2015 Al Central Predictions with Odds and Expert MLB Betting Picks
by Robert Ferringo - 3/13/2015
The Detroit Tigers will try to become the first team since the 1999 Cleveland Indians to win five straight American League Central titles. They were able to hold off Kansas City by just two games last year to make it three in a row. But with the Tigers grasping desperately at one last World Series run and the rest of the league gaining ground quickly we could see a Central that is up for grabs late in the summer.
The question then becomes: if Detroit does fall then who else in the Central is ready to climb onto the throne? Kansas City was just two runs away from a surprise World Series title and will need to shake off any letdown. Chicago is a team garnering some buzz heading into the season, and they haven't missed the playoffs in seven straight years since the late 80s. Cleveland won 90 games just two years ago and they could be a threat as well.
Here is Doc's Sports 2015 AL Central picks and betting predictions ( with odds courtesy of Sportsbook.ag):
2014 Record: 90-72 (-1150)
2015 Wins Over/Under: 84.5
Odds To Win 2015 AL Central: +220
Odds To Win 2015 AL Pennant: +800
2015 Detroit Tigers Odds to win World Series: +2000
Outlook: You don't need to look any further than Detroit's odds to win the division to see how they have fallen off. Last year they were -200 to win the Central and a shoo-in to play meaningful games in October. But for the second straight season they had to hold off a serious challenge, and for the second time in a row they earned the division title by just one game.
The hype around One Of The Greatest Rotations In Baseball History never materialized last year. Justin Verlander was a train wreck last season, continuing a steady three-year decline. Max Scherzer was excellent but has moved on to Washington. Rick Porcello, who performed over his ability, is gone as well. But midseason addition David Price is more than capable of anchoring the staff. The keys will be Anibal Sanchez bouncing back and Alfredo Simon proving that last year is no fluke.
Detroit is a circus out in the field and one of the worst defensive teams in the league. But they make up for that by having the best lineup in the game. Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez were one of only two pairs of teammates to hit at least .310 last year. J.D. Martinez came out of nowhere to have a monster year (.315/23/76), and the Tigers added Yoenis Cespedes this offseason. Cespedes is on his third team in less than a year. But I love his ability to step up in the clutch, and he'll fit right in with this group of mashers. Add in talented vets Rajai Davis and Ian Kinsler, and there just aren't many easy innings against these guys.
I actually think that Detroit could be better this year. But it all depends on the health of their sluggers. If they get 500 at-bats from Kinsler, Cabrera, Martinez and Cespedes they are going to score over 800 runs and have the best offense in baseball. The Tigers can hit for days. And that has become a rarity in the post-steroid Majors. If the pitching holds up and if they can just get a little better in the field then they should make it four straight division titles.
2014 Record: 92-70 (+2500)
2015 Wins Over/Under: 85.0
Odds To Win 2015 AL Central: +220
Odds To Win 2015 AL Pennant: +1200
2015 Cleveland Indians Odds To Win World Series: +2500
Outlook: The Indians took a slight step back last year following a 92-win campaign in 2013. But the Tribe were still good enough to claim 85 wins, and they were in the playoff hunt into the season's final week. Now Cleveland will try to overtake Detroit as the Tigers' primary challenger in 2015.
Cy Young winner Corey Kluber was a revelation last year and leads a sneaky-good pitching staff. Danny Salazar has potentially electric stuff, and both T.J. House and Kooky Carrasco both had quietly productive seasons. All four of them better be just as good this year, though, because the drop-off is steep, and they don't want to be stuck trotting Josh Tomlin or Zach McAllister out there every fifth day. Francona used his relievers more than any manager in baseball last year and will continue to mix-and-match out of the pen.
Cleveland has an excellent one-two punch in the middle of the order with Michael Brantley and Carlos Santana. But they need healthy and productive seasons from veterans Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis. Bourn and Swisher have been duds as free agent pickups, and the Indians are hoping that won't be the case with new addition Brandon Moss. The Indians also need to get much better in the field if they are going to emerge from a muddled Central.
The Indians, like the White Sox, are another team that prognosticators are falling in love with. But I just don't see it. Cleveland is a good team and Terry Francona has proven that he truly is one of the best managers in the game. But I want to see Cleveland's starting pitchers equal what they were able to accomplish last year before I jump on the bandwagon.
Chicago White Sox
2014 Record: 73-89 (-150)
2015 Wins Over/Under: 82.0
Odds To Win 2015 AL Central: +250
Odds To Win 2015 AL Pennant: +900
2015 Chicago White Sox Odds To Win World Series: +1800
Outlook: The White Sox were active offseason spenders this winter, bringing in a cadre of new players to bolster this sagging clubhouse. They've finished over .500 just once in the last four years, and with the Cubs improving rapidly the White Sox are trying to stave off relegation in the minds of Chicago baseball fans.
Chicago's offense has been built around the long ball the past several seasons. But the problem last year was that they couldn't hit any homers. After slugging 211 dingers in 2012 they have hit just 148 and 155 the past two seasons. Rookie slugger Jose Abreu was amazing last year, posting a .317/36/107 line. The White Sox added Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera to give him some support. I am doubtful that it will be enough, but the Sox - and everyone predicting big things for them - seem confident enough. The X-factor for this lineup, as always, is Alexei Ramirez. He is coming off one of his best seasons, and if he can be a consistent presence that will help solidify things.
Chicago's big offseason pickup was righty Jeff Samardzija. He will team up with a trio of lefties in the Sox rotation. The top lefty is the amazing Chris Sale who, with all due respect to Clayton Kershaw and Jon Lester, may be the best southpaw in the game. He will start the season on the D.L. with a foot injury, but when he gets going he's unhittable. The Sox also grabbed closer Dave Robertson to support a horrendous bullpen. They added some lefty specialists - after going most of last season without one - and improvement from this group is a must if this team is to improve.
The White Sox definitely got better. But I'm not as high on this team as a lot of people. Samardzija was just OK last year after his trade to the American League. While he'll enjoy being back in the city of Chicago, I am still curious how he'll fare in this league. I love Abreu but I am not entirely sold on Cabrera and LaRoche as protection. This whole team still has something to prove.
Kansas City Royals
2014 Record: 89-73 (+310)
2015 Wins Over/Under: 80.0
Odds To Win 2015 AL Central: +550
Odds To Win 2015 AL Pennant: +1500
2015 Kansas City Royals Odds To Win World Series: +3500
Outlook: Last year was a dream season for the feisty Royals. They came tantalizingly close to a surprise World Series win last fall and now will try to gear up for another run this season. And a run is what it will be, as the Royals' speed on the bases remains their defining characteristic.
Kansas City led the Majors with 153 stolen bases last year. They have five different guys that stole 12 or more bases, and they will have a green light again this season. They will miss Billy Butler in the middle of the order. But they are hoping that Kendrys Morales can regain the power stroke he showed flashes of in Los Angeles. Alex Gordon has blossomed, and if Eric Hosmer and Alcides Escobar continue to improve this team will have one of the best young cores around.
Kanas City let James Shields walk and their rotation is in a tenuous spot. Yordano Ventura has the stuff to be an ace. But he still has to prove that he can hold up for 30-35 starts. After that the Royals will trot out experienced, but somewhat mediocre, starters like Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas. The Royals make up for it with an exceptional bullpen. But bullpen success can be fickle from year to year.
The keys to the Royals success are excellent defense, stolen bases, and an amazing bullpen. Those are fundamentals, and I don't expect a big change this year. However, I do think Kansas City is going to take a step back and have somewhat of a letdown this year. They don't have enough starting pitching. And they will be a circled series on a lot of calendars this year. And just ask Texas how quickly things can unravel after getting so close to a championship only to come up short.
2014 Record: 70-92 (-650)
2015 Wins Over/Under: 73.5
Odds To Win 2015 AL Central: +2500
Odds To Win 2015 AL Pennant: +6000
2015 Minnesota Twins Odds To Win World Series: +12000
Outlook: The Twins are making the transition from Ron Gardenhire to Paul Molitor, and it is the beginning of a new era in Minneapolis. I wouldn't expect any overnight success, though, as this team is still a long ways away from competing.
Joe Mauer has yet to live up to the terms of his organization-altering contract and will be back at first base. Mammoth slugger Kennys Vargas is an interesting prospect, and the Twins are hoping to get a full, healthy season from touted prospect Aaron Hicks. They brought back past-his-prime fan favorite Torii Hunter to provide some locker room leadership. And underrated Kurt Suzuki will hold it down behind the plate. There are worse cores. But not many.
The lineup is bad. But Minnesota's starting rotation is the main impediment to improvement. Phil Hughes finally had a breakout season, but I want to see him do it again. As good as his 11-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio was, he still allowed 221 hits and had a 3.50 ERA. Ervin Santana already flamed out of the AL once, and Ricky Nolasco is awful. And Santana and Nolasco are bright spots. That's a problem the Twins simply can't solve at the moment.
The Twins aren't any good. They will cause some problems for some divisional foes. But they've lost at least 92 games in each of the last four seasons and haven't upgraded their talent considerably. In fact, they are basically the same team as last year. I would expect the same results.
2015 American League Central Picks and Predictions: Predicted Order of Finish
1. Detroit Tigers
2. Cleveland Indians
3. Kansas City Royals
4. Chicago White Sox
5. Minnesota Twins
Read more articles by Robert Ferringo
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