Continuing on with the AL Central…
Chicago White Sox:
Carlos Quentin hits 44 home runs – He hasn’t quite captured the magic from his 2008 season when he hit 36 home runs in 130 games and missed September of what could have been an MVP campaign. Since that breakout season, he has continued to display very good power, but injuries have remained a huge issue limiting him to 99 and 131 games in the last two seasons. So I’m betting on health as much as anything else combined with playing in a great park for home runs.
Edwin Jackson strikes out 200+ batters with a sub-3.50 ERA – White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper has done more with less so I’m excited to see what he can do over a full season with someone as talented as E-Jax. We saw a glimpse of things to come in his 75-inning sample after the trade from Arizona and I don’t think that was a fluke. I’m not sure why people are so quick to dismiss his post-trade success, but believe that Daniel Hudson’s (sent to Arizona in the deal) is a slam-dunk precursor of things to come (which is leading to an overvaluing of Hudson, even though I really like him). Jackson’s slider is 4th-best in baseball from 2008-2010 and it will be the primary weapon in his 2011 strikeout fest.
Lonnie Chisenhall has 400+ at-bats hitting .290/.370/.430 – He probably should have been given the job for Opening Day, but Jack Hannahan edged Jayson Nix in a placeholder duel for the third base job. Chisenhall will head to AAA and polish his game up a bit more, but he will be up quickly and I think he takes over the job upon arrival. There won’t be a ton of power right away and perhaps never, but I think he will lace plenty of singles and doubles while drawing a significant number of walks.
Shin-Soo Choo goes .330-30-30 – After a pair of nearly identical .300-20-20 seasons that have put him on the map as the excellent player that he is, it’s time for Choo to have the career year. I see him going off with 34 home runs and 31 stolen bases and another .400+ on-base percentage, too.
Victor Martinez hits .372 – I wrote last week about why I thought Martinez was the top catcher for 2011. I think the lack of catching should make him not only more durable, but also better. As such, we could see a special season where this “professional hitter” wins a batting title.
Kansas City Royals:
Alcides Escobar steals 57 bases – His speed did not manifest itself in a full season of at-bats in which he grossly underperformed expectations. A year older and on a team ready to unleash his speed, Escobar could provide sneaky value at the back end of that shortstop pool with a big time speed season. He might still only hit .260, but he’s going to run a ton.
Kila Ka’aihue hits 37 home runs – He has shown prodigious power more than once in his nearly 1,000 games at the minor league level and at 27 years old, it is time to give him a legitimate shot at the major league level. I have seen the Kila Monster multiple times as the AAA Royals affiliate plays against the Round Rock Express, who play minutes from my place. Granted it was against AAA competition, but I am a believer and he could have a huge season if they stopped jerking him around and just let him get a full season of at-bats.
Kevin Slowey pitches 170 innings – This is bold for two reasons: 1) because he inexplicably lost out to Nick Blackburn and Brian Duensing for a rotation spot on the Twins and 2) because he’s never topped 160 innings in his four major league seasons. His 170 might not come with the Twins as he is rumored to be on the trade block, but even if he sticks around in the Twin Cities, he will get his shot. He will finally stay healthy and pay the dividends his skills portend. A small investment in him now could bring huge returns by season’s end as too many fantasy owners get short-sighted when it comes to these situations. A little patience in April can make your October much sweeter.
Delmon Young picks up where ’10 left off hitting .325 with 30 home runs – Even after last year, you will still hear some analysts dismissing him as a “terrible player”. That’s just stupid. No, he doesn’t draw as many walks as we would all like, but to write him off as quickly as so many have makes no sense. Especially when most of the people doing so are the condescending stathead snob-types. I wonder if they ever realize they sound as stupid as they think non-stathead types like Joe Morgan sound when espousing the virtues of RBIs. OK, a bit of a tangent there. Longtime Rays fan and friend of mine Jason Collette is decidedly not a Young fan, but he doesn’t across like a douche about it. It’s the one player we vehemently disagree on. I think Young can build on his 2010 for a huge 2011. Go Delmon, go!
Next Up: AL West