The American League Central is one of the most balanced divisions in baseball, where three of the five teams in the division have a great chance at winning it. The Minnesota Twins have won this division two years in a row and will look to do it again in 2011, but they will have to fend off improved teams in Detroit and Chicago to do so. The Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians likely won’t be competitive this summer, and will more or less, just be truckin’ on. And on that note, let’s take a look at the AL Central set to the Grateful Dead’s “Truckin’” . . . .

Together, more or less in line
Just keep truckin’ on

The Detroit Tigers have two great hitters in their lineup and two great pitchers, and the rest is mostly filler. How far the Tigers go will completely depend on how well their complementary players like Austin Jackson, Ryan Raburn and Brennan Boesch hit, and how well their aces, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, pitch. If Verlander or Scherzer have a down year, the Tigers’ title hopes are toast, even with a strong bullpen. The Tigers will be competitive, but probably not division winners.

The Minnesota Twins somehow come out on top of this division year in and year out no matter who gets injured or leaves the team. The team has a great core of hitters in Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Delmon Young and very good pitching lead by Francisco Liriano. The Twins are well balanced, play hard and should win this division.

The Chicago White Sox are built around a bunch of big sluggers like Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin. But the White Sox have some speed too, lead by American League stolen base leader, Juan Pierre, and Alex Rios. The White Sox have good pitching, but their season will largely depend on the health of their ace, Jake Peavy. Peavy was dominant in the National League before the White Sox acquired him. He has been injured and inconsistent in Chicago, but will look to that around this season. In all likelihood, The White Sox will only go as far as Peavy takes them.

Knocked down, it gets to wearing thin
They just won’t let you be

The Cleveland Indians will not be good this year. The Indians demise can be traced to career altering injuries to the team’s top two hitters – Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore. But Cleveland’s offense does have some bright spots in outfielder, Shin-Soo Choo, and rookie catcher, Carlos Santana. Even if the Indians manage to score runs this season, The Indians’ pitching staff will prevent them from being competitive. The Indians staff recently featured two Cy Young winners in CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee, but now is lead by shaky Fausto Carmona. This team is not good, will have trouble scoring and pitching, and will battle the Kansas City Royals for last place.

I guess they can’t revoke your soul for trying

The Kansas City Royals by all accounts have the best farm system in baseball. But the best farm system won’t help the Royals be competitive in 2011. The team has one proven hitter in their lineup in designated hitter, Billy Butler, and no proven pitchers other than closer, Joakim Soria. The Royals will not hit or pitch this summer and may lose over 100 games. But at least there’s a plan in Kansas City. Thanks for trying Kansas City. Things will get better soon.

Your typical city involved in a typical daydream
Hang it up and see what tomorrow brings

As a matter of record, the AL Central has produced one World Series champion in the last decade. Will the 2011 World Series winner emerge from the AL Central? If history tells us anything, it’s that more than likely, the thought of the World Series champion emerging from the AL Central is just a daydream. Look for the Twins to win the division, followed by the White Sox, Tigers, Indians and Royals.