The Cleveland Guardians are in a jam when it comes to configuring their 40-man roster and have until Nov. 19 to figure things out.
Things are coming to head for the Guardians, as the progress of minor-leaguers (especially middle infielders) mixed with players already on the roster the team spent the season “finding out about,” is going to create some difficult decisions.
The 40-man roster currently sits at 36 players, so there’s room to add without disrupting what’s already in the cupboard, but according to Baseball America (subscription required), there are up to 10 players the Tribe may try and protect.
Those players include middle infielder Tyler Freeman, shortstop Brayan Rocchio, shortstop Jose Tena, outfielder George Valera and catcher Bryan Lavastida.
Freeman is one of the organizations top ranked prospects. He suffered a season ending shoulder injury in 2021 that required surgery in August. He’s more likely to debut in 2023, but he’ll likely open at Triple-A and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him in Cleveland next season.
Rocchio (20), Tena (20) and Valera (20) are all young, but supremely talented. Rocchio was one of two prospects on the farm with at least 15 home runs and 15 stolen bases. Tena is regarded as an advanced hitter and just dominated the Arizona Fall League. Valera’s swing is sweet and reminded everyone of it while collecting six hits in the Akron RubberDucks championship series.
Lavistada also saw his stock rise, bypassing top prospect Bo Naylor with a promotion to Class AAA Columbus. Cleveland needs a catcher this season and shouldn’t rely on Austin Hedges to be the everyday starter.
Cleveland Guardians have decisions to make
The spots the team is going to have make decisions on in order to protect from exposure to the Rule-5 draft include, Oscar Gonzalez. The outfielder belted 31 homers last season between Double-A and Triple-A.
Considering the team’s inability to develop a homegrown, everyday outfield talent, his inclusion on the 40-man would seem, from the 10,000-foot view, as a slam dunk.
Other names include corner infielder Jhonkensy Noel (slashed .340/.390/.615 at Class A Lake County), center fielder Steven Kwan (.328/.407/.527 between Akron and Columbus) and infielder Richie Palacios (.297/.404/.874) between Akron and Columbus. ,
Pitchers Cody Morris and Konnor Pilkington were also mentioned. Morris opened the season on the injured list. Once he took the bump, he posted a 1.35 ERA in five starts spanning 20 innings at Class AA Akron. He was promoted to Columbus where he made eight starts (9 appearances), posting a 1.72 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 36.2 innings.
Pilkington was acquired in the trade for Cesar Hernandez. It didn’t draw much fan fare among the fan base at the time, but he has the potential to make that trade look really, really good. Pilkington, a lefty, made seven starts with Akron, going 3-2 with a 2.33 ERA. He struck out 49 in 38.2 innings.
The decisions confronting the Indians surround veteran outfielders Bradley Zimmer and Oscar Mercado. Yu Chang and Daniel Johnson are probably on the fence, as well.
If anyone has a chance to stick, it may be Chang, who came on toward the end of the season once he started getting some regular playing time. Zimmer hit some monster home runs, but in-between, we kept waiting for him tomato good on his promise as a one-time top prospect. He’s the same age as Jose Ramirez, meaning he’s a prospect no more.