Around the AL Central: Royals top prospect may oust Mike Moustakas and White Sox rave about Jose Abreu

Mike Moustakas

‘ job could be in jeopardy. Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Royals

How many years have we heard the Kansas City Royals were on the cusp? The reason for optimism in Royals’ camp over the many lean years has been their incredibly stacked farm system. This was reinforced earlier this week when seven Royals’ farmhands were named to Top 100 Prospects List (the Tigers’ system was shutout).

KC’s highly ranked prospects include Kyle ZimmerYordano Ventura, Raul Mondesi, Miguel Almonte, Hunter Dozier, and Jorge Bonifacio.

It’s worth noting that many of the Royals prized minor league prospects have not always transitioned well to the majors. The poster child for this is Mike Moustakas, who may be on his way to be being replaced at third base by prospect Hunter Dozier.

Cleveland Indians

One can only look to Ryan Raburn to know that the Cleveland Indians have had success signing players to minor league deals and letting them compete for jobs. They also added Jason Giambi this way last year.

Cleveland is rolling the dice once again and offering a minor league deal to Nyjer Morgan.

"Morgan, 33, is a .280 career hitter with 117 stolen bases in parts of six seasons with Pittsburgh, Washington and Milwaukee. His most productive season came in 2009, when he hit .307 with 42 steals for the Pirates and Nationals. During his time in the majors, Morgan attracted a following and agitated opponents through his fast-talking, high-energy alter ego, “Tony Plush.” He spent last year with the Yokohama DeNa BayStars, hitting .294 with 11 home runs in the Japan Central League. – Jerry Crasnick, ESPN"

The Tribe also signed former Royal Jeff Francoeur to a minor league deal. This will make for a crowded outfield with Michael Bourne, Michael Brantley and Raburn returning from a year ago. Arguably the biggest move Cleveland made in the off-season was signing former Ranger David Murphy.

Chicago White Sox

White Sox camp has been all atwitter over Cuban exile Jose Abreu. The slugger, who signed a six-year, $68 million deal in October, took part in a hitting camp at Chicago’s winter home in Glendale, Arizona this week.

The glowing remarks were not short on hyperbole:

"“That’s a strong man right here,” hitting coach Todd Steverson said of Abreu. “That’s a big man. He has a nice smooth, compact approach. He didn’t try to do too much with the ball and the ball was flying off his bat. I think he has a nice bright future coming up with him.” “We try to keep in mind that it’s Jan. 14 and we still have a ways to go,” [GM Rich] Hahn said. “But just watching Jose go through his work, you saw that professionalism as well as the plus-plus power on display today in only his first couple of rounds of BP. He’s a very serious hitter. He’s one who goes up there with a plan and has a great deal of ability and it’s going to be fun to see how this plays out over the next couple of years.” – Dan Hayes, CSNChicago"

Minnesota Twins

Barring an unlikely trade or signing leading up to, or during, Spring Training, the Minnesota Twins roster appears to be set.

"Here’s the 2014 Opening Day 25-man roster. Outfield: Josh Willingham, Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks, Alex Presley and Jason Kubel. Infielders: Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon, Trevor Plouffe, Eduardo Escobar and Deibinson Romero. Catchers: Kurt Suzuki and Josmil Pinto. Starting pitchers: Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Correia and Scott Diamond. Bullpen: Glen Perkins, Michael Tonkin, Caleb Thielbar, Casey Fien, Anthony Swarzak, Jared Burton and Brian Duensing. There is not a lot of competition for jobs among the position players. “There’s the backup catcher,” GM Terry Ryan noted. “I don’t know if Pinto makes this club.” – Tom Powers,"

Minnesota had a bloated team ERA of 4.55 last season (second to last in the AL). There is little doubt that the Twins have improved their pitching staff with the signing of Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, however they failed to fully address their offensive struggles. They hit just .242 as a team in 2013, good for 12th in the AL, and will experience a full-year without former MVP Justin Morneau, who was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in August and signed with the Colorado Rockies as a free agent in December.