MLB Betting: AL Central Quarterly Report

Minnesota’s Offense is Scary

Before the season, it felt like a foregone conclusion that the Chicago White Sox would run away with the AL Central just like they did in 2021, however, at the AL Central Quarterly Report, nothing could be further from the truth. The White Sox have struggled out of the gate, both with injury and underperformance, while the Minnesota Twins, fresh off a very active offseason-they have gotten out to an impressive start and look like they’ll challenge Chicago for the division crown.

The Cleveland Guardians are still within striking distance but it’s going to be tough for them to keep up with either Minnesota or Chicago for the rest of the season, while the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals are far behind. But, at the top, it should be an interesting race throughout the summer. Let’s look at the MLB futures odds for each AL Central team:

Minnesota Twins: 27-17 (+130 to win the division)

Interestingly, on the surface, it doesn’t feel like the Minnesota Twins should be having as good a season as they are. Miguel Sano is out for a while, both Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa have missed a good chunk of time, and even Dylan Bundy has struggled in the rotation in his first season with the Twins. Minnesota has picked up above-average offensive production from a lot of its depth guys, strong pitching from presumptive rotation ace Joe Ryan, and others, to piece together wins.

Buxton has been awesome when he has been on the field while Correa has been good but far from the level expected of him. If there’s one area in which the Twins have excelled the most, it has been the bullpen despite the preseason trade of closer Taylor Rogers. Emilio Pagan has been lights out while rookie Jhoan Duran has turned heads. Even veteran Joe Smith is sporting a 0.64 ERA at the age of 38.

Even though Minnesota is well outpacing its preseason win total of 81½, there isn’t a ton of love for the Twins to win the division as of this AL Central Quarterly Report. They’re still plus-money to topple the White Sox, albeit at a much-lower figure now (+130) than on Opening Day (+550) or even during Spring Training (+850). That steady improvement says a lot about how the Twins keep proving people wrong.

Chicago White Sox: 22-21 (-125 to win the division)

Nearly every division has its “disappointment” team at the quarter mark of the season and in the AL Central, it’s definitely the Chicago White Sox. Widely predicted to dominate the division after winning 95 games in 2021, the 2022 campaign has been a slog for Chicago. The only healthy White Sox regulars who have above-average OPSs are Tim Anderson and Andrew Vaughn because Luis Robert is hurt, Eloy Jimenez has been hurt for a while, and Jose Abreu hasn’t been his typical self.

The pitching situation hasn’t been much better as only Lucas Giolito and Michael Kopech have been good in the rotation with the trio of Dallas Keuchel, Vince Velasquez, and Dylan Cease with ERAs above 4.00. The bullpen has been hit or miss but with Chicago’s usually stout lineup simply not producing as it did a year ago, the White Sox have had almost no margin for error in a lot of games.

Chicago’s 92½ win preseason total is still possible but, if the White Sox keep hovering around .500, it’s looking less and less likely. Their division odds haven’t taken a huge hit, from -200 to -125, but it’s clear that the Twins are a real problem particularly if Byron Buxton can play anything close to a full season. The White Sox need to get the bats going right now and they have to hope that someone else in the rotation can step up — maybe it’ll be Johnny Cueto, who has fired 12 scoreless innings in his first two starts of the year.

Cleveland Guardians: 18-22 (+850 to win the division)

New name, same issues for the Cleveland Guardians. José Ramírez is having an MVP-type season, the pitching staff is doing a decent job overall and the Guardians are below .500 because their lineup isn’t deep. Owen Miller, Andrés Giménez, and Josh Naylor have been pleasant surprises but other than those four batters, and Steven Kwan at the beginning of the season-Cleveland has a lot of guys with an OPS well under .700.

On the mound, Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale are supposed to be rotation mainstays but they too are struggling in a big way. Triston McKenzie has been awesome while Shane Bieber has merely been good, not at the Cy Young level to which Guardians fans have been accustomed to him pitching. The back-end of the bullpen, led by Emmanuel Clase, has been great which helps keep Cleveland in games.

Based on their preseason projections, the Guardians still fare well in the AL Central Quarterly Report. They’re playing below their win, over/under pace (76½ before the year) and have seen their division odds get worse yet they’re right in the mix with Minnesota and Chicago so, Cleveland has to feel pretty good. If Franmil Reyes can re-discover his power stroke and Plesac/Civale rebound, this team has a chance to make the AL Central a three-way race.

Detroit Tigers: 15-28 (+5000 to win the division)

The only good news the Detroit Tigers can take solace in is that at least they’re in the same division as the Kansas City Royals. Kansas City’s struggles have allowed the Tigers to temporarily avoid the basement in the AL Central. After finishing the 2021 season strong and winning 77 games, A.J. Hinch’s Tigers have taken a big step back in 2022 due to tons of pitching injuries and baseball’s worst offense.

Detroit has scored only 118 runs through 43 games which is the worst figure in baseball by 28 runs. Miguel Cabrera is the only Tigers lineup regular who is pulling his weight at the plate as Javier Báez is batting .201. Top prospect Spencer Torkelson is striking out a ton and both Robbie Grossman and Jeimer Candelario are beneath the Mendoza line. It doesn’t help that Austin Meadows is hurt and has yet to hit a dinger after drilling 27 home runs last season.

The Tigers, outside of the impressive Tarik Skubal who is making an All-Star case — have basically an entire rotation on the IL, so it’s notable in a way that Detroit isn’t in an even-worse place, record-wise. Still, it’s a major disappointment for the Tigers to be so far off the pace of their preseason win total (78½) and for them to be out of the division race before the end of May considering how they seemed to be trending up in 2021.

Kansas City Royals: 14-28 (+5000 to win the division)

The offensive numbers for the Kansas City Royals are ugly. They’ve scored the fourth-fewest runs in baseball and have just two players with 100+ at-bats who are hitting at an above-average clip.

No Royals batter has more than 18 RBIs. Bobby Witt Jr. is still figuring out the Major Leagues, Salvador Perez is showing signs of his age and Whit Merrifield’s production has nosedived. Only Andrew Benintendi and Hunter Dozier are giving Kansas City somewhat decent performances at the plate.

The pitching hasn’t been all that better. Brad Keller is Kansas City’s only starter with a sub 3.00 ERA and the bullpen – outside of Scott Barlow, Joel Payamps, and Gabe Speier, it has kind of been a mess. A big reason for the pitching issues? The Royals have the fewest strikeouts in baseball by a decent margin. It’s tough to be competitive nowadays if you can’t strike out opposing batters.

It’s not going to be easy for the Royals to come close to their preseason over/under of 74½ wins, a mark that reflected plenty of pessimism about how they would play this season. During Spring Training, they were +1000 to win the AL Central but by Opening Day, that number went up to +1400. Now, they’re +5000 amid what looks like another lost season. Plus, the Royals have had the second-worst Moneyline performance of any team in baseball, costing daily $100 Moneyline bettors an astounding $1140.

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