Youthful Cleveland Guardians Set for Another Successful Season


Photo courtesy of Drew Scofield

Opening Day for MLB occurred yesterday.

The Cleveland Guardians started their season last night on the road against the Seattle Mariners. The team is coming off a stellar 2022 season in which it won the American League Central and a series in the playoffs with the youngest roster in the Major Leagues. The roster boasts a strong core of position players and some notable pitchers who should bring more success to Cleveland in 2023.

Third baseman José Ramírez, the heart and soul of the team since he broke out in 2016, will once again be expected to lead the team. The Dominican Republic native hit 29 home runs with a .355 on-base percentage last season, all while dealing with a thumb injury for a majority of the year. He also finished in the top 15 in the MLB in wins above replacement — a stat used to evaluate a player’s entire game that combines hitting, fielding, and baserunning statistics. Expect Ramírez to continue his remarkable career in Cleveland and compete for the American League MVP in 2023.

Venezuela native second-baseman Andrés Giménez is another player with extremely well rounded skills. The 24-year-old broke out last year in his first full Major League season and had a .371 on-base percentage with 17 home runs and 20 stolen bases. He won a Gold Glove Award for his defense and finished with a 7.2 WAR — sixth in the league. Giménez just signed a seven-year extension to stay in Cleveland through the rest of the decade and has incredible potential

25-year-old Steven Kwan burst onto the scene in 2022 in his rookie year. The outfielder made the Opening Day roster last season and proceeded to put the bat on the ball all year. He led the team with his .298 batting average and .371 on-base percentage and struck out in just nine percent of his plate appearances — the league average is around 24 percent. Like Gimenéz, Kwan is a two-way player and earned a Gold Glove Award for his work in left field. Pitchers will have a lot of film on Kwan now, but his bat-toball ability should allow him to remain one of the best pure hitters in the league.

Other position players to watch out for include first basemen Josh Bell and Josh Naylor, who will look to add some power to Cleveland’s lineup. Shortstop Amed Rosario and outfielder Oscar Gonzalez will look to build off of 2022 seasons in which they racked up hits. A potential breakout player for the Guardians is outfielder Will Brennan, who quickly rose through the minors in 2022 and found himself batting in pivotal moments in the playoffs last October.

The pitching staff is led by Shane Bieber, who has proven himself as one of the best starters in the game when healthy. He won the 2020 American League Cy Young Award and had a great season in 2022 with a 2.88 ERA and two solid playoff appearances. Bieber’s slider and curveball remain some of the hardest pitches to hit in the game, and he is in position for another successful year.

Triston McKenzie, another key pitcher, will unfortunately be sidelined with a shoulder injury for up to the first eight weeks of the season after having a fantastic 2022 season. Closer Emmanuel Clase, who throws a 100 mile per hour cutter and won American League Reliever of the Year in 2022 while leading the league in saves, will likely continue to make hitters look foolish this year. A pitcher we could see breaking out for the Guardians is reliever Tim Herrin, who throws a fastball in the high 90s and a devastating slider.

If you are looking for good times to see these players, the Guardians have a number of big matchups to open the season. They host the Mariners in the first weekend of their home schedule from April 7–9 and face Aaron Judge and the Yankees the following week from April 10–12. As the calendar flips to May, Cleveland will host the division rival Minnesota Twins from May 5–7 and Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels from May 12–14.