Wanting Via The Guardians’ Outfield Potentialities

The Guardians shocked most onlookers by sprinting to an AL Central title ultimate season, pulling away from the Twins and White Sox with an exquisite September. Cleveland shortly dispatched the Rays throughout the Wild Card sequence sooner than dropping a fastidiously contested Division Assortment in the direction of the Yankees.

There have been myriad causes for the Guardians’ success. Recurring themes have been plus safety throughout the diamond and a traditional willingness to perception youthful place players to run with their alternate options. That was moreover the case throughout the outfield, a unit that was frequent whole nonetheless had a pair standout players.

Cleveland seems principally content material materials working points once more with the equivalent group. The Guardians have added at catcher and first base, bringing in Mike Zunino and Josh Bell by way of free firm. They’ve not gone exterior the group for an outfielder thus far. One would possibly argue for together with a veteran bat considering plenty of the in-house candidates have restricted MLB monitor info, and possibly Cleveland lastly gives a lower-cost depth type like Chad Pinder or Robbie Grossman. There’s most likely not an have an effect on participant coming, though, so it’s value wanting by means of the fairly a couple of in-house decisions who would possibly vie for collaborating in time on the Progressive Self-discipline grass.

Kwan is actually probably the most established of the Cleveland outfielders after a stellar rookie season. He hadn’t been a top-tier prospect early in his expert career nonetheless continued excellence as a minor leaguer garnered him a spot on FanGraphs’ excessive 100 going into ultimate season. Kwan even exceeded these expectations, hitting .298/.373/.400 with further walks than strikeouts over his first 638 MLB plate appearances. He paired that with elite defensive marks in left topic, incomes a Gold Glove and a third-place finish in Rookie of the Yr balloting throughout the course of. Kwan has below-average power nonetheless does all of the items else so successfully he seems like an excellent top-of-the-lineup chance for supervisor Terry Francona. So long as he’s healthful, the Oregon State product is the Guardians left fielder.

Straw seems liable to get one different crack in center topic, at least initially. Acquired from the Astros on the 2021 commerce deadline, Straw stepped in as Cleveland’s fundamental center fielder from there forward. He’s an elite defender and baserunner and appeared to have taken a step forward offensively that season, combining for a .271/.349/.348 slash between the two teams. The Guardians rewarded him ultimate spring with a $25MM contract extension that runs at least by means of the 2026 advertising marketing campaign.

The 28-year-old’s first full season in Cleveland was mixed. He continued to play great safety, with Statcast crediting him for 13 outs above frequent for his work in center topic. Like Kwan, Straw secured his first Gold Glove. The offensive output plummeted though. He hit solely .221/.273/.291 all through 596 plate appearances. By measure of wRC+, solely Jonathan Schoop and Geraldo Perdomo have been a lot much less environment friendly hitters (minimal 500 PA’s).

Straw posted a couple of of the league’s worst batted ball metrics and didn’t be part of on a single home run. His safety and baserunning means he doesn’t should hit lots to be a worthwhile regularly participant, nonetheless the Cleveland entrance office is definitely hoping for just a bit further output on the plate. Straw doesn’t seem in imminent hazard of dropping his job, nonetheless posting one different sub-.600 OPS by means of the All-Star Break could lead on on the doorway office to ponder deadline potentialities in order so as to add just a bit further offensive firepower in center topic.

Gonzalez, who turns 25 at current, was yet another success story in a loaded Cleveland rookie class. The proper-handed hitter posted a .282/.308/.506 line by means of 41 video video games at Triple-A Columbus to earn his first MLB title in late May. He caught throughout the majors from then on and immediately hit the underside working. Over 382 journeys to the plate, Gonzalez hit .296/.327/.461 with 11 home runs and 27 doubles. He had a pair heroic moments throughout the playoffs as successfully, connecting on the walk-off home run to do away with Tampa Bay and a game-winning two-run single in the direction of the Yankees. These clutch hits overshadowed a mediocre .226/.250/.323 whole batting line in 32 postseason plate appearances.

It was a strong enough season to position himself on the map as a potential long-term piece throughout the Cleveland outfield, and he’s the likeliest participant to open the yr in correct. However there’s a very good bit a lot much less certainty in Gonzalez sustaining his great rookie sort than there’ll be in Kwan’s case. Gonzalez has on no account been a favorite of most prospect evaluators due to questions on his aggressive technique and below-average nook outfield safety. Cleveland left him unprotected prematurely of the Rule 5 draft as not too way back as a result of the 2021-22 offseason in consequence.

Gonzalez’s good yr quiets these concerns to some extent, nonetheless they’re not totally answered. He swung at nearly half the pitches exterior the strike zone he observed as a rookie, placing him near the very best of the league in that regard. His 3.9% stroll share was among the many many lowest throughout the sport. Possibly Gonzalez has specific enough hand-eye coordination and power that it obtained’t matter. He’ll should present it in a second extended run in the direction of MLB arms.

If Kwan, Straw and Gonzalez is Cleveland’s Opening Day outfield, Brennan seems the participant most actually to interrupt into the mix off the bench. The left-handed hitter fits the Guardians’ mildew of high-contact bats, having on no account struck out at even a 17% clip at any minor league stop. He went down on strikes merely 12.2% of the time at Triple-A ultimate season, hitting .316/.367/.471 with 9 home runs and 15 steals all through 433 plate appearances. He earned a late-season MLB look and carried out successfully in his first 11 video video games.

Baseball America ranked Brennan the #10 prospect in a deep Cleveland farm system this offseason. The outlet praises his contact skills, athleticism and arm power nonetheless questions his power potential. Brennan can play center topic nonetheless BA suggests he’s most likely a stronger defensive match throughout the nook outfield. It’s simple to stage to some similarities between him and Kwan, although the latter’s minor league monitor file was just a bit larger. Brennan’s probably a larger hitter than Straw correct now and will probably be a candidate to take elevated center topic reps if Straw continues to wrestle offensively — considerably since Straw can come off the bench later in video video games when the Guardians are looking out for his or her best defensive unit to protect a lead.

A bat-first utility chance, Palacios moreover made his MLB debut in 2022. He didn’t break in along with plenty of the totally different Cleveland rookies, hitting .232/.293/.286 with out a longball in his first 123 journeys to the dish. It wasn’t a terrific first look nonetheless Palacios had a top quality .279/.371/.458 line with larger than frequent strikeout and stroll marks by means of 45 video video games at Triple-A. He can play the nook outfield spots and supply some depth on the exact facet of the infield.

Valera, 22, is further probably a midseason probability than a candidate to interrupt camp. He’s on the 40-man roster nonetheless solely has 42 video video games of Triple-A experience. After a strong Double-A exhibiting, he hit .221/.324/.448 with 9 homers in 179 plate appearances on the excessive minor league diploma, strolling at a top quality 12.3% clip in the direction of a 25.1% strikeout value. Valera is the #4 prospect throughout the group at BA and considered a potential high-OBP nook outfielder at his peak; whether or not or not he’ll be capable to contribute to a win-now Cleveland membership at any stage in 2023 relies upon upon how successfully he reveals in his first full season at Triple-A.

A former first-round draftee, Benson is a high-risk upside play behind the 40-man roster. His minor league monitor file has been wildly inconsistent. He’s coming off a terrific 2022 exhibiting in Triple-A, the place he mashed at a .278/.426/.522 clip with 17 homers and 16 steals by means of 401 plate appearances. He earned a brief MLB look nonetheless sputtered to a .168/.252/.200 line over 28 video video games. The left-handed hitter has always intrigued with giant power potential in a 6’5″ physique and a very discerning eye on the plate. That’s been paired with monumental strikeout tallies at situations all by way of his minor league career, although he solely fanned in a roughly frequent 22.7% of his journeys in Columbus ultimate yr.

That’s seven players, all of whom are on the 40-man roster and controllable for an prolonged whereas. Cleveland’s considerably deep in left-handed decisions (solely Straw and Gonzalez hit from the exact facet). There was enough depth in that regard the Guardians felt cozy sending Nolan Jones — one different lefty bat who profiled as a nook outfielder with José Ramírez entrenched at third base in Cleveland — to Colorado for infield prospect Juan Brito.

Whereas there’s an abundance of attention-grabbing controllable outfield decisions in Cleveland, none has a chronic monitor file of large league productiveness. Kwan seems similar to probably the most safe wager after his unbelievable rookie yr. All people else comes with question marks of assorted ranges.

Straw and Gonzalez seem liable to get the first crack at jobs alongside Kwan as soon as extra, though they’ll have some intriguing youthful players obtainable as contingency plans. Supplementing the group with a veteran righty bat may probably be a pleasing luxurious addition for president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and his staff sooner than the season will get underway. Any pickup would decide to be a low-cost complement to Cleveland’s quite a few in-house youthful players, who’ll as soon as extra be entrusted with important roles as they seem to repeat as division champs.