A few weeks back we spoke about how the American League Central division has gone from an expected landslide to a two-team race. Now most of us wrote off the Cleveland Guardians as an early season fluke and believed that the division would come down to Byron Buxton’s Minnesota Twins and Tim Anderson’s White Sox.
Wrong. With just under a month before All Star break, here’s a quick update on the AL Central race.
Guardians Making Noise
The word we heard most this year in regard to the Cleveland Guardians was “rebuild.” They traded the bulk of their best players away and seem to have placed a skeleton crew around remaining superstar Jose Ramirez. Fortunately for Guardians fans two young MLBbros have made sure that Cleveland is in the mix.
Triston McKenzie: Dr. Sticks Doing Work
Starting pitcher Triston McKenzie has once again shown flashes of someone who possesses top of the rotation stuff. In 11 starts this season, Triston has maintained a 2.96 ERA while keeping his WHIP below one (0.93). So far, opposing hitters are hitting .184 against his fastball and an anemic .104 against his curveball.
Naylor Brother No. 1
The other young bro doing work in Cleveland is first baseman Josh Naylor. Naylor was acquired from the San Diego Padres in 2020 and figures to be a major part of the Guardians’ future. Over his last seven games, Naylor is hitting .385 with an impressive .433 on base percentage.
The Guardians have won six consecutive series and are looking to put some space between them and the rest of the division.
Twins Trying To Stay Afloat
The Minnesota Twins came out the gates firing and looked ready to run away with the division. Buxton was on fire and playing everyday, and they even had the addition of young MLBbro Royce Lewis send a spark through their lineup. Unfortunately for the Twins, things haven’t been as smooth lately.
Minnesota lost Lewis for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL, and Buxton has struggled at the plate. In his last seven games, Byron is hitting .179 with just two homers and three RBI. Minnesota is 5-5 in their last 10 games and have seen their early lead in the division evaporate.
Buxton has been the key for any success in the Twin Cities, so a return to form will be necessary if they want to catch Naylor and the Guardians.
White Sox Heating Up
The White Sox were 8-10 without their captain TA but had won four of their previous six games before Anderson was reinstated from the 10-day injured reserve list to start the Toronto series. Back for the first time in nearly a month, Anderson collected four hits in the first two games (both victories) like he never left.
“His stroke is a thing of beauty,” said White Sox manager Tony La Russa. “I mean he can get to anything. He knows his stroke, and he stays within himself… He’s as good as anybody playing the position. Anybody. You pick the best, Tim Anderson is as good as there.”
Saying that TA can get to anything is no exaggeration. TA ranks in the bottom two percentile in chase rate, meaning he swings at more balls outside the strike zone than the majority of the league. But that doesn’t matter when you hit EVERYTHING. Anderson’s .358 average would be second in the league if not for his stint on IR.
Chicago is in the mix, but TA will need some support from his counterparts if they want to repeat as division champs.