The American League Central division was dominated this year by the Chicago White Sox.
They have, as of Wednesday afternoon, a 90-68 record, boasting a 12.5-game lead over the second-ranked team in the division, the Cleveland Indians.
The 2022 campaign, however, could be a different story.
The White Sox may still be viewed as the favorites, and they should, but every other team in the division has reasons to be optimistic about the future.
As a result, the division’s final rankings in 2022 may look much closer than many people think.
Chicago Should Still Be Viewed As The Favorite
The White Sox have been preparing for this for a long time.
They won the AL Central title this year after years of rebuilding, and their contention window is just starting to materialize.
AL Central Champs!
— MLB (@MLB) September 23, 2021
They have a lot of young talent, and much of it is under contract well beyond 2021: Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Yoan Moncada, Yasmani Grandal, Gavin Sheets, Tim Anderson, Aaron Bummer, Lance Lynn, Aaron Bummer, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, and more.
This season, they will try to prove they belong at the top in the postseason, but also that they have some staying power after that.
For 2022, Chicago still seems like the best team, before the offseason at least, but other teams in the division are getting better.
It will be up to them to defend the divisional crown in 2022.
The Other Teams May Close The Gap
Almost every team in the division has a truly top prospect ready to contribute in 2022 or a group of young players ready to step in and help.
Who knows how close the AL Central would’ve been if Bieber & Plesac didn’t miss time.
2022 Guardians Rotation is gonna be good. https://t.co/Zk2Z3K63h5
— Francis in Glendale (@TFPWillEat) September 27, 2021
And let’s not forget they have one of the very best players in the game in Jose Ramirez.
If Bobby Bradley can develop into a consistent source of power without striking out too much, and the young middle infielders (Andres Gimenez, Amed Rosario) can take the next step, Cleveland could return to relevancy.
They key, however, will be how far the rotation will carry them.
The Detroit Tigers took several steps forward in 2021 and currently have a 75-82 record, much better than anticipated.
They will have their pitching version of the “Big Three”, Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and Matt Manning, with a full year of MLB experience, and hitters such as Robbie Grossman and Akil Baddoo ready to help, too.
The Minnesota Twins will have nearly all of the prime contributors that started the season 0n the roster expect for Jose Berrios and Nelson Cruz, plus three top prospects – Joe Ryan, Austin Martin, and Simeon Woods Richardson – ready or close to the majors.
Ryan has already given an excellent impression in 2021.
Additionally, Cruz remains very interested in re-signing in Minnesota should the Twins decide to go that route.
To sum up, every franchise in the AL Central is on the way up, so the White Sox won’t have it so easy next year.
There could actually be a division race in the AL Central in 2022.