Let’s take a look at the Cleveland Guardians’ 28-man roster heading into the 2022 season.
Opening Day, incredibly, is this week, and the Cleveland Guardians have finalized their 28-man roster going into what once felt like an improbable season.
The youth movement is about to be on in full force whether anyone likes it or not, but the Guardians now have an intriguing roster of young players, many of whom had great springs. But now the games are for real, and Cleveland still believes it can contend for a playoff spot.
The only thing left to do now is see how it all plays out.
5 Thoughts on the Cleveland Guardians’ 28-man Roster
1. Unleash Steven Kwan in a full-time role
Rookie outfielder Steven Kwan has been perhaps the most impressive player for the Guardians this spring training, hitting .429 in 28 at-bats and, most importantly, not striking out at all. Pair that with Bradley Zimmer, who had a much tougher spring with 15 strikeouts in 27 at-bats, and Kwan looks even more enticing in the outfield.
This is nothing new for Kwan, who has barely struck out during his minor-league career. His approach is to always make contact, but he’s recently been able to add a little more power to his game, which only helps his appeal. But having a bat like Kwan’s at the bottom of the lineup could do wonders for the Guardians offense. Assuming he gets decent playing time – and it would be a crime if he didn’t – the Guardians will need to make a final decision on Zimmer once Josh Naylor returns from the IL.
2. Who wants second base?
The infield competition was more intense this spring than anticipated. Yu Chang, Ernie Clement, Owen Miller and Andrés Giménez all had fantastic springs, once again leaving fans hoping that, maybe – just maybe – spring training stats aren’t all that useless.
With Amed Rosario willing to play some left field, there will be playing time available at shortstop as well, meaning these four players will continue to duke it out. It’s not inconceivable that a few of them could be taking developmental leaps this season, which would once again result in an incredible boon to Cleveland’s lineup.
3. The youth movement is on, whether fans like it or not
It was tremendously frustrating for Guardians fans to watch the team stand pat this offseason while so many other organizations went on unfettered spending sprees. Though Cleveland was in talks with a number of teams on potential trades – for first baseman Matt Olson and outfielder Jesse Winker for example – nothing came to fruition and the team had to pivot to the full-on youth movement you now see before you.
There will no doubt be growing pains in this process, but the Guardians are finally going to see what they have in their seemingly endless supply of prospects, many of whom are breaking into the majors at the very same time. This doesn’t mean an in-season trade is off the table by any means, but the Guardians seem to be confident in this emerging crop of talent.
4. The specter of José Ramírez’s contract situation looms
Social media rumors were heating up last week as the Guardians were talking with Ramírez’s people on a possible contract extension ahead of the self-imposed Opening Day deadline of April 7. There’s still a chance something gets done this week, which would go a long way to helping fans feel better about the direction of the franchise. But if the Guardians go into the season as the youngest team in baseball, with an embarrassingly low payroll as it is, and Ramírez trade rumors swirling basically every day through to the trade deadline (the Blue Jays want him especially bad)… well, it’s going to be a long year.
5. Nick Sandlin is the key to the bullpen’s success
Even if James Karinchak or Cody Morris were to open the season healthy, Nick Sandlin remains the most intriguing – and possibly the most important – member of the Guardians bullpen. Besides closer Emmanuel Clase, the bullpen opens the season with more multi-inning arms than usual thanks to the abbreviated spring training, so the likes of Eli Morgan, Logan Allen, and Konnor Pilkington all made the team and will likely pitch significant innings in the early going.
But Sandlin, a more traditional reliever, could be the key to turning Cleveland’s bullpen into a dominant force. Before a shoulder strain that ended his rookie season, Sandlin was excellent for the Guardians, holding a 2.94 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings. He’ll serve as a crucial piece of the bridge that will try to turn games over to Clase, and could potentially push Karinchak into lower-pressure roles that might suit him better moving forward.