DIVISIONAL OUTLOOK: AL Central—CLE pitching woes; CHW outfield

Cleveland Indians

Ubaldo Jimenez (RHP, CLE) has gotten off to a rough start after his disastrous 2012 season with a 10.06 ERA through his first four starts. His xERA of 4.59 shows that he has been the victim of some bad luck, but he does need to improve his 5.8 Ctl in order to be effective. Don't expect Jimenez to lose his spot in the rotation any time soon. Manager Terry Francona expressed confidence in Jimenez, and said he would be patient as Jimenez works to get back on track. He also responded to speculation about bringing up Trevor Bauer (RHP, CLE) or another prospect by saying that he would prefer leaving the young arms in the minors to develop.

Lou Marson (C, CLE) is scheduled to return from the DL this week and Yan Gomes (C/1B, CLE) will likely be returned to the minors. Gomes showed some power (2 HRs and a 3B in 19 ABs) during his brief call-up and could find his way back to Cleveland later this season.

 

Chicago White Sox

The White Sox early season injury woes continued when Dayan Viciedo (OF, CHW) hit the DL with a strained left oblique. The initial prognosis from the White Sox training staff suggested that Viciedo would be out longer than 15 days. Blake Tekotte (OF, CHW), who can play all three outfield positions, was called up to take his place on the roster. He was acquired from San Diego during the offseason. Tekotte has speed (110 SBs in six minor league seasons), but strikes out too much and has a career minor league BA of only .268. Tekotte was covered in more detail in last week's Call-Ups column.

The other two players who will divide the ABs with Tekotte are Jordan Danks (OF, CHW) and veteran DeWayne Wise (OF, CHW). Danks has been known more for his defense than his offense in the minors, but finished spring training strong (12 hits in his last 20 ABs) and hit .333 at Triple-A Charlotte before his call-up last week. The 35-year-old Wise stole 19 bases last year in 224 ABs, and also hit 8 HRs. It is not clear if any of the three will seize the opportunity to become a full-timer while Viciedo is out, but initially all three will get their chances. One of the three will usually play centerfield while Alejandro De Aza (OF, CHW) shifts to left.

John Danks (LHP, CHW) is making good progress in his recovery from his surgically repaired right shoulder and will probably make one more extended spring training start before beginning a minor league rehab stint.

 

Minnesota Twins

Oswaldo Arcia (OF, MIN) returned after spending only a few days in the minors following his MLB debut when Darin Mastroianni (OF, MIN) went on the DL with a stress reaction in his left ankle. The 21-year-old has hit for power and average at all his stops in the minors and was off to a hot start in his first taste of Triple-A (13 for 38 with 3 HRs and 2 doubles) before being called up. He will see time at both corner outfield spots and at DH.

Aaron Hicks (OF, MIN) continues to struggle as he adjusts to major league pitching. He had only three singles in his first 51 ABs. Hicks has been dropped to eighth in the batting order in an attempt to take some pressure off of him. Brian Dozier (SS, MIN) has taken over the leadoff spot, but with a .209 BA and .286 OBP so far this season, he has not made a strong case to be the solution to the Twins leadoff dilemma. There has been some discussion of using Joe Mauer (C, MIN) in the leadoff spot, which may make some sense considering his career OBP of .405.

 

Detroit Tigers

Joaquin Benoit (RHP, DET) finally recorded his first save of the season last week. Benoit has pitched well so far, allowing six hits and two earned runs in his first eight appearances over nine innings. The Tigers simply haven't provided many save opportunities since manager Jim Leyland designated him the "go-to" guy. With Octavio Dotel (RHP, DET) still struggling with elbow discomfort and heading to the DL, the Tigers have used Al Alburquerque (RHP, DET) and Darin Downs (LHP, DET) to protect leads in the late innings. That may be quick to change, as Jose Valverde (RHP, DET) was added to the roster on Tuesday and Leyland indicated he is likely to be in the saves mix soon. 

Drew Smyly (LHP, DET) has been very effective so far in a long relief role, 3 ER in 15 IP with a 17:4 K:BB rate. If Rick Porcello's (RHP, DET) troubles continue (16 ER in 13 IP with only 3 Ks) it would not be surprising to see Smyly take over his rotation spot. Smyly and Porcello were in competition for the spot in spring training, and with the Tigers in a win-now mode, the team won't have endless patience with Porcello. Smyly acquitted himself well during his rookie campaign last year posting a 91 BPV in 99 IP. He had an 8.5 Dom with a 2.8 Cmd and has improved on those numbers so far this year.

 

Kansas City Royals

After  Greg Holland's (RHP, KC) struggles during the first week of the season, there was speculation that he may lose the closer job to Kelvin Herrera (RHP, KC). However, manager Ned Yost stuck with Holland despite his early problems. Holland has now converted five of six save opportunities, and has allowed only one hit in his last four appearances. Herrera has now had his "rough week," including an outing against Atlanta in which he allowed three HRs, and the buzz about his chances of seizing the closing job has died away. Both of these pitchers have very strong skills and the concerns about both of them have been based on very small sample sizes. Kansas City has confidence in Holland and Herrera, and fantasy owners should too. Barring injury, Holland has the skills to keep closing games, but if he should be injured, Herrera would be able to step in and perform at a high level.


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