5 guys with game-changing skills in AL Central

August 15th, 2018

, , , , a healthy and are a few names that come to mind when talking about elite talent in the American League Central.

But then there's those players who possess a game-changing singular talent within the division.

Maybe it's an especially strong outfield arm, keeping runners on hold on the basepaths. Maybe it's that special speed burst to take an extra base, or maybe it's a wipeout slider to put pitchers away.

Each one of them can make a significant difference in a game and quite possibly throughout an entire season. Here's a look at one of those special game-changing skills from each AL Central team.

Indians: Jose Ramirez, contact rate

Why it matters: Ramirez is becoming increasingly known for his power, but it is his high rate of contact that can drive pitchers crazy. As a switch-hitter, Ramirez can cover the entire plate and is relentless with two strikes. Per Statcast™, Ramirez made contact on an MLB-high 363 two-strike swings through Monday. His .892 OPS with two strikes ranked second in MLB. Ramirez's 86.7-percent contact rate overall ranked sixth in the Majors.

Signature moment this season: Ramirez stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth on May 27 with the Tribe trailing the Astros, 8-3. He led off with a 17-pitch at-bat against , fouling off 12 pitches along the way. Ramirez ended the battle with a double off the right-field wall, igniting a five-run inning. Cleveland won, 10-9, in 14 innings.

Royals: ' arm

Why it matters: As the Royals launch this rebuild, they are trying to do it the "Royal Way" once more, with tremendous speed and defense in the outfield as they had with and . Phillips, acquired from the Brewers in the Mike Moustakas trade, has blazing speed and perhaps the strongest outfield arm since Jermaine Dye -- and that says a lot considering left fielder is a five-time AL Gold Glove Award winner and has more outfield assists than anyone in baseball since 2010. Phillips has a 80-grade arm that he has shown off since joining the Royals.

Signature moment this season: Against the White Sox, Phillips displayed that arm by throwing a dart from center field to home to nail , who was trying to tag and score. The throw was measured at 100.1 mph, the hardest throw by any Royals outfielder since Statcast™ was launched in 2015.

Tigers: ' speed

Why it matters: Jones' speed and natural athleticism have allowed him to play all over the field throughout his career, from LSU into pro ball. This season, it has given him the opportunity to disrupt defenses on the basepaths while also covering ground in Comerica Park as Detroit's everyday center fielder since was traded last week.

Signature moment this season: Jones scored from first base on a Pete Kozma single May 12 vs. the Mariners in Game 2 of a doubleheader.


Twins: Eddie Rosario, hit tool

Why it matters: Rosario has always had quick hands, which allows him to react and get to pitches most hitters can't handle. His batting average has been around .300 all season and he's developed more power over the past two years, while also becoming more patient at the plate.

Rosario is the ultimate bad-ball hitter, so he's a difficult out for opposing pitchers. Rosario leads the Majors on base hits on pitches out of the zone by a large margin, and he is also ranked second in the Majors behind J.D. Martinez in homers on pitches out of the strike zone. He's become a force in the middle of the lineup and had a strong case to be an All-Star.

Signature moment this season: Rosario hit three homers, including a walk-off blast, against the Indians on June 3 with his parents at the game at Target Field. The three home runs each came on a different type of pitch, and of course, all three were located out of the zone.

White Sox: , power

Why it matters: At 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, the 27-year-old Garcia has the prototypical build of a power hitter among his five-tool array of talents. But he hasn't really shown off those muscles until these past two seasons, with 31 combined home runs and 35 doubles despite missing two stretches this season due to right hamstring issues. The White Sox have contractual control over Garcia through the 2019 season, and with more of the prototypical corner outfield profile via the long ball inclusion, he could enhance his chances to remain an integral part of Chicago's rebuild.

Signature moment this season: Garcia has hit nine home runs over his past 30 games since June 26. During one six-game stretch from July 2-7, Garcia went deep five times.