The American League Central is no doubt one of the weakest divisions in baseball, but it really is full of some compelling teams heading into 2024 - at least on paper. The Minnesota Twins are still solid even after losing significant pitching pieces this offseason, and the Guardians should no doubt be in the mix.
The Detroit Tigers continue to get incrementally better, but the Kansas City Royals could end up being the most surprising team in the Central in 2024, and could very well walk away with the division when it's all said and done.
In a recent MLB.com list of teams poised to improve in 2024, the Royals were mentioned, with reasons ranging from a promising 2023 Pythagorean record to a developing core.
The Royals have been busy this offseason as well, scooping up veteran talent to bolster an already intriguing roster full of young talent. Kansas City has brought in the likes of Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha to give the starting rotation a little depth. Cole Ragans, brought over from Texas in the Aroldis Chapman trade last season, was tremendous down the stretch for the Royals - compiling a 2.64 ERA in 12 starts - and could end up being a front-line starter himself.
And in the bullpen, Kansas City signed Chris Stratton and Will Smith - who seemingly does nothing but pitch for World Series winners - to bring some depth there.
As for the offense, the Royals signed outfielder Hunter Renfroe to a two-year, $13 million deal, which is exactly what the Guardians should have done, at least prior to their trade with the Yankees for Estevan Florial. Renfroe will join a lineup that is better than people give it credit for, as the Royals have something cooking with Bobby Witt Jr., Vinnie Pasquantino (coming back from a torn shoulder), the always-dependable Salvador Pérez, Maikel Garcia, and MJ Melendez.
Now here's what will certainly be an issue for the Royals moving forward. Kansas City's minor-league system isn't exactly teeming with high-profile names; in Baseball America's most recent list of top 100 prospects, the Royals have no representatives. If the Royals are going to compete in 2024 and have sustained success for the season, they're going to have to get a bit lucky in the health department, because there isn't exactly a ton of premier depth just waiting in the wings.
But hey, it's been done before, and there's no telling who might still come up from the minors and perform well. Just don't be surprised if, at season's end, it's the Royals sitting atop the division.