the season, though the Twins have won 7 of 9 and a semi-soft schedule coming up could bring them out of the Central cellar. But overall, they haven't gotten much production out of most of their players, especially the pitchers.

One bright spot though has been free agent Josh Willingham. Signed to a modest 3-year, $21 million contract, Willingham has spent most of his career around the bigs as sort of a poor mans J.D. Drew. His numbers neither "wow" or disappoint but this year he's been much more "wow." Something that the Twins desperately needed. Now 33, you wouldn't expect him to have the best year of his career, but that's what it's been so far, hitting .286/.408/.573 through 53 games, all of which are career-highs so far.

Willingham has never slugged over .500 in his career, though he's always good for 20+ home runs over a full season, he doesn't usually hit many doubles. This season he already has 18 of them, putting him on pace for over 50 in a full year, along with 11 HR already. Additionally, Josh has never had more than 100 RBI and he's already got 39 for the Twins. Minnesota was lucky (perhaps, it's early) to lock him up for three years because at this rate, Josh would have been in line for a career payday after the year and he was already coming off of some career-highs with Oakland last season.

Much, much, much more after the jump.

Disappointment: All of the pitching, basically

Between 2002 and 2010, the Twins won the division six times and mainly on the strength of things like pitching, defense, and fundamentals. Those Twins are dead.

Last season the Twins had an ERA of 4.58 and had given up the most runs they had given up since 2000. This season their ERA is 5.02! Carl Pavano has an ERA of 6.00. Francisco Liriano has an ERA of 6.46. Nick Blackburn is at 7.75. And Jason Marquis at 8.47. Marquis was signed to a 1-year, $3 million contract and subsequently released at the end of May. The formerly "small market" Twins are just wasting money at this point.

While Justin Morneau has recovered well from last season (.237/.302/.500 with 10 HR) and Joe Mauer still being a good "discipline" hitter (.298/.407/.419) the Twins have struggled because of their awful rotation, which now needs to be rebuilt if the Twins are going to return to the playoffs during Mauer's massive contract.

Rookie Watch:

SS Brian Dozier is hitting .246/.267/.360 in 120 plate appearances.

SP Scott Diamond, in only six starts, is already the Twins most valuable pitcher. He is 4-1 with a 1.86 ERA, 3.57 FIP, 3.03 xFIP on the strength of allowing only .93 BB/9. He'll never be a strikeout pitcher but he's always impressed with his control, typical of Twins pitching prospects.

Liam Hendriks made four starts earlier in the season and had an ERA of 9.00 in 18 innings with 30 hits allowed and five home runs given up.

Minors Watch:

Joe Benson has been awful. One of the Twins top prospects, he's hitting .173/.264/.299 over 36 games split between AA and AAA.

RP Anthony Slama, always a strikeout machine, has 37 K/12 BB in 22.2 innings in AAA but he's now 28 and has spent a lot of time in AAA.

Chris Parmalee, BA's #9 prospect for Minnesota, is hitting .375/.500/.708 in 15 games for AAA Rochester but hasn't done much at the major league level this season: .179/.250/.262 in 27 games.

Aaron Hicks was a top 50 prospect for three straight years but dropped out of the top 100 entering this year. He's hitting .247/.347/.395 with 6 HR and 15 SB in 56 games for AA New Britain. Always a "tools" player that had never translated to big numbers, he's still not hitting for a high average but he's on pace for career-highs in stolen bases (by a lot) and HR and is only 22. He's always drawn a lot of walks but if he can put those tools together this year for 15 HR, 30+ SB at AA for his age, he'll be right back on the top 100.

Alex Wimmers famously pulled a "Rick Ankiel" last season and was shutdown early to work on his mechanics. The 2010 21st overall pick is back again but only made 1 start for New Britain: 4.1 innings, 6 H, 3 K, 2 BB, 2 ER, 1 HR. He was shutdown again with a strained UCL and is rehabbing, trying to avoid Tommy John.

Oswaldo Arcia is hitting .323/.381/.540 with 7 HR for high-A Fort Myers. BA had Arcia as the Twins #5 prospect but he could be movin' up.

Levi Michael is hitting .212/.310/.288 for Fort Myers. He was a 1st round pick just last season.

Fangraphs pegged Adrian Salcedo as the Twins #5 prospect and he's got a 5.64 ERA at Fort Myers with 13 K/15 BB in 22.1 innings.

It's been more of a breakout year for Cole Nelson, who has 34 K/10 BB in 25.1 innings for Fort Myers with a 3.20 ERA split between the rotation and the bullpen. Nelson is only 22.

The Twins top prospect, the guy you want to know about, is 3B Miguel Sano. He's been on a power tear this season. He's hitting .248/.358/.523 with 14 HR and 13 2B in 59 games. He has 33BB against 69K in 59 games. The strikeouts are high but for a 19-year-old at single-A, those are impressive numbers. I wouldn't expect him at the big league level until 2014 at the earliest.

Eddie Rosario, one of the Twins top prospects, is hitting .304/.365/.491 at that level with 9 SB but 10 CS. He leads the team in doubles with 19.

Kyle Gibson is still recovering from Tommy John.

Kansas City Royals (24-31)

Breakout: Mike Moustakas

Who would have figured this: Moustakas is the Royals leading position player in WAR (2.5) and Eric Hosmer is last (-0.5) You would hope that they'd blossom together but so far they haven't clicked at the same time. Moustakas is hitting .278/.345/.497 with 9 HR and 27 RBI. The former #2 pick is striking out more but walking more and has more than doubled his ISO from his rookie year, pumping it up from .104 to .219 this season. Coupled with his great fielding to start the year and he's been an MVP for KC.

The Royals started the season 3-14 but have gone 21-17 since then and they're still a young team that's waiting for more pitching to arrive. After so many "top prospect" disappointments, it's good to see the Royals catch a break with one so far.

Disappointment: Eric Hosmer

Then of course, there's Hosmer. I want to emphasize that Hosmer is only 22. This isn't me telling you that Hosmer is a bust. I would take Hosmer in a heartbeat for the long-term. But this season he's hitting .220/.281/.376 with 7 HR and 29 RBI. There's plenty of time for him to pick it up, but you have to say you expected him to hit better than .220 after 53 games.

He's got a .222 BABIP though, so expect some regression towards the mean. His ISO of .156 is very pedestrian. Good news: Hosmer is hitting .352/.400/.556 in his last 15 games.

Did you get him in time?

Also, Alex Gordon is hitting .242/.340/.377 after his breakout season in 2011. Over his last 10 games, he's hitting .316/.422/.474.

Jonathan Sanchez had an ERA of 6.75 in 25.1 innings with 22 walks and 18 strikeouts.

Rookie Watch:

Kelvin Herrera has 26 K/4 BB in 29.2 relief innings with a 3.34 ERA.

Will Smith made 3 starts and had an ERA of 9.00 in 14 innings.

Help is either on the way or it exhausted rookie status last season.

Minors Watch:

Speaking of help on the way. The Royals had what was considered maybe the best farm system of all-time going into last season. They lost some of that shine, but plenty of players abound in the minors for Kansas City of note.

Wil Myers is having a field day for AAA Omaha. Despite only being 21, Myers is hitting .321/.369/.718 with 8 HR and 22 RBI for the Storm Chasers. The former catcher-turned-outfielder would easily be a top 10 prospect right now, if not an argument for one of the top hitters left in the minors. Bryce Harper is tearing up the bigs at age 19, no reason to think that Myers can't hit in the majors this season and KC-Ro is getting Jeff Francoeur-like production in RF.

Clint Robinson is a power-hitter at age 27 that has not gotten a shot in the bigs. He hit 23 HR in AAA last year and is hitting .314/.418/.500 in AAA this season. He's not a major prospect but might hit some bombs if he gets some major league at-bats.

Mike Montgomery has lost a lot of his top prospect status. He has made 12 AAA starts and over 67.1 innings has 43 K/34 BB and a 4.81 ERA. He's just 22.

Jeremy Jeffress has 31.1 AAA innings with 31 K/14 BB and a 4.60 ERA from the bullpen.

Jake Odorizzi has made 11 starts between AA and AAA and has a 2.85 ERA with 74 K/19 BB in 66.1 innings.

Top pick SS Christian Colon is hitting .288/.364/.413 with 5 HR and 11 SB in 56 AA games.

Chris Dwyer was the #83 prospect going into last season. He's got a 6.26 ERA at AA with 46 K/35 BB in 54.2 innings.

Cheslor Cuthbert is hitting .226/.305/.289 for high-A Wilmington.

Yordano Ventura is a good long-term pitching prospect. He has a 3.21 ERA for Wilmington with 70 K/21 BB in 56 innings.

Bubba Starling has not made his minor league debut yet. He's been in extended Spring Training but expected to debut for in the rookie Appalachian League on June 19th along with other high schoolers from the 2011 draft.

John Lamb is rehabbing from Tommy John.

Detroit Tigers (26-31)

Breakout: Austin Jackson

Your 2012 Tigers leader in OPS isn't Prince Fielder or Miguel Cabrera, it's CF Austin Jackson, who is hitting .331/.414/.544 with 5 HR, 17 RBI and 6 SB. It's disappointing that he's been on the DL since May 17th with an abdominal strain, but Jackson is making his rehab in the minors and should be back with the Tigers soon.

What will be interesting to see is if Jackson can maintain his improved plate discipline: 18.2% K and 12.6% walks are by far career bests. Like... so far that you have to question it. But Jackson said he changed his approach at the plate and it looks to pay off and these rates usually stabilize around 150 PAs and Jackson is at 159 PAs.

To do that while still hitting for power is amazing and that's why in only 36 games, Jackson leads the Tigers in WAR still, even more than Cabrera.

Disappointment: Doug Fister

I love me some Doug Fister, he was one of my favorite Mariners and it was nice to see him dominate last season after being traded to Detroit. Enough so that many fans still rue the day that Jack Z traded him away. He pitched well this season: 3.15 ERA, 3.84 FIP, 3.40 xFIP with 2.10 BB/9 and 6.29 K/9 (a career best in a short period of time) but he made only six starts.

He made one start, hit the DL in April, made 5 starts and hit the DL again. His abdominal strain seems to be a nagging one.

Max Scherzer's 5.88 ERA is disappointing and Rick Porcello probably carries less fantasy value since he doesn't strike anybody out. Drew Smyly, meanwhile, has been a major boost to the rotation in Fister's absence.

Rookie Watch:

Smyly has a 3.71 ERA in 11 starts with 55 K/17 BB in 60.2 innings.

Casey Crosby has two starts, a 9.35 ERA, and 7 BB in 8.2 innings. He isn't ready.

Quintin Berry is hitting .306/.368/.435 with 7 SB in 15 games.

Brayan Villareal has pitched 13.1 innings, 20 K/7 BB and a 1.35 ERA in 13 relief appearances.

Minors Watch:

Crosby has 50.2 AAA innings with 57 K/26 BB and a 4.26 ERA.

Andrew Oliver has 66.1 innings for AAA Toledo with a 3.93 ERA. He has 71 K in 66.1 innings but has walked 50.

Jacob Turner, the Tigers top prospect into the year, has 9 starts between high-A and AAA and has a 3.18 ERA with 36 K/22 BB in 51 innings. In true Tigers fashion, they just skipped the 21-year-old over AA.

Next top prospect, Nick Casetellanos, was hitting .405/.461/.553 for high-A Lakeland and is hitting .333/.308/.417 in three games for AA Erie.

C Rob Brantly is hitting .311/.359/.461 for Erie.

Avisail Garcia is hitting .288/.324/.434 for Lakeland with 8 SB in 49 games.

Another Tigers pitching prospect with control problems: Alex Burgos has 41 K/44 BB in 59.1 innings.

Eugenio Suarez is hitting .320/.413/.456 with 11 SB in 59 single-A games for West Michigan.

Cleveland Indians (30-26)

Breakout: Jason Kipnis

After an impressive rookie showing, Kipnis has been a very solid 2B option in 2012. He's hitting .279/.340/.447 with 9 HR, 35 RBI and 41 R in 56 games, but more importantly he has stolen 14 bases. Power and speed from 2B with walks? Yeah, I'll take it.

I do not see much else on the Indians in terms of "breakout."

Disappointment: Carlos Santana, Derek Lowe, Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez

Really surprised the Indians are over .500.

Santana is hitting .232/.345/.363 with 5 HR, 25 RBI in 46 games and spent a little time on the DL.

Derek Lowe has a 3.72 ERA and 7 wins, which is probably good in many fantasy circles, but in my fantasy circle we like K/9... Lowe has 24 K/20 BB in 72.2 innings for a remarkably low 3 K/9.

Masterson has a 5.09 ERA in 74.1 innings and is 2-5.

Jimenez is maybe the biggest disappointment, the major trade acquisition of last season is 6-4 with a 5.31 ERA and 37 K/43 BB in 62.2 innings. At one point, people were wondering if he was the best pitcher in the majors and that was only a couple of years ago. Now? Now he's a #5 starter at best. Trading for pitching, expecting long-term success out of pitchers, is fool's gold sometimes.

Also, Matt LaPorta? They trade for Jimenez and he stinks, they trade away C.C. Sabathia with LaPorta as the major acquisition and he stinks too.

Rookie Watch:

Nick Hagadone has 18 K/7 BB and a 2.89 ERA in 18.2 relief innings.

Zach McAllister has a 3.96 ERA in four starts with 22 K/6 BB in 25 innings.

Lonnie Chisenhall isn't a rookie but the former prospect is hitting .231/.231/.462 in eight games.

Minors Watch:

Chisenhall is hitting .324/.353/.541 in 28 AAA games.

LaPorta is hitting .307/.399/.608 in 46 AAA games.

Chen Lee has 7 innings at AAA with 8 K/1 BB.

Scott Barnes has a 3.81 ERA in AAA with 28.1 innings, 30 K/12 BB and a short appearance in the bigs.

Tony Wolters is hitting .230/.306/.335 for high-A Carolina.

Top 2011 pick Francisco Lindor is hitting .273/.336/.400 with 4 HR, 14 SB in 52 games for single-A Lake County. Expect him to spend the whole year there.

Luigi Rodriguez is hitting .279/.335/.385 for Lake County with 12 SB.

Dillon Howard RHP, the 2nd round pick last season, hasn't debuted yet.

Chicago White Sox (32-25)

Breakout: Chris Sale

The White Sox are winning because they're finally getting production out of Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy, but the breakout of the 23-year-old Sale doesn't hurt.

The 13th overall pick in 2010 had made 79 relief appearances over his first two seasons before moving to the rotation this season, something that always sounds good on paper but fails a lot. Not failing... Sale has a 2.30 ERA in 66.2 innings with 69 K and 18 BB with only 47 hits allowed. Two starts ago against the Rays he struck out 15 and walked 2 in 7.1 innings. In his last start, he got his first career complete game by going the distance against the Mariners with 8 K.

For a pitcher this young, it wouldn't matter if he was coming out of the bullpen or the minors, Sale is one of the top 23-year-olds in baseball on any level.

Disappointment: John Danks

While unspectacular, Danks went from 2008-2011 with a 3.77 ERA and good for 200 innings and 150 strikeouts. Not great, but you take it. You don't take what he's done this year: 5.70 ERA in 9 starts with 30 K/23 BB in 53.2 innings.

That's just bad.

Also, Philip Humber has a perfect game and a 5.68 ERA, however that works.

Gavin Floyd has an ERA of 5.32 but nice K/BB numbers.

Brent Morel was one of the worst hitters in the majors. Orlando Hudson is not any better.

Rookie Watch:

Addison Reed has a 4.58 ERA, 7 saves, and 22 K/8 BB in 19.2 innings.

Hector Sanchez has 23 K/9 BB in 20.2 relief innings.

Jose Quintana has 10 K/6 BB in 22 innings split between bullpen and rotation.

Dylan Axelrod has 7.2 innings, 6 K/3 BB and a 3.52 ERA with 1 start and 2 appearances from the bullpen.

Minors Watch:

The White Sox are usually one of the more boring minor league organizations in baseball...

Jordan Danks is hitting .302/.419/.516 in 57 AAA games.

Nestor Molina pitched 68.1 AA innings and had 52 K/15 BB with a 4.74 ERA. He has 1 start at AAA and had 4 K/1 BB, 6 ER in 4 innings.

Dylan Axelrod has 9 starts for AAA and went 56 innings, 57 K/12 BB with a 2.89 ERA.

Jared Mitchell is hitting .288/.414/.488 with 4 HR, 13 SB in 59 AA games. He was a 1st round pick in 2009.

Simon Castro, acquired for Carlos Quentin, has 79 innings at AA with 65 K/15 BB and a 3.65 ERA.

Juan Silverio is hitting .300/.310/.488 for high-A Winston Salem.

Trayce Thompson is hitting .212/.313/.413 for Winston-Salem with 7 HR and 9 SB.

Jake Petricka has 11 starts for Winston-Salem with a 4.84 ERA in 48.1 innings, 47 K/19 BB and one start at AA Birmingham.

Rangel Ravelo is hitting .318/.369/.445 for single-A Kannapolis Intimadators.

Keenyn Walker is hitting .258/.376/.345 there with 35 stolen bases in 56 games.

That's the end of today's update!!! Stay tuned I guess next week to see how the other half lives!

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