AL Central Odds: The Guardians Have Built a Nice Cushion

Aidan McGrath
Aidan McGrath@ffaidanmcgrath
AL Central Odds: The Guardians Have Built a Nice Cushion

The AL Central is looking mighty strong these days. A year after handing its title to an 87-75 team -- the division's sole team with a winning record -- all but one of the AL Central's representatives look like they could be in the mix for the division in 2024.

The Chicago White Sox are blazing a trail of their own this year, but outside of them, each of the Cleveland Guardians, Minnesota Twins, Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers are legitimate, contending baseball teams in 2024. Only one other division in the Major Leagues has as many teams at or above .500 at this early stage of June (the loaded AL East), meaning we could see a few of the AL Central's crew make the postseason this year.

But which team will claim the division crown?

Can the Twins go back-to-back? Will the Guardians re-establish themselves as the division's top team after a down 2023? Or can the upstarts -- the Royals and Tigers -- make a push after spending much of the last decade rebuilding? Let's take a look at FanDuel Sportsbook's AL Central odds and see how the division is shaping up.

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

AL Central Odds

Cleveland Guardians40-20-145
Minnesota Twins33-28+250
Kansas City Royals36-26+440
Detroit Tigers31-31+2000
Chicago White Sox15-47+50000

Cleveland Guardians (-145)

The Cleveland Guardians have been on a heater since our last check-in on the AL Central. Since that time, they've won 16 games while dropping only 7, taking them out to a solid lead within the division.

Over the last month they've recorded the sixth-most runs (136) while totaling the ninth-best ERA (3.72), making them one of the more formidable teams in the American League. As a result of their recent stretch, their American League winner odds have moved to +900, the fifth-shortest in the AL.

Their offense has really turned it on lately, with Jose Ramirez catching fire at the plate. Only Aaron Judge has knocked in more RBI (34) than Ramirez has (30) over the last month, and his .464 wOBA over that span ranks fourth-best in baseball. He's helped rekindle an offense that looked stagnant at the start of the year, though he hasn't been alone -- David Fry has a whopping 1.092 OPS as a breakout hitter for the team while Josh Naylor and Andres Gimenez are having solid seasons, as well. Factor in Steven Kwan returning to the lineup, and the Guardians are looking like a promising playoff-bound team in early June.

As good as they've looked lately, Cleveland will still need to get more from their starting pitchers to keep this up over the summer. While Tanner Bibee has been excellent of late and Ben Lively has been solid all year, Triston McKenzie, Carlos Carrasco and Logan Allen could stand to pick it up.

Minnesota Twins (+250)

The Minnesota Twins have fallen to third in the division with a fine 33-28 record, but things could be looking up for them in the near future -- star in the making Royce Lewis returned this week after suffering an Opening Day injury and immediately smashed his second and third home runs of the season. That's as many home runs as games played for Lewis in 2024, and he could be an incredible difference maker as long as he can stay healthy. The Twins' offense went a bit cold towards the middle of May but could be on the upswing now.

Bettors seem to still like the Twins this year -- their +850 odds to win the American League actually come in one spot shorter than the Guardians' odds to do the same despite the Guardians' seven-game lead over the Twins in the division. And Minesota still has the second-shortest odds to win the AL Central despite having the third-best record and sitting three games back of the next team we'll talk about.

With the Twins boasting a solid -- if underperforming -- pitching crew and an offense we've seen be productive in the past, it's not hard to envision a summer where they turn things on and make a push to claim the division for a second consecutive season.

That said, unlike some of their rivals, they do need to start getting back on track at the plate. The return of Lewis is a huge boon, but the team as a whole posted the worst batting average in the league (.216) over the last month. If their league-worst .246 BABIP during that span regresses closer to league average, it shouldn't be too hard for them to turn things around, and it seems like the betting markets are banking on that happening.

Kansas City Royals (+440)

The real key to figuring out the AL Central might be determining whether or not the Kansas City Royals are here to stay.

Bobby Witt Jr. is obviously a legitimate star -- as his +700 AL MVP odds imply (fourth-shortest) -- but he hasn't been carrying the team's offense all on his own. In fact, so far this year, the Royals have scored the seventh-most runs in baseball (302) with the fifth-most (138) over the last month. Salvador Perez is having a fantastic season, Vinnie Pasquantino has turned things around since his rough start to the year, Michael Massey was looking like a potential breakout hitter before his back injury, and Maikel Garcia is having a career-best year.

Their feisty offense has been backed up by a surprisingly dominant group of pitchers. Each of Seth Lugo, Cole Ragans, Brady Singer, and Alec Marsh are enjoying career-best seasons, with Ragans (+1400) and Lugo (+1400) garnering respect in FanDuel Sportsbook's AL Cy Young odds. In terms of Baseball-Reference's Wins Above Replacement (WAR), the Royals' starting pitchers are tied with the New York Yankees' starters for the best mark in the league (4.8 WAR).

Their starters' efforts have sadly been slightly undermined by poor play from the bullpen -- Kansas City's relievers have contributed -1.7 WAR on the year, the eighth-worst mark in the Majors. This is, ironically, a team that could use relievers such as Aroldis Chapman and Scott Barlow, two arms the team (understandably) traded away during the 2023 season. If the rest of the team holds strong as the trade deadline approaches, the Royals could be in the market for the same players they traded a year ago.

That said, the Royals' 36-26 record trails only the Guardians in the AL Central (by 4.0 games) and is the fourth-best record in the American League (as of this writing). They have -120 odds to make the MLB playoffs (fifth-shortest) and +1800 odds to win the American League. If you like KC, these +440 odds are fairly appealing.

Detroit Tigers (+2000)

The Detroit Tigers aren't out of the race for the AL Central like their counterparts in Chicago, but at 31-31, they have a little bit of ground to make up on teams like the Guardians and Royals. Detroit is currently 9.5 games back of Cleveland.

Like the Royals, Detroit's starting pitchers are having a fantastic 2024 -- their 2.5 WAR ranks seventh-best in baseball -- while their relievers have dropped the ball a bit. Tarik Skubal is the AL Cy Young frontrunner (+180 AL Cy Young odds) while Jack Flaherty and Reese Olson are enjoying fantastic seasons, as well. Strong pitching has been the backbone of the Tigers' success this year, and each of their top starters look like players who could keep it up over a whole season.

And like the Royals, Detroit is getting some strong production from its young hitters -- at least recently. Riley Greene is posting solid numbers, and Matt Vierling has emerged as one of the hottest hitters in the league. Wenceel Perez (+2900) and Colt Keith (+8000) are starting to make their presences felt in FanDuel's AL Rookie of the Year odds.

Even with strong pitching a potentially emerging young offense, the Tigers still look like a .500 team. They recorded an 11-16 record in May and have won 3 of 5 so far in June. They hold a 4-3 record over the Twins on the year but are 2-4 versus the Royals and 1-2 against the Guardians -- illustrating what seems like a gap between them and the true division contenders.

The Tigers are a heck of a lot better this year than they have been in recent seasons, but it seems like they might still be a year away from becoming legitimate contenders for the AL Central title.

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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.