2020 MLB Over/Under Win Total Picks, Futures Odds – AL Central

Nelson Cruz of the Minnesota Twins (photo credit: USA TODAY Sports)

Last updated: July 9, 2020

Welcome to another MLB division betting preview from SharpSide. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the AL Central, which includes the Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, and Kansas City Royals, going over win totals and futures odds for the squads. Three of those teams (Twins, Indians, and White Sox) are in the upper half of the league for World Series favorites.

The 2020 MLB season has been delayed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic, although the first days of June have some people hoping that the owners and players will soon come to an agreement to get the season underway. It’ll likely be a shortened season with some alterations, but the end goal of crowning a World Series champion will still be there, and that starts within each division.

Last season, the Twins were the only AL Central club to reach the postseason. Minnesota finished with a record of 101-61 and faced the New York Yankees in the Division Series. Minnesota’s playoff run was a short one, as the Yankees swept the Twins in convincing fashion.

Entering the 2020 season, it’s the Twins as the AL Central favorites and the team in the division with the most favored odds to win the World Series.

*Odds from FanDuel Sportsbook as of July 9, 2020, and subject to change.

World Series odds for AL Central teams

Minnesota Twins

There’s quite a bit of turnover for the Minnesota Twins after winning 101 regular-season games in 2019. The Josh Donaldson (37 HR/.900 OPS with the Atlanta Braves last season) signing brings another impact bat to the Twins. Minnesota re-signed starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi, who’s coming off a career year that saw him finish with a stellar 3.36 FIP and 10.1 K/9. Newcomers Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill will bolster the rotation, while Tyler Clippard was signed to add quality depth and talent to the bullpen.

Jose Berrios leads the staff after turning in three consecutive solid seasons. He had a 3.68 ERA and a 3.85 FIP last year. The middle of Minnesota’s rotation is really bolstered by the addition of Maeda, who had a good 2019 with the Los Angeles Dodgers throwing 153.2 innings with a 3.95 FIP and 9.9 K/9. Throw in Michael Pineda and the aforementioned Odorizzi and this is a top-10 rotation. The bullpen is coming off a season where they finished third in the AL in FIP. Taylor Rogers took over the closer’s role and really impressed with 30 saves, a 1.0 WHIP, and 11.7 K/9. Sergio Romo and Clippard will help lengthen the bullpen behind Tyler Duffy and Trevor May. This could be a top-three unit in the AL.

There might not be a more exciting offense in all of baseball than what the Twins roll out. They led the majors in home runs (307, which is the single-season HR record) and they also finished second in runs (939). Furthermore, six of the nine projected players in the Opening Day lineup hit 29 or more home runs last year, led by Nelson Cruz (39), Max Kepler (36), and Miguel Sano (34). This is one of the most balanced teams in baseball and Minnesota is in the mix to win it all.

Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Indians have shed about $40 million of payroll over the last year. They only added second-basemen Cesar Hernandez and Sandy Leon to an offense ranked seventh in the AL in runs (769) and ninth in home runs (223).

The Indians underwent a complete makeover in the rotation. Two-time Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber was shipped to Texas and with Trevor Bauer traded last season, they’ll rely on younger pitchers on the staff such as Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger, Aaron Civale, and Zach Plesac. Clevinger, a dark horse in the AL Cy Young Award race, had a 2.49 FIP and 12.1 K/9 in 22 starts last season. Bieber flashed a 30% K-rate and nine-year veteran Carlos Carrasco says he’s ready to go after missing most of last season fighting Leukemia. It’s a formidable top three in a rotation that ultimately goes seven deep. The bullpen has too many questions to be considered anything more than average. Brad Hand is an excellent closer who had 24.3 K-BB% and a 3.08 FIP from 2016-2018, but he struggled with injuries last season and was shut down in September.

The offense revolves around shortstop Fransisco Lindor, who is always in the MVP discussion and has averaged 34 home runs over the past four seasons. Jose Ramirez and Carlos Santana add power, but the outfield is an offensive wasteland. As a unit, their 69 home runs last season was 14th in the AL and their 294 runs scored was 13th. Cleveland has a terrific rotation and a remarkable manager in Terry Francona, but the average bullpen and anemic offense should keep them out of a playoff spot.

Chicago White Sox

Many expect the Chicago White Sox to take a big jump this season despite a 72-89 finish last season that saw them limp to the finish line with a 12-18 record over the last 30 games. The White Sox were very busy this offseason, signing DH Edwin Encarnacion (averaged 37.1 home runs over the past eight seasons) to a one-year deal, catcher Yasmani Grandal (hit a minimum of 22 home runs last four seasons), and trading for OF Nomar Mazara. They also added 2015 AL Cy Young award-winner Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez to the rotation, plus Steve Cishek to the bullpen.

Chicago’s starting rotation is average. Lucas Giolito (11.9 K/9 and 3.43 FIP in 2019) is coming off a breakout season and has now reportedly mastered how to throw his curveball for strikes. Kuechel and Gonzalez add left-handed quality and depth. The delayed start allows LHP Carlos Rodon to return this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. Younger arms like Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez will round out the staff. The bullpen is slightly above average with closer Alex Colome, who had an excellent debut with the White Sox last season (30 saves/1.066 WHIP). The rest of the unit consists of Aaron Bummer (.990 WHIP) and newly acquired Cishek, and then the White Sox can throw out three or four more legitimate bullpen arms.

The offense needed more power after finishing 13th out of 15 AL teams with just 132 home runs so they add Encarnacion, Grandal, and promoted Baseball America’s No. 3 overall prospect, Luis Robert. The 22-year-old Cuban hit 32 home runs and finished with an OPS of 1.000 in three minor league levels last season. This unit can vault into the top five offenses in the American League if the newcomers produce like the White Sox expect and returning players continue to improve. Yoan Moncada (25 HR/.915 OPS), Jose Abreu (33 HR), Eloy Jimenez (31 HR), and shortstop Tim Anderson (.335/18 HR/ 17 steals in 2019) make this offense one to watch. While I like the bats, the rotation and bullpen are merely average. I think bettors and sportsbooks are hopping on the bandwagon a year too early.

Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers scoffed at Kansas City’s 103-loss season by finishing last season with 114 losses of their own. The Tigers are in year four of a rebuild and brought in veterans position players C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop, and Ivan Nova to get through this season.

The Tigers starting pitching was actually in the middle of the pack in the American League after posting a 4.66 FIP. Matt Boyd, Nova, Daniel Norris, and Michael Fulmer could all be on the trade block if they have solid starts to the season. The bullpen isn’t improved as they come off a season where they had the second-worst FIP (5.06) and gave up the second-most HR/9 in the AL with 1.56. Tigers fans will be thrilled to see No. 1 picks Casey Mize and Matt Manning win any role on the staff.

Detroit’s offense was last in runs, home runs, and just about any other important statistical category. Future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera, now 36 years old, is coming off a season in which he hit just 12 home runs with a .744 OPS on achy knees. This could be the worst team in baseball. While I won’t bet the under on 20.5 wins, I wouldn’t blame you for taking that leap.

Kansas City Royals

The Kansas City Royals continue to tank and if you need proof, just look at the team’s roster. KC did make one big move this offseason, hiring Mike Matheney as their manager. But, the roster wasn’t upgraded after a 103-loss season.

Kansas City starting pitchers were 14th in the American League with just 7.19 K/9 and their atrocious 5.72 FIP was the worst in the league. The team’s top starter, Brad Keller, missed the start of summer camp with COVID-19. Keller, Danny Duffy, and Jake Junis are in the running for the worst starting trio in baseball. The bullpen will rely on Ian Kennedy to eat innings and veterans Trevor Rosenthal and Greg Holland were brought in to resurrect their careers so they might be traded at the deadline.

The good news for the Royals is that all-star catcher Salvador Perez returns after missing 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery. Perez hit 27 home runs in both the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Perez can only help so much. Kansas City was 14th in the AL in runs scored (691) and 14th in home runs (162). Perez, Jorge Soler (48 HR in 2019), Hunter Dozier (26 HR), Whit Merrifield (16 HR/20 SB), and new third baseman Maikel Franco have the tall task of improving upon those numbers. The Royals will battle with Baltimore and Detroit for the worst record in the AL.

2020 AL Central picks and predictions:

Minnesota Twins to win the AL Central (-130)
Minnesota Twins over 34.5 wins

The price of -130 isn’t a great line for a division winner, unless it’s in the AL Central. And 34.5 wins is a healthy total, but the Twins play the Royals, Tigers, and Pirates a combined 24 times. They’re far and away the best team in the division and they’re a trendy choice by many to win it all.

Minnesota has an extremely balanced lineup, a deep and talented pitching staff, and a schedule that will make them a monster to topple this season.

Mike Clevinger to win the AL Cy Young Award (+1100)

I like Mike Clevinger at 11-1 (+1100). His teammate, Beiber, is at 8-1 (+800) at a lot of sportsbooks and I see these two pitchers with a lot of the same skill set. This will be a sprint, so 10-12 starts will be all that most of the contenders will get.

Clevinger is continuing his ascent. Last season’s 12 K/9, 7.4% walk rate, and a 2.71 ERA/2.49 FIP are numbers he can build upon to chase down Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander. I didn’t make a large wager on this bet because of the probable volatility of the upcoming season, but it’s one I do like.

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