The leader of the AL Central has not changed since the last roundup, however, the division remains wide open for anyone to take.
The Twins continue to hold a lead in the division but have not been playing particularly well of late. Going 5-5 in their last 10 games. Their offense is present, however, as they are 4th in the league in OPS, and 6th in the league in home runs. The offense has been propelled by batting title contender Luis Arraez, who is slashing .355/.426/.457
In the past 7 games alone, Arraez has 13 hits in 28 at-bats, hitting .464 in that span. The man cannot miss a pitch. All those hits, however, have not provided him many RBIs, as he sits at 29 RBI on the season. This is a bit of a headscratcher, as the Twins are getting on base for Arraez. With a team OBP of .323, the Twins rank 6th in the league in getting on base. This is likely because Arraez is the leadoff hitter for the Twins, and has not been given many opportunities to drive men in.
For reference, has had only 50 AB with RISP, for a leadoff hitter, this is still a very low amount of opportunities. Take, for example, Atlanta Braves’ leadoff hitter, Ronald Acuña Jr. Acuna, who returned from an injury in late April, has 39 at-bats with RISP, while only having a total of 203 AB. Arraez isn’t being allowed to drive men in. But when men are on, Arraez, not surprisingly, does not let them go to waste. He slashes .400/.466/.540.
Point is, if the Twins are winning, Arraez is likely a part of it. The Twins need to find other ways to win and allow Arraez to be at the center of it all. The AL Central is not the most competitive division in baseball, but still, teams must win their schedule. The Twins are going to need other teammates to step up to remain competitive and get away from their recent skids.
There is a part of me that feels guilty for not knowing more about the Guardians, but then I realize, the Guardians don’t even know who they are yet. The Guardians started the season going .500, but with some landmark games mixed in. Between sweeping the Chicago White Sox, to then being swept by the New York Yankees, it became hard to gauge who the Guardians were. The Guardians’ June was off to a torrid start with a 15-4 record. Coming off a series win in Minnesota, the Guardians were making their presence known.
The Guardians (and perhaps the AL Central as a whole), seem to only excel at facing teams within their division. The Guardians continue this trend, as they followed up their series win vs. rival Minnesota by being swept by the Red Sox, and losing the series to the Yankees. So then, one would assume they would gladly welcome the chance to get healthy off of the Detroit Tigers. However, July 4 weekend was not kind to the Guardians, getting swept in Detroit.
Okay, but enough insulting the Guardians, they’re trying, and fans of the franchise have had to endure enough losing. The frustrating part of the Guardians however is their lack of consistency. But, one player remains consistent in the chaos, and that is José Ramírez.
Ramirez is one of the game’s top run producers. He currently is third in the league with 66 RBI. He has the 7th highest OPS at .957. What’s better, is that he is an all-around joy to watch. Old school and new school fans can enjoy Ramirez’s contributions to the game. Currently, he is in the 99th percentile at strikeout rates, striking out less than 10% of the time. Further, he walks more than he strikes out! Not many players can have that sentence associated with them, but Ramirez’s 9.7 % strikeout rate compared to his 11% walk percentage makes him a joy to watch.
Chicago White Sox
Every team must prepare for injuries. It is a part of the game. But the White Sox seemingly have 2 major league teams: 1 on the IL, and the other on the field. During the season, the White Sox have had 21 of their major league roster players be on the injured list. Some stints have been shorter than others, but when the likes of Lance Lynn, Tim Anderson, Lucas Giolito, Luis Robert, and Eloy Jiménez are all on the injured list for weeks at a time, how can the White Sox be expected to compete?
That being said, the White Sox appear to be improving in their health. With stars like Tim Anderson, Lucas Giolito, and Lance Lynn back on the field, they have been able to give themselves a fighting chance to make a run for the division. They are .500 in their last 10 games, but their true test will come this week when they face off with the Cleveland Guardians.
Dylan Cease continues to be the consistent bright spot for Chicago, pitching to a 2.45 ERA in 17 of his games started. Even more impressive, is his k rate, as he has struck out 133 in 92 innings pitched. His K/9 continues to improve and sits at 13.01.
Growing pains were expected to come with the Detroit Tigers, as they underwent a rebuild, calling up prospects Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene to give them a look at major league competition. The Tigers’ hope is that those two will become cornerstones for the Tigers franchise in the years to come. Torkelson has been underwhelming thus far. Though never known for his average in the minors, he is batting just .191 with only 5 home runs. The average can be forgiven if he was providing better power numbers, but he has yet to do so.
Tigers general manager Al Avila has discussed the possibility of sending Torkelson back to the minors to work on his swing. Still, Avila admits he is unsure of what to do. The Tigers are not competing this year, so they have more leeway in how they choose to handle a struggling rookie. Yet it may be best to have him figure out what did work in the minors than to continue to throw him out against major league pitching where he is outmatched.
Everything Torkelson has struggled with Riley Greene has embraced. Unlike Torkelson, Greene’s debut came in June, after an injury delayed it. Since his debut on June 18, when he reached base four times, he has had a modest start to his career. He is slashing .241/.341/.342 giving him a .6 WAR. For reference, Torkelson’s WAR is -1.6. What is more impressive about Greene’s performance thus far is his approach at the plate. Though his strikeout rate is a bit high at 20%, his walk rate is at 14%, which is impressive for a rookie only three weeks into his major league career.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals have had some pleasant surprises this season. Between the debut of Bobby Witt Jr. and the resurgence of Andrew Benintendi, it has softened the blow of franchise players Salvador Perez and Whit Merrifield‘s lack of production. The Royals fans should not become too attached to Benintendi’s contributions, as he is likely to be flipped into a trade piece as the trade deadline approaches.
Benintendi is slashing .317/.389/.401. That slash line is a career-high for him and has some believing this is the Benintendi that the Red Sox drafted in the first round of the 2015 draft. While his home run numbers are down–only three on the year–it is his continuous ability to get on base that could prove to be very attractive for other, more competitive teams. Further, his K% is in the 90th percentile in the majors. The Royals likely will not be able to retain Benintendi after this year, as he is a free agent after this year, so might as well flip him for something.
In other news, the always “listening to offers” Whit Merrifield, is not having the best season, and likely will not be an attractive trade piece for competing teams. His durability trait also seemed to come to an end, as his MLB-leading consecutive games played streak came to an end on Monday. Before Monday’s doubleheader, Merrifield held the current major league lead with 553 consecutive games played. The last time he had a season where he didn’t play the entire schedule was in 2018 when he played just 158 games. Quite a durable player.
Artwork by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter)