AL Central Odds: It's a Wide-Open Field in May

Aidan McGrath
Aidan McGrath@ffaidanmcgrath
AL Central Odds: It's a Wide-Open Field in May

The American League Central is looking mighty competitive through the first part of the season. All four of the Cleveland Guardians, Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, and Kansas City Royals are in play here -- only the Chicago White Sox can really be counted out of the race for the AL Central.

Our four contenders all have winning records, and, frankly, seem pretty evenly matched. According to numberFire's metrics, this group is closely packed together. However, if we take a closer look at numberFire's season-long projections, a frontrunner emerges.

nF Rank
Division Probability
Cleveland Guardians149.9%
Minnesota Twins1381.8%
Kansas City Royals162.2%
Detroit Tigers116.1%
Chicago White Sox290.0%

Should we trust numberFire's read on this division, or are these teams going to grind it out for a full season? Let's take a look at FanDuel Sportsbook's AL Central odds and see what the market says about this division.

All MLB odds from FanDuel Sportsbook and may change after this article is published.

AL Central Odds

Cleveland Guardians24-13+135
Minnesota Twins21-15+140
Kansas City Royals22-16+600
Detroit Tigers19-18+700
Chicago White Sox9-28+50000

Minnesota Twins (+140)

While the 21-15 Twins are still slugging it out with the rest of their division rivals at this point of the season, numberFire's model gives them a startling 81.8% probability of winning the AL Central title this season and projects them for 95 wins -- 15 more than the 2nd-ranked Guardians and Tigers.

But why is that?

Well, despite roughly average run production -- their 4.63 runs per game rank 12th-best -- Minnesota's offense seems poised for a summer breakout. The Twins lead the MLB in doubles and are generating a Majors-best 3.2 runs above average on the base paths, according to FanGraphs' Ultimate Base Running metric.

And as their 3rd-ranked .163 ISO rating suggests, the Twins have the kind of power in their lineup -- even without Byron Buxton and Royce Lewis, for now -- that could translate into home runs in the hotter months. That could give them an edge over the rest of the division, a group that is largely relying on strong pitching to make up for meh offenses.

The Twins also recently rattled off a 12-game winning streak, a span during which they averaged 7.0 runs per game -- for context, the Los Angeles Dodgers' league-best offense averages 5.55 a night.

Their recent stretch was admittedly fueled by a handful of matchups with the down-bad White Sox, but that's an advantage this whole division will have all year -- the Guardians, Tigers and Royals will have the same edge of getting plenty of games against the Pale Hose.

Cleveland Guardians (+135)

The Guardians are currently in first place in the division with a 23-13 record and have the shortest odds -- by a hair -- to win the division at +135. So, why does numberFire's model consider them to be such underdogs to claim the AL Central compared to the Twins?

It could be their pitching depth -- or their lack of it. While the team got two nearly perfect games out Shane Bieber in the first week of the season, he sadly suffered a season-ending injury afterwards.

Without Bieber, the Guardians will be counting on young starters like Tanner Bibee, Logan Allen, and Triston McKenzie to stay healthy for a full season. McKenzie's 3.97 ERA is the best of that group, and he just missed virtually the whole 2023 season with injuries. Oh, and McKenzie is currently pitching through an injury.

After that group, it's 37-year-old Carlos Carrasco and 32-year-old Ben Lively, the latter of whom has never thrown more than 88 innings in a season.

That means the Guardians could really start to wear thin by the end of the season. Their lack of high-end prospects in the minor leagues could exacerbate that issue later this summer, too -- the Guardians have just two of MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects, neither of whom are pitchers. And while their offense has looked strong to start this year, it's mostly still the same players who finished the 2023 season averaging the fifth-fewest runs per game.

So, while the Twins have power upside over the rest of the season, the Guardians have concerns about pitching durability and the sustainability of their current run production. There's a chance new management -- with Stephen Vogt replacing Terry Francona this offseason -- was all this team needed to generate more offense, but numberFire's model seems skeptical.

Kansas City Royals (+600)

Credit where it's due: the Royals have really put in the work to start turning the ship around this year. They're 22-16 through the first week of May -- a much better place to be after starting the 2023 and 2022 seasons off with 7-22 and 10-19 records, respectively.

As of this writing, the Royals are allowing the fewest runs per game in baseball. Hurlers Seth Lugo, Brady Singer, and Cole Ragans are playing some seriously impressive baseball right now and have a combined 10-4 record in their starts.

And on the flip side, the Royals' offense is scoring the 12th-most runs per game. They're pacing to exceed 700 total runs scored as a franchise for the first time since 2017, although it's early.

But, like the Guardians, the Royals' prospect system seems a bit lacking. If their veterans wear down or stop producing at their current levels, their roster isn't particularly insulated.

And while they've produced well on offense so far, there are reasons for concern there, as well. By weighted runs created plus (wRC+), which measures runs per plate appearance while adjusting for parks, Royals' offense ranks just 23rd-best in the Majors.

That said, there's more reason for optimism with this year's Royals than we've seen in recent years. Bobby Witt Jr. is a star, Salvador Perez is still a juggernaut, and even younger players such as Vinnie Pasquantino, Maikel Garcia, and MJ Melendez are starting to look like consistent contributors.

The Royals are firmly in the mix for the division based on the current standings, so if you think they have what it takes to keep producing like they are, these +600 odds likely look pretty appealing.

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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.