Guardians OF Will Brennan fits beautifully onto a playoff roster given his contact-heavy approach and solid all-around game. In 129 games between Double and Triple-A, Brennen slashed .314/.371/.479 with 13 home runs, 20 stolen bases, 69 strikeouts and 50 walks. They probably could’ve used him sooner, which would’ve given him time to adjust before the playoffs. It’s just three games so far, but he’s got three RBI’s, two stolen bases, zero strikeouts and a .364 batting average.
As most MLB teams have moved ever closer to three-outcome lineups, Cleveland has traveled the opposite path toward roster construction, prizing low strikeout rates and all-field approaches. It’s working, and it could be a deadly brew to the fence-swinging clubs in October. Tampa gets a lot of love for maintaining a winner despite penny-pinching owners, but Cleveland is about to make its fifth postseason in seven seasons, and 2022 feels like the beginning of a dominant run through the AL Central. They’re up eight games ahead of the second place White Sox right now and eleven games up on the Twins. It’s not easy to see how those two bridge the gap next year.
Cleveland can add future rotation stalwarts Tanner Bibee(23, AA) and Gavin Williams (23, AA) if it feels the need. Could reach into their system for a new catcher in Bo Naylor (22, AAA). Or pluck another athletic left-handed outfielder if George Valera (21, AAA) starts hot in 2023. I’ll probably rank high-probability SS Angel Martinez (20, AA) over Valera.
They don’t need any of these guys, either. Maybe OF Nolan Jones can get it going. Don’t need him either though. SS Gabriel Arias stalled out at Triple-A this year. Didn’t need him anyway. SS Brayan Rocchio (21, AAA) struggled in Triple-A as well but fits in here somewhere. It’s weird to me that they have all these good pieces they don’t need. Even Tampa tends to need most of the guys it has, but the Guardians are closer to the Dodgers right now, stacking up a passable big-league roster in their upper minors. I only named a fraction of the extra pieces they have. The bullpen is overflowing. LHP Sam Hentges might be the game’s most dominant pitcher right now, posting a 0.34 ERA and 0.46 WHIP with zero home runs allowed in 26.1 innings since July 24. He’s only recently factored into the late innings for them. James Karinchak is almost back to his pre-tack fiasco ways, posting a 1.57 ERA in 34.1 innings. Trevor Stephan, Nick Sandlin, Eli Morgan, and even Enyel De Los Santos have been good-to-great this year.
Cleveland recalled their next ridiculous reliever RHP Carlos Vargas last week but couldn’t work him into the mix before demoting him. Vargas brings 100+ mph heaters and a double-plus slider. He struck out 13 batters in eight Triple-A innings, posting a 1.13 ERA in his return from Tommy John surgery. We’ll see him soon. And we’ll be seeing these Guardians in October for a long time.
Cubs OF Alexander Canario (22) hit three home runs in his thirteenth game at Triple-A, walked twice the next day then popped his fourth homer at the level a day after that. He’s probably always going to be a little streaky, but the hot stretches will be fantasy fire. The north side outfield looks a little crowded for next year: Seiya Suzuki, Ian Happ, Franmil Reyes, Christopher Morel, Nelson Velazquz, and maybe Brennen Davis. Six guys for three spots, four if you count the Designated Hitter. Zach McKinstry belongs somewhere in the team photo, too. Velazquez is probably destined for Triple-A with Franmil ticketed for regular DH duties. I still kinda like Canario for redraft leagues next year. I just don’t know how he gets on the field. Probably more of a mid-season pick-up than a draft-and-hold target.
Yankees 2B Oswaldo Cabrera has been playing like an elite defensive outfielder and getting better with the bat, slashing .308/.413/.615 with three home runs over his last 11 games. Manager Aaron Boone played Cabrera every day even when he was stringing together 0-fers, so I’m cautiously optimistic about his playing time next season, even if he gets pushed aside a little bit now that OF Harrison Bader is healthy.
Some devastating but not surprising news about Rays RHP Shane Baz today, who will miss all of 2023 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Tough road for him. Everyone gets hurt, but I think it’s fair to question how the Rays sort through their guys and pump the brakes when it suits them, especially in the case of Baz, who they clearly toyed with, timeline wise, even sending him to the Olympics rather than the majors. I’m sure it was a cool experience and all, and maybe it made him a better player, but he burned up a wonderful arm-season just farting around in the minors and then waiting to pitch an inning at a time overseas. Nonetheless they tried to get him ramped up again in time to be part of their playoff rotation. This feels like a pretty big story to me, but I’m probably the outlier. Here’s hoping the new CBA saves a few arms along the way.
One thing I’m loving about the new CBA are these late-season signals of the team’s plans for 2023. I think we pretty much knew Rockies SS Ezequiel Tovar was part of the roster build in the near future there, but I didn’t believe he had a real shot at breaking camp with the major league club until the team promoted him. All the signs were there. I’m just conditioned to lean into the long waiting times we’ve been living through these many years. Tovar recorded hits on each of the first two pitches he saw, so we’re looking at roughly 400 hits or so next year if we bake in some regression. Kidding, but he’s good, and he’s a high-contact bat with speed in Coors, so he’s more than good: he’s got an ideal fantasy profile if the results go his way.
Thanks for reading!
And best of luck in your leagues these final few days!
I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.
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