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2011 AL Central All-Star Team and Division Preview

March 29, 2011

C: Joe Mauer, Minnesota – This would be a consensus if we were having a panel vote. However, Mauer does have some competition in his division: Carlos Santana. The Indians young catcher posted a .868 OPS last year in 150 rookie at-bats. Mauer’s career OPS is .888, but it’s boosted by an outlying 2009 season in which he hit 28 home runs – or 15 more than he’s hit in any other season.

1B: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit – Cabrera rarely misses games and has averaged 34 homers and 120 RBIs through his first eight seasons.

2B: Gordon Beckham, Chicago – I’m interested to see how Minnesota’s Tsuyoshi Nishioka does this year, but Beckham topping the second base pile speaks of how bad this position is in the division. However, Beckham did hit .310 last year after the all-star break and should put up numbers closer to or better than his rookie year.

3B: Mike Aviles, Kansas City – Well we have a new winner for worst AL Central position. The other Central third sackers have a combined six career home runs. Not really, but close.

SS: Alexei Ramirez, Chicago – A manager in my main fantasy baseball league said this about Cuban baseball players: “What’s up with Cuban baseball players? They have Russian first names, Spanish last names and their first names sound like girls’.”

OF: Alex Rios, Chicago – I’m not that high on Rios this year, but he is what he is: a solid, yet unspectacular, ballplayer.

OF: Shin Soo Choo, Cleveland – One of the most underrated players in the game, partly because he plays in Cleveland. OK, it IS because he plays in Cleveland, but back-to-back years of 20 homers and 20 steals, along with a near-.400 career OBP make him the cream of the crop in the AL Central.

OF: Ryan Raburn, Detroit – Raburn seems to have finally locked up an everyday starting spot in Detroit’s outfield, and he can easily be the team’s second best hitter. Last year after the all-star break Raburn hit 13 homers, had 46 RBIs, batted .315 and had an OPS of .900 in 70 games. And over the past two years, in 632 at-bats, Raburn has 31 homers, 98 runs and 107 RBIs. He could be one of the biggest breakout stars this year.

SP: Justin Verlander, Detroit – The 2006 AL rookie of the year is, since 2006, third in the majors in wins with 83 behind only Roy Halladay’s 90 and CC Sabathia’s 88, according to ESPN’s SweetSpot blog.

SP: Francisco Liriano, Minnesota – The lefty rebounded from a disastrous 2009 with a career-high in innings pitched in 2010. Only 27, Liriano will have plenty of time to continue to dominate AL batters.

RP: Joakim Soria, Kansas City – Another very, very underrated talent because of his market, Soria has an insane 132 saves to only 13 blown saves in four seasons as closer. He has an extremely consistent (aka great) strikeout to walk ratio, a career 2.01 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and .197 opponents’ batting average – all better than Mariano Rivera.

Projected standings

  1. Chicago 90-72
  2. Detroit 84-78
  3. Minnesota 83-79
  4. Kansas City 69-93
  5. Cleveland 67-95

Division MVP – Miguel Cabrera

Division Cy Young – Justin Verlander

Adam Dunn hits 45 home runs. … Ryan Raburn hits 25 home runs. … Joe Mauer doesn’t finish in the top 100 ranked fantasy players, once again proving that drafting him, oh, fourth overall – or anywhere unless he’s by far the best option on the board – is ridiculous. … Max Scherzer strikes out 200 batters.

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