AL Central roundtable: Have the Twins closed the gap on the Indians?
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With Opening Day around the corner, theScore's MLB editors Michael Bradburn, Bryan Mcwilliam, and Brandon Wile answer some of the biggest questions about the American League Central.

Who's the most exciting player in the division?

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Francisco Lindor, Indians. Forget the division - Lindor might be the most exciting player in all of baseball. The 25-year-old is the ultimate five-tool guy, and after the Indians let him run wild last season, he has a legitimate shot at becoming just the fifth 40-40 player in league history (but only if a calf injury suffered this spring doesn't limit him too much). Defensively, Lindor makes even the most difficult plays appear routine, and he's averaged 29 home runs, 39 doubles, 20 steals, and an .837 OPS over three full MLB seasons at the dish. Those efforts have already earned him two Silver Sluggers and a Gold Glove, and he's been durable, too, missing just 11 total games. That Lindor does it all with a smile makes it even better. - Wile

Byron Buxton, Twins. Last season was rough for Buxton due to a plethora of injuries, but the bulked-up - he's gained 21 pounds of muscle - 25-year-old looks ready to make a difference for the Twins. Buxton's been unreal in the spring, producing a .448/.485/.966 slash line with four home runs and 13 RBIs in 33 plate appearances. Meanwhile, his game already features lightning-quick speed and highlight-reel defense, so if the electric outfielder can keep mashing the long ball, he'll become one of baseball's most well-rounded and exciting players. - Mcwilliam

Whit Merrifield, Royals. With stolen-base attempts down around the league, there aren't many old-school players like Merrifield left. Not only did he lead MLB in steals last season - going 45-for-55 on attempts - but he did so efficiently, as one of just seven players with at least 30 swiped bags and a success rate above 80 percent (thresholds he also exceeded in 2017). That helped earn the 30-year-old a four-year extension this offseason, and the traditional second baseman could also end up playing all over the diamond defensively for the rebuilding Royals. - Bradburn

What's the most intriguing storyline?

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Will the Twins dethrone the Indians? Cleveland's won three straight Central titles and looks like the team to beat once again - but don't overlook Minnesota. The Twins were a big player this offseason, adding Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop, C.J. Cron, and Marwin Gonzalez, which could make them a contender under new skipper Rocco Baldelli. Meanwhile, the Indians still own one of baseball's top rotations, but their lineup took some big hits with the losses of Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson, Yan Gomes, and Michael Brantley. The Central should be a two-horse race between these rival clubs, who will begin their tussle on Opening Day and meet 19 times throughout the year. - Mcwilliam

Will this division house two 100-loss teams again? There's no getting around it - the AL Central is bad. Last year, the Indians posted the worst record of any American League playoff team, yet still finished 13 games ahead of the second-place Twins. And collectively, the division posted an abysmal .436 winning percentage, thanks in large part to the lowly Tigers, White Sox, and Royals losing 98, 100, and 104 games, respectively. Dating back to 2002, it was just the third time that two division rivals lost at least 100 games, and even if there are marginal improvements among those teams this season, it'll be interesting to see how much the AL juggernauts take advantage of them. - Bradburn

How far away are the White Sox? The White Sox have spent the last several seasons stockpiling future assets, and it's getting to the point where the club needs to see results at the major-league level. Eloy Jimenez is the No. 3 prospect in baseball and looks to be a future star, but there's not as much optimism elsewhere. Yoan Moncada led MLB in strikeouts last season and Lucas Giolito posted a league-worst 6.13 ERA in 173 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, pitching prospects Michael Kopech and Dane Dunning have both undergone Tommy John surgery, and former top prospect Carson Fulmer doesn't look like a major-league pitcher. Chicago even swung and missed on Manny Machado and Bryce Harper this winter. Still, with Moncada just 23 and with four top-50 prospects, it's not time to panic, but the performances of the young players this season will be a solid gauge of where the franchise is at. - Wile

Who wins the division?

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Indians. While the Twins could end up being a thorn in the Indians' side, the latter will reign supreme and take home a fourth consecutive division title. Lindor and Jose Ramirez are just too good - they combined for 15.6 WAR in 2018, according to FanGraphs - and they should continue to spark the lineup. And while starters Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson looked solid for Minnesota last season, Cleveland still owns the advantage with a rotation that features Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger, and Shane Bieber. All five are capable of authoring All-Star-caliber campaigns and racking up 200 strikeouts. - Mcwilliam

Twins. Minnesota significantly underachieved last season and then closed the gap on Cleveland with a productive offseason. The Twins now have a well-balanced offense that features speed and power, and a solid pitching staff led by Berrios. Yes, the Indians still possess one of the best rotations in baseball, but their offense is extremely top-heavy and the bullpen is less scary without Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. Don't be surprised when the Twins win their first division title since 2010. - Wile

Indians. The Indians' roster is no longer dominant (quick, name their three outfielders), but they have this division sewn up to the point that they even humored trading away Kluber this winter. Meanwhile, three Central teams sat idly by this offseason - other than Chicago's half-hearted attempt to sign Manny Machado - and Minnesota at least tried to build a contender, but will likely have to settle for wild-card contention. - Bradburn

AL Central roundtable: Have the Twins closed the gap on the Indians?
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