Can the Twins Repeat as AL Central Champions in 2024?

Zack Bussiere
Zack Bussiere@ZackBussiere

The 2024 MLB season is fast approaching, and we are now just over a month away from Opening Day for most teams on March 28th.

With that in mind, let's look at the AL Central odds for this year's American League Central Division winner.

Note: All advanced statistics are used from FanGraphs.

AL Central Odds

AL Central Odds
Minnesota Twins-140
Detroit Tigers+350
Cleveland Guardians+400
Kansas City Royals+1000
Chicago White Sox+3800

Last year, only one team in the AL Central finished with an above .500 record -- the Minnesota Twins. In 2024, the outlook for the division remains weak, as only two teams, the Twins and the Detroit Tigers, have win totals at or greater than 80.5 on FanDuel Sportsbook.

Minnesota is favored to repeat, with the Tigers and Cleveland Guardians forming a mini-tier as the most likely challengers for the division title. Outside of that trio, the Kansas City Royals are most likely to crash the party, while the Chicago White Sox are a distant fifth in terms of odds.

Minnesota Twins (-140)

The Twins turned their AL Central championship into an appearance in the ALDS, defeating the Toronto Blue Jays in the Wild Card Round before losing to the Houston Astros in four games.

Part of Minnesota’s positive outlook this season is the relative weakness of the AL Central as a whole, but they also closed last season strongly and finished with the seventh-best run differential (+119) in baseball. No other team in their division finished with a positive run differential.

Minnesota finished as a top-10 team in FanGraphs' Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in both pitching and batting, but it was their pitching that set them apart. They allowed the third-fewest runs in baseball (659) and led the Majors in K/9 (9.67). This offseason, they lost Sonny Gray, the Cy Young runner-up, to the St. Louis Cardinals and Kenta Maeda to Detroit. How the Twins replace the production that the duo provided will have a massive impact on their quest to repeat as division winners.

At the plate, the Twins generated the 10th-most runs last season (778) thanks to their 233 home runs, which tied for third-most in the league. With electric rookie Edouard Julien entering his second season, Minnesota’s lineup could push for another top-10 finish.

There are some question marks for the Twins entering this season, but their division opponents have far more. Minnesota is a deserving favorite to repeat as champions. Their implied odds to win the AL Central sit at 58.3%.

Detroit Tigers (+350)

The team most likely to challenge Minnesota is Detroit, who has slightly better implied odds than Cleveland. The Tigers finished last season with a 78-84 record, second in the AL Central and tied for ninth in the AL.

Detroit struggled in both phases of the game last season, finishing with a –79 run differential that ranked ninth-worst.

Their pitching was league average, their 14.5 WAR tied for 16th, and they allowed the 19th-most runs (740). The addition of Kenta Maeda behind Tarik Skubal should help, but a lot of progress needs to be made on the mound. The departures of Eduardo Rodriguez and Michael Lorenzen, who both had positive WARs last season, in free agency will not help.

But Detroit’s real struggles last season were at the plate, where they scored the third-fewest runs in baseball (661), and their 10.4 WAR was sixth-worst. The Tigers struck out at the seventh-highest rate (24.2%) and hit the sixth-fewest home runs (165) -- a tough combination. They were also a bottom-five side in stolen bases (85), OBP (.305), and SLG (.382).

To address these issues, the Tigers made several offseason additions, but they have a long way to go. They may eventually get there -- and they too benefit from a weak AL Central -- but this season may be too soon for them to surpass the Twins. The Tigers' implied odds sit at 22.2%.

Cleveland Guardians (+400)

The Guardians finished last season with a 76-86 record, good for third in the AL Central and 11th in the AL -- one spot behind the Tigers in both. Their implied odds are slightly worse than Detroit’s, but they are significantly better than the two teams behind them.

While Cleveland finished with two fewer wins than the Tigers last season, they were slightly better than Detroit on both sides of the ball. Their –35 run differential was 18th in baseball, just 10 runs worse than the New York Yankees in 17th.

Like Detroit, the Guardians' main weakness was their offense, which scored just one more run than the Tigers. Their 15.1 WAR ranked 19th, but they hit the fewest home runs in baseball (124) -- 27 fewer than the next closest team. They also ranked 29th in SLG (.381). One bright spot was their base running, as their 151 stolen bases ranked fifth.

On the mound, the Guardians were significantly better than Detroit. Their 697 runs allowed ranked eighth, and they were the only team ranked inside the top nine that finished with a negative run differential. Their 14.6 WAR ranked 15th, just behind Houston. The full return of Triston McKenzie, who missed most of last season through injury, could further bolster their rotation.

If the pitching remains solid, the question for Cleveland is whether they can improve to even league average on offense. If they can, the Guardians could surpass Detroit and challenge Minnesota. Their implied odds sit at 20.0%.

Kansas City Royals (+1000)

The Royals finished last season with a 56-106 record, which was last in the division and second-worst in the AL. They are in a mini-tier of their own, sitting behind the Tigers and Guardians but well ahead of the White Sox.

As one might expect from a team that finished with 106 losses, the Royals struggled in all phases of the game in 2023. Their –183 run differential was fourth-worst in baseball.

The Royals were better at the plate than on the mound but only because their pitching was horrendous.

They scored 676 runs (23rd in the league) and finished with an 11.3 WAR (24th). They were in the bottom five in homers (163), walk percentage (6.3%), and on-base percentage (0.303). One bright spot was their 163 stolen bases, which was third-best in the majors.

On the mound, things were worse. The Royals allowed 859 runs (third-most) and had just 7.6 WAR (fourth-worst). They finished in the bottom five in K/9 (8.11), ERA (5.17), and xFIP (4.68), and they were sixth-worst in HR/9 (1.32).

Any hope for 2023 starts with drastic improvement from their starting rotation. Their implied odds of winning the division sit at just 9.1%.

Chicago White Sox (+3800)

Finally, we arrive at the White Sox, who finished last season with a 61-101 record, which was fourth in the division and third-worst in the AL. Despite playing in a weak AL Central, they have the worst odds to win the division by a large margin.

The White Sox finished last season with a run differential of –200, the third-worst in baseball. Like the Royals, they struggled on both sides of the ball but were slightly better on the mound and slightly worse at the plate.

Chicago’s 641 runs scored was the second-lowest in the majors, ahead of only the historically bad Oakland Athletics. Their 3.3 WAR was also second-worst, ahead of only the Colorado Rockies. They were a bottom-five side in SLG (0.384), walk percentage (6.3%), RBI (617), and batting average (0.238).

On the mound, things weren’t much better. The White Sox allowed 841 runs, the fifth-most in the league. Their 10.0 WAR was fifth-worst, and they were a bottom-five team in HR/9 (1.35) and ERA (4.88). Their 28 saves were tied with the Royals for the least in baseball.

Looking ahead to 2024, Chicago’s outlook isn’t much better. Even with significant improvement in the starting rotation and lineup, they would still be a longshot to dethrone Minnesota. As it stands, their implied odds are 2.6%.

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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.