MLB 2021 Season Preview: AL Central Odds, Picks & Predictions
The 2021 MLB regular season is almost here, and the AL Central odds show a division up for grabs between the Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians. With Opening Day set for Thursday, April 1, there’s still some time to head to BetRivers.com to place your MLB futures and AL Central odds, and longtime sports broadcaster David Tuchman is here to give his picks and predictions on the AL Central odds.
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Today was a good day. Slept in, went to the park with my boys, and then to my favorite pizza spot in Staten Island, Denino’s. If you know it, you’re smiling. If you don’t, I’m sorry for your loss. I met my baseball guy, ‘Nucci and we flapped our gums a bit about the AL Central.
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RELATED: AL East Odds Preview | AL West Odds Preview
AL CENTRAL ODDS: Chicago White Sox (-130)
Win Total: 91.5 wins (+100/-124)
World Series: +850 (Fourth shortest odds)
American League: +380 (Second shortest odds)
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The AL Central is up for grabs and it really comes down to the White Sox, Indians and Twins. The White Sox are everyone’s darling for 2021 – and for good reason. They’re loaded. I was looking for a way to fade the White Sox since everyone else is in on them, but there’s just not a legit way to do it. Everyone is in on them because they are really, really good.
The Sox have put together a tremendous lineup by grooming young talent and being patient. Starting with perennial MVP candidate Jose Abreu at first, who’s a lock for 30+ HR and 100+ RBI, the Sox have assembled young superstar OF Eloy Jimenez, all-star SS Tim Anderson, stud OF prospect Luis Robert, another youngster, Nick Madrigal, a solid contact hitter at 2B and are moving Yoan Moncada to third. Moncada had a down 2020 but should bounce back to the elite level he was in 2019. They also brought back old fan favorite Adam Eaton to patrol the OF with Robert and Jimenez. Finally, another rookie, Andrew Vaughn, should be their everyday DH. Yes, there are a TON of youngsters here, but Anderson, Eaton and Abreu should keep the pressure off the kids and this lineup should score a lot. Vaughn, by the way, can rake and he’s +2000 for rookie of the year.
Their pitching is led by young stud Lucas Giolito, but also bolstered by solid veterans Dallas Keuchel and Lance Lynn. The Sox are hoping youngsters Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech can round out the staff, but also have Reynoldo Lopez and Carlos Rodon as fallbacks. Add to this, the Sox brought in the best closer of 2020, Liam Hendriks, to shut the door and the Sox are primed to win the Central.
I think the Sox win 93-95 games this year, so with their win total at 91.5, we are betting the OVER. The Sox aren’t a crazy pick to win the American League either, but their +380 is only slightly better than the Yankees +230 so I don’t see a ton of value there.
AL CENTRAL ODDS: Minnesota Twins (+150)
Win Total: 88.5 wins (-130/+105)
World Series: +2000
American League: +700
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The Twins were the winners of the central in the shortened 2020 season and they have a good group of players. But a long season has a way of separating the contenders from the pretenders and I’m picking the Twins as a team to fade this year.
The Twins let Eddie Rosario go to rival Cleveland, but are hoping Rookie of the Year hopeful, Alex Kirilloff (+2000) can fill the space left by Rosario. The Twins are also hoping Miguel Sano can hit his weight in average, while providing 30+ HR pop – but that might be asking too much. Josh Donaldson is another year older as is the seemingly ageless Nelson Cruz. On paper, this lineup looks solid, but a quick look under the hood, and you see the cracks. The Twins don’t really hit for average, or steal bases. This is a team that relies almost entirely on the long ball for runs. Have I mentioned that MLB “deadened” the baseballs this year in an effort to control the HR explosion?
The Twins should still score enough to win, but their starting pitching is full of question marks. Ace Jose Berrios had a mediocre 2020 – he hopes to rebound and chalk up 2020 to just being 2020. Kenta Maeda had a fantastic 2020 – but he was very mediocre in 2019. The Twins are hoping it was a fluke 2020 for Berrios but a sign of things to come for Maeda. Convenient huh? Michael Pineda has never really been the star he was projected to be. JA Happ is on the wrong side of 37 and it’s unclear what the Twins expect to get out of youngsters Dobnak and Smeltzer. The bullpen should be solid, as they added former White Sox closer Alex Colome to join incumbent closer Taylor Rogers and that’s a solid 1-2 punch.
Overall, the Twins are +700 to win the AL outright and +150 to win the Central and I hate both of these bets. The “Experts” seem to think Minnesota is a contender and destined for 88-90 wins. I disagree. I think this team is about to crash, mainly due to SP and age of its better hitters. I think 82-84 wins seems likely. Drop some money on the UNDER 88.5. You’ll thank me at the end of September.
AL CENTRAL ODDS: Cleveland Indians (+700)
Win Total: 81.5 wins (-112/-112)
World Series: +4000
American League: +2000
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When it comes to starting pitchers, the Cleveland Indians know how to grow ‘em. in recent years. Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevenger. What do they all have in common? None of them are on Cleveland anymore. And yet…Cleveland still has reigning AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber. That’s the good news. The bad news is the Indians traded Carlos Carrasco and Francisco Lindor to the Mets for a mediocre return. They let Carlos Santana go and replaced him with…well, no one. They did bring in Eddie Rosario from Minnesota, but overall, the Indians hitting is putrid. Their catcher hits .220 if he’s lucky. They’re going with unproven Josh Naylor or Jake Bauers at first, journeyman Cesar Hernandez (he can handle the bat tho) at 2B. Jose Ramirez is all-world talent at 3B and he’ll hit third, but the remainder of the lineup is very weak, made up of Franmil Reyes, Amed Rosario, Andres Gimenez, Dan Johnson, and god knows who else.
The Indians will try to keep doing it with pitching as they have Bieber, and young gun Triston McKenzie (+1500 ROY – he’s a stud too), Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac, forming a potentially formidable rotation. James Karinchak and Emmanuel Clase should battle to close, but Karinchak has the edge since he strikes out…pretty much everyone. But the overall depth of the bullpen is concerning.
The Indians will likely finish 3rd in the Central – maybe 2nd if the Twins really fall apart. But you can have some fun with the Indians if you want. They’re +700 to win the central and +2000 to win the AL outright. Do I think this likely? Not a chance. And again, there are some better options out there. But there is some value here as the Indians do have legit young SP core and backend of the bullpen. But frankly, there isn’t enough here for them to beat the White Sox or the Yankees.
The over/under for wins with Cleveland is 81.5. I can’t see Cleveland doing any better than 80-83 wins, so it’s right down the middle. Some things to be aware of. Cleveland hasn’t won less than 91 games since 2015. In 2020, the pandemic shortened the season, but Cleveland’s 35 wins had them on a pace for 94 wins. So, where’s the love? Well, predicting win totals is part analytics and part instinct. Unless you’re the Braves of the 1990s, you’re going to have a down season from time to time. The Indians have lost just enough that it feels like a crash back to earth is in the cards. However, falling from a 94-win pace to 81-82 wins is a significant drop. This is also probably due to how good the White Sox are – the Indians will play them 19x. If pushed, I’ll bet on Cleveland to develop another starting pitcher or two and bet the OVER.
AL CENTRAL ODDS: Kansas City Royals (+4000)
Win Total: 73.5 wins (-112/-112)
World Series: +10000
American League: +5000
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The Royals made some offseason moves, trading for Red Sox OF Andrew Benintendi, and signing Indians 1B Carlos Santana. They also added FA starting pitcher Mike Minor to bolster the rotation which also has young arms Brad Keller, Brady Singer and Kris Bubic. Closer Greg Holland is back in the mix to pair with fireballers, Scott Barlow and Tyler Zuber. The lineup adds Benintendi and Santana to 40 HR threat, DH Jorge Soler, Hunter Dozier, Whit Merrifield and speed demon Adalberto Mondesi.
What does this all add up to for the 2021 Royals? Lipstick meet pig.
I know you’re probably thinking, Tuck, don’t you own a pig? I do. But I wouldn’t bet on Poppy the Pig to win the AL Central either.
They’re not good enough to even make their +4000 odds to win the AL Central remotely fun. In all likelihood, you’re looking at a 70-win team here. With their win total at 73.5, I’m inclined to bet the UNDER.
AL CENTRAL ODDS: Detroit Tigers (+6000)
Win Total: 68.5 wins (+101/-125)
World Series: +10000
American League: +6000
Click here for more Tigers AL Central Odds
It would be easy to dump all over the Tigers and how awful they are. Really, really easy. But easy is for chumps. What do the Tigers offer in 2021 that a fan or a bettor can get excited about? Well, for one thing, they boast the third best prospect in the game, Spencer Torkelson, at 3B – however he’s not expected to be with the big club this year.
The Tigers are long on rookie arms, with prospects Tarik Skubal, Casey Mize and Matt Manning all with shots to make the big league club out of spring – in fact, the Tigers expect both Skubal and Mize to be in their rotation to start the season.
It wouldn’t be crazy to drop $100 on any of those 3 starting pitchers to win the ROY at +3000 or more to win. It’s unlikely, but fun. Don’t waste your money on Torkelson – there’s no chance the Tigers trigger his service time yet, even if he destroys A-ball.
Finally, Miguel Cabrera, in the twilight of a hall of fame career is 134 hits away from 3000 hits and 13 home runs away from 500 for his career – two huge milestones.
You might think that at +6000 to win the Central, is there even a glimmer of a chance that Detroit could pull that off? No. Not a chance in hell. But hey, how about some action on when Cabrera hit his 500th? Or his 3000? Let’s go with August 15 for his 500th and September 15th for his 3000th.
If you really want to make money on the Tigers, bet them to lose, and lose often. Their win total right now is 68.5 and this is an absolute gift. The Tigers should win around 61-63 games at best. BET UNDER 68.5 wins.