Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:54 AM

MLB 2020 Future Bets - American League Central Predictions

2020 MLB American League Central Best Bets

The only division left after touching on the AL East and West divisions, is the Central, one where the Minnesota Twins are looking to repeat as champs. The Twins are the favorites at 10/11 odds to do just that, as they should once take advantage once again of what is probably the weakest division in all of baseball from top to bottom.
The Central still has two teams in Kansas City and Detroit that are still very early in the rebuilding stage of their program, and while the Chicago White Sox are a team many expect to see a big jump in terms of improvement this season, they are still in that “young core, learning how to win” stage of their rebuild. Meaning the White Sox probably aren't going to end up being as good as people may think, especially if they run into some bigger bumps in the road through the first couple of months.
So it's likely going to be a two-horse race between the Twins and Cleveland Indians again, that is if Cleveland doesn't go out and cut loose a star like Francisco Lindor. We will have to wait and see if that ends up being the case for Cleveland as well, but needless to say, prospects are looking solid for Minnesota Twins fans this year. But the Twins aren't first up on today's menu, as it's one of those rebuilding teams in this division that I do expect to take another step forward. That's where we'll start.

American League Central – Win Totals

Minnesota Twins 90.5
Cleveland Indians 84.5
Chicago White Sox 83.5
Kansas City Royals 64.5
Detroit Tigers 56.5

American League Central – Odds to Make Playoffs

Minnesota Twins Yes (-140) No (-120)
Cleveland Indians Yes (+170) No (-200)
Chicago White Sox Yes (+170) No (-200)
Kansas City Royals Yes (+2000) No (-10000)
Detroit Tigers Yes (+4000) No (-20000)

Season Win Total Best Bet:
Kansas City Over 64.5

Kansas City is a team that's got more offensive talent in my mind then they are getting credit for with this number, and as I said with regards to the Baltimore Orioles prospects in the AL East piece, sub-60 win teams usually improve just based on variance. It's hard to be a 100-loss team year in and year out, as the sport's length each year helps see even the worst teams win 40%+ of their games each year. KC finished with 59 wins a year ago with a -5 number beside their names in Pythagorean wins. A likely boost in that category should help the Royals cash this ticket, as even with some break-even luck, the Royals are essentially already at this number.
However, it's the return of Salvador Perez behind the dish this season that I believe will be the biggest boom for Kansas City this year, as his defensive ability is great, but it's his ability to call a game that will prove highly valuable for KC this season.
Perez was lost for the whole year last year and while the Royals weren't going to be a team that went anywhere in 2019 either, I don't think you can undersell Perez's overall importance on the field. Sure, Perez doesn't always get the desired execution from his pitching staff to win games, and that's going to be the case frequently again this year. Kansas City's pitching staff is far from one I'd put serious belief into, but Perez will be a huge plus in terms of helping them navigate through a game the best they can, while keeping everything in front of him as well. Should Perez remain healthy and catch the 130 or so games he is known to do, this Royals team should be well on their way to taking the next step.
Offensively, Perez can contribute at times, but a lineup that's got more power then it's getting credit for with the likes of Maikel Franco, Jorge Soler, and Hunter Dozier in the middle of the order. The Royals still have Alex Gordon plugged in somewhere around there, and the hitting machine that is Whit Merrifield will still be out there setting many a table for all of those guys. Finishing the 2019 season with the 2nd worst mark in the AL in terms of runs scored (691) was what KC wanted to see immediate improvement in for 2020, and with this lineup, that's something that they will be able to achieve.
With the rest of the division relatively weak overall – KC will win their fair share of games against a bad Detroit team, a still up-and-coming Chicago team, and a regressing Cleveland team – the Royals are in fine shape to threaten a 70-win campaign. 70 wins may end up being the Royals high watermark in 2020, but as long as they can stay relatively healthy and maybe get a bit of luck along the way, it's a number you should feel comfortable in them reaching.

Team Future Best Bet
Minnesota Twins to make the Playoffs: Yes (-140)

A play like this feels like a bit of a cop out in regards to not wanting to back the Twins to win the division, but that extra room for error where the Twins don't catch a division rival that catches fire for a large portion of the season is some nice wiggle room to have. If the Twins don't win this division, chances are they'll still have enough wins to be one of the two AL Wildcard teams, as the Twins will still collect plenty of wins against this weak division, relative to the other two divisions in the AL beating up on one another more.
To me, Minnesota's built like a better, more established version of the Royals. I say that meaning it will be Minnesota's offense that ultimately ends up being their strength this year, as the pitching staff still could have a few holes. But a projected starting rotation of Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Kenta Maeda, Homer Bailey and whomever is still going to service them quite well with the competition around them.
But adding a former MVP in Josh Donaldson was big, as he brings even more pop to a Twins team that mashed the ball last year. The 939 runs scored they had trailed only the New York Yankees (943) for best in all of baseball, and the core of that offense is basically still intact. Throw a guy like Donaldson on top of it all, and Minnesota will be putting up a lot of crooked numbers again.
As long as the Twins pitching can hold up for the long haul, the ability for them to go on winning streaks will always be there, as they just need a few comfortable wins over their lesser division rivals to get the confidence level up to a point where five and six-game win streaks become routine. As I said, the only was I don't see the Twins winning this division is if a team say like Chicago plays well over their heads for a prolonged period of time to build a lead in the standings that's tough to overcome. Chances of that happening aren't all that great, but it's still possible, and I'll take the extra security of having the potential of Minnesota being involved in the Wildcard game as worthy of paying 40 cents on the dollar.

Player Prop Best Bet
Jake Odorizzi Under 8.5 wins (-110)

As much as I do believe the Twins will be playoff bound again in 2020, I've got no problem fading one of their pitchers long-term this year. That's nothing too specific regarding Odorizzi and his stuff, but fading a guy off the type of career year Odorizzi had in 2019 is always going to be a situation I look to attack, and that's more in line with where this play falls.
Odorizzi made his first career All-Star game in 2019, had a career high in wins (15), and his second-lowest season ERA (3.51). Even with the division being as bad as it could be overall, I do expect Odorizzi to come back down to the level somewhat, as it's not like those same division rivals haven't improved at least somewhat.
Adding a proven guy who's been plenty involved with an organization that's done a lot of recent winning in former LA Dodger Kenta Maeda also takes some pressure off of the rest of this Twins pitching staff. While that can undoubtedly be seen as a good thing overall, in Odorizzi's case, it may actually be a necessary thing to help cover up some of his shortcomings this season. Remember, Minnesota's not likely to mash in as many runs as they did a year ago – Minnesota was 2nd in MLB with 5.73 runs per game and the entire Twins staff greatly benefited from that – and for a guy like Odorizzi who never pitched more than six innings since early May of 2019, some outings with earyl struggles won't be as likely to be bailed out by Minnesota's offense.
Minnesota's overall pitching staff is why I believe the cushion you get in taking them to make the playoffs over winning the division is a necessary one, and Odorizzi falling back a bit after a career year is a big reason why.

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