AL Central Division Odds, Breakdowns and Predictions

Custom MLB Background

Like many other sports and events from around the world, the Major League Baseball season has been postponed until further notice.

With MLB futures still up for grabs, however, that won’t stop us from delivering some divisional preview focused on odds to with the division, pennant and World Series.

In part two of my six-part divisional breakdown series, we’ll dive into the AL Central Division, a division that should be better in 2020 with one team really opening their contention window this winter.

It should, at the least, be a deeper division despite a couple of rebuilding clubs at the bottom.

That being said, let’s go ahead and see where the AL Central could take us in 2020.

*Odds courtesy of BetOnline
**Breakdowns done in order of last season’s final regular season standings

AL Central Division Odds, Breakdowns and Predictions

Minnesota Twins

  • 2019 Record: 101-61
  • Playoff Result: Lost ALDS vs. Yankees
  • AL Central Odds: -150
  • AL Pennant Odds: +800
  • World Series Odds: +2000

The Twins won their first AL Central title since the 2010 season, but for their fourth straight time in the postseason they were eliminated by the New York Yankees, and swept in the ALDS by the Yankees for the third time over their last four playoff appearances, the other being a Wiold Card loss in 2017.

While the Yankees will most likely be a roadblock come playoff time again in 2020, the Twins are certainly set up well to rattle off their second straight AL Central crown.

Their offense exploded for 307 home runs in 2019, not only a league-leading total but also the most in baseball history. Their .224 isolated power (ISO) figure also led the league.

Still, the Twins went out and signed third baseman Josh Donaldson coming off a resurgent season with the Atlanta Braves in which he launched 37 home runs and posted a huge .262 ISO in the process.

With C.J. Cron leaving in free agency, the idea is for Donaldson to man third while Miguel Sano goes across the diamond as the team’s new first baseman, giving the Twins power at both positions.

Offense won’t be an issue this season as the question marks once again involve the pitching staff.

They added Kenta Maeda in a trade with the Dodgers and signed veteran Homer Bailey as well, but they lost Kyle Gibson to the Rangers in free agency while veteran southpaw Martin Perez will throw his pitches in Boston this season.

Nonetheless, they seem to be in good hands with a front three of Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi and Maeda, but questions will loom in the bottom two rotation spots.

Veterans Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard were added to a bullpen that ranked 10th with a 4.17 ERA but also first with a 3.92 FIP in 2019. Closer Taylor Rogers will once again look to continue his excellent work from last season in which he pitched to a 2.61 ERA, one year after working to a 2.63 mark.

It’s difficult to find many holes in this Twins team these days as they look primed for back-to-back AL Central titles.

Prediction: Win AL Central, Win ALDS, Lose ALCS

The Twins are the best all-round team in the division and their offense is going to mash. If they can get reliable innings from their bottom two rotation spots, they are going to be deadly.

While I think they’ll win their first playoff series since the 2002 season in 2020, the Yankees are going to be one tough mountain to climb in a seven-game ALCS, and I think that’s as far as the Twins get this season.

Cleveland Indians

  • 2019 Record: 93-69
  • Playoff Result: Did not qualify
  • AL Central Odds: +275
  • AL Pennant Odds: +1200
  • World Series Odds: +4000

The Cleveland Indians will enter the 2020 season constructed much like they were for the 2019 campaign: built on pitching with a weak offense.

They traded Corey Kluber to the Rangers this winter, but Mike Clevinger is the new ace in town anyways while Shane Bieber and Carlos Carrasco form a real high-end top three in that rotation. Add in the successful debuts of Aaron Civale (2.34 ERA/3.40 FIP in 10 starts) and Zach Plesac (3.81 ERA in 21 starts), the Indians look to be set on the starting pitching front.

After all, they fashioned a sixth-ranked 3.81 ERA from their starters in 2019 with Kluber injured for most of the year, so trading the veteran, and even Trevor Bauer at the deadline, doesn’t hurt as much as it may look on the surface.

The bullpen was also elite. Indians relievers turned in a third-ranked 3.76 ERA in 2019 and closer Brad Hand worked to a 3.30 ERA and 2.80 FIP while locking down 34 saves.

The Indians did add to their offense in the offseason, however, and it appears they should improve in 2020 from the 15th-ranked .319 wOBA they posted a season ago, although they posted a 20th-ranked .313 mark in the season’s first half.

Long-time second baseman Jason Kipnis was replaced by Cesar Hernandez in free agency while Domingo Santana was also brought in coming off a nice 21-homer, 107 wRC+ campaign with the Mariners.

Add in a full season’s worth of Franmil Reyes’ power bat in the outfield and the Indians could certainly be better on offense, especially so if Jose Ramirez can continue his second-half surge after a dreadful .282 wOBA from the first half of 2019.

Clearly, there’s a path here for the Indians to get back into the postseason in 2020, but they’ll need to bank on some things.

They’ll need their offense to be better, they’ll need their bullpen to remain dominant and they’ll need the aforementioned back-end starters to avoid a sophomore sag.

If those items fall in their favor, they will likely compete for a division crown and a Wild Card spot. If not, it will be another early end for one of the many bubble playoff teams in the junior circuit.

Prediction: Misses Playoffs

With the Twins looking ripe to win the Central for the second straight year, the Indians are most likely competing for a Wild Card spot this season.

The problem compared to last season is there should be many more teams involved in that race. Aside from division favorites such as the Yankees Twins and Astros, you should see the Rays, White Sox, A’s, Angels, Red Sox and even Blue Jays get into that race in 2020.

It’s going to be a crowded picture and I have too many questions on this team to have them back in the playoffs in 2020.

Chicago White Sox

  • 2019 Record: 72-89
  • Playoff Result: Did not qualify
  • AL Central Odds: +350
  • AL Pennant Odds: +1200
  • World Series Odds: +4000

One of the busiest teams of the offseason, the White Sox opened their window of contention in a big way this winter after years of rebuilding and the futility that comes with it.

They made the first big splash of the offseason by nabbing Yasmani Grandal on a four-year deal in free agency. Grandal is regarded as perhaps the second-best all-round catcher in the game right now behind the Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto. He hits, he hits for power and he is an elite defender behind the dish.

On top of the Grandal addition, the White Sox addressed other needs as well:

  • Signed 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion in free agency
  • Signed SP Dallas Keuchel in free agency
  • Signed SP Gio Gonzales in free agency
  • Traded for OF Nomar Mazara from the Rangers
  • Signed RP Steve Cishek in free agency

Keep in mind of the core of this team as well as the team is loaded with current and former top prospects. Yoan Moncada broke out with a huge 2019 season that included 25 home runs, a .315/.367/.548 slash line, 141 wRC+ and 5.7 WAR. He also dropped his worrisome K-rate from 33.4% in 2018 to 27.5% in 2019.

Former top prospect Eloy Jimenez hit 31 home runs with a 116 wRC+ after a sluggish start while current top prospect Luis Robert is expected to man center field for the 2020 White Sox coming off a 136 wRC+ season and a massive .337 ISO at the Triple-A level in 2019.

The questions will be on the pitching side. Can Luis Giolito turn a breakout 2019 season into a Cy-Young caliber 2020? Can Keuchel and Gonzalez fight off the age curve and deliver results? Can youngsters Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech make good on their prospect hype? Can Reynaldo Lopez turn his nasty stuff into positive results?

The White Sox had a roughly league-average bullpen last season and they added the veteran Cishek to the mix this winter. They’ll look for a rebound from fireballer Kelvin Herrera, but their late inning duo of Aaron Bummer and Alex Colome are reliable.

The offense is looking pretty frightening for the remainder of the division at the moment, and while they’ll need the rotation to be better, the pitching staff isn’t all too shabby, either.

Prediction: Claims Wild Card berth, loses Wild Card game

It’s going to be close and a big step forward. With Jimenez and Robert teaming up in that outfield and with the power and speed throughout the lineup, I can’t help but look at this White Sox offense as one of the better groups in the AL.

The rotation has its question marks, but it also now has an ace in Giolito, two reliable veterans in Keuchel and Gonzalez and a trio of youngsters in Cease, Lopez and Kopech sporting sky-high ceilings. Whether they reach them or not this season remains to be seen, but the potential is obvious.

I have them losing the Wild Card play-in game to the Rays, but postseason baseball will return to the south side for the first time since 2008 and only the second time since they won the World Series in 2005. Those +4000 World Series odds are carrying some nice value potential as a result.

Kansas City Royals

  • 2019 Record: 59-103
  • Playoff Result: Did not qualify
  • AL Central Odds: +12500
  • AL Pennant Odds: +10000
  • World Series Odds: +100000

It was another 100-loss season last year for the Royals and there’s ways they can get there again this time around.

I mean, there were some nice stories from last season including the late-bloomer breakout of Hunter Dozier, the massive 48-homer season from Jorge Soler, the excellent two-way play of White Merrifield and the 3.41 ERA/2.99 FIP fashioned by starter-turned-closer Ian Kennedy.

That said, this team looks almost identical to the group that dropped 103 games last season.

The lone exception on offense is the addition of former Phillie Maikel Franco to man the hot corner while they’ll also get catcher Salvador Perez back after a lost 2019 season due to a torn ACL. That helps, but a heavily-used catcher coming off knee reconstruction surgery isn’t a positive thought.

The rotation is identical to the group that ranked 23rd with a 5.30 ERA and 27th with both a 5.30 FIP and 5.2 WAR.

A bullpen that ranked 27th with a 5.07 ERA didn’t get any substantial upgrades this offseason and outside of Kennedy it’s essentially a free for all for spots in that Royals ‘pen.

The hope in Kansas City will be for Merrifield, Dozier and Soler to continue to produce at the plate, Perez to come back healthy and productive and for shortstop Adalberto Mondesi to make good on his power/speed potential while taking steps forward in terms of his on-base skills after an awful .282 OBP through the first 249 games of his big league career.

That said, there’s little hope for the pitching staff and that will once again be their undoing in an American League that saw offenses approve all over the place.

Prediction: Misses Playoffs

Like I said, there’s no hope for this pitching staff and there’s simply no upside to winning here. There’s also no expectations to win during another Royals rebuild, so save your hail mary MLB futures bet for another club.

Detroit Tigers

  • 2019 Record: 47-114
  • Playoff Result: Did not qualify
  • AL Central Odds: +10000
  • AL Pennant Odds: +12500
  • World Series Odds: +100000

The worst team from the 2019 season, this version of the Detroit Tigers seemingly has the ability to improve on paper, something I don’t see with the Royals.

After essentially rostering minor-league caliber players for much of last season, the Tigers went out and added proven big league talent to the lineup in the form of C.J. Cron at first base and Jonathan Schoop at second.

Cron is coming off a 25-homer, .216 ISO season with the Twins and while Schoop’s production bounced back some last year with 23 home runs and a .217 ISO while playing alongside Cron in Minnesota.

The duo signed identical one-year, $6.1M deals on the same day.

They also solved their catching need with veteran Austin Romine who found some pop in his bat over the last couple of seasons to go along with reliable defense and veteran outfielder Cameron Maybin was brought back for this third tour of duty with the Tigers after raking to the tune of an .858 OPS with 11 home runs in 82 games with the Yankees down the stretch in 2019.

Now, this offense was horrendous to the tune of a 30th-ranked .290 wOBA in 2019, so while it should improve, let’s not expect great things.

Of course, you don’t lose 114 games with a strong pitching staff, and Tigers pitching turned in a 28th-ranked 5.26 ERA last season with horrible numbers both in the rotation and in the bullpen.

They added veteran Ivan Nova to eat some innings this season, but most of the rotation members from last season remain, but the team will also get Michael Fulmer back at some point this season after the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year underwent Tommy John surgery during spring training last season.

That pitching staff will also see some major turnover as the season moves along. The Tigers’ farm system is top-heavy on elite pitching prospects, three of whom can be found in most MLB Top 100 Prospects lists in Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal.

Mize and Manning are most likely to debut late in the 2020 season while Skubal is making a case to do so as well after a strong spring following a 2.13 ERA and eye-popping 17.43 (!!!) K/9 rate at the Double-A level last season.

Still, these pitching prospects aren’t going to come in and save the franchise in 2020, but merely get their first taste of big league action.

Prediction: Misses Playoffs

Although they should fare better with a more palatable lineup, the current pitching staff isn’t likely to deliver much results and the Tigers almost are a lock to miss the postseason for the sixth straight season.

Sub Categories:
Brenton Kemp / Author

Brenton is a lifelong sports fan who resides in Ontario, Canada. Brenton is a fan of most all sports but specializes in hockey, baseball, football, basketball, and golf. He’s a fierce researcher with a strong appetite to deliver accurate and relevant facts that in turn have led to past success with picks and DFS advice across the board. Brenton’s biggest goal is to deliver readers with the picks and advice that can build their bankroll. He takes great pride in his success and loves nothing more than to share that success for the benefit of everyone involved.