The Cleveland Guardians aren't exactly lighting the offseason on fire at the moment, but they've done some interesting things to this point (though there's plenty of work left to do, something we cover in the latest episode of the California Penal League podcast). Maybe not as interesting as the Kansas City Royals, who clearly see the AL Central for the taking, but that's a story for another day.
The being said, the Guardians' offense is in a better place today than it was in 2023, if you're willing to believe that. Power notwithstanding, Cleveland has many incredibly intriguing young pieces that should propel the team in 2024. Much has been written about new guys like Kyle Manzardo - heck, even Deyvison De Los Santos at this point - but let's take a quick look back at another top prospect who might be getting lost in the fray (for now): Brayan Rocchio.
Despite the fact that Gabriel Arias is still on the roster, one expects Rocchio to truly take over the shortstop position sometime in 2024.
In his first taste of the majors in 2023, the 22-year-old hit .247/.279/.321 with no home runs, six doubles and 27 strikeouts in 86 scattered plate appearances. It's hard to make too much of Rocchio's limited time with the Guardians last season, but there's still a very good chance he could be the shortstop of the future once he settles in.
Nicknamed "The Professor" for his high baseball IQ, Rocchio is an excellent defender who has begun to develop some pop in his bat, hitting 18 home runs across Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus in 2022. In his time shuffling back and forth with Columbus in 2023, Rocchio also hit seven homers to go along with 33 doubles and a .280/.367/.421 line. There's just nothing left for him to prove in the minors at this point, and his path to getting regular playing time in Cleveland should only get clearer from here (especially as guys like Tyler Freeman have started dabbling with the outfield).
This is also taking into account the fact that Rocchio is currently tearing up the Venezuelan Winter League to the tune of a .372/.438/.558 line with a home run, five doubles, and five RBI in 48 plate appearances.
And we collectively might be underselling the fact that Rocchio is still considered one of the team's top prospects (right behind 2022 first-round pick Chase DeLauter in Baseball America's updated list and right at the top on MLB.com). He's a solid all-around prospect offensively and defensively, and he might end up being a doubles machine at the major-league level.
If the Guardians are actually going to get better offensively in 2024, Rocchio figures to be right in the middle of that evolution.