This year has been a disappointing one for Guardians fans, to say the least. Coming off of a 92-win season and a division title, Cleveland was set to potentially improve in 2023 with all of its young talent. Instead, the club has taken a step back, currently sitting below .500 and unlikely to make the playoffs at this point.
With the Guardians sputtering and their postseason chances fading, many of their fans are already looking ahead to the 2024 campaign. Many of the team's key players will be back, giving the front office a strong core to build around as it tries to address what went wrong this season.
While we don't know what moves Cleveland will make in the offseason, we still have a good sense of how the starting lineup might look next year. With that in mind, here is our projected lineup for the Guardians in 2024.
Guardians 2024 Projected Lineup
C - Bo Naylor
One of the positives about this season is that the Guardians have been able to break in Bo Naylor behind the plate. Part of that was out of necessity, however, as their primary catchers Mike Zunino and Cam Gallagher both flopped.
Naylor has struggled in the batter's box, but he's still only 23 years old and has a bright future in front of him. The former first-round draft pick looks like the catcher of the future for Cleveland, assuming he's at least able to hit a little bit. The starting job will be his to lose in 2024.
1B - Josh Naylor
Josh Naylor's been outstanding this year, proving that his 2022 breakout was legit. While he's currently on the IL with a strained oblique, he was enjoying an All-Star-caliber season before going down, slashing .306/.346/.500 with 15 homers and 79 RBIs in 96 games. His development over the past few years has been fun to watch, and he's just entering his prime at 26.
2B - Andres Gimenez
Gimenez is one of the reasons the Guardians have regressed this year, especially on offense. His hitting has taken a major step back, as his OPS is down more than 100 points compared to 2022. He's still playing Gold Glove defense at the keystone and flashing his speed on the bases, so hopefully his bat bounces back next year in his age-25 season.
SS - Brayan Rocchio
This is where things get a bit fuzzy for Cleveland, as the team has no clear starter at short for next year after trading away pending free agent Amed Rosario. Tyler Freeman, Gabriel Arias and Brayan Rocchio have all gotten looks, but my money's on Rocchio winning the job in his sophomore campaign. He's only 22 and seems ready for the bigs after putting up a .291/.383/.417 batting line with 19 steals and a 48:50 BB/K ratio in Triple-A this year. You'd like to see more power eventually, but his speed, contact skills and plate discipline make him a pretty attractive option.
3B - Jose Ramirez
Our best player is under contract through 2028, so he's not going anywhere anytime soon. Just please, no more fights!
LF - Steven Kwan
Steven Kwan's second season hasn't been quite as strong as his first, but he's already produced more than three wins above replacement, according to Baseball-Reference. He's a huge bargain for a player who isn't even eligible for arbitration until 2025, making him a virtual lock to be back next year as well.
CF - Myles Straw
Myles Straw continues to be a disaster at the plate, but his plus defense and baserunning prop up his value. He's under contract through at least 2026 and is extremely affordable at $5 million per year, so there's a good chance he's still with the team next year. Still, I'd like to see Cleveland shop him during the offseason and try to upgrade offensively.
RF - Will Brennan
The Guardians are in a tough spot here. On the one hand, Will Brennan has been a huge disappointment in his rookie season. On the other hand, he dominated the minors in 2022 and is still relatively young at 25, so he probably deserves another shot after getting a full offseason to make adjustments. Cleveland should bring in a veteran as insurance or consider platooning him if he doesn't pan out, however.
DH - Oscar Gonzalez
Terry Francona's been using Gonzalez as his DH lately with Brennan taking over for him in right. His sophomore slump has been tough to watch, but he's started to pick things up after a slow start. Based on how good he was last year and how well he's hit in the minors, the 25-year-old should get another chance next year. Similar to Brennan, the Guardians should have a good backup plan in place in case his struggles persist.
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