LOD’s 3 Players to Watch: Cleveland Guardians
In 2022, the Guardians put together a late season surge to capture the AL Central title. The youngest team in MLB would go on to knock out the Rays in the Wild Card Series and took the Yankees to five games in the ALDS. The 2022 team made their mark with their arms, including a strong rotations headed by Shane Bieber. They’re bullpen has also been ranked in the top five in the league, anchored by Emmanuel Clase (2022 MLB Saves leader). However, the most interesting part of the team might actually be the everyday players who made their mark in 2o22.
Last season, the Guardians were third overall in stolen bases (119), a stat that should only increase with new rules. They were also fourth overall in triples (31) and last overall in strikeouts. These should all be encouraging signs for Cleveland baseball fans. If the Guardians can continue be a strong contact team and remain active on the base paths, they can win a lot ballgames.
Steven Kwan, OF
Kwan may be small in stature, just 5′ 9″ and 170 lbs, but large in impact he made for the Guardians in his rookie season. The left fielder and lead-off hitter earned a Gold Glove and finished third in Rookie of the Year voting. Kwan was second overall in MLB in Triples (7) in 2022. He also stole 19 bases. The 25 year old was a 5th round pick in the 2018 Draft out of a national champion Oregon State team, which also included Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman.
Andres Gimenez, 2B
The 24 year old Venezuelan had a breakout season in 2022. Gimenez his 17 HR / 69 RBI / .297 BA / .837 OPS and stole 20 bases. He represented the team in the All-Star Game and won a Gold Glove as well. Cleveland might have found themselves quite a combination in the middle infield, between Gimenez and shortstop Amed Rosario. The Guardians have Gimenez locked into a 7 year deal that lasts through 2029.
He’s always been Gim.
— Cleveland Guardians (@CleGuardians) November 1, 2022
Josh Bell, 1B
In 2022, only the Detroit Tigers (110) had fewer home runs than the Cleveland Guardians (127). Cleveland is hoping the addition of Josh Bell will help bolster some of those power numbers in 2023. Josh Bell came up with the Pirates and by 2019 had himself a monster year at the plate, blasting 37 HR / 116 RBI / .277 BA / .936 OPS. He departed Pittsburgh for Washington in 2021 and put up solid numbers as well, 27 HR / 88 RBI / .261 BA / .823. Bell split time between the Nationals and Padres last season. The Guardians hope that adding Bell will result in a power combo between Bell and Jose Ramirez, that can drive in more runs for Cleveland.
Strong Combination in Cleveland
The more you look at this Cleveland Guardians roster, the more there is to like about it. Their combination of speed and contact hitting, along with their strong starting rotation and highly ranked bullpen make them formidable once again in 2023. Another key ingredient to their success is an outstanding defense. The 2022 Guardians included four Gold Glove winners (tied a franchise record). In addition to Kwan and Gimenez, Shane Bieber and center fielder Miles Straw were also given the league’s highest defensive award. When you combine these factors, along with being the youngest team in MLB, look out for the Cleveland Guardians this season and for years to come.