2024 MLB Division Preview: AL Central

Spring Training has officially started, and with that, the 2024 MLB Season is right around the corner. It's time to kick off the 2024 Division Preview Series, starting off with the American League Central.

Division Series - Houston Astros v Minnesota Twins - Game Four
Division Series - Houston Astros v Minnesota Twins - Game Four / Brace Hemmelgarn/GettyImages
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Detroit Tigers

Kerry Carpenter, Spencer Torkelson, Riley Greene
Detroit Tigers v Cleveland Guardians / Ron Schwane/GettyImages

Key Additions
- RHP Jack Flaherty
- RHP Kenta Maeda
- LHP Andrew Chafin
- 3B Gio Urshela

Key Loses
- DH Miguel Cabrera
- LHP Eduardo Rodriguez

After a 12 win jump from 2022 to 2023, the Tigers are looking to take after their NFL counterpart and continue to improve and work their way into contention. While that last part might not come into fruition this year, I think they have the young core that can continue to improve and be the center of their future success. The two main pieces of that core is Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene, who were selected by Detroit as the 1st and 5th overall picks in the 2019 and 2020 drafts, respectively. Both have had their fair share of struggles, but both took steps forward in 2023 and look to continue upon those improvements and be more consistent contributors. A major bright spot of 2023 was the breakout of Kerry Carpenter, who accumulated 2.2 fWAR in only 118 games, picking up a 121 wRC+ along the way. Expect those three to lead the way for A.J. Hinch's squad, with prospect Colt Keith making his MLB debut somewhere along the way. Whether or not the Tigers will be able to compete any time soon relies heavily on their $140 million man - Javier Baez. To put it lightly, Baez has been a letdown since inking a 6 year, $140 million contract with Detroit before the 2022 season. Last year, he put up an abysmal 61 wRC+ and even got benched at one point for low effort and numerous mental errors. If Baez can play like the player that got the Tigers to pay him $140 million, that kind of All Star player can be a difference maker in excelling the Tigers path to success.

The bright spot on the pitching side will be Tarik Skubal, who was only able to start 15 games last season due to injury, but pitched like an Cy Young candidate. Despite only 15 starts, Skubal racked up 3.3 fWAR with a 2.00 FIP and 11.43 K/9, two very impressive numbers. Free agent acquisitions Jack Flaherty and Kenta Maeda will hopefully provide some consistent veteran depth behind them, with a mix of young guys like Matt Manning, Reese Olson, and Casey Mize taking forward strides to the future. Detroit can make some noise and play spoiler come crunch time, but I don't think they are quite ready to take the next step and fight for a playoff spot.

Team MVP: Spencer Torkelson

Team Cy Young: Tarik Skubal

Team X-Factor: Javier Baez

The Nationals will travel up north to play the Tigers for three games from June 11-13.