If you thought last week's article painted a glib portrait of positional mediocrity in the division, then looking at the gentlemen who man the keystone will be a fairly similar downer. The group consists of a former prized prospect coming off a sophomore slump, a shortstop joining his sixth team in five years, an increasingly fragile Japanese import, an aging and increasingly fragile former shortstop, and a young and speedy china doll.
Cleveland: Hey guys! It's your old pal OC!. Instead of retiring and quietly riding off into the sunset, the mercenary known as Orlando Cabrera chose to join his third AL Central team by signing with the Indians this winter. He'll be shifting over to second base full time, a position he hasn't played since 2000 for the Montreal Expos. OrCa's fielding hadn't abandoned him yet at short, so he should make a pretty decent second baseman defensively. His bat is a different story. For the third straight year, his slash line showed an overall decrease as his power and ability to get on base continue to atrophy. Expect a mid-.600 OPS with a handful of homeruns and 10-25 SB. Cabrera is circling the drain at this point.
Kansas City: Lacking a true uber-prospect at the position, Chris Getz seems to have quite a bit of job security as the Royals' second baseman for the near future. The former White Sox is very fast and could easily steal 30 bases over an entire season. The only problem with that is that he'll probably never stay healthy for an entire season. Mr. Glass is frequently injured and offers almost nothing else other than his good baserunning skills. There is no power to speak of, no ability to get on base, and no glove. But he's cheap, and that's really all that should currently matter to the Royals.
Detroit: After playing SS, LF, 3B, and DH for the Tigers over the past five seasons, Carlos Guillen appears to be settling in at second base. This is the first time since 2006-2007 that Guillen is slated to get the majority of his starts at the same position for consecutive season. Guillen has not been able to stay on the field over the past three years, not playing more than 113 games in any of them. When healthy, Carlos is capable of an OPS around .750-.830 with double digit homeruns. He used to be able to steal a dozen or so bases, but those days seem to be behind him. Unless he has a great year, this is most likely Guillen's last season as a full-time starter.
Minnesota: I'm not entirely sure what to expect from Tsuyoshi Nishioka. The 26 year switch-hitter is making the transition to the Twins and MLB after spending the past eight seasons playing for the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Nippon Pro Baseball League. Nishioka was a 10-15 homerun hitter over the past few years, though one would suspect this to decrease slightly due to the new league and Target Field suppressing homeruns in general. He has good speed and could steal 20-30 bases and should get on base at around a league average rate. It's hard to say how much of an effect the league difference will have on Tsuyoshi. He could be like Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui and enjoy a relatively easy transition or be the next Kaz Matsui.
Chicago: Gordon Beckham seemed to be turning his slumping season around late last summer until his until his unfortunate hand injury. With a full year under his belt, Beckham should show some improvement defensively and at least bounce back to the offensive levels he showed as a rookie in the 2009 season. Expect an OPS just below or around .800 with about 15 homeruns.
Conclusion: Other than Gordon Beckham, this is one of the ugliest positional groups in the division. Carlos Guillen finishes second, despite fragility, due to his bat being generally better than the other options. Tsuyoshi Nishioka comes in third because I don't feel comfortable putting a guy I only have a foreign league's statistics for any higher than that. Orlando Cabrera finishes fourth, because unlike Chris Getz he can actually stay healthy.