9. Pittsburgh Pirates
Off-season moves: OF Jarrod Dyson, Derek Holland, trading Starling Marte to Arizona for minor leaguers SS Liover Peguero and RHP Brennan Malone.
Prospects to watch on the 60-man roster: 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes, OF Jared Oliva
Interesting that the Pirates did not add Peguero, Malone, or 2020 first-round pick Nick Gonzales for their 60-man roster. Pittsburgh did have a busy off-season, but not with signing players, rather they replaced manager Clint Hurdle and GM Neal Huntington. Players to watch include Josh Bell, Gregory Polanco. But their pitching staff has been hit with injuries, with Jameson Taillon and Chad Kuhl both recovering from Tommy John surgery. The rotation lacks depth and the relief corps is very bare-bones.
8. Kansas City Royals
Off-season moves: 3B Maikel Franco, RHP Trevor Rosenthal, RHP Greg Holland
Prospects to watch on the 60-man roster: RHP Brady Singer, RHP Jackson Kowar, SS Bobby Witt Jr
The likelihood of Witt Jr seeing the major league level is slim to none but he will be in the 60-man camp. Former Tigers reliever Trevor Rosenthal, who struggled in his trial in Toledo, had such an impressive camp that Tigers fans will now see him on the Royals’ 40-man roster. Singer could make the starting rotation so that is a storyline to watch. The Royals hope a fresh start for Franco will help out Kansas City.
Their system just got better with Asa Lacy joining a good crop of young pitching but he was not added to the 60-man roster. The Royals have a few bats but like Detroit, they may struggle to contend this season.
7. Chicago White Sox
Off-season moves: C Yasmani Grandal LHP Gio Gonzalez, LHP Dallas Keuchel, RHP Steve Cishek, OF Nomar Mazara, DH Edwin Encarnacion
Prospects to watch on the 60-man roster: RHP Dylan Cease, IF Nick Madrigal, 1B Andrew Vaughn, OF Luis Robert, 2B Nick Madrigal
Chicago had the busiest off-season of any AL Central team, quickly adding top free-agent catcher prize Grandal and improving the rotation with the signing of Keuchel. Michael Kopech is just coming back from surgery so he could be on an innings restriction. He was hitting 100 MPH already in spring training 1.0 so that is a good sign for the south side.
Reigning AL batting champ Tim Anderson and the rest of the White Sox offense can put up a punch and the addition of a veteran bat in DH Edwin Encarnación should be able to put Chicago in the mix for an Al Central division title. The reason why I have them at number 7? Because you still have to go out to prove the hype and the Indians and Twins are still very good but the White Sox are inching closer to an AL Central contender.