After each Royals series, I will look to post an AL Central Power Rankings where I recap how the Royals and other Central teams did during Kansas City’s most recent series and where they stand after. These posts will be less from an “analytical” perspective and more from a “fan” one, as I will look to keep these posts and rankings brief.
So in this 2020 inaugural power rankings, let’s take a look at how the Central looks after MLB’s Opening Weekend of play.
1. Cleveland Indians (2-1) (+8 run differential)
The Indians took it to the Royals today with a 9-2 victory, which not only won them the series, but also helped them tie for first in the Central after Opening Weekend. The Indians’ bats came alive, as Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor, who were kept in check for the most part in games one and two, came alive in game three. Lindor hit an RBI double and Ramirez blasted two home runs in the rubber game at Progressive Field. While the offense was nothing to shout home about (only 13 runs scored), the pitching was superb, as their five runs allowed is lowest in the AL Central by eight runs. Shane Bieber and Carlos Carrasco were super in Games 1 and 3, and though Mike Clevinger gave up two home runs, he settled in after the first. The Indians’ pitching was a concern going into this year, especially after they traded Corey Kluber to the Rangers this off-season. However, if the starting pitching continues to maintain, and if the offense can come around (they will), then it’s hard to see the Indians NOT make the playoffs in the new expanded format (where the top two teams in each division make it).
Next series: At home against the Chicago White Sox
2. Minnesota Twins (2-1)(+10 run differential)
The Twins’ offense hasn’t lost a beat, as they absolutely demolished the White Sox in the South Side of Chicago, out-scoring them 27-17 over the three-game span. Nelson Cruz continues to be a hitting God, as he hit three home runs in the series and currently is sporting a ridiculous 1.956 OPS. Jake Cave is also posting a 1.067 OPS, which shows the depth that this Twins lineup has, since he bats toward the bottom of the lineup. However, what keeps them from being in the top spot is that their starting pitching didn’t really impress, as Jose Berrios was hit hard in Game 1 (though Lucas Giolito ended up being worse) and Randy Dobnak also struggled in a Game 2 loss. Kenta Maeda was better on Sunday, but he had a lot of run support to deal with. While the Twins were able to hold off the upstart White Sox (a popular sleeper pick in the division), their starting pitching could be the difference in their battle with the Indians at the top of the division.
Next series: At home against St. Louis
No. 3: Detroit Tigers (2-1) (-3 run differential)
The Tigers looked as expected on Opening Day, as they lost 7-1 to the Cincinnati Reds. However, the Tigers came back to win close ones in Game 2 and 3 to take the series on the road in Cincy. COVID concerns led to a limited Reds lineup in Game 3 (Mike Moustakas and Matt Davidson were late scratches due to Davidson’s positive test), but facts are facts: the Tigers are tied for first after the first weekend of games. The Tigers’ pitching will still be a concern, for outside of Matt Boyd, it’s hard to find a lot of hope in this rotation. But the lineup has some potential, as Niko Goodrum went yard on Sunday, and new acquisition CJ Cron is posting a 1.462 OPS through three games. This may be a flash in the pan (the -3 run differential being the key indicator), but if the Royals don’t improve their hitting, it’s not out of the question to think that the Tigers could leapfrog them in the standings this year.
Next series: At home against Kansas City.
No. 4 Chicago White Sox (1-2) (-10 run differential)
So much for the hype…well…sort of. Even though the White Sox lost two out of three games to the defending Central champs, there were some bright spots: Luis Robert looks as good as advertised (1.144 OPS) and Eloy Jimenez is proving to be no fluke either with a 1.556 OPS (though he did leave early in Sunday’s game). The problem? The pitching was absolutely shellacked in Games 1 and 3, with Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez being the culprits. Both guys have struggled with consistency and the long ball, and though Giolito was good in 2019, he was downright horrendous in 2018, which makes one wonder if he’s due for major regression this year. As for Lopez, they were hoping he’d mature and help the White Sox build a 1-2 at the top of the rotation with Giolito, but Lopez’s problems with the long ball continue to haunt him. This White Sox team will be good offensively, but it will be difficult for them to make much ground past the Indians and Twins if Giolito and Lopez continue to struggle.
Next series: On the road at Cleveland
No. 5: Kansas City Royals (1-2) (-8 run differential)
The good news? The Royals aren’t winless. The bad news? They probably looked the worst out of any AL Central team over the weekend. It’s one thing to lose two out of three…it’s another thing to strike out 39 times over a three game series. The Royals swing and miss issues were concerning, and even though they were short-handed (no Hunter Dozier due to a positive COVID test) and faced perhaps the best starting pitching staff in the Central, the Royals shouldn’t be whiffing that badly, especially with a top of the lineup that has a lot of potential. The bullpen could be a surprise, as Ian Kennedy, Trevor Rosenthal, and Greg Holland may be able to handle the 7th-9th in no particular order (as they did on Saturday). However, the Royals’ failure to generate runs this past weekend was excruciating to watch, and it will be interesting to see if they can bounce back at the plate against a much worse Tigers starting pitching staff (though Detroit’s bullpen isn’t too bad with Joe Jimenez as closer).
Next series: On the road at Detroit.