Guardians Need More Offense in the Starting Lineup to Make Noise

The Guardians don't have enough productive hitters that they can afford to keep some on the bench because of defense or positional fit. They just need to load up as many bats as they can.

Mar 2, 2024; Goodyear, Arizona, USA; Cleveland Guardians center fielder Tyler Freeman (2) catches a fly ball in a spring training game.
Mar 2, 2024; Goodyear, Arizona, USA; Cleveland Guardians center fielder Tyler Freeman (2) catches a fly ball in a spring training game. / Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Here's an idea for figuring out the starting lineup for the Cleveland Guardians. Let's just start with nine shortstops.

The Guardians already have converted shortstops at second and third base. Tyler Freeman seems like a viable option in the center field, and Gabriel Arias has looked functional in right field and at first base. All we need to do is teach Jose Tena to catch, and this could work.

Probably not, but here's a plan that they should really consider. Decide who the best nine hitters are. Not who has options left or who has a three-year contract or whose service time we don't want to start yet. Rank every hitter in camp by what OPS we can reasonably expect them to achieve at the major league level this year, and take the top nine.

Guardians Need All Offense in the Starting Lineup

We're lucky that Bo Naylor will be on that list, so we don't have to worry about bending the rules for a catcher.

Tyler Freeman is also one of those nine guys, based on his track record in the minors, including a career OPS of .812. Even more importantly, Freeman appears to be a decent centerfielder, good enough that if he were to post an OPS above .700, you would rather have him in center than Myles Straw, who hasn't been above .600 since 2021.

I think Kyle Manzardo is one of those nine guys. I don't know if he is a better first baseman than Josh Naylor, and I am hesitant to make a 23-year-old prospect a full-time DH. But if you list the guys on this 40-man roster who can plausibly be expected to hit 20+ home runs this season, you would struggle to get five, and Manzardo is one of them.

Brayan Rocchio is one of those nine. Granted, if we went by spring numbers, Angel Martinez would be the Opening Day shortstop, but there's a reason Rocchio has been on Top 100 prospect lists for three straight years. If he is in the lineup all season, he will be a core player by September.

Take those three, and add Jose Ramirez, Andres Gimenez, Steven Kwan, and the Naylor Brothers, and you have the semblance of a lineup that could do some damage.

The Guardians still don't have a right fielder. I would be tempted to say that Chase DeLauter is that guy, but not even someone who once predicted that Rick Manning would win a batting title (yes, that was me) would say that 242 minor-league at-bats is enough for DeLauter to be ready.

So, let's give Will Brennan the benefit of the doubt, and platoon him with Ramon Laureano. Brennan does have a career OPS of .722 against right-handed pitching, so the platoon pairing would be about average, which works if they are hitting eighth, which in this lineup they would.

Who are we leaving out? Well, Gabriel Arias, but I'm struggling to see him as a better hitter than Rocchio or Freeman. A team needs ten or eleven "regular" players throughout a season, so Arias can get 300-400 at-bats just filling gaps that come up.

We're leaving out Estevan Florial, too. For all his tools, Florial has a lifetime OPS of .598 in multiple trials with the Yankees, and his performance so far this spring seems to indicate that is who he is. Maybe he will figure it out over the next two weeks, but I'm not holding my breath.

We left out Deyvison De Los Santos. Nobody really expected De Los Santos to be a regular in 2024, so this isn't a shock. We've already given bench roles to Laureano and Arias, and Austin Hedges and Myles Straw are going to be on the team in some capacity. I would love to see the Guardians hang on to De Los Santos somehow, but unless they work out a deal with Arizona to stash him in the minors, it looks like a long shot.

The Guardians are expected to have another losing season by oddsmakers. FanDuel Sportsbook has set the Guardians' over/under in win total at 79.5. Head over there now if you think they have what it takes to get back to the postseason. Don't forget to claim your bonus after you sign up.

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