Chicago White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon has thrown eight perfect innings against the Cleveland Indians at Guaranteed Rate Field.Rodon has struck out six on 95 pitches (61 strikes) while allowing just five fly-ball outs. Cleveland will send Josh Naylor, Roberto Perez, and Yu Chang to the plate in the ninth. The White Sox lead 8-0.Rodon is trying to throw the 24th perfect game in Major League Baseball history, and the fourth by a White Sox pitcher. Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners threw the most recent one Aug. 15, 2012.Copyright © 2021 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
With the regular season opening up this week, we look at the biggest question facing each American League club in 2021: Baltimore Orioles: Can the young players take the next step?The Orioles are ready to turn the page on a rebuild that started in 2018. Ryan Mountcastle, who impressed as a rookie with a .878 OPS in 2020, and Anthony Santander will lead the offense until 2019 No. 1 pick Adley Rutschman is ready to join the mix. The trio gives Baltimore enough hope that the worst is over.Boston Red Sox: Can the pitching staff keep up?The Red Sox won't have any problems putting up runs this season. However, preventing their opponents from scoring will be a different story. There's still no firm timeline for Chris Sale's return from Tommy John surgery, and many questions remain about Eduardo Rodriguez's durability after he missed all of last season with a heart issue. Ditto for the often-injured Garrett Richards and Nathan Eovaldi. Ron Vesely / Getty Images Sport / GettyChicago White Sox: Are they ready to flip the switch?The White Sox are expected to be one of baseball's best teams after they landed top starter Lance Lynn and star closer Liam Hendriks in the offseason. Chicago's young core is oozing with talent, even after Eloy Jimenez suffered a potential season-ending chest injury. The young slugger's absence could open the door for top prospect Andrew Vaughn to become an everyday player. It's always easier to play when the expectations are low, but now Chicago is expected to win.Cleveland Indians: Who steps up in Lindor's absence? It's borderline impossible to replace a player like Francisco Lindor with one person. He's a legitimate five-tool player who hits, runs, and defends at an elite level, so Lindor's value will have to be pieced together to help complement Jose Ramirez. Andres Gimenez should be able to step in at shortstop, and he has enough speed to match or exceed Lindor's on the basepaths. However, questions remain about his bat. Former Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario, powerhouse Franmil Reyes, and postseason standout Josh Naylor are the most immediate options to make up for Lindor's absence.Detroit Tigers: How far away are they from contending?Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize represent a step toward the envisioned rotation that will lead the Tigers back to the postseason. Matt Manning should eventually help form a trio of young arms, and Spencer Torkelson - last summer's first overall pick - could skyrocket through the minors. Still, 2021 will be a year of calibration to determine if players like Willi Castro, Victor Reyes, Jeimer Candelario, and Nomar Mazara - among others - are long-term pieces or eventual trade fodder. Playoff contention is now less of an abstract concept in Detroit, but it's probably a couple of years away. Michael Reaves / Getty Images Sport / GettyHouston Astros: Will Tucker and Alvarez become stars?The Astros need to fill the void left by George Springer after they let him walk in free agency. Yordan Alvarez looked like the second coming of David Ortiz when he blasted 27 homers in 87 games during his AL Rookie of the Year campaign in 2019. He missed most of 2020 after undergoing a pair of surgeries. Kyle Tucker, one of the club's most highly hyped prospects for years, had his own breakout season last summer and is poised to join the upper echelon of big-league talent. Houston won't miss Springer much if both can live up to expectations.Kansas City Royals: Can they disrupt the playoff picture?The Royals have a chance to surprise a lot of people in 2021. Kansas City's lineup is deep thanks to offseason acquisitions Andrew Benintendi and Carlos Santana, and the starting rotation improved with the addition of former All-Star Mike Minor. However, the bullpen will need some nostalgic performances from Greg Holland and Wade Davis to tread water.Los Angeles Angels: Can Ohtani hold up over a full season?While conventional wisdom suggests avoiding putting too much stock into spring numbers, it's impossible not to get excited about Shohei Ohtani's performance. He's batting .571 with a 1.701 OPS and five home runs in 32 plate appearances. Ohtani's been shakier on the mound (7.88 ERA in three starts) but he's struck out 14 in eight innings and his fastball is hitting 102 mph. There's room for growth, but the hope of Ohtani being a legitimate two-way star has not been extinguished.Minnesota Twins: Will they finally get over the postseason hump?The Twins seem to fall apart as soon as the regular season ends. Minnesota has lost 18 consecutive postseason games dating back to Game 1 of the 2004 ALDS. The lineup is largely the same as last year's, only without longtime outfielder Eddie Rosario. With the White Sox surging in the Central, it remains to be seen if the additions of Andrelton Simmons, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker, and Alex Colome - and eventually outfield prospect Alex Kirilloff - will be enough to keep pace. Christian Petersen / Getty Images Sport / GettyNew York Yankees: Can the big boys stay healthy?The Yankees have been profoundly unlucky when it comes to injuries in recent seasons, and things are already looking shaky. Reigning home run champ Luke Voit will miss at least the first month of the season with a partially torn meniscus in his left knee. This follows Zack Britton's elbow surgery to remove bone spurs. The Bombers still have a murderers' row but the injury bug has bitten the likes of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Hicks with regularity, so nothing can be taken for granted. If they can avoid the injured list, it will go a long way toward the team's pursuit of its first AL pennant in over a decade.Oakland Athletics: Can they repeat as AL West champions?The Athletics are going to have to fight off the Astros and Angels for another division crown. Oakland downgraded at shortstop and closer after replacing Marcus Semien and Liam Hendriks with Elvis Andrus and Trevor Rosenthal. The team has enough talent to finish first again, but it's going to be a tight race.Seattle Mariners: How much impact will Kelenic have when he's promoted?Even though Jarred Kelenic was briefly sidelined by a leg injury early in camp, the 21-year-old hardly missed a step. He went 6-for-20 with two homers and four walks to only one strikeout over 10 spring games. Kelenic has only played in 173 minor-league contests since being drafted in 2018 but he looks the part of a major leaguer. If reigning AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis is sidelined longer than expected by a knee injury, Kelenic may get the call early on. Expect it to be permanent if he does. Mark Brown / Getty Images Sport / GettyTampa Bay Rays: How much can they get from Archer, Hill, Wacha?The Rays have a reputation for turning water into wine, but Chris Archer, Rich Hill, and Michael Wacha are not even close to the type of pitchers Blake Snell and Charlie Morton are. Tampa Bay's new additions have struggled to stay on the field over the last few years due to injuries. The club will need to get creative to keep up in a division with three top offenses.Texas Rangers: How deep will the rebuild go?The Rangers are expected to be one of the worst teams this season. So, all eyes will be on Joey Gallo, who might end up being one of the top trade targets. Veterans on short-term deals such as David Dahl, Jordan Lyles, Mike Foltynewicz, and Kyle Gibson could also be moved for prospects if things quickly go south deep in the heart of Texas.Toronto Blue Jays: Who steps up behind Ryu?Robbie Ray and Nate Pearson are both nursing injuries, so Toronto's rotation options are even more limited than before. Steven Matz is the Blue Jays' next best option if he can expand on his spring performance. He's posted a 1.76 ERA while striking out 15 and walking just a pair over 15 1/3 innings. Ross Stripling finished with a strong spring outing Sunday, allowing one run over 5 2/3 innings. Otherwise, the Jays will be relying on Tanner Roark and likely either Anthony Kay or T.J. Zeuch as everyone else gets healthy.Copyright © 2021 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
AL West AL East NL West NL East NL CentralThe AL Central is quietly shaping up to be one of the more fascinating divisions in baseball this season. Two of the best teams in the Junior Circuit - the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins - will most likely be battling for divisional domination in what should be a fun and heated rivalry. But don't overlook the young Cleveland Indians or plucky Kansas City Royals, who both have their sights set on surprising the baseball world.Here's everything you need to know about the AL Central.Chicago White Sox Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty2020 record: 35-25 (T-2nd in AL Central)Payroll: $167MO/U win total: 83World Series odds: +12003-year trend: 2018 (4th); 2019 (3rd); 2020 (2nd)Highest projected WAR: Yasmani Grandal (4.5)X-factor: Nick MadrigalKey Injuries: Adam Engel, Eloy JimenezProspect to watch: Andrew Vaughn (MLB.com: No. 14)Winter report card: A-Projected Lineup ORDER PLAYER POS. PROJ. WAR 1 Tim Anderson SS 2.2 2 Yasmani Grandal (S) C 4.5 3 Jose Abreu 1B 1.6 4 Yoan Moncada (S) 3B 3.0 5 Luis Robert CF 3.1 6 Adam Eaton (L) RF 1.3 7 Andrew Vaughn DH -1.1 8 Leury Garcia (S) LF 0.0 9 Nick Madrigal 2B 2.4 Bench PLAYER POS PROJ. WAR Jonathan Lucroy C 0.1 Danny Mendick IF 0.1 Zack Collins (L) C/1B 0.2 Nick Williams (L) OF 0.0 The White Sox offense's explosive core returns mostly intact. Anderson - a former batting champion - and Abreu - the reigning AL MVP - continue to serve as the anchors of this unit, while youngsters Moncada and Robert should continue to grow into even more powerful impact bats. But Chicago will be missing one major piece for most, if not all, of the year in Jimenez, who ruptured his pectoral muscle trying to steal a homer late in camp. Jimenez's bat will be replaced by that of Vaughn, who drew rave reviews with his spring performance. But that's a lot to put on the shoulders of a rookie first baseman who hasn't played above High-A and might have to learn to play left field on the fly.This White Sox lineup is talented enough to withstand Jimenez's injury, especially if Vaughn lives up to the hype, but the absence of their young slugger will significantly test the team's depth. Chicago still has a great group of hitters, but the margin for error just got thinner.Projected Rotation PITCHER PROJ. IP PROJ. ERA Lucas Giolito 172 4.05 Dallas Keuchel (L) 185 4.57 Lance Lynn 191 4.21 Dylan Cease 133 4.67 Carlos Rodon (L) 116 4.78 Bullpen PITCHER PROJ. IP PROJ. ERA Liam Hendriks 68 3.34 Aaron Bummer (L) 62 3.30 Evan Marshall 60 4.12 Garrett Crochet (L) 53 2.76 Codi Heuer 58 3.99 Matt Foster 56 4.52 Nik Turley (L) 23 4.48 Michael Kopech 109 4.30 The White Sox added Lynn via trade to complete a very talented trio atop the rotation, alongside Giolito and Keuchel. Giolito came into his own last year and should continue to grow into the ace of this staff. Both Lynn and Keuchel help as steady innings-eaters, and that's important considering the club's No. 4 and 5 starters are a bit weaker.Hendriks, the reigning AL Reliever of the Year, was Chicago's biggest free-agent acquisition and will be a huge boost as the anchor of the bullpen. Crochet, the 11th overall pick in last June's draft, will be the unit's most important left-hander. Keeping Kopech in the bullpen is wise for now, seeing as he hasn't pitched since 2018.Cleveland Indians Jason Miller / Getty Images Sport / Getty2020 record: 35-25 (T-2nd)Payroll: $62.7MO/U win total: 86World Series odds: +35003-year trend: 2018 (1st); 2019 (2nd); 2020 (2nd)Highest projected WAR: Shane Bieber (5.3)X-factor: Zach PlesacKey Injuries: Cam HillProspect to watch: Triston McKenzie (MLB.com: No. 51)Winter report card: C-Projected Lineup ORDER PLAYER POS. PROJ. WAR 1 Cesar Hernandez (S) 2B 1.7 2 Eddie Rosario (L) LF 1.6 3 Jose Ramirez (S) 3B 5.1 4 Franmil Reyes DH 1.4 5 Josh Naylor (L) RF 1.0 6 Jake Bauers (L) 1B 0.3 7 Roberto Perez C 1.6 8 Andres Gimenez (L) SS 1.3 9 Ben Gamel (L) CF 0.1 Bench PLAYER POS PROJ. WAR Austin Hedges C 0.9 Amed Rosario SS/OF 1.2 Jordan Luplow OF 0.6 Yu Chang IF 0.0 Even with Ramirez still holding steady at third base, this lineup took a monumental hit when the team traded Francisco Lindor. Still, there are some potential bright spots here beyond Ramirez. Naylor - part of the return for Mike Clevinger last summer - is the young outfielder Cleveland's been seeking for several years and is looking to build on his brief but outstanding performance in the wild-card series. The powerful Reyes brings some huge punch to the middle of the order, while Eddie Rosario - a free-agent signing - owns stellar career numbers at Progressive Field.Center field is a glaring weak spot for this lineup. Gamel - a veteran left-handed bat - and Rosario - a shortstop by trade - are likely to share the position. Both players have defensive issues in center, and Rosario's been learning the outfield on the fly. Youngsters Oscar Mercado and Bradley Zimmer were candidates for the center-field job, but both struggled in spring training.Projected Rotation PITCHER PROJ. IP PROJ. ERA Shane Bieber 195 3.27 Zach Plesac 158 4.73 Aaron Civale 144 4.70 Triston McKenzie 127 4.66 Bullpen PITCHER PROJ. IP PROJ. ERA James Karinchak 64 3.37 Nick Wittgren 66 4.50 Emmanuel Clase 60 3.58 Bryan Shaw 52 4.96 Phil Maton 58 4.09 Oliver Perez (L) 46 4.51 Cal Quantrill 131 4.76 Trevor Stephan 32 4.55 Logan Allen (L) 115 4.74 Bieber alone makes this a rotation to watch, but this campaign also marks the beginning of a new era for Cleveland pitching after Carlos Carrasco's departure in the Lindor trade. Plesac made great strides last year (when he wasn't running afoul of COVID-19 protocols), making him a solid sidekick for Bieber. Youngsters McKenzie, Allen, and Cal Quantrill are the wild cards. McKenzie impressed in his brief debut stretch last year. Quantrill - also part of the Clevinger trade - was thought of as the favorite to win the fifth starter job. However, his spring struggles opened the door for Allen, who had a stellar Cactus League run.The bullpen is a bit of a mixed bag, but one bright spot is Karinchak, who struck out 53 batters in 27 innings last year. Karinchak's officially the ace of this unit. Clase, the key return for Corey Kluber, returns after serving a season-long suspension for PEDs, and he will also likely play a big role in Cleveland's bullpen. Stephan, a Rule 5 Draft pick, secured his spot with a solid spring performance.Detroit Tigers Quinn Harris / Getty Images Sport / Getty2020 record: 23-35 (5th)Payroll: $96.145MO/U win total: 67World Series odds: +125003-year trend: 2018 (3rd); 2019 (5th); 2020 (5th)Highest projected WAR: Matthew Boyd (2.4)X-factor: Casey MizeKey Injuries: Spencer TurnbullProspect to watch: Mize (MLB.com: No. 11)Winter report card: B-Projected Lineup ORDER PLAYER POS. PROJ. WAR 1 Robbie Grossman (S) LF 1.1 2 Jeimer Candelario (S) 3B 1.9 3 Willi Castro (S) SS 1.6 4 Miguel Cabrera DH 0.5 5 Jonathan Schoop 2B 1.2 6 Nomar Mazara (L) RF 0.5 7 Wilson Ramos C 1.3 8 Niko Goodrum (S) 1B 0.1 9 JaCoby Jones CF 0.1 Bench PLAYER POS PROJ. WAR Grayson Greiner C 0.0 Akil Baddoo (L) OF -0.6 Victor Reyes (S) OF 0.5 Harold Castro (L) IF/OF -0.1 The Tigers are still rebuilding - and it shows. Veterans Ramos, Grossman, Nunez, and Mazara are the exact kind of low-cost free-agent pickups a team in Detroit's position should make, and they'll end up being critical to the club's offensive success. Willi Castro and Candelario will ideally build on their successful 2020 campaigns and continue to develop into key pieces of the Tigers' future.Projected Rotation PITCHER PROJ. IP PROJ. ERA Matthew Boyd (L) 172 4.49 Julio Teheran 102 5.97 Tarik Skubal (L) 127 4.37 Jose Urena 127 5.22 Casey Mize 97 5.05 Bullpen PITCHER PROJ. IP PROJ. ERA Gregory Soto (L) 63 4.21 Bryan Garcia 64 4.89 Buck Farmer 61 4.74 Jose Cisnero 56 4.37 Daniel Norris (L) 78 4.21 Derek Holland (L) 53 4.45 Michael Fulmer 116 4.89 Tyler Alexander (L) 36 4.25 A lot of these pitchers are simply keeping spots on the staff warm for the youngsters on the way. Boyd - one of the last vestiges from the David Price trade - remains atop the rotation, while Detroit could deal the likes of Fulmer, Urena, and Teheran to contenders if they perform. The bullpen is an assortment of names befitting from a rebuild.The real fun will be watching the Tigers' prized young arms progress over the course of 2021. Mize, one of baseball's top pitching prospects, and Skubal both struggled in their first tastes of the majors last summer. The pair made the rotation out of spring and will get every opportunity to continue their progress at the highest level. Another top prospect in Matt Manning is also on the way, but he might need more time in the minors after not pitching in 2020. The future of Detroit's rotation is very bright, even if the short-term growing pains are difficult.Kansas City Royals Jamie Squire / Getty Images Sport / Getty2020 record: 26-34 (4th)Payroll: $104MO/U win total: 71World Series odds: +110003-year trend: 2018 (5th); 2019 (4th); 2020 (4th)Highest projected WAR: Adalberto Mondesi (2.5)X-factor: Andrew BenintendiKey Injuries: NoneProspect to watch: Bobby Witt Jr. (MLB.com: No. 7)Winter report card: A-Projected Lineup ORDER PLAYER POS. PROJ. WAR 1 Whit Merrifield 2B 1.5 2 Andrew Benintendi (L) LF 1.4 3 Adalberto Mondesi (S) SS 2.5 4 Carlos Santana (S) 1B 1.6 5 Salvador Perez C 2.4 6 Jorge Soler DH 1.3 7 Hunter Dozier 3B 1.1 8 Kyle Isbel (L) RF 0.0 9 Michael A. Taylor CF 0.1 Bench PLAYER POS PROJ. WAR Cam Gallagher C 0.3 Ryan McBroom 1B/OF -0.1 Hanser Alberto 2B/3B 0.4 Jarrod Dyson (L) OF 0.1 If the Royals live up to the billing as a pesky, surprising team in 2021, it will largely be thanks to a revamped offense. Veteran first baseman Santana was a shrewd signing whose on-base skills will fit nicely in the middle of the lineup. Benintendi, who was picked up in a trade, might be in the perfect spot to try and revitalize his career after a couple of tough seasons in Boston. The 26-year-old has never been a natural power hitter, so he'll likely enjoy Kauffman Stadium's inviting gaps. Longtime Royals contributors Merrifield, Perez, and Dozier round out what might be this division's most fascinating offensive unit.Projected Rotation PITCHER PROJ. IP PROJ. ERA Brad Keller 166 4.73 Mike Minor (L) 178 4.55 Brady Singer 137 4.40 Danny Duffy (L) 157 4.73 Bullpen PITCHER PROJ. IP PROJ. ERA Greg Holland 58 4.57 Josh Staumont 63 4.09 Scott Barlow 65 3.96 Jesse Hahn 56 4.12 Kyle Zimmer 55 4.58 Wade Davis 53 5.10 Richard Lovelady (L) 40 4.29 Jake Newberry 40 4.95 Jakob Junis 108 4.77 A lot of the Royals' potential success hinges on their pitching staff's performance. Veteran starters Duffy and Minor will only give you so much, and they'll need help from some youngsters. Singer is a core piece of this staff long term and showed flashes of brilliance last summer. Left-hander Kris Bubic will start in the minors after a rough spring but should be back before long, but Kansas City will go with a four-man rotation in the interim. Zimmer, a former first-round pick, is now in the bullpen but could still impress enough to jump back into the rotation. The Royals are also hoping Holland and Davis - who formed a commanding duo for the franchise during their playoff runs from 2014-15 - can find some of that old magic in 2021.Minnesota Twins Brace Hemmelgarn / Getty Images Sport / Getty2020 record: 36-24 (1st)Payroll: $145MO/U win total: 91World Series odds: +18003-year trend: 2018 (2nd); 2019 (1st); 2020 (1st)Highest projected WAR: Josh Donaldson (3.2)X-factor: Byron BuxtonKey Injuries: None Prospect to watch: Alex Kiriloff (MLB.com: No. 26)Winter report card: B-Projected Lineup ORDER PLAYER POS. PROJ. WAR 1 Max Kepler (L) RF 3.0 2 Josh Donaldson 3B 3.2 3 Nelson Cruz DH 1.4 4 Miguel Sano 1B 1.3 5 Jorge Polanco (S) 2B 2.2 6 Byron Buxton CF 3.1 7 Jake Cave (L) LF 0.2 8 Mitch Garver C 1.3 9 Andrelton Simmons SS 2.9 Bench PLAYER POS PROJ. WAR Ryan Jeffers C 1.6 Luis Arraez (L) IF/OF 2.3 Willians Astudillo C/IF/OF 0.1 Kyle Garlick OF -0.1 This much we know: The Twins are going to hit home runs. The Bomba Squad pretty much returns its entire powerful offense for 2021. Alex Kiriloff - Minnesota's top prospect who made his big-league debut in the wild-card series last September - was presumably Eddie Rosario's replacement in left field until being optioned to the minors following a dreadful spring. The club will likely recall Kiriloff at some point this season, but until then it'll be mix-and-match in left with some combination of Cave, Garlick, Brent Rooker, and maybe Astudillo. Garver struggled last year, but it's hard to know what to make of that result in the shortened campaign. Even if Garver finds his stroke again, he'll likely split time behind the plate with Jeffers. Donaldson is another important cog, despite a wonky calf limiting him in 2020. As he goes, so might the Twins.Projected Rotation PITCHER PROJ. IP PROJ. ERA Kenta Maeda 172.0 4.28 Jose Berrios 178.0 4.24 Michael Pineda 159.0 4.65 J.A. Happ (L) 135.0 4.72 Matt Shoemaker 108.0 4.76 Bullpen PITCHER PROJ. IP PROJ. ERA Alex Colome 65.0 4.51 Taylor Rogers (L) 64.0 3.56 Tyler Duffey 62.0 4.00 Cody Stashak 58.0 4.48 Caleb Thielbar (L) 56.0 4.48 Hansel Robles 54.0 4.70 Jorge Alcala 45.0 4.46 Randy Dobnak 115.0 4.69 Maeda proved to be everything Minnesota hoped for and then some in 2020. While he did prove that he can start full time, he still hasn't done that during a 162-game season. The rotation behind him is solid enough to keep this outfit in contention. Shoemaker was very good in Toronto when healthy and could give the Twins great value if he pitches to his abilities and stays off the injured list.Minnesota also added some big arms to the bullpen in Colome and Robles. Both right-handers have experience closing. Combined with lefty Taylor Rogers, the duo gives manager Rocco Baldelli multiple weapons in the late innings. This is not a unit to take lightly.Copyright © 2021 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.