Opening Day is finally here – how do the Cleveland Guardians stack up heading into the 2022 season?
The Cleveland Guardians had a very uneventful offseason to say the least (until the shocking news of José Ramírez’s contract extension came down this week), as the division around them grew stronger and stronger going into 2022.
What did Cleveland accomplish? The Cleveland Guardians initially cut their payroll to $37 million before arbitration figured into things. Compare that to the Chicago White Sox’s nearly $182 million payroll and the Twins’ $113 million payroll and it’s not a surprise that most of the predictions for the Guardians in 2022 have them below. 500.
As of right now, the Cleveland Guardians hold the leagues fourth-lowest payroll, ahead of only the Pirates, Athletics, and Orioles. It’s very frustrating trying to understand what the play is by not adding talent to the lineup when the rotation could truly be one of baseball’s best.
That being said, with Opening Day now here, let’s take a look into how the division might unfold.
The Minnesota Twins made a major splash in signing shortstop Carlos Correa, and the Detroit Tigers have improved by adding shortstop Javier Baez and starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez. The White Sox remain the crown jewel of the division, while the Royals should continue to be competitive, especially with Bobby Witt Jr. – one of baseball’s top prospects – now in the fold.
As for the Guardians, aside from Ramirez, outfield prospect Steven Kwan does provide some reason for offensive excitement. The lineup could dramatically improve if Josh Naylor remains healthy and can become the player many people, including myself, think he could be. Nolan Jones has some serious potential, along with Tyler Freeman, Gabriel Arias, and the Guardians’ top prospect George Valera, who could very well be in the majors at some point in 2023.
The outfield is really where this team falls behind, as you might expect. Myles Straw stole 30 bases last year, but his OPS was under .700. Kwan is a prospect who should be able to get on base. Franmil Reyes is the DH, but could also spend some time out there on occasion. Reyes provides power and should be penciled in for at least 30 home runs should he remain healthy. The Guardians ranked 18th in runs last year with 718, and with the lack of movement this offseason, it’s unlikely that will be improved.
The pitching staff will continue to carry the team, with the rotation looking as strong as ever. It’s led by Bieber, who is still one of the best pitchers in MLB. He gives them a chance to win every time out. Cal Quantrill and Aaron Civale had breakthrough seasons, while the hope is that Zach Plesac can rebound to his potential and Triston McKenzie can finally put it all together in the majors.
The bullpen looks very much the same with the return of Bryan Shaw. It’s anchored by closer Emmanuel Clase, who has quickly become of the best closers in the game. He has a promising future – along with a new contract extension of his own – hitting 100 mph with ease with devastating cutting movement. He’s only 24 years old as well; last season, he had an ERA of 1.30 with 74 strikeouts in 69 innings. A bounceback from James Karinchak would go a long way in solidifying the bullpen as well.
All things considered, this has the makeup of a 75-win team that could potentially get close to .500 if everything breaks just right for them. As of right now, I personally predict the Guardians finish 77-85. The White Sox and Twins will finish first and second, with the Guardians battling for third with the Detroit Tigers.