Present & Future of the AL Central
Welcome in ball boys and girls! I am so excited you clicked in today. The present & future series focuses on current players who are exciting and on track for Cooperstown. The players are broken up into four categories: most exciting, on their way, honorable mentions, and HoF bound. The most exciting players category focuses on our rising and budding stars in the MLB. On their way, these players are already stars and have phenomenal careers and need to continue their success. The honorable mentions group includes players who have had promising careers worth noting but aren't the brightest stars and will most likely end up having a great Prcareer but one that is ultimately short of the Hall. The Hall of Fame-bound player pool is self-explanatory. I hope you guys enjoy it!
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Most Exciting Hitters:
Eloy Jimenez-OF White Sox- After a breakout season in 2019 in which he hit 31HR and 79RBI to a 267BA. An all-star at every single MiLB level. MiLB MVP award, All-Rookie Team. What more did Eloy have to prove? In 2020 he posted a 1.4WAR, Silver slugger, and a .296/.332/.559 slash to go along with 14HR. Jimenez is part of the stars, ready to make the jump to superstar.
Franmil Reyes OF/DH Indians- After a 37HR campaign in 2020. Reyes put together another impressive season with the Indians in 2020. He posted a 0.4WAR, 9HR to go along with a .275/.344/.450, which are above career averages. The power was there, and now the average and on-base numbers are rising, which is a great combo for any DH.
Luis Robert OF White Sox- What more did we need to see out of Robert in the 23yo Rookie Season? He won the Gold Glove, finished 2nd in ROY voting, and posted a .233/.302/.436 over 227PA. The 73K-20 will be a massive focus for Robert in 2021. The upside and potential are like none other.
Willi Castro SS Tigers- After playing in just 36 games in 2020. The 23yo SS looks to be ready to make the jump into the star SS category. He posted a .349/.381/.550 slash and finished 4th in the ROY vote. Castro is young and in an ideal situation for playing time and growth the be the next star of the Tigers organization.
On Their Way:
Jose Ramirez 3B Indians- This time last year, when I wrote about Ramirez, I said that he is nothing more than a 20/20 kind of role player who plays excellent defense. I don't know what I thought as Ramirez is a 2x All-Star and 3x Silver Slugger winner with 3rd place of better finishes in the MVP conversation 3x. Coming off 2020 where he posted a 2.4WAR with 17HR with a .292/.386/.607 over 254PA. Ramirez is excellent, and at only 28yo, Ramirez has nothing but time to help him continue into being one of the best in Indians and MLB history.
Jose Abreu- 1B White Sox- I feel like Abreu will go down as an all-time great for the White Sox, but I think he got to the MLB just a little too late He got to the MLB around age 27/28 from Cuba, and that's right in the early part of his prime. My words from last year, "He is 33 now, and I really can't see him betting the numbers he will need to be great at the HOF level." Boy, did Abreu make me eat my words or what? He added an MVP award to his trophy room that already had a RoY, three all-star appearances, and three silver sluggers. Abreu was lights out in 2020 as he posted a 2.8WAR. In his 240AB, he had 76H, 19HR, 60RBI with a .317/.370/.617. Abreu is turning 34 in 2021 and will build off his MVP year going into his career's final years.
Francisco Lindor SS Indians- Lindor is pretty much the most popular trade discussion of the last two seasons, rightfully so as he is a 4x All-Star with 2 Gold Gloves, 2 Silver Sluggers, and 1 Platinum Gloves. The SS is primed to receive his mega-contract with the likes of Arenado, Harper, Trout, Betts, and others. Coming off a "down" 2020 in which he posted a 1.1WAR with 8HR with a .258/.335/.415 slash. The career 28.7WAR, 56DRS, .285/.346/.488 speaks for itself.
Tim Anderson SS White Sox- If there was another SS that deserves to be on this list with Lindor, Tim Anderson, the 5th year pro, is coming off a 7th place finish in the MVP vote and won the Silver Slugger award. Anderson was excellent in 2020, posting a 2.5WAR with a .322/.357/.529 slash. The 27yo Anderson is still only scraping the surface of how great he can be. If he stays on this path, We will soon consider him among the elite MLB ShortStops.
Josh Donaldson- 3B Twins- Now 35yo, Donaldson has been an excellent 3B since 2012 with Oakland. In his career, he has earned 1 MVP, 3x All-Star, 2 Silver Sluggers, 1 Hank Aaron Award; I would say Donalson is past his prime and now coming off a down 2020 where he saw 81AB with a slash of .222/.373/.469. Donaldson can still get on base at a high clip, and the final few couple years will tell us a lot about his chance for the HoF. Donaldson holds a career 41.1WAR with 225HR with a .272/.369/.508 over 3922AB with a career 136OPS+.
Salvador Perez C Royals- Has gotten better as his career has progressed; it feels like he has been around forever, and get this, he is only 30. Just 30 years old. He has been a pro since 2011 and was the WS MVP and Champ in 2015, 6x All-Star, 3x Silver Slugger, 5x Gold Glove; he is still JUST 30yo; that's the crazy thing that sets him apart on this part of the list. His accolades already and still having many solid years ahead of him almost lock him in. Let's add in a comeback player of the year award for 2020 and a career 24.2WAR, .269/.300/.449 slash, it's hard not to see Perez enshrined among the best catchers ever to play.
Miguel Cabrera- DH/1B/3B Tigers- Yes, Miggy's best days are behind him. But in 2019, he still hit for a .282BA. To date, for his career, 487HR, 1729RBI, 2x MVP, 1WS Championship, 11x All-Star, 7x Silver Slugger, 2x Hank Aaron Award, 1 Triple Crown, 4x Batting Champ, and a career .313/.391/.540 over 10462PA.
Nelson Cruz- DH/RF Twins- Here comes the boom! Boomstick Nelson Cruz has had one of the best DH careers since Edgar Martinez himself. In his career, he owns a 39.7WAR with 417HR with 1152RBI with a career .278/.347/.529 slash. In his age 40 seasons in 2020, Cruz posted a 1.8WAR, 16HR with a .303/.397/.595 slash on the season. We will add those numbers with 6x All-Star, 4x Silver Slugger, and ALCS MVP. We can also add six top-15 MVP finishes. When he eventually decides to hang up the cleats, Nelson Cruz will end up next to Big Papi and Edgar Martinez in the Hall of Fame.
Edwin Encarnacion 1B/DH White Sox- Last year, I put Encarnacion as an honorable mention when I wrote these. Then I questioned myself. Despite his only real accolade being a 3x All-Star who has played for six different teams. He has five top-20 MVP finishes. Over his career, he owns a 35.7WAR, 424HR, 1261RBI with a .260/.350/.496 slash. Encarnacion is not a lock for the HoF but will be strongly considered.
Most Exciting Pitchers:
Jose Berrios- SP Twins- The young 26yo ace is well on his way to having a great career as he has already been a 2x All-Star. Berrios owns a 7.8WAR with 4.19ERA/4.09FIP over 659.2IP with 653K-221BB. Berrios has at least a decade to lower the ERA and bring himself into the conversation for the HoF.
Lucas Giolito SP White Sox- Giolito took a big step forward in the 2020 season, establishing himself as the White Sox's ace. Giolito was picked 16 spots ahead of Berrios in 2012 and is yet to catch up to Berrios. Regardless the 26yo Giolito has appeared in just 1 All-Star game. In 2019 he finished 6th in the Cy Young vote, and 2020 finished 7th. Over 489IP, he owns a 6.5WAR, 4.44ERA/4.50FIP with 495K-199BB. Giolitto is only getting better as time continues and will be a force atop the White Sox rotation.
Zach Plesac SP Indians- The 25 came into 2020 and dominated and then decided to break the rules and got sent down because of it and then returned late in the season. He ended 2020 posting a 2.1WAR over 55.1IP with a 2.28ERAa and 57K. It looks to me like the Indians have a potent 1/2 punch in Plesac and Bieber.
Matt Manning SP Tigers, Casey Mize SP Tigers, Tarik Skubal SP Tigers- This trio is lining up quite perfectly with Spencer Torkelson to help bring the Tigers back into MLB relevance.
On Their Way:
Shane Bieber SP Indians- The now 25yo Bieber took as big of a step forward as a young SP could. I was writing about Bieber last year as to how we were coming into his own as the Ace of the Indians; little did I know he would go beyond my expectations and win the Pitchers triple crown, ERA Title, and the Cy Young to go along with his 1 All-Star/AS MVP. Beiber also finished 4th in the MVP vote in 2020. Beiber was 8-1 with a 1.63ERA/2.07FIP, 14.2K/9 over 77.1IP. Bieber has shown year-over-year improvement and still has yet to reach his peak as a pitcher. Sustaining and building off his success in 2020 will break or break the next decade of pitching for Bieber.
Dallas Keuchel SP Whitesox- He is 32, so he still has a couple of years left to get his numbers better. 1365.1IP, 1078SO, an 90-73 record with a 3.59ERA. However, 1 CY Young, 1WS Championship, 2x All-Star, 4x Gold Glove, His career to date could put him into the HOF conversation except his numbers scream consistency but not dominance unless it was 2015. Keuchel looked to be back on top in 2020 after posting a 1.99ERA/3.08FIP over 63.1IP. With two guaranteed years left in Chicago, Keuchel will look to lead the young White Sox to a World Series.
The AL Central is stacked with hitters, not pitchers ready to be considered for the HoF yet.
HOF Candidate Pitchers:
Unfortunately, I do not see many guys in the Division who are, in my opinion, at a place to be considered for the HOF Keuchel is the closest, but as I mentioned above. He doesn't have enough to be considered.
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