Cleveland Indians: Breaking down the AL Central race in 2017

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Sep 26, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis (22) and center fielder Tyler Naquin (30) celebrate with teammates after their game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. The Indians won 7-4 to clinch the Central Division title. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Many experts think that the Cleveland Indians have this year’s AL Central crown in the bag. But will they have more competition than expected?

Before last season, it had been awhile since Cleveland Indians fans saw their Tribe atop the American League Central. Fans were beginning to grow impatient, wondering when Cleveland’s next division title would come.

With that division title finally returning to Cleveland, expectations have only increased. However, fan expectations aren’t the only ones increasing. Baseball experts around the league are not only predicting the Tribe to repeat as division champions, but they expect them to dominate along the way.

All signs point to Cleveland achieving enormous amounts of success during the 2017 season. The Indians made key acquisitions in the offseason, adding an All-Star as well as increasing their already dominant bullpen.

Along with acquiring talent, the Indians have perhaps more importantly acquired health. Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Yan Gomes are expected to be ready for the start of the regular season.

Michael Brantley’s status for Opening Day remains uncertain, and although he is progressing nicely, Terry Francona wants to ease Brantley back into the mix, preventing further injury to the Indians outfielder.

But what about the other teams in the Central?

The Detroit Tigers, who many deemed as under-achievers in their 2016 campaign, return all their main pieces. The Kansas City Royals are an interesting team. If they perform well at the beginning of the year, expect them to contend for the division. If they start out slow, they could try to unload all of their upcoming free agents before they walk.

The Minnesota Twins were a dumpster fire last year winning only 59 games, their lowest win total since 1956. The Chicago White Sox are in an obvious rebuilding mode, trading key pieces like Chris Sale for highly ranked prospects.

Let’s take a closer look at each team, and predict the AL Central division standings after game 162.

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