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AL Central Odds: Cleveland in the Driver’s Seat Ahead of the Season

AL Central Divisional Odds - March 4

You’ll have to wait until late September or early October to find out whether your divisional futures bet has come through, but it’s not too early to take a look at where the best place to lay your money is. Last season, the Cleveland Indians ran away with the AL Central Division, finishing with a 13-game lead over the Minnesota Twins, and they open this year as a -450 favorite to win the division crown for the fourth year in a row.

Bovada has Cleveland as the favorite at -450 followed by Minnesota at +300, the Chicago White Sox at +2000 and the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals at +5000 to round out the five teams in the American League Central.

Cleveland Indians (-450)

Ahead of the 2017 season, Cleveland made a huge move by signing Edwin Encarnacion to a three-year, $60-million contract. Fast-forward two years later and EE was involved in a three-team trade that saw Carlos Santana return to the Tribe and Encarnacion land in Seattle.

Cleveland also made a trade within the division, sending first baseman Yonder Alonso to the White Sox in exchange for outfielder Alex Call. Lastly, the Indians traded all-star catcher Yan Gomes to Washington for pitcher Jefry Rodriguez. Although there have been some subtractions from this team, the core is still there with Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor and that pitching staff led by perennial Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber.

Unless something catastrophic happens and their core takes a step backward, the Indians should be in the mix to win a fourth consecutive AL Central title.

Minnesota Twins (+300)

Minnesota had a big subtraction from the team this offseason and that was the retirement announcement from longtime catcher and former MVP Joe Mauer. The Minnesota native played his entire 15-year career with the Twins and was a consistent .300 hitter with 20-plus doubles every year.

The Twins were active in free agency, retooling the right side of the diamond by bringing in second baseman Jonathan Schoop from Milwaukee and first baseman C.J. Cron from Tampa Bay. The biggest addition to the team, though, was 38-year-old slugger Nelson Cruz, who has averaged 40.6 home runs over his last five seasons.

The pitching staff has a lot of question marks. It’s led by Jose Berrios, who is a solid No. 1, but the rest of the rotation is very inconsistent. Additionally, the Twins brought in Martin Perez from Texas and he was 2-7 last year with a 6.22 ERA. If the rotation can step up, Minnesota will be challenging for the AL Central.

Chicago White Sox (+2000)

This was the year we expected to see Michael Kopech, one of the top pitching prospects in the game, but he suffered a torn UCL in September that has resulted in him needing Tommy John surgery that will force him out for the entire 2019 season. However, just a couple of weeks ago, the White Sox signed Ervin Santana to a minor league contract and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him compete for the fifth spot in the rotation.

As mentioned in the Cleveland section, Chicago made a trade within the division by acquiring first baseman Yonder Alonso from the Tribe. Meanwhile, the White Sox let outfielder Avisail Garcia walk in free agency, but signed Jon Jay in the same manner, which I think is an improvement. Look for prospect Eloy Jimenez to come up from AAA at some point in the season to give a boost offensively. The biggest miss was not signing Manny Machado or Bryce Harper as the White Sox were in on both all-stars.

Lastly, Chicago brought in Pittsburgh ace Ivan Nova, which should help anchor the pitching staff. The White Sox will be improved from last season and the future is bright on the South Side.

Detroit Tigers (+5000)

There weren’t many upgrades for the Detroit organization this offseason, bringing in second baseman Josh Harrison and shortstop Jordy Mercer for the starting lineup. Additionally, the Tigers brought in a couple of pitchers through free agency – Tyson Ross from St. Louis and Matt Moore from Texas – to fill out the back end of their rotation. Ross only made nine appearances for the Cardinals after being traded from San Diego and had a 2.73 ERA in those outings.

Meanwhile, Moore had a disastrous 2018 campaign, sporting a career-high 6.79 ERA over 39 appearances. Detroit finished 27 games back of Cleveland last season and I think it essentially stayed pat and I don’t anticipate much of a change in 2019.

Kansas City Royals (+5000)

Similar to Detroit, Kansas City was pretty quiet in the offseason, looking for a younger squad to improve as a unit. The Royals had the sixth-most stolen bases last year, and they brought in free-agent center-fielder Billy Hamilton, who has averaged 52.8 stolen bags since becoming a full-time major leaguer in 2014.

The Royals suffered a massive setback in spring training with six-time all-star catcher Salvador Perez suffering an injury to his UCL and needing to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery. I don’t expect Kansas City to turn many heads this season, but they will be a menace on the basepaths.

My Best Bet for the AL Central

Cleveland Indians -450

I think Chicago is the team to watch, but I think they are just one year off. Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech will have a bright future with that club but like I said, just a few years away. Cleveland’s core with Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez and the pitching staff is just overpowering compared to the rest of the division. I know there isn’t any juice on this and it’s not that exciting, but the AL Central just simply isn’t that competitive right now.

Odds to win the 2019 American League Central
Cleveland Indians-450
Minnesota Twins+300
Chicago White Sox+2000
Detroit Tigers+5000
Kansas City Royals+5000

Odds as of March 26 at  Bovada