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Guardians 2024 Season finding some answers…hopefully

Photo by Charles Murray

The grass is greening up, the weather is kinda getting warmer, and now I get to enjoy a few hours of sunlight once I get home from work. Which means the Guardians are set to get under way for 2024. When this season comes to a close, what memories and takeaways will we have?

Last year honestly was a letdown. They didn’t build on the playoff run from ‘22; Zunino and Josh Bell didn’t work out; Oscar Gonzalez regressed, as did a few others. At some point every starter that opened the year was hurt, and the bullpen—Stephan, Karinchak, and Clase—had 23 combined blown saves, compared to the 7 they had in ‘22. As far as a silver lining: Jose Ramirez punched Tim Anderson, Josh Naylor had a good year going until he got hurt, and his little brother made his major league debut. But unfortunately, overall, the Guardians fell short.

So how about this year? Are they the team who won 92 games in ‘22? Or the team who won 76 last year? Let’s take a look…

Photo by Charles Murray

First the position players we know for sure:

  1. 3B: JOSE RAMIREZ: I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be his same old all-star self.
  2. 2B: ANDREAS GIMENEZ: HIs ‘23 season took a little bit of a step back at the plate from the year He had in ‘22. He was still a Gold Glove Shortstop, however.
  3. 1B: JOSH NAYLOR: One of the few guys who got better last year, and he’s a threat behind Jose.
  4. LF: STEVEN KWAN: Took a little bit of a step back last year, but his second half was better, and frankly, I think last year was his floor, as far as offensive production.

Jose of course being the exception, the others are young enough and still have room to grow. Gimenez and Kwan have played better, and this offense needs them to be again, if they want to succeed.

Now the rest:

  1. C: BO NAYLOR: If he can play like he ended the year, we’d have a solid All-Star catcher.
  2. SS: BRAYAN ROCCHIO: The Shortstop position battle winner; will certainly be good in the field. Hopefully he can be Kwan-ish, but with a little more pop offensively. 3. CF: ESTEVAN FLORIAL/TYLER FREEMAN: Hopefully a change of scenery—and an opportunity to play—helps Florial. Freeman seized the opening in the outfield and helped make Straw expendable.
  3. RF: RAMON LAUREANO/WILL BRENNAN: Laureano was okay last year, and maybe he can regain what made him an up-and-coming prospect with the A’s. Brennan, I think this is make or break.
  4. Gabriel Arias: Make or break for him. Hopefully he takes advantage of the opportunity. David Fry: An intriguing utility player. And Austin Hedges: A steady back up.

The Guardians, having a lot of younger players they need some answers about—and an uncertain TV situation—did not lend itself to a spending spree. In this regard, the Guardians are just hoping some guys will find that extra gear, and that others will take the bull by the horns and solidify their place in the major leagues.

If they’ve done anything right, they’ve been able to develop pitching. Over the last seventeen years, they’ve had five Cy Young winners, (Kluber twice), plus a lot of guys who’d be welcome in any rotation, and relief pitchers as well.

Photo by Charles Murray

  1. SHANE BEIBER: A solid start to the season could increase his trade value, and the Guards would make the trade for the right deal, despite our record. Though, I think he’ll be with us for the whole season.
  2. TANNER BIBEE/GAVIN WILLIAMS/LOGAN ALLEN: All did well, with Bibee being the best. I’m glad Bieber wasn’t traded. I’d be nervous counting so much on three guys who haven’t pitched a complete season in the majors. It will be interesting to see these guys make progress and become the bedrock of another era of contention.
  3. TRISTAN MCKENZIE: He was great in ‘22, and got off on the wrong foot in ‘23, and the year ended up being a lost cause. Thirty starts from him could help fill in the gaps in the records between ‘22 and ‘23.

And the rest: It’s fun having Cookie back one last time, especially if he can hold down the fort until Williams feels better. Xzavion Curry/Joey Cantillo/Ben Lively could add some depth at some point, but hopefully the starting rotation isn’t hit so hard by injuries, which would make Stephan Vogt’s first season go a little smoother.

The hitting woes I think allowed some to overlook the fact that the Guardians bullpen was shaky last year, and it played a role in them not returning to the postseason.

  1. EMMANUAL CLASE: He was an all-star and is easily the most talented reliever. Hopefully our offense won’t put him in so many tight situations.
  2. SCOTT BARLOW: Pitched better when he went to SanDiego last year. If he can go back to his ‘21/’22 self, we’ll have the 8th inning locked down.

Sadly, we won’t see Trevor Stephan for a while, and Sam Hentges will start on the IL. Hunter Gaddis is intriguing. Eli Morgan can be great sometimes, but kinda faded at the end of the last 2 seasons. Tim Herron will be the left-handed option. And, with Tyler Beede, it will be fun to say Bieber—Bibee—Beede as fast as I can. Nick Sandlin can be a weapon at times, and I think makes a good middle relief guy

So with all the younger talent they’ve been acquiring, it’s time to find some answers in regards to what they have; so not signing an Adam Duvall or Tommy Pham like player doesn’t bother me, and with David Fry and Gabriel Arias providing the flexibility to play multiple positions, players like that would kind of just be in the way, with no guarantee they’d be any better.

So, what is this team exactly? Can Gimenez hit a little better? I think so. Can the bullpen cut out half the blown saves they had last year? I think so. I’ll say they improve by 12 wins—to be 88-74—which might be able to win our division. But they really are hoping some guys just play better than last year, and if so, maybe we’ll find some answers about whether or not we’ll be in another window of contention, and if we’ll look back fondly at the Vogt era of Guardians baseball. And how the Gimenez, Naylor, Bibee Era will stack with Lindor, Ramirez, and Kluber. Or Belle, Thome, and Ramirez.

So, everybody, the wait is almost over, and I can’t wait to see how this pans out.


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