April 20, 2024

Guardians Starting Six? And Some Good Problems to Have

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As pitchers and catchers report to Goodyear Arizona, besides warm weather there is a lot to be excited about looking at this 2024 season. With the most mediocre division in baseball, the Guardians look to dominate with pitching and the potential young bats. The roster hasn’t changed much. We know now that we are going to get a below-average offense from the outfield positions. The infield has a solid core of youth and veterans. So the question is how will they be better without any offseason additions?

With ownership that’s finally transitioning to David Blitzer, these next four years may be hard to see any spending coming from the top. However, as we look into our crystal baseball there seems to be a lot in there to like. Kyle Manzardo topping this list. His bat caught fire in the fall league. He seems to be poised to take over the first base position. The 59th overall prospect in the minors, If Manzardo has a hot spring look to see Josh Naylor as the everyday DH or even make the move to outfield. Now let’s move to the outfield. Chase DeLauter may be the most interesting prospect coming into the spring. The 23-year-old is 6’4”. He’s graded at a 60-power tool with a mix of speed and plate discipline. If he makes it to the show this year his impact could immediately be felt. He has a big arm that could help him earn a spot in center or right field. You don’t want to see him brought up too early but the Guardians also could really use the outfield pop. The Guardians seem to have some good problems heading into this season. What do you do with Brayan Rocchio? You have your every day up the middle with Gimenez and Arias. You also have Deyvison De Los Santos and Jhonkensy Noel knocking at the door. Petey Halpin also seems poised to be making another jump. He may get some at-bats this year in CLE but seems locked in to start in Akron or Columbus while he works on his offensive tools.

Pitching this year could be some of the best in the majors if you get a healthy Shane Bieber back as your one. He could lay the groundwork for an unconventional six man rotation that you see with the Angels and Padres. His offseason progress makes it look like he has a chip on his shoulder and really wants to dominate. Triston McKenzie looks as if he is back to full health and speaks about a double Ace rotation. The key to both of their success this season will be their health. Sticks is young, but there isn’t a ton of muscle to protect him. Long-term durability will be his biggest question mark. Tanner Bibee had a fantastic breakout season last year. Let’s hope there is no sophomore slump and that he can build off of 2023’s success to be even better. Gavin Williams is fun to watch. He is tall with a big arm. His fastball has great movement and his other three pitches are all used well. Watching him grow this year could be exciting. Logan Allen as your five will be interesting. His ceiling is limited due to his velocity. But he has succeeded at every level with smart pitching.

Finally, we come to the 6th pitcher in the rotation. Admittedly not likely, BUT Daniel Espino gets you excited about what could be if he were to just be able to stay healthy. At 23 years old he has missed multiple seasons of baseball. Maybe he’s just getting the injuries out of the way early. Maybe this will be what defines his career.

Regardless, he has tremendous upside. He’s punched 103 on the pitch clock with his four-seam. A solid slider with a good curve and a weird sinking change-up makes him a terror on the mound. If he’s ready and healthy he’s absolutely going to be fighting for a starting spot. So, what’s stopping rookie manager Stephen Vogt from giving all of his starters an extra day off to protect a seemingly fragile group?

Regardless of five or six starters, this year’s Guardians roster seems to have a tremendous upside. They are young and hungry, with some great leadership in Jose. With Hedges looking like a player coach there just seems to be great vibes heading into the season. It should be fun to watch well into the fall if all goes right.

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