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2024 NL Central Preview: It’s Anyone’s Division to Win

Without mincing words, it’s highly improbable that this year’s National League World Series contender will emerge from the Central Division. Although the unpredictable nature of postseason baseball allows for any possibility, it seems unlikely that readers here are betting heavily on any of the division’s five teams to make a significant impact in October.

If you are, stop throwing money away and focus on the World Series champion coming out of a different division. There are many MLB prop bets you can make today, but let’s be sure you are making the right one. Capeesh?

2024 NL Central Preview: It’s Anyone’s Division to Win
Cody Bellinger #24 of the Chicago Cubs | Quinn Harris/Getty Images/AFP

Nonetheless, the division remains intriguing and there’s a legitimate argument to be made for each team’s potential to come out on top.

1. Chicago Cubs

  • Odds to Win Division: +175
  • Odds to Win NL Pennant: +1600
  • Odds to Win World Series: +3500

 

In 2024, the Chicago Cubs stand out with significant changes, notably with Craig Counsell steering the ship as the new, high-profile manager. This shift represents the most considerable difference for the Cubs, who narrowly missed last year’s playoffs. Despite lacking a marquee superstar, their lineup is full of capable two-way players, complemented by a versatile and deep pitching staff. Although missing a definitive No. 1 starter or closer, these elements could propel them in a division lacking clear front-runners.


The Cubs have enhanced their competitiveness with strategic additions like Cody Bellinger and Shōta Imanaga and by retaining core players from 2023. Counsell’s experience and leadership in a larger market should further catalyze this improvement. Given the uncertain identity of other NL Central teams, the Cubs, boasting continuity and a robust farm system, emerge as division favorites. Their aim? To clinch a postseason berth for the first time since 2020.

The Cubs are a popular dark horse to beat the MLB betting odds and make a World Series run in 2024. While everyone loves a Cinderella story, this ain’t it, so look elsewhere for your championship future.

2. St. Louis Cardinals

  • Odds to Win Division: +185
  • Odds to Win NL Pennant: +1600
  • Odds to Win World Series: +3500

 

Heading into 2024, the St. Louis Cardinals appear to rely on a rebound from last season, hoping that downturns were temporary. With critical figures like Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado two years removed from peak performances, the team’s core is aging, signaling a potentially narrowing window of opportunity. Despite this, the emergence of young talents such as Jordan Walker, Nolan Gorman, Brendan Donovan and Lars Nootbaar underscores a shimmer of playoff potential. These talents aim to solidify the lineup and make good on the Cardinals’ +185 MLB odds to win the division.

John Mozeliak, the Cardinals’ president of baseball operations, underscores that pitching will be the linchpin for success. Despite a solid batting lineup, the pitching rotation, even with new additions like Sonny Gray, Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn, remains a question mark. The Cardinals’ fate in the manageable NL Central hinges on their pitching efficacy, with a mere 85 wins possibly being enough to secure the division title.

Yet, the real challenge lies in whether their pitching can support their competitive lineup throughout the season. Gray is already injured, so things aren’t looking up before the season even starts.

3. Cincinnati Reds

  • Odds to Win Division: +350
  • Odds to Win NL Pennant: +2200
  • Odds to Win World Series: +4000

 

In 2024, the Cincinnati Reds, buoyed by a solid young core, are poised to demonstrate they’re more than a team of untapped potential. Elly De La Cruz is expected to ascend to full stardom, with Matt McLain and Spencer Steer possibly joining him in the spotlight. However, the season hinges on the progress of their starting pitching. The development of Hunter Greene, Frankie Montas and Nick Lodolo is crucial for the Reds to challenge the Cubs for the division title and secure a wild-card spot.


The Reds, no longer underdogs, are led by young talents like Jonathan India, who is now considered a veteran in this youthful squad. The team’s success will significantly depend on the starting rotation’s ability to transition from potential to reliability, particularly with the additions of Montas and Nick Martinez.

Given the competitive nature of the NL Central, the Reds are expected to contend for a playoff berth, making anything less than that a disappointment. For my money, the Reds have the best risk/reward potential in the division and are my MLB pick to win the NL Central.

4. Milwaukee Brewers

  • Odds to Win Division: +650
  • Odds to Win NL Pennant: +4000
  • Odds to Win World Series: +10000

 

In 2024, the Milwaukee Brewers will present a mix of the familiar and the new, maintaining a competitive edge that could see them exceed expectations again. Their strategy involves integrating young talents like Jackson Chourio, Garrett Mitchell, Sal Frelick, Brice Turang and possibly Joey Ortiz alongside established names such as Christian Yelich, Rhys Hoskins, Willy Adames and William Contreras. Their success hinges not just on these veterans but also on the contributions of the younger players.

Pitching is a mixed bag, with Freddy Peralta stepping up as the ace, supported by promising youngsters and seasoned veterans. However, the bullpen faces challenges, particularly with the absence of standout closer Devin Williams. Despite a fundamentally strong team, the Brewers are surrounded by uncertainties, especially with their less experienced players and bullpen dynamics. With this blend of potential and unpredictability, the Brewers’ pursuit of playoff contention amidst a fiercely competitive NL Central is fraught with opportunity and challenge.

5. Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Odds to Win Division: +1800
  • Odds to Win NL Pennant: +8000
  • Odds to Win World Series: +12500

 

The Pittsburgh Pirates, after an active offseason aimed at bolstering a youthful squad, enter 2024 with tempered yet optimistic expectations. Having shown promise in the early months of last season before declining, they anticipate a similar trajectory this year but with additional emerging talent. While a postseason berth remains ambitious, their prospects are brighter in a relatively balanced division.

The Pirates have strategically enhanced their roster, welcoming Rowdy Tellez’s power and Michael A. Taylor’s defensive prowess alongside a slew of one-year contract signees, addressing immediate needs without long-term commitments. Aroldis Chapman’s addition is set to fortify the bullpen, contrasting with a rotation that still raises questions, led by All-Star Mitch Keller and supported by experienced left-handers Martín Pérez and Marco Gonzales. With prospects like Jared Jones and Paul Skenes on the horizon, the Pirates could surprise in an NL Central that lacks a clear front-runner, as projections suggest a tight race from top to bottom.

 

 

Questions of the Day

Who is favored to win the World Series among NL Central teams?


The Chicago Cubs have the best World Series Vegas betting odds among teams in the NL Central.

Are there any MVP candidates in the NL Central?


St. Louis’ Nolan Arenado is +4000 to win the NL MVP as a deep-cut dark horse bet online this season.

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