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MLB National League Central Futures for the 2024 Season: Updated Odds And Lines For The Top Teams

Publish Date: 05/19/2024
Fact checked by: Allan Howe

The National League Central is truly anyone's game as we hit the middle of May. The St. Louis Cardinals, who were the favorites to win the division before the season began, find themselves with one of the worst records in baseball. The upstart Cincinnati Reds are just a game above them.

(Photo by Griffin Quinn/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, the two teams who entered with plenty of questions to answer -- the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers -- have begun to separate from the pack and find themselves neck-and-neck for the division lead entering play in the third week of May.

What are we to make of these teams, and their odds? Let's break down each of the five teams below as we preview the MLB Futures market.

Chicago Cubs Odds to Win (+110)

The Cubs were my favorite bet on the board during Spring Training simply because of the other-worldly potential they hold. The lineup is fantastic with few -- if any -- holes to be found while the rotation has only gotten stronger after a near-storybook push to the top of the NL Central a year ago.

I think Chicago is the clear favorite here, and after seeing how the rest of the division has performed I may even bump them down to -110. It has one of the six best offenses in the National League by wRC+, and while there's room to improve there this starting rotation has been dynamite with the continued progression of Justin Steele and the addition of Shota Imanaga.

Considering Steele -- the ace of this staff -- just returned from an injury that's kept him out nearly the whole season to this point, I think there's certainly a case to be made that the Cubs may even be short-changed by their record here.

The bullpen is a big issue, sure, but with a strong farm system the Cubs should be able to bring in some fantastic arms in the trade market to shore up what's really their only weakness.

Milwaukee Brewers Odds to Win (+145)

The Brewers are one of the few teams that have out-produced the Cubs at the plate, which has come as a massive surprise to just about everybody. Long a team which has waffled offensively and leaned on their sturdy stable of pitchers to win games, the Brewers have done the complete opposite this season.

That's why it's hard to take the Brewers this seriously. After Freddy Peralta -- who I still have my own questions about -- there is no hope to found anywhere in this starting rotation aside from maybe rookie Robert Gasser, who has pitched exactly one big-league game.

DL Hall will soon be back from injury, but he was horrendous prior to landing on the IL, and behind all of these middling starters there are two elite bullpen arms and a bunch of guys wo have had their fair share of struggles in 2024.

It's just about whether or not you trust this offense to keep producing at a level which is far above what we saw last season. For me, I don't think it'll last -- and that will unmask the glaring and rather surprising issues the Brewers have with their pitching.

Cincinnati Reds Odds to Win (+1000)

This is about right for the Reds, though I would say after returning the likes of TJ Friedl and Jake Fraley off the injured list things should begin to improve for Cincinnati. There is, of course, cornerstone infielder Noelvi Marte as well -- who will return to the team in July or so after serving a suspension for PEDs.

Still, outside of Elly De La Cruz and Spencer Steer there isn't a lot working at the plate right now for the Reds which will really put the onus on their returning bats to pick up the slack.

The good news here is that this starting rotation has far exceeded expectations, particularly considering it pitches in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball, but the bad news is the bullpen has been cataclysmic and nearly erased all the good that the starters have done.

St. Louis Cardinals Odds to Win (+1200)

How the mighty have fallen.

I never understood the Cardinals' pre-season odds to begin with considering their lineup was incredibly uninspiring and was relying upon a declining Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado to carry most of the load. They're currently 25th in wRC+ as a team with little hope to be found anywhere.

I mean, a returning Matt Carpenter -- at 38-years-old --is currently the only sense of real optimism here. Rookie Victor Scott fell flat on his face after a promotion to the Opening Day roster, and wunderkind Jordan Walker continued to struggle at the big-league level in his second full season before he was eventually sent down to Triple-A.

Nothing is working at the moment, and nobody seems to be on the cusp of a turnaround.

In an ironic twist, the biggest area of concern for me before the year -- the rotation -- has been a bright spot. It's a damned shame that this lineup has spoiled some surprising years from Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson, and unlike the Cubs there's really no hope to be found in Triple-A after more and more position players rise to the big leagues and fail to do much of anything.

Pittsburgh Pirates Odds (+2000)

If we're being honest here, the Pirates should have better odds to win this division than the Cardinals. Not only are they ahead of Cincinnati and St. Louis in the standings as of this writing, they've actually looked like a competent ballclub on more occasions than we really expected.

Sure, former No. 1 overall pick Henry Davis ultimately struggled so much that he needed a demotion to Triple-A, and sure one of the worst hitting coaches in the NL has unsurprisingly led this team to a 26th-ranked wRC+ through May 11.

Even then, with Oneil Cruz and Byran Reynolds tearing it up at the plate, we can't really say this Pittsburgh offense is in a much worse place than the ones in St. Louis and Cincinnati, who are currently being driven by two or fewer bats.

Connor Joe has provided a ton of offense at multiple positions, Jack Suwinski is due for a Jack Suwinski month, and there is some hope here with hot-hitting youngsters coming up from the farm.

The biggest reason for hope, though, is obviously the right arm of Paul Skenes. The legendary pitching prospect is now in the big leagues, and he could quickly form one of the best 1-2 tandems in baseball with Jared Jones. Martin Perez has been legitimately good and the bullpen hasn't been that bad?

I don't know, I think there's plenty to feel good about with the rebuilding Pirates.

Best bet for the NL Central Futures

I'm not going to be bold enough to recommend taking the Pirates to win this division, though I do think this number is somewhat questionable. With that, there's only one choice to be made here and that's the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs are already head and shoulders above the rest of the division in my eyes, and I only think they're going to get stronger with Steele back in the rotation and plenty of exciting young players ready to join the team this summer.

In addition to that, they have one of the best farm systems in baseball which should make it very easy to shore up the bullpen -- the only negative with this team -- by the deadline.

Chicago has done more than enough to convince me that it will run away with this division, particularly with how concerning some of the trends have been with its division rivals. I'd have them around -130 right now, so I see plenty of value left in taking the north-siders.

Best Bet: Cubs to win the NL Central (+110)

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Allan Howe
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