There's no dethroning the Detroit Tigers. Not when they have the possible best overall player in baseball in Justin Verlander or throw money around like very few franchises can. Lose a Victor Martinez? No problem. Just sign Prince Fielder for $200 mill. The good news for the Kansas City Royals, then, is that they can at least move up to second place in 2012 in the AL Central, and that's exactly what ESPN's Keith Law predicts they will do.
The Detroit Tigers seem to me to be the team most likely to run away with its division, even with a top-heavy roster that doesn't give them a lot of options if any major piece in the lineup or rotation should miss a significant chunk of time; there just isn't another club in the division that's close to them. The Kansas City Royals' run prevention should improve this year thanks to the best defense they've run out there in ages, and I think Eric Hosmer is primed for a big breakout season.
The Cleveland Indians had a lot of things go right last year that won't repeat in 2012, but their falloff will be mitigated by improvements from two of Carlos Santana, Shin-Soo Choo, and Michael Brantley. The Minnesota Twins' performance this year largely hinges on the health of their two best players, which is a better question for the doctors (or Stephania Bell) than it is for me. The White Sox aren't a 95-loss team on paper right now, but I expect they'll look to move another veteran or two as the season goes on and things could get ugly on the South Side.
The Royals are banking on the rest of this decade as their window of opportunity to make the playoffs and create some momentum for a franchise desperately in need of it. With extensions in place for some of their best offensive players, the most work to be done is on the rotation. If that falls into place, the Royals could definitely make more noise than most would believe in 2012.