AL Central teams at the start of spring training
Published 6:59 pm Friday, February 7, 2020
A team-by-team look at the American League Central entering spring training, including key players each club acquired and lost, and dates of the first workout for pitchers and catchers, and the full squad:
Manager: Rocco Baldelli (second season).
2019: 101-61, first place, lost to Yankees in Division Series.
Training Town: Fort Myers, Florida.
Park: Hammond Stadium at CenturyLink Sports Complex.
First Workout: Feb. 12/17.
He’s Here: 3B Josh Donaldson, RHP Kenta Maeda, RHP Homer Bailey, RHP Tyler Clippard, C Alex Avila, LHP Rich Hill, RHP Matt Wisler, RHP Jhoulys Chacin, LHP Blaine Hardy.
He’s Outta Here: RHP Brusdar Graterol, RHP Kyle Gibson, 1B C.J. Cron, 2B Jonathan Schoop, C Jason Castro, LHP Martín Pérez, RHP Ryne Harper, RHP Trevor Hildenberger, RHP Sam Dyson.
Going campin’: The high-priced addition of the big-swinging, slick-fielding Donaldson boosted an already deep lineup that produced a major league record 307 home runs last season. Then came the agreement this week on the pending blockbuster trade with the Red Sox and Dodgers to land Maeda for the middle of the rotation, with Graterol, a 21-year-old flame-thrower, going out in a signal the front office is all in on 2020 on the heels of a breakthrough season. Maeda or not, spring training will be an important time for starting pitching prospects Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe, all of whom made their major league debuts last year. With Michael Pineda serving the remainder of his suspension for taking a banned diuretic until mid-May and Hill recovering from elbow surgery until probably mid-summer, innings will need to be logged by some of the youngsters. Chacin, in camp on a minor league contract, is another candidate. The position players are all but set, with Miguel Sanó needing to get in a groove with the glove at first base after Donaldson’s arrival pushed him off the opposite corner. The spotlight will also be on center fielder Byron Buxton and his latest attempt to get healthy following shoulder surgery last September. There will also be new coaches on Baldelli’s staff for players to get accustomed to, with Mike Bell the new bench coach and Edgar Varela the new hitting coach. Bell replaced Derek Shelton, who became manager of the Pirates. Varela replaced James Rowson, who became the bench coach for the Marlins.
Manager: Terry Francona (seventh season).
2019: 93-69, second place in AL Central.
Training Town: Goodyear, Arizona.
Park: Goodyear Ballpark.
First Workout: Feb. 13/17.
He’s Here: 2B Cesar Hernandez, OF Delino DeShields, RHP Emmanuel Clase, C Sandy Leon.
He’s Outta Here: RHP Corey Kluber, 2B Jason Kipnis, OF Yasiel Puig, RHP Tyler Clippard, INF Mike Freeman, OF Leonys Martin, LHP Tyler Olson, RHP Dan Otero, C Kevin Plawecki, RHP Danny Salazar, RHP Nick Goody.
Going campin’: The Indians missed the playoffs for the first time since 2015 last season as Minnesota dethroned Cleveland as division champion. The team’s decision to trade Kluber, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, in December to Texas has signaled a major shift for the organization, which will count on young starters like All-Star Game MVP Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger to fill a huge void at the front of the rotation. Third baseman Jose Ramirez’s prolonged slump hurt the offense for much of last season, and just when he found his groove, a wrist injury sabotaged his season along with the Indians’ chances of catching the Twins. Hernandez takes over at second, where Kipnis was a mainstay for nine seasons. The outfield remains unsettled, with Oscar Mercado, who batted .269 in 115 games as a rookie, the only one guaranteed a starting spot. Slugger Franmil Reyes is an option in right, but he’s not exactly a Gold Glover. All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor’s future hangs over the team, and his situation will only become more of a distraction as he moves closer to possible free agency after 2021. Cleveland’s first-half success could determine whether the team rides out the year with him or deals Lindor at the deadline.
Chicago White Sox
Manager: Rick Renteria (fourth season).
2019: 72-89, third place.
Training Town: Glendale, Arizona.
Park: Camelback Ranch.
First Workout: Feb. 12/17.
He’s Here: C Yasmani Grandal, LHP Dallas Keuchel, LHP Gio González, 1B-DH Edwin Encarnación, RF Nomar Mazara, RHP Steve Cishek, LF Cheslor Cuthbert.
He’s Outta Here: INF Yolmer Sánchez, C Welington Castillo, RHP Iván Nova.
Going campin’: The White Sox are coming off seven consecutive losing seasons. They haven’t made the playoffs since they lost to Tampa Bay in the 2008 AL Division Series. But there is reason for optimism heading into spring training. Free-agent deals for Grandal, Keuchel, González, Encarnación and Cishek strengthened the lineup, rotation and bullpen. Tim Anderson, Yoán Moncada, Eloy Jiménez and José Abreu anchor a deep batting order, and slugging center fielder Luis Robert is one of the favorites for the AL Rookie of the Year award. If Chicago can sort out the back end of its rotation — Reynaldo López is coming off an inconsistent season, and touted prospects Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease have their own question marks — it could contend for the AL Central title.
Kansas City Royals
Manager: Mike Matheny (first season).
2019: 59-103, fourth place.
Training Town: Surprise, Arizona.
Park: Surprise Stadium.
First Workout: Feb. 12/17.
He’s Here: Manager Mike Matheny, RHP Trevor Rosenthal, RHP Braden Shipley, RHP Greg Holland, 3B Maikel Franco.
He’s Outta Here: Manager Ned Yost, INF Cheslor Cuthbert, RHP Trevor Oaks, RF Jorge Bonifacio.
Going campin’: The biggest moves for the Royals this season came away from the field. Longtime owner David Glass, who died last month after a long illness, sold the franchise to a group led by Kansas City businessman John Sherman in a deal worth about $1 billion. News of the sale became public about the time Yost announced his retirement and the Royals hired Matheny, who had been serving in an advisory role with the organization. It will be up to Matheny to continue a massive rebuilding effort that began shortly after the club’s 2015 championship season. Young players such as SS Adalberto Mondesi, 2B Nicky Lopez, RF Hunter Dozier and OF Bubba Starling have already arrived and gained valuable experience last season, and a wave of pitching prospects could arrive late this year. Success in 2020 will be measured less by wins than by the progress those players make as they position themselves to contend in 2021 and beyond.
Manager: Ron Gardenhire (third season).
2019: 47-114, fifth place.
Training Town: Lakeland, Florida.
Park: Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium.
First Workout: Feb. 12/17.
He’s Here: 2B Jonathan Schoop, RHP Ivan Nova, 1B C.J. Cron, C Austin Romine, C Eric Haase, RHP Zack Godley.
He’s Outta Here: SS Ronny Rodriguez, RHP Drew VerHagen, LHP Blaine Hardy, RHP Edwin Jackson, RHP Tyson Ross, SS Gordon Beckham, LHP Matt Moore, C John Hicks, LHP Daniel Stumpf, RHP Victor Alcantara, RHP Zac Reininger, LHP Matt Hall.
Going campin’: The Tigers hope the worst is behind them in their rebuild. Casey Mize — the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft — headlines a highly regarded group of pitching prospects. Although the expectation is that Mize and fellow right-hander Matt Manning will start the season at Triple-A, they’ll both be at spring training as non-roster invitees along with left-hander Tarik Skubal. So fans in Lakeland will get a preview of what they hope will be some significant rotation help down the road. Detroit’s leader in home runs last year was Brandon Dixon, who hit only 15 and is now a non-roster invitee. In an effort to boost their anemic offense, the Tigers added Schoop and Cron, who could become mainstays on the right side of the infield. Shortstop seems like the most likely spot for utilityman Niko Goodrum, while Jeimer Candelario and Dawel Lugo are in the mix at third base. Catching prospect Jake Rogers hit just .125 in 112 at-bats in his big league debut last year. Romine gives Detroit more experience behind the plate.