Guardians must improve in one area in 2023

Cleveland Guardians v Detroit Tigers - Game One
Cleveland Guardians v Detroit Tigers - Game One / Nic Antaya/GettyImages

There is one area in particular that the Cleveland Guardians did not get enough production from last season, power. Cleveland did have their fair share of extra-base hits, third in triples (31) and 11th in doubles (273), but those were of the stretching singles into doubles and doubles into triples. The death by a thousand paper cuts approach last season was more successful than anyone could have imagined, but having another bat capable of depositing one into the seats would go a long way.

The Guardians hit the second-fewest home runs last season with 127, just 17 more than the lowly Detroit Tigers. In fact, Cleveland's long ball total was exactly half of the MLB leading Yankees total (254). Expecting anything close to New York's total from last season is a bit unrealistic, but getting closer to last season's league average of 174 is more than attainable.

Jose Ramirez (29) and Josh Naylor (20) were the only Guardians hitters to hit 20 or more home runs. Andres Gimenez was close with 17 and there is some belief that 20 or more is on the horizon for Cleveland's second baseman. The front office clearly believes that is possible with Gimenez' shiny new contract extension. Even still, those in charge they needed some help.

Enter Josh Bell and Mike Zunino.

Bell is an interesting player who has shown the ability to be a productive bat, with just one full season with a wRC+ under 108. There is some concern with Bell's production falling off a cliff the second half of last season, but perhaps the midseason change of scenery was tough to adjust to. If Bell can perform at what his 162 game average is to this point (25 home runs, 30 doubles, 89 RBI, .810 OPS), it would be a huge boost for the Guardians lineup.

Zunino has been a mixed bag over his career, with a year or two of good output surrounded by some underwhelming results. It is not about capabiilty, but availability. Zunino has shown he is capable of good power production, (with 20 or more home runs in four of 10 seasons), it has been injuries which have limited him. Zunino's career .200 batting average is never going to dazzle anyone, the bet here is on power. Even a season with a little less power production than his 162 game average, 28 home runs and 22 doubles, would be a welcome change from last seasons 17 home runs and 10 doubles from Austin Hedges and Luke Maile over 544 plate appearances last season.

There is also the possiblity that there is an uptick in home run production from Amed Rosario (11), Oscar Gonzalez (11), and Steven Kwan (six). Even just the smallest of bumps in this area would have a massive impact on the Guardians run production. Kwan and Rosario are at the top of Cleveland's lineup and getting power from this portion of the batting order is extremely valuable.

What it really comes down to is non-Ramirez and non-Naylor bats hitting 20 or more home runs for this team. Getting more production from last year's guys is great, but the team brought in Bell and Zunino for a reason. If they can step up and provide the power production that was missing last year and bring the home run total closer to league average than fewest long balls in the league, there is no telling just how far this team can go.