Gabriel Arias, Brayan Rocchio frontrunners to be Guardians' shortstop

Detroit Tigers v Cleveland Guardians - Game Two
Detroit Tigers v Cleveland Guardians - Game Two / Ron Schwane/GettyImages

All along, there was an expectation that the Cleveland Guardians would explore their internal options for positions of need rather than attempt to bring someone else to take a starting spot, and that was confirmed by president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti not that long ago. This happens to include the shortstop position, as two clear front-runners have emerged in Gabriel Arias and Brayan Rocchio. 

Between the two options, Arias has more time in the majors than Rocchio, with 138 games played over parts of two seasons. A sizable chunk of that time has been at shortstop (56 games), with time also spent at first base (36 games), third base (23 games), right field (19 games), and second base (four games). Meanwhile, Rocchio has spent 18 games at shortstop and six at third base in the majors. So, while still very green in terms of big-league experience, it is not entirely foreign to him.

Both players should see their fair share of playing time early on this season for the Guardians, even if it is not exclusively at the shortstop position. This would be due to the positional flexibility of both players, Rocchio being a switch-hitter, and the very likely possibility that highly regarded first base prospect Kyle Manzardo begins the season in the minors. Manzardo being in the minors means that first base and DH will not be occupied on a daily basis by either himself or Josh Naylor, allowing the Guardians to move guys around as needed to provide necessary rest days for some while keeping others in their game day routines. 

When looking at the major track record at the plate, there is not a particularly large sample size to work from. Arias did appear in 122 games last season, registering 15 doubles and 10 home runs along the way. While the slash line needs some work (.210/.275/.352), it is his ability for extra-bases in a light-hitting lineup that is going to give him a little longer run in Cleveland than if he was playing on a team where power is not an issue. Ideally, Arias will be able to see his slash line improve with more experience, but that is far from a guarantee.

Rocchio's performance was slightly better in the slash line department (.247/.279/.321), with six doubles in 86 plate appearances. Even though Rocchio may not possess the home run power of Arias, his hitting profile seems to fit more in line with the rest of the lineup. Although enticing, having another similar bat could lead to some of the same issues they experienced last season when it comes to driving in runs on a consistent basis.

Arias and Rocchio will get their shot to take the starting shortstop gig and run with it. That is barring any sort of injury or an unexpected performance from someone not currently considered a front-runner. Should Arias or Rocchio be the starting shortstop and the production does not materialize in a manner the organization prefers, the Guardians can always turn to one of the other middle infielders in their system to see if they will be the organization's next long-term shortstop.