Let me get one thing out of the way: I’ve been a shill for Brayan Rocchio for roughly two years now. To me, he is part of the next wave of Cleveland Guardians talent, along with George Valera, Bo Naylor, Daniel Espino, and others – all of whom could debut as soon as the 2023 season.
Anyway, back to the topic on hand: Brayan Rocchio. He was just promoted to Triple-A Columbus last weekend, and is already causing manager Andy Tracy to shift guys around (namely Gabriel Arias). Rocchio currently ranks as the Guardians’ fourth-best prospect and 72nd in all of MLB per MLB.com. Baseball America has Rocchio ranked as the fifth-best prospect in the organization.
So why should we as a collective fan base care about a 21-year-old who is most likely a year away from his MLB debut? Well, a big reason is because I truly believe his development is going to have a major impact on the team’s construction and offseason plans this coming winter.
Recently, I wrote about what the front office should do with Amed Rosario, as he only has one more season of team control. I contend that a three-year deal, guaranteeing that final season of arbitration, wouldn’t be the worst thing to consider. However, there is the caveat that he should not block anyone’s progress; Rosario has a career 96 wRC+, meaning he is 4% below league average.
In 143 games at Double-A Akron, Rocchio produced a respectable .275/.352/.456 slash line to go along with 96 runs, 34 doubles, five triples, 19 home runs, 78 RBIs, and 19 stolen bases. This is while being 3-4 years younger than the average Double-A player. Let’s not put the cart before the horse, but if Rocchio can mimic these numbers in Triple-A, he won’t be there for long.
Dreams of a Rocchio/Andres Gimenez middle infield tandem make me extremely giddy. Both from the notion of their potential longevity together and overall abilities; the two could easily become the best middle infield duo we’ve seen here in the past twenty years.
As I mentioned, Arias has now been bouncing around the diamond a bit more, and as I’m writing this Nolan Jones has just been sent down with the idea of getting playing time at first base. So if Rocchio is to get the bulk of time at shortstop, and you still want to keep Arias in the lineup, then look for Arias to get time in some interesting places.
Which brings us back to the notion of the Guardians’ roster construction this offseason.
If I had to bet, I’d venture to say that Arias may not be long for this organization. His stock is slipping, and the glut of middle infielders both currently blocking him and coming up in the system does him no favors. I find it hard to believe that he will carve out a meaningful role here. Heck, he’s blocked in the corner outfield spots now, too!
If the Guardians could package Arias along with Zach Plesac (another guy who is likely to get pushed out by the talent on the doorstep), and some others for another bullpen arm or an outfielder this winter, then I am all for it. Time will tell with any trades, but Rocchio’s progression is certainly not going unnoticed and should make all Guardians fans very excited.