The AL Central is actually one of the divisions I would concede is one of the least interesting divisions in the league this season, but they do have individual teams I am excited about. The White Sox should be a very good team again, and the Tigers have made some serious strides forward. The Twins made a splash signing Carlos Correa to a massive deal, and the Guardians get some key players healthy. The Royals always seem to be about 2 years away from contending but maybe they take that final leap this season? Let’s get into it.
MLB Expert John Bollman's AL Central Betting Preview - 2022 Season
Let’s start with the Guardians (man, that name is gonna take some getting used to). The Guardians had a couple big injuries in 2021 that ruined their season, mainly to Shane Bieber. They are a small market team, so they need all their big horses healthy to make the playoffs. Shane Bieber is healthy to start this season and the Guardians actually have a very good starting pitching staff. Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac, Cal Quantrill, and Triston McKenzie make up the rest of the rotation behind Bieber. They also always have a good bullpen, and this season it includes a more experienced Emmanuel Clase and James Karinchak. Their Season Win Total was set at just 75.5 which to me seems very low.
They always struggle with their lineup but Jose Ramirez and Franmil Reyes are top tier hitters. They also get a full season of one of their top prospects in Bobby Bradley. Their lineup is one of the worst in the league as there isn’t much after that. However, their team is built through pitching. If the Guardians stay healthy, they can definitely make the playoffs with their To Make the Playoffs line at just +350. However, they don’t have any depth so if they do have any key injuries, they are in trouble. That is why I am staying off, but this team can definitely compete for the AL Central if they stay healthy.
Kansas City Royals
Next, we will go to the Royals. The Royals have tons of promise, but it just feels like they are still a couple years away. I know for Royals fans it seems like they have been two years away for about five years now, but this time is different. They have young arms in Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar, and they added an aging, but still effective Zack Greinke. They have multiple bullpen options in Wade Davis, Greg Holland, and Amir Garrett. Who knows if any of them will perform but if they do, they can be very effective. Their Regular Season Win Total is identical to the Guardians at 75.5 which is interesting.
Top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. is expected to make the team out of Spring Training and Adalberto Mondesi is healthy for now. Salvador Perez is coming off a career year and Hunter Dozier should improve from his poor 2021. Whit Merrifield is one of the best leadoff hitters in the league and Nicky Lopez is one of the best defenders in the league. This team is very promising, and they have a couple more top prospects slated to come up this season as well. So while I still think they are a couple years away, this team has a lot more potential than it has in the past. However, they are still young, which is why I am staying away from any Royals futures.
The Twins made big news the last couple weeks after trading away Josh Donaldson but signing Carlos Correa to a massive deal. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets traded at the deadline if this team is out of it, but this lineup is still one of the best in the league. They just struggled with pitching depth, and that won’t be helped after trading away Jose Berrios.
Sony Gray was added to the pitching staff but other than him, they have Joe Ryan, Dylan Bundy, Bailey Ober, and Randy Dobnak. Kenta Maeda is pretty much out for the season after TJ surgery, and the Twins bullpen isn’t much better. Their Season Win Total is set at 80.5 which I think is pretty spot on, but I would lean under. Their lineup is one of the best in the league. They have Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, Byron Buxton, Alex Kiriloff, Luis Arraez and now Gary Sanchez. This team will be hitting plenty of home runs, and their bats could honestly carry them. This team just doesn’t have the pitching and that will come back to haunt them, especially if they get any sort of starting pitching injuries. The Twins have some potential, but they are a Starting Pitcher injury away from a poor season so I am staying away from Twins futures.
It seems like a lot of these AL Central teams have the starting lineup to compete, but injuries will determine who wins. The Tigers Regular Season Win Total is set at 78.5 which is the highest it has been in a long time. They signed Javier Baez to a long-term deal, and they have a bunch more prospects ready to come up. Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene should add some serious talent to that lineup, and they traded for Tucker Barnhart as well. Akil Baddoo has been raking this Spring, and this will be one of Miguel Cabrera’s last seasons, if not his last.
This team ended up winning 77 games last season, but they are still very young. They added Eduardo Rodriguez to the top of their rotation, but he’s no ace. They also have Tarik Skubal, Casey Mize, Matt Manning, and Tyler Alexander. All very solid arms, but all still very young. They have more pitching depth this season so that should show throughout the bullpen as well. This team will go on hot streaks and cold streaks, and they will be very live dogs in many games. However, I don’t think I can bet on them at this number with the inconsistency of younger players. They still need to acclimate to the league, learn the pitchers, etc. There is a steep curve. This team could easily win 81 games, but they could also win just 75.
Chicago White Sox
Last but not least, we get to the reigning AL Central champs, the Chicago White Sox. They lost Carlos Rodon, but they still have one of the better pitching staffs in the league. Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, Dallas Keuchel, and Michael Kopech form a formidable starting rotation. Then they also have plenty of depth with guys like Reynaldo Lopez and Vince Velasquez. They added Kendall Graveman to an already stacked bullpen with guys like Craig Kimbrel and Liam Hendriks. This will be one of the best pitching staffs in the league this season, injuries or not. The White Sox also get back plenty of key bats this season. The White Sox are a heavy -200 to win the AL Central, and I think they definitely do it. I could see competition from every other team in this division, but none of them have the depth the White Sox do.
Their Regular Season Win Total is set at 91.5 and I think they will hit this number easily. I also like this play a lot better than the division play because I think if they win the division, they will need at least 92 wins to do it. So it is a very good way to remove the juice. I also think they can get closer to 100 wins if everything goes well. They were missing many key players last season but now they are healthy. Eloy Jimenez is back for a full season after missing most of last season. Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, Jose Abreu, Luis Robert and Yasmani Grandal form the top of one of the best lineups in the league. This lineup can compete with anyone when healthy.
John's AL Central Conclusion & Pick
There are a lot of questions in this division, and I could honestly see spots 2-5 in the division go to anyone besides the White Sox. There is just so much talent up and down this division. However, the White Sox are the clear favorites to win the division, and rightly so. Last season they didn’t have much in terms of division competition so I think they let off the gas going into the playoffs, and it burned them. Expect this team to compete to the finish line to get over 91.5 wins this season.
WHITE SOX OVER 91.5 REGULAR SEASON WINS @ -110
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