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Batting Around: Are first-place Guardians the best team in the AL Central? Or are Twins, Royals contenders?

Written by on May 16, 2024

Throughout the season the CBS Sports MLB experts will bring you a weekly Batting Around roundtable breaking down pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week we discussed the teams that have most surprised us. This week we’re going to tackle the surprisingly competitive AL Central.

What’s the best team in the AL Central?

R.J. Anderson: I think it’s still the Twins. They started the year in slow fashion, resulting in what’s only the third-best run differential in the Central. But they’ve turned it around as of late, and I feel better about their roster than either the Guardians or the Royals. (Plus, the Guardians’ early-season success can be attributed to six extra-inning wins; that’s just not sustainable over an entire campaign.) Barring injury — no sure bet with this Twins roster — they’re still my pick to win the division.

Dayn Perry: I want to be tempted by the Royals’ start, but I have to agree and lean Twins to repeat. Obviously the Guardians are very much in the discussion, what with their current record, but I think starting pitching is too thin for this to keep up. The Twins in my opinion have the strongest roster in the division and the best organizational depth, as well. I think they’ll top 90 wins and take the flag. 

Matt Snyder: The Twins have gotten some pushback for beating up on bad teams, but they’ve actually played fewer sub-.500 teams than both the Guardians and Royals. They’ve righted the ship since a disastrous start and have looked very strong ever since. Byron Buxton returns in the next few days and surely he’ll start hitting soon. Royce Lewis is also on the comeback trail and he can make their lineup dynamic. The pitching, though, is the key, as Joe Ryan, Pablo López and Bailey Ober give them a sneaky-great top three with rookie Simeon Woods Richardson looking good and Jhoan Duran is back from injury to lock down the end of the game. 

They are my pick, even though it’s close between all three — with the Tigers not too far off — and hopefully that remains the case all season. 

Mike Axisa: Cleveland’s offense has exceeded my expectations even with Kyle Manzardo not yet breaking through (it’s only been two weeks). They are already pushing the limits of their pitching depth though and I’m not sure they have enough quality arms to stay atop the division another four and a half months. The Royals really need someone other than Bobby Witt Jr. and Salvador Perez (and Vinnie Pasquantino) to start hitting because I can’t say I expect Seth Lugo, Alec Marsh, and Brady Singer to combine for a 2.26 ERA all season. This season feels like a warm-up for a 2025 breakout in Kansas City.

The Twins have the best combination of offense, rotation stability, general depth, and health at the moment. They’re almost certainly going to need a starter at the deadline, but they’ll only need a No. 4-5 type, not a frontline guy. Minnesota is pretty well set at the top of the rotation with Pablo López, Bailey Ober, and Joe Ryan. I just like their roster the best and think their early-season performance is most sustainable. The Guardians are running out of arms and the Royals are really leaning on Witt, Perez, and Lugo to carry them.

The post Batting Around: Are first-place Guardians the best team in the AL Central? Or are Twins, Royals contenders? first appeared on CBS Sports.

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