- Editor's Note: "Where do the White Sox fall in the AL Central race?" originally appeared on Sox on 35th. You can read more of their coverage at SoxOn35th.com, and follow them on Twitter at @SoxOn35th.
As the offseason begins to fade away and the first spring training games creep closer, it's a good time to evaluate the White Sox' division foes and their outlook for the season ahead. Odds in major sportsbooks have been released, and in line with offseason activity, the overall complexion hasn't changed significantly. The Guardians, Twins and White Sox are primed for contention, while the Royals and Tigers appear willing to lose many games and focus on player development. Still, each team has made notable changes.
Here is where each opponent in the AL Central stands as Spring Training gets underway, including who may pose the biggest threat to the White Sox in their quest for the division title.
Kansas City Royals
2022 Finish: Fifth place, 65-97
FanDuel odds to win division: +4000
Notable transactions: Replaced manager Mike Matheny with former Tampa Bay bench coach Matt Quatraro, traded CF Michael Taylor to Minnesota for two pitching prospects, traded Adalberto Mondesi to Boston for a pitching prospect, re-signed RHP Zack Greinke, signed LHP Ryan Yarbrough, signed LHP Aroldis Chapman.
Breakdown: Similar to the Tigers, there was some buzz about the Royals possibly jumping into contention in 2022. That certainly did not happen, as they sputtered the entire season. Kansas City then moved on from Mike Matheny as their head coach, going more analytical with Matt Quatraro heading over from the Rays. General manager J.J Picollo must not be in a rush to improve the roster, however, as his office has only made a few moves this offseason.
Starting pitching was his team's biggest issue, as Greinke and Brady Singer were the team's only sub-5 ERA starters. Yarbrough and Chapman add a nice left-handed dimension to the bullpen, but the pen is not the main concern here. On the bright side for K.C., Singer seems poised to continue his rise to stardom, Vinnie Pasquantino could be a stellar DH for the long run, and Bobby Witt Jr. had a respectable rookie campaign offensively. Yet the Royals boast just one MLB Top 100 prospect, so immediate draft success will be necessary for the small market franchise to compete any time soon.
In January, they cut their losses on veterans Adalberto Mondesi and Michael Taylor in exchange for prospects, as both players have decent upside and Kansas City got some value in return. That introduces a couple of holes in their lineup, and it will be interesting to see if any young bats stick.
2023 Projection: Fourth place, 69-93
2022 Finish: Fourth place, 66-96
FanDuel odds to win division: +2000
Notable transactions: Let LHP Andrew Chafin go to free agency, let RHP Drew Hutchison go to free agency, let SS Willi Castro go to free agency, traded RHP Joe Jimenez to Atlanta for two prospects, traded LHP Gregory Soto and 2B Kody Clemens to Philadelphia for OF Matt Vierling, SS Nick Maton and C Donny Sands.
Breakdown: The Tigers' lineup was historically atrocious in 2022 — Eric Haase was the only player on the roster with more than 35 games played to sport an OPS above league average. Spencer Torkelson struggled mightily in his rookie season, although Kerry Carpenter and Riley Greene looked like potential outfield cornerstones moving forward. Detroit mustered a mediocre rotation meanwhile, as Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal made promising steps with ERAs around 3.50 and decent peripheral stats. However, young stud Casey Mize missed nearly the entire season with an ACL injury followed by Tommy John surgery and will be out until at least this summer.
Trading Soto and Jimenez were smart moves as the Tigers got some intriguing young players in return. Vierling and Maton have had some success in limited major league time despite not being highly-touted prospects, while the Braves sent a decent farmhand bat in OF/3B Justyn-Henry Malloy for Jimenez. Detroit claims three MLB Top 100 prospects, so there's some potential for success in a couple of years if things go their way developmentally. But for now, there isn't any significant help coming up from the farm system.
2023 Projection: Fifth place, 68-94
Finish this article at soxon35th.com and learn more about the White Sox’ main AL Central competition - the Guardians and the Twins.
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