Joe Collins 

The Cleveland Guardians entered their first full week of spring training and ended it with less than two weeks until the official start of the 2022 season on April 7 in Kansas City. There was quite a lot that happened in this week as we started to get a clearer picture on who the Guardians look to have for their major league club coming opening day. 

Assignments to Minor League Camps

On Sunday, Cleveland announced that it had sent the following players to minor league camp: catcher Bo Naylor (ninth ranked prospect according to Guardians Baseball Insider), shortstops Brayan Rocchio (third ranked prospect) and Jose Tena (13th ranked prospect), outfielders George Valera (first ranked prospect) and Richie Palacios (15th ranked prospect) and pitcher Kirk McCarthy. Palacios got all of his time in the outfield during his time with the Guardians in spring training, while also being the only one who got at least one start during the week. 

A few Players Staying in the Major League Camp 

While some did get sent down as the Guardians start to narrow down who will get a possible roster spot on the big-league club when the regular season starts, there were a few that are to remain in major league camp for now. The three most notable names are Steven Kwan, Gabriel Arias and Oscar Gonzalez. Starting with Kwan, he has had one of the biggest rises of a prospect through this system in the last few years. Not even being in our top 40 prospect list going into the 2021 season, Kwan used an explosive 2021 minor league that saw him bat a monstrous .328 in 77 games between Akron and Columbus to jump up into our top 10 rankings going into 2022. He’s carried that over into this year’s Spring Training, Kwan is batting .385 with an OPS of .814. He has also gotten multiple starts over the last week. 

Another name, Gabriel Arias (fifth ranked prospect), is the most expected out of the three. Out of all of last year’s minor leaguers, Arias has caught the most attention so far. Arias had two multi-hit games during the week, those being against Texas and Los Angeles, and is hitting an outstanding .571 during his 14 at-bats throughout the spring. Arias has been getting time at shortstop and second base throughout the week. Arias has received much praise from Manager Terry Francona throughout the week, who was impressed of the strides Arias has made over the last few years, going straight from Single A in 2019 to Triple A in 2021 (no 2020 season). 

The third and final is Oscar Gonzalez. Gonzalez, in 17 at-bats during spring training, is hitting .353 with a home run and six RBI. Like Kwan, Gonzalez had a huge 2021 season that vaulted him into conversation of possibly being someone who sees time in Cleveland during the 2022 season. Gonzalez hit .293 between Akron and Columbus in 2021, including a 19-game hitting streak with Akron before his call up in early July. 

Deals to Avoid Arbitration

At the beginning of the week, the Guardians payroll sat around $36 million. The Guardians signed a couple of players during the week to one-year deals to avoid arbitration, most notably Shane Bieber, Bradley Zimmer, Amed Rosario and Cal Quantrill among others. This raised the payroll to a little over $55, which still puts them as the fourth lowest payroll among all major league teams, despite still being considered somewhat of a contender. 

First action for Major League Pitching Staff

The Guardians were able to get some of their major league regulars the first pitching appearances of the spring. Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, Shane Bieber and Cal Quantrill all made starts throughout the week, while Triston McKenzie, Eli Morgan and Emmanuel Clase among others all got time to pitch throughout the week. Morgan was one of the people Francona was impressed with during the week.

 “I thought he (Morgan) was pretty good,” Francona said. “He’s gotten a little stronger. I thought he used his fastball aggressively. I think as the season progressed last season, he got stronger, which is a testament to his work ethic.”

There is also one familiar face rejoining Cleveland in the bullpen. The Guardians announced that Bryan Shaw has reached a deal that will bring him back to Cleveland for at least another year. 

 “We had talks with Cleveland pre-lockout and then post-lockout came and we were talking to a few teams,” Shaw said. “Tito then called me and said, “why aren’t you signed with anyone?” and I said, ‘I’m waiting for you guys.”

Injuries and Transactions 

Catcher Luke Maile suffered a left hamstring strain, and it was announced that Maile will miss three to four weeks of game activity. Reliever James Karinchak will be shut down for at least a week after an MRI revealed an upper back muscle strain. Pitcher Cody Morris was also put on the 60-day injured list this week. 

There was one bit of bright news with injuries. Josh Naylor, who’s season ended last year due to a devastating broken ankle, is expected to make his spring training debut with the major league club this upcoming week. Francona explained the excitement of having him back.

“He looks terrific,” Francona said. “Every time I go to the trainer I ask about Naylor, not me.”

Guardian of the Week

There were a couple Guardians who stood out during the week, but this week’s best performer has to be Ernie Clement. Throughout spring so far, Clement is batting .500 with a home run and seven rbi’s. 

“He’s had a really good camp so far,” Francona said. “He’s played multiple positions. He’s had some really good at-bats. He’s had a terrific camp.” 

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