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Few divisions benefit from the chaos of this MLB season more than the AL Central, which is paired with the NL Central to create a favorable schedule for its top three teams. It also provides a clear opportunity to bet high on the division's top teams and fade the two bottom-feeders.
Here are the win totals for all five teams in the AL Central, with our lean on their chances in 2020:
|Chicago White Sox||31.5|
|Kansas City Royals||24.5|
After the Twins broke out with 101 wins in 2019, the second-most in franchise history, there's no discount entering 2020 - their win total is the fourth-highest in the majors. But that still only projects as a 93-win pace in a regular year, and this team is plenty good enough to reach that mark.
Minnesota plugs former MVP Josh Donaldson - who was still a top 30 hitter in a "down" 2019, per FanGraphs - into an offense that broke the MLB record for homers last year and faces one of the easiest slates of opposing pitchers of any team in 2020. Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi anchor a rotation that's steady enough to complement an all-star lineup, with a stellar bullpen in support. This should be an easy over.
If the Twins have the easiest schedule in the division, the Indians aren't far behind, and they're built perfectly to mash through it. Cleveland's pitching staff is the best in the division, and its power bats are primed to exploit the weak arms at the bottom of the AL and NL Central.
Still, there are questions. Francisco Lindor's future with the franchise is in doubt - if he's gone, can Jose Ramirez erase a down year and step up as the lead bat? Can the starting trio of Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger, and Carlos Carrasco stave off regression and health concerns? There's simply too much uncertainty with this club to have a strong lean either way.
It's been a while since there was this much justified excitement around the White Sox, who splurged in the offseason to build one of the more intriguing rosters in baseball. Yasmani Grandal and Edwin Encarnacion are major upgrades for a team that had one of the worst lineups in MLB, and Dallas Keuchel is a strong addition to an improving staff.
Is it enough to get over the hump? Lucas Giolito needs to be a star if the White Sox want to compete with the rest of the division, but - like the teams ahead of them - they benefit greatly from an easy schedule. There's some risk that the bottom falls out, but Chicago should be able to muster an 86-win pace.
Despite back-to-back 100-loss seasons, there is some real talent on this Royals roster. Jorge Soler is one of the best power bats in the bigs, Whit Merrifield is a two-time reigning hits leader, and few players are better on the basepaths than Adalberto Mondesi.
Unfortunately, that doesn't add up to a whole lot when the pitching staff is as bad as Kansas City's, which ranked dead last in SIERA (4.89) in 2019 and did little to remedy the rotation heading into 2020. Winning 25 of 60 games would represent a nearly 10-win jump from the pace of the last two seasons. That isn't happening for this squad.
There's not much to say about the Tigers, who have lost 310 games over the last three years and have virtually no shot of contending in 2020. Detroit's best hope is to call up some of its elite pitching talent, but would the organization waste service time in this fluky season?
The clearest argument for the over is fading the extremes in a chaotic season. Yet this win total isn't that extreme - it works out to roughly 58 wins in a normal year, which is 11 wins higher than last year's record. Unless Casey Mize is the second coming of Nolan Ryan, you can safely go under here.
C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.