Who Needs to Step up as Guardians Become Contenders?
If you had asked the regular Guardians fans if their team would be in first place in the AL Central on June 23rd they probably would’ve laughed in your face, but that is exactly what the reality is for the Guards and their fans. Following an 11-10 comeback win by the Guardians against the Twins on Wednesday night Cleveland is in sole possession of first place in the division. However, even though this team has won 17 of their last 21, does not mean that this team is perfect. If this team is going to remain the contenders that they look to be some players are going to have to step up and lead this team through this season, but the question is who?
Franmil Reyes: First and foremost, the biggest player who needs to step up for this team is the man who is the second biggest power bat in this lineup, Franmil Reyes. Following Wednesday’s contest, Reyes has a .196 average, four home runs, and only 14 RBIs 64 games into the season. While Jose Ramirez is the top power bat in this Guardians lineup, he cannot solely carry this team to the promise land. Reyes is looked at by fans and the front office alike as the second most impactful bat in the lineup and is in the heart of the lineup for a reason, but if Reyes does not get his power stats up this team will likely flounder.
These next selections aren’t players who need to step up, but those who have and need to continue to do so.
The Starting Rotation: If there is ever anything that goes hand in hand with the baseball club in Cleveland it’s a great starting rotation and this season’s rotation is exactly that. Coming into Wednesday’s game they ranked 18th overall in the league, but 10th in the AL. In 64 games this starting rotation has an ERA of 4.13 over 353 innings. 10th in the AL is top tier and is one of the biggest reasons why this team has won seven straight series.
Emmanuel Clase: Speaking of pitching, a player that has been lights out as of late has been closer Emmanuel Clase. Clase has a 1.53 ERA in 31 appearances and 16 saves. The 24-year-old right-hander has proven to be instrumental in the success of the Guardians, not just this season but even last season having 24 saves. Without Clase’s success closing out games this team would be nowhere close to first place in the Central, so if Clase keeps this pace, the back end of the Guardians bullpen should be just fine.
Jose Ramírez: One of the biggest offensive players for this young Guardians team is the face of the franchise, Jose Ramírez. Ramirez has been looked at as the leader of the Guardians since the trade of Francisco Lindor to the Mets in the 2021 offseason. Ramirez has taken the reigns of this team and ran with them having a .302 average, 16 home runs and 62 RBIs this season. While his last 15 games have not been stellar, Ramírez has remained consistent and gotten 19 hits over those 15 games.
This Guardians team was not thought to be a contender for the AL Central this season, but they are in contention and have a chance to be the unlikely underdogs going on this season. If Reyes gets in gear and the Pitching Staff and Ramírez keep up their pace this team should have no problem staying a contender for the Division or in the worst case the Wild Card.