Sizing up the best talent White Sox will face in AL Central

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SHARE Sizing up the best talent White Sox will face in AL Central

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox are better on paper, but guess what? The American League Central looks better all around them, too.

The division features Cy Young winners Corey Kluber, David Price and Justin Verlander and three of the top four 2014 AL MVP vote-getters in Michael Brantley, Victor Martinez and Jose Abreu, not to mention the vaunted bullpen from the defending AL champion Kansas City Royals.

The Detroit Tigers are four-time defending champions. The Royals were a Madison Bumgarner superman performance away from being the defending World Series champs, and the Cleveland Indians, with an underrated bullpen, are viewed in most everyone’s projections as a team on the rise in 2015. Even the Minnesota Twins, whom most experts pick last, upgraded their starting rotation and, as Sox general manager Rick Hahn said, “Any Terry Ryan-run club that is introducing young players is a club to be aware of.’’

The Sox should hold their own. They have the premier player in the division at three positions — starting pitcher, shortstop and center field. If not for the presence of Miguel Cabrera at first base in Detroit, it would be four.

‘‘The division is going to be real strong,’’ Hahn said. ‘‘I’ve seen some write that it’s the toughest in baseball. I don’t know if I’m quite ready to go that far, but there are no soft spots.’’

The Sox will get reacquainted with the Central fast. Their first 18 games are divided up against their four division rivals.

‘‘I don’t think anyone will run away with it and hide,’’ said Hahn, who believes 86 or 87 wins could be enough to win it, ‘‘because we’re beating each other up all summer.

‘‘Every win is going to matter, and we start out with 31 of our 42 first games against our division, so it’s been a focus of ours to get off to a good start because of that.’’

In the end, good players win games. Here’s a look at which teams have the best ones in the AL Central, with the best listed at each position (and runner-up in parenthesis).

LEFT FIELD

Michael Brantley, Indians

Maybe the division’s deepest position, with nod to Silver Slugger winner who was No. 3 in AL MVP voting.

(Alex Gordon, Royals)

CENTER FIELD

Adam Eaton, White Sox

Prototype leadoff hitter was Gold Glove finalist hit .300 with .378 on-base percentage.

(Lorenzo Cain, Royals)

RIGHT FIELD

J.D. Martinez, Tigers

Not the division’s deepest position. Moves to right to accommodate Yoenis Cespedes in left..553 slugging percentage was fifth in AL. Had 23 HR, 76 RBI in 123 games, not bad for an Astros reject.

(Avisail Garcia, White Sox)

THIRD BASE

Mike Moustakas, Royals

Good defense sets average hitter apart at a thin position in division

(Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians)

SHORTSTOP

Alexei Ramirez

Two-time Silver Slugger, one-time All-Star is durable and flashy with the glove.

(Alcides Escobar, Royals)

SECOND BASE

Ian Kinsler, Tigers

Four-time All-Star is one of top all-around players at position.

(Brian Dozier, Twins)

FIRST BASE

Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

Two-time MVP, three straight batting crowns, nine-time All-Star. Enough said.

(Jose Abreu, White Sox)

CATCHER

Yan Gomes, Indians

Silver Slugger winner (.278, 21 HR, 74 RBI) wasn’t bad behind the plate, either

(Salvador Perez, Royals)

DESIGNATED HITTER

Victor Martinez, Tigers

Hit .335 with AL bests .409 on-base percentantage and .974 OPS.

(Adam LaRoche/Jose Abreu, White Sox)

STARTING PITCHER

Chris Sale, White Sox

Kluber won the Cy, but three-time All-Star Sale (2.76 career ERA) rates higher by most metrics standards, and he was top 6 in Cy voting in last three years, climbing each year

(Corey Kluber, Indians)

CLOSER

Greg Holland, Royals

47, 46 saves with 1.21 and 1.44 ERAs the last two years. And his setup man, Wade Davis might be even better.

(David Robertson, White Sox)

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