1. CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Who's gone: P Rocky Biddle, Keith Foulke, Antonio Osuna, Jim Parque and Todd Ritchie, C Mark Johnson, 1B Jeff Liefer, SS Royce Clayton.
Strengths: The White Sox significantly upgraded their starting rotation and bullpen. Colon essentially gives the team two aces. Koch give the team a front-line closer to go with Gordon and returner Damaso Marte.
Weaknesses: With the exception of the switch-hitting D'Angelo Jimenez and Jose Valentin, the White Sox lineup has no left-handed hitters. The defense is suspect, and the bottom of the rotation is unproven.
Outlook: The White Sox should make a run at dethroning Minnesota, the defending Central Division champions. Koch gives the bullpen instant credibility coming off a season in which he won 11 games and had 44 saves for Oakland. Frank Thomas' new contract, which pays him $5 million this year and gives him the option of testing the free-agent market after the season, should keep him happy and productive. Thomas is finally sound after a triceps injury kept him out most of the 2001 season and limited his production in 2002.
At Edison Field: Aug. 11-14.
At Dodger Stadium: June 6-8.
2B D'Angelo Jimenez
SS Jose Valentin
DH Frank Thomas
RF Magglio Ordonez
1B Paul Konerko
LF Carlos Lee
3B Joe Crede
CF Aaron Rowand
C Sandy Alomar Jr.
2. MINNESOTA TWINS
Who's new: P Mike Fetters and Kenny Rogers, SS Chris Gomez.
Strengths: The Twins are expected to remain strong on defense after committing the fewest errors (74) and posting the top fielding percentage (.987) in baseball last season. The team boasts five starting pitchers who have been All-Stars at some point in their careers, though Eric Milton probably will be sidelined for at least the first half of the season while recovering from surgery on his left knee.
Weaknesses: The Twins are young, with no player besides Brad Radke in the opening-day lineup over 30 years old. The team may not have solved its inability to hit left-handed pitching, a real sore spot last season.
Outlook: With the recent acquisition of left-hander Rogers, the Twins have to like their chances to repeat as Central champions. Good things are also expected from All-Star closer Eddie Guardado, who registered 45 saves last season as the leader of a bullpen that ranked fourth in the league. One issue the team tried to address in spring is its past troubles on the basepaths. The Twins had the worst stolen base percentage in the majors last year, often running themselves out of potentially big innings.
At Edison Field: July 11-13, Aug. 26-28.
LF Jacque Jones
SS Cristian Guzman
CF Torii Hunter
3B Corey Koskie
DH Matthew LeCroy
1B Doug Mientkiewicz
C A.J. Pierzynski
2B Luis Rivas
3. CLEVELAND INDIANS
Who's gone: P Ryan Drese, Charles Nagy and Jaret Wright, C Einar Diaz, 3B Travis Fryman, 1B Jim Thome and Lee Stevens.
Strengths: Starting pitchers Ricardo Rodriguez and Jason Davis provide the Indians with two young, promising arms to backup No. 1 starter C.C. Sabathia. Omar Vizquel is one of the best shortstops in the game -- can the Indians resist the temptation to trade him for prospects?
Weaknesses: The Indians are leery of a power outage after losing Thome, who last season hit a club-record 52 home runs, in a bidding war with the suddenly deep-pocketed Philadelphia Phillies. Anderson and Bere are coming off forgettable years with National League teams.
Outlook: The Indians are bracing for a return to gloomier times after winning six Central Division titles and two American League pennants from 1995-2001. Thome was only the latest in a string of high-profile departures that have decimated the team's star wattage over the last few seasons. Two prospects, second baseman Brandon Phillips and Hafner, will need to develop quickly for the Indians to finish above third in their division.
At Edison Field: May 6-8.
SS Omar Vizquel
LF Matt Lawton
DH Ellis Burks
RF Karim Garcia
1B Travis Hafner
3B Casey Blake
C Josh Bard
2B Brandon Philllips
4. KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Who's new: P Albie Lopez, 2B Desi Relaford, C Mike DiFelice, OF Benny Agbayani.
Who's gone: 2B Luis Alicea, P Paul Byrd, Chad Durbin, Roberto Hernandez and Jeff Suppan, C A.J. Hinch, OF Chuck Knoblauch and Mark Quinn, SS Neifi Perez.
Strengths: Carlos Beltran and Mike Sweeney, who combined last season for 53 home runs and 191 RBIs, should again provide the offensive punch, though Beltran will start the season on the disabled list because of a rib-cage injury. Raul Ibanez had a breakout season last year, hitting .294 with 24 homers and 103 RBIs.
Weaknesses: Byrd and Suppan are gone, leaving the Royals with five starters who last season won 15 games -- combined. The club also lacks a proven leadoff hitter -- they'll start with Michael Tucker -- and is coming off a season in which it committed 130 errors, the second most in the league.
Outlook: Royal fans can only hope that Tony Pena's decision to determine the team's opening-day starter by flipping a coin (Jeremy Affeldt incorrectly called heads, giving Runelvys Hernandez the nod) was a reflection of the starters' strengths, not Pena's managerial style. Otherwise the team may quickly find itself battling Detroit for last place.
At Edison Field: July 8-10, Sept. 5-7.
At Dodger Stadium: June 3-5.
RF Michael Tucker
3B Joe Randa
CF Carlos Beltran
1B Mike Sweeney
LF Raul Ibanez
DH Ken Harvey
C Brent Mayne
SS Angel Berroa
2B Carlos Febles
5. DETROIT TIGERS
Who's new: P Wil Ledezma and Matt Roney, OF Gene Kingsale.
Who's gone: P Juan Acevedo and Mark Redman, OF Robert Fick and Wendell Magee, 1B Randall Simon, 2B Damion Easley.
Strengths: The Tigers should hold any late leads they can attain behind closer Matt Anderson and rookie setup man Franklyn German.
Weaknesses: Where to start? The Tigers head into the season without a dependable starting pitcher. They also did themselves no favors by purging their two most productive hitters, Simon and Fick, from a lineup that last year scored 52 fewer runs than any other major league team. The Tigers will pay Easley $14.3 million not to play for them after new Manager Alan Trammell handed the starting job at second base to Ramon Santiago.
Outlook: At least everyone's sound. Dmitri Young is back from hernia surgery and Dean Palmer has returned from shoulder and neck ailments that forced him to miss most of the last two seasons. The Tigers realistically could overtake Kansas City in the fight to stay out of the Central Division cellar, but a second consecutive 100-loss season also isn't out of the question. The Tigers, who haven't had a winning season since 1993, would consider 90 losses a step in the right direction.
At Edison Field: Aug. 15-17.
CF Gene Kingsale
SS Omar Infante
RF Bobby Higginson
LF Dmitri Young
1B Carlos Pena
DH Dean Palmer
3B Eric Munson
2B Ramon Santiago
FINAL 2002 AMERICAN LEAGUE STANDINGS
*--* WEST W L Pct G B L10 Stk Home Away Inter y-Oakland 103 59 636 -- 8-2 W-4 54-27 49-32 16-2 x-ANGELS 99 63 611 4 4-6 W-2 54-27 45-36 11-7 Seattle 93 69 574 10 5-5 L-2 48-33 45-36 11-7 Texas 72 90 444 31 3-7 L-4 42-39 30-51 9-9
*--* CENTRAL W L Pct G B L10 Stk Home Away Inter y-Minnesota 94 67 584 -- 6-4 W-3 54-27 40-40 10-8 Chicago 81 81 500 13 1/2 5-5 L-3 47-34 34-47 8-10 Cleveland 74 88 457 20 1/2 7-3 W-4 39-42 35-46 6-12 Kansas City 62 100 383 32 1/2 4-6 L-3 37-44 25-56 5-13 Detroit 55 106 342 39 1-9 L-4 33-47 22-59 6-12
*--* EAST W L Pct G B L10 Stk Home Away Inter y-New York 103 58 640 -- 8-2 W-5 52-28 51-30 11-7 Boston 93 69 574 10 1/2 7-3 W-1 42-39 51-30 5-13 Toronto 78 84 481 25 1/2 8-2 W-7 42-39 36-45 9-9 Baltimore 67 95 414 36 1/2 0-10 L-12 34-47 33-48 9-9 Tampa Bay 55 106 342 48 5-5 L-1 30-51 25-55 7-11 x-clinched playoff spot; y-clinched division