A.L. Central Links 12/22/09: Anderson, Prospects, Defending Allard Baird

It’s Tuesday and time for another addition of A.L. Central links. Though it seems it has been pretty quiet in Tigers land, the other teams in the Central continue to make moves to better their team in 2010. The Cleveland Indians continue to rebuild their squad. The Royals continue to search for young talent. Those Twins made most of their moves earlier in the off-season, but they continue to make small moves to better the squad. Finally, those damn White Sox stole my favorite Tiger and added two players to their squad the Tigers were targeting.

Let’s get to the A.L. Central links of the week.

Chicago White Sox-

[Thoughts So Far] The crew at South Side Sox takes a look at the moves the White Sox have made so far and breaks them down in depth. So far those bums on the south side have added five players that will be on the opening day roster this off-season. For nine million, the Sox added a lead-off hitter, two “fourth outfielders”, a solid infielder/DH, and a starting third baseman. Throw in the late additions of Alex Rios and Jake Peavy from last season, and this could easily be the most improved team in the division going into 2010. It would seem they would be the favorite to battle with the Twins for the Central crown.

[Projected Lineup] Mario Scalise of Chicago Now breaks down his projected lineup for the Sox to start the season, Here is his projected lineup with my thoughts:

1. Juan Pierre, LF- This is obvious. Pierre gives the White Sox arguably the best lead-off hitter in the A.L. Central.

2. Gordon Beckham, 2B- This is probably the most flexible part of the lineup. Ozzie Guillen could go with the more veteran Alexi Ramirez, but the power Beckham provides fits good in the two slot.

3. Alex Rios, CF- Can the talented Rios finally show his ability and not just flash his talent? It’s now or never for the new White Sox center fielder. So why not throw him right in the middle of the fire?

4. Paul Konerko, 1B- I’m not sure that I agree with Konerko in the four slot, but this team does lack the natural power Konerko brings to the table. His numbers do suggest though that he will move down in the lineup by season’s end.

5. AJ Pierzynski, C- The only lefty in the lineup has to fit in somewhere. He is not near the offensive threat he once was, and if I’m Ozzie Guillen, I keep an eye on the fifth spot in the lineup. It might be the most important spot for the Sox this year. Mark Teahen automatically moves up in the lineup if he returns to form in 2010.

6. Carlos Quentin, RF- Honestly I believe that Quentin will show in spring training that he is back on track. It would make sense if Paul Konerko moves down and Quentin moves back up in the lineup before the season starts. That is if he starts hot in March.

7. Mark Teahen, 3B- I am really looking forward to see if Teahen comes out and shows the type of player he can be when he is in a comfortable, competing situation. Not a bad bat to have hitting seventh in your lineup. He could also be an option in the two hole, considering he has pretty good control with his bat.

8. Alexi Ramirez, SS- He continues to develop, but his bat is still skeptical. He has to earn the top of the order and to do so might mean spending a whole year producing at the bottom of the lineup.

9. Mark Kotsay, DH- A veteran bat in the lineup is something that Ozzie Guillen has made clear that he wants. The question though will be who will be the DH next season? Andruw Jones, Omar Vizquel, and anyone who needs a rest from the field could fill the void.

[Kenny Williams: Confident man or con man?] Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes about how confident GM Kenny Williams has been in public, despite the whole he has to fill. The questions going in mostly revolved around the bullpen, lead off spot, and the defense. It seems that Williams has shored up most of those issues. He brings up a great point. In this league, anyone with strong pitching can compete. See 2009 Detroit Tigers for proof.

It seems that Kenny Williams is following the same suit that Detroit did last off-season. Add bullpen help to keep you in close ballgames, and find defensive help that will hold leads. Sounds like a good strategy if you ask me.

Minnesota Twins-

[Twinkie Talk Top 15] Twinkie Talk takes a look at the Top 15 Prospects in the Twins system based on their opinion. As a baseball fan I love getting a look into one of the most successful organizations that have been mostly built from within. Twinkie Talk will continue to count down their top 15 up to the start of the season.  Pretty good stuff from Fetch, who is also a fellow FanSided Blogger.

Twinkies Talk also touches on trading Justin Morneau. As a Tigers fan I would love that. Now that Jason Kubel is a Tigers killer, it would be great to get rid of one of those M&M boys. Twinkie Talk cites his salary, surplus value, and defense as a reason to trade him. I don’t see this ever coming to fruition, but I can kinda see where Fetch is getting at. There are so many contracts for the Twins to work out in the upcoming season, that moving Morneau might be the way to afford some of those extensions. The Twins would have to receive a serviceable first baseman if this were to happen, as it is one of the weaker positions in the system.

[The Evolution of Delmon Young] Over the Baggy breaks down the evolution of Delmon Young, as he has finally developed into the talent many believed he was a prospect. Or at least he is getting there. Considered the outsider going into 2009, the Brewers traded touted prospect Carlos Gomez to the Brewers, opening up a full-time gig it would seem for Young in 2010. Over the Baggy notes the difference in Young’s swing in the late months, after Justin Morneau was placed on the disabled list:

From the first of that month to the conclusion of the season, Young was a different hitter in the batter’s box.  No, the plate discipline did not improve – he still couldn’t buy a walk in Chinatown – but suddenly the ball left his bat with a bit more zest.  It no longer trickled off of the lumber towards third base all yippy-skippy.  It charged off the grain on a mission.  He slugged over .700 when pulling the ball after hitting a ho-hum .444 on pitches he yanked prior to that.  In his final 192 plate appearances, Young launched nine home runs (swatting 20 more extra base hits) while hitting .305/.327/.513.

Great article that really gives insight on why the Twins felt comfortable dealing their center fielder of the future.

[Who will be the fourth outfielder] Twinkie Town looks at all of the feasible options to fill the fourth outfielder role to open the 2010 season.

Kansas City Royals-

[Royals to bring back powder blue hats] Yes, I am one of the few that loves the powder blue. If I were not a Tigers fan, I would undoubtedly buy of of the new powder blue hats that the Royals will sport in 2010. The hats will be worn during every home day game, alongside the awesome powder blue uniforms.

[Defending Allard Baird] Wally Fish over at Kings of Kauffman defends former Kansas City Royals GM Allard Baird in a recent post.  Baird was often trapped in many situations while at Kansas City. Any GM that had to deal Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, and Carlos Beltran is going to be disliked by fans. I tend to sway on the side of Wally in this argument, especially considering that Baird is still a successful baseball man under one of the best young General Managers in Major League Baseball. As the director of Scouting, he does a decent job as a professional scout.

[Trading Joakim Soria] Sam Mellinger at the Kansas City Star touches on the sensitive subject that is Joakim Soria. Mellinger believes that the Royals should at least explore trade options for one of the best closers in baseball. Here are Mellinger’s thoughts:

None of this is meant to suggest the Royals should absolutely trade Soria, for sure, for whatever they can get even if it’s Nick Punto. But outside of Zack Greinke and maybe Billy Butler, he’s the guy other teams might want the most.

Tampa Bay needs a closer, and they’re stocked with young talent. St. Louis could certainly use Soria. The Cubs and Rangers, too. Look around. Soria would be an upgrade for just about every team in baseball, and the Royals could use an upgrade at most every position.

Soria missed nearly a month with shoulder issues this season, which coincided perfectly with the Royals’ fall. It’s tempting to blame it on Soria’s absence, except he missed only two ninth inning save chances in those 23 games. He had only 33 save opportunities all season, and often went four or five or six days without any action.

What good is that fine scotch if you don’t drink it?

I couldn’t agree more. As much as it would hurt attendance and fan morale, there are so many other needs on this squad that need to be attended to. But then again, Dayton, make sure that you receive something hefty in return.

Cleveland Indians-

[Top Pitching Prospects] Let’s Go Tribe looks at the top pitching prospects in the Cleveland Indians system. It’s been an interesting few months for the Indians pitching wise. Losing Cliff Lee and C.C. Sabathia has returned position talent, but with Adam Miller falling through the cracks, alongside many other pitchers, it has been an interesting few months pitching wise. It looks like the Indians have stocked up though in the last few drafts and will look to build on young pitching. One name that sticks out to me that Let’s go Tribe documents is newly acquired Mitch Talbot. It will be interesting to see where he fits in the future of the franchise.

[Jake Westbrook Pain Free] Westbrook has been one of the pitchers Cleveland has had high hopes for, that just hasn’t panned out. They will undoubtedly look for him to be in the rotation in 2010, after making it through winter ball pain free. It will be interesting to see where he is slotted, but nothing is a guarantee at this point. Westbrook has not been able to stay healthy in quite some time. His last major league start came in May of 2008. After Tommy John surgery, Westbrook will look to bounce back, and if he can, Manny Acta has already said he will declare him the opening day starter. Westbrook is due 11 million next year in the final year of his current contract.

[Pronk an Everyday Player] He just hasn’t been the same since 2006, but new Indians manager Manny Acta is pretty confident that Travis Hafner will return to the lineup in 2010 as an everyday player. Last year, the former home run threat did not play in three straight games at any point in time during the season.

Now, after arthroscopic right shoulder surgery, Manny Acta believes that he should be able to compete day in and day out.

“We’re going to get together with our medical staff and the conditioning staff to put a plan in place,” Acta said. “But that being said, our plan is that he’s going to get days off here and there, but nothing as he was in the past, where he couldn’t play a certain amount of games in a row.”

As Manny Acta has pointed out, the Indians desperately need his veteran presence in the lineup. The Indians owe Hafner a truckload full of money over the next few years, so anything reflecting the production of his past would be welcomed in Cleveland.

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