Cleveland Guardians 2022 Season Preview

Cleveland Guardians 2022 Season Preview

by April 6, 2022 0 comments

The Cleveland Guardians enter their first year under their new name. In their last season as the Indians, Cleveland finished 80-82 and second in the American League Central. After trading away Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco to the New York Mets last offseason, they had a very slow 2022 offseason. While it looked like Jose Ramirez was all but certain to be traded, the Guardians pulled off an extension at the buzzer. On Wednesday morning, they extended the star third baseman for a five-year, $124 million deal. A big story for the Guardians is manager Terry Francona returning for the 2022 season after health issues forced him to miss time the last two seasons. He will be joined by new hitting coach Chris Valaika and assistant pitching coach Joe Torres.

Make sure to check out all of our other Season Previews.

Additions

For the most part, it was a very inactive offseason for Cleveland, as most of their moves were minor league deals and adding minor leaguers to the 40-man roster. The narrative up until Wednesday was that they are a cheap team that is never going to pay their star players. That was until they dished out a big contract for Ramirez, which also includes a full no-trade clause. 

Luke Maile, C, One Year/$900,000

With Austin Hedges still the starter, Maile was signed on to be the backup catcher. The Guardians also signed Sandy Leon to a minor league deal before spring training but then released him just days ago. Maile has six seasons of major league experience under his belt, where he served as a backup. He only appeared in 15 games for the Milwaukee Brewers last season. Along with Hedges, Maile is a defensive-first catcher with some flashes of offensive production. He won’t start the season on time as he recovers from left hamstring tightness. Bryan Lavastida will be the backup catcher until Maile returns.

Bryan Shaw, RHP, One Year/$3M

Before this move, Maile was the only major league deal and would’ve left the team with under $1 million in spending. The Guardians re-signed Shaw after he was a key member of their bullpen last season, posting a 3.49 ERA and 8.3 strikeouts per nine in 81 appearances. The right-hander also pitched for Cleveland from 2013 to 2017 where he helped the team make a run to the World Series in 2016. With a number of young arms, Shaw is a much-needed veteran piece in the bullpen.

In addition to these moves, the Guardians also gave flamethrowing reliever Emmanuel Clase a five-year, $20 million extension. Before the lockout, they added 11 prospects to the 40-man roster. Those prospects are outfielder George Valera, shortstop José Tena, left-hander Konnor Pilkington, outfielder Steven Kwan, catcher Bryan Lavastida, shortstops Richie Palacios, Tyler Freeman, and Brayan Rocchio, third baseman Jhonkensy Noel, right-hander Cody Morris, and right-hander Tobias Myers, who they traded for from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Subtractions 

Roberto Perez, C, Pittsburgh Pirates

After eight seasons with Cleveland, Perez elected for free agency following the 2021 season. He won two Gold Gloves, in 2019 and 2020, while helping the Guardians in their postseason runs in 2016 and 2017. The Puerto Rican-born was first in caught stealing percentage in 2019 (40.8 percent) and 2020 (71.4 percent). He was also first in total zone runs as a catcher in 2019 (14) and 2020 (7), and first in range factor per game as a catcher in 2015 (8.84) and 2020 (9.75).

Nick Wittgren, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

Wittgren was granted free agency after three seasons with Cleveland. Last year was the right-hander’s worst season to date as he posted a 2-9 record with a 5.05 ERA, 87 ERA+, and 4.84 FIP. The 2012 draft pick by the Miami Marlins did strike out 61 and walked just 17 in 62 1/3 innings. The soon-to-be 31-year-old isn’t a huge loss, as the Guardians are looking to get younger.

Wilson Ramos, C, Unsigned 

After he was released by the Detroit Tigers in the middle of last season, Cleveland signed Ramos. Unfortunately, the 33-year-old catcher suffered a torn ACL just under two months after they signed him. The Guardians let him walk in free agency which wasn’t a surprising move. He is yet to be signed and it’s likely that no one will at this point for more than a minor league deal.

2022 Outlook 

I won’t lie, I wrote this article on Tuesday night and wrote that the Guardians will be awful. That was with the mindset that Ramirez was on his way out. While they may not be one of the best teams in the league, they will be better than what was originally written here. The year will be highlighted by their young players and prospects that could make their debuts this season. That is led by Freeman who is the team’s second-ranked prospect. Now with Ramirez locked up, they will have a chance to really contend again within a year or two.

Prediction: 82-80

The Ramirez deal shocked the baseball world, as everyone thought he was getting traded. But now that it actually happened and the Guardians actually spent money, it will light a fire under this team. Along with Ramirez, the other big bat in their lineup is Franmil Reyes who will bat cleanup. Outside of that, the lineup will be lacking at first. But their pitching will be solid as always, led by Shane Bieber returning from injury. Cleveland will also call up Freeman and other prospects at some point that can provide a spark to their lineup. Even with an awful lineup last season, they finished with 80 wins. This year they finish over .500, so if you’re the betting type hammer the over on their projected win total of 76.5. They may take some time to get going, but they will be scarier than most think.


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