Cleveland Guardians looming 40-man roster crunch
The Cleveland Guardians have a lot of roster decisions to make within the next week before the Rule 5 Draft deadline. This is when their 40-man roster must be set because they need to protect their prospects from the Rule 5 Draft. The biggest roster decisions they have made thus far was to pick up the option on their star third baseman Jose Ramirez and they declined the option of their long time catcher Roberto Perez.
Both of these decisions we’re no-brainers. As I’ve previously mentioned Ramirez has the best contract in MLB at $12 million and Perez clearly isn’t worth $7.5 million with his lack of offense. They also have three free agents. Catcher Wilson Ramos, right handed pitchers Blake Parker and Bryan Shaw. With this the roster currently has 19 pitchers and 17 hitters. Leaving them with four openings to fill with guys they need to protect from the Rule 5 Draft on November 19th.
The first place to look is the catcher position since Austin Hedges is the only guy that’s currently on the 40-man roster. Below I will list all of the players that can be candidates to fill the 40-man.
Catcher/Bryan Lavastida- Lavastia was a 15th round draft pick in 2018 and has shown offensive upside mainly in Double-A Akron this past season. He hit nine home runs with 51 RBI across 84 games in all three minor league levels. He hit just under .290 with an OPS of .836. His offense could translate to the big league level but there are many questions about his defense.
Catcher/Bo Naylor- Naylor was their sixth ranked prospect coming into the season, but he took a huge step back batting under .190 in Double-A. He was a first round pick in 2018 and was thought to be one of better hitting catchers in that draft class. In 2019 he had 39 extra base hits in low-A ball. His defense is pretty solid and he’s more advanced than they thought he would be behind the plate.
Outfielder/George Valera- Valera was signed as an international prospect in 2017 and he’s arguably their best prospect. He must be protected at all costs, especially considering how weak their Outfield is at the big league level. He could very well be the answer in a year or two. He could project as a LF and he does everything well. He has a great lefty swing, can run a little bit, with decent range and arm strength. In High-A and Double-A he has an OPS over .900 with 19 home runs, 65 RBI and 11 stolen bases.
Infielder/Tyler Freeman- Freeman was their top rated prospect before the season and he was picked in the second-round of the supplemental draft in 2017. He is a great contact hitter but he doesn’t offer much power. However he rarely strikes out and has one of the better batting averages in the minor leagues with a career average of .319. He’s a reliable defender at shortstop but could very well end up transitioning to second base. Last year he stole just four bases, but he only played in 41 Double-A games. In 2019 he stole 19 bases in 123 games.
INF/OF- Richie Palacios- Palacios was drafted in the third-round in 2018. He has had to overcome a lot of adversity due to shoulder surgery and the pandemic. After losing two seasons he came back with a vengeance this year. He had an OPS of .875 with seven home runs, 48 RBI and 20 stolen bases. He offers versatility as a middle infielder and an outfielder, but it’s likely he could end up in CF at the big league level. Last year he ended the season in Triple-A and could very well be on the doorstep of the majors.
Infielder- Bryan Rocchio- Rocchio was signed as an international prospect in 2017. He’s a plus defender at shortstop with a quick release. He has speed with 21 steals across Single-A and Double-A last season, but he gets thrown out more than you’d like. He hit 277 with 15 home runs and 63 RBI.
The Cleveland Guardians have a bunch of interesting roster decisions to make. They won’t be able to protect all of these guys, but they could open up some space by trading a few guys on the 40-man such as SP Zach Plesac, OF’s Josh Naylor, Harold Ramirez or Bradley Zimmer