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Guardians Outfield Situation Looking More Promising

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

Photo: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Guardians outfield has been a position of weakness over the past few seasons. There wasn't much to write home about at the major league level and for the most part the team stayed away from drafting outfielders the last few years.

The Guardians did not address the outfield this past off-season instead deciding to go with retreads Oscar Mercado and Bradley Zimmer to open the season. As expected this duo failed to deliver and we started to see some promise with new blood entering the fray.

Steven Kwan, Richie Palacios, Oscar Gonzalez and Nolan Jones have all since made their major league debuts with varying degrees of success. In a bit of a surprise move, Kwan made the opening day roster and burst onto the scene carrying a +.400 batting average his first two weeks in the big leagues. He slumped the month of May as most rookies do after league adjustments are made. But since he has hit .341 in June and is currently hitting .310 for July bringing his current season average to a very respectable .292 in 295 at bats. He has settled in nicely as the Guardians new lead-off hitter bumping Myles Straw to the 9th spot.

Richie Palacios made his major league debut on 4/25 in Los Angeles vs the Angels and went 2 for 3 in front of his parents who were in attendance and were being interviewed by Andre Knott while he doubled in his second at bat.

He settled into a nice little niche as a pinch hitter and spot starter but was unfortunately sent back to AAA Columbus in early July due to the team needing a right handed bat.

Oscar Gonzalez made his debut on May 26th after almost being lost in this past off-season. Gonzalez was a minor league free agent and the Guardians opted not to add him to the 40-man roster and allow him to become a free agent. Oscar loves the organization and decided to re-sign on a minor league deal and report to AAA Columbus to start the season. After getting called up Gonzalez, much like Kwan, got off to a hot start hitting .429 in his first 5 games in May. He leveled off in June but was still hitting a respectable .285 when he went down with an abdominal injury on June 29th.

Nolan Jones is the latest promising outfielder to make his major league debut on July 8th in Kansas City where he went 2 for 3 with an RBI double. Jones has battled injuries the past two seasons and now looks ready to make his mark at the major league level. He has taken over right field for the injured Gonzalez. After a hot start he has tailed off a bit but is still hitting .297 in his first 37 at bats. It will be interesting to see what happens when Gonzalez returns.

Beyond these four there are four more promising prospects who we could see in Cleveland sometime in the near future.

Will Benson (AAA Columbus)

Benson has struggled thru most of his career to this point since the Guardians made him the 14th pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. Prior to this season Benson had not batted higher than .238 (2017). This season at AAA Columbus Benson has started to show the promise the Guardians expected when they drafted him. He is currently batting .271 with 17 doubles, 17 homeruns, 51 RBI, 16 stolen bases and a .937 OPS. He has been able to cut down on his strikeouts with a shorter stroke and still maintain his power. Benson is not currently on the Guardians 40-man roster.

Will Brennan (AAA Columbus)

Will Brennan is in his third year in the Cleveland organization after being drafted in the 8th round of the 2019 MLB Draft. After hitting .266 & .286 in his first two full seasons, Brennan has taken it up a notch in 2022. He is currently hitting .328 with 27 doubles, 1 triple, 6 homeruns and 77 RBI split between AA Akron and AAA Columbus. Since joining the Clippers he has hit .340 in 46 games. Like Steven Kwan, Brennan is a contact hitter who is tough to strikeout. He has only K'd 46 times in 326 at bats in 2022 and only 135 times in 928 career minor league at bats. Brennan is also not currently on the Guardians 40-man roster.

Jhonkensy Noel (AA Akron)

Jhonkensy Noel is by far the top power hitting prospect in the Guardians organization. The 21-year old converted third baseman has hi 27 homeruns in only 80 games so far this season including 8 in 18 games with AA Akron since being promoted from High A Lake County. While his homerun output has gone up so has his strikeout rate in 2022 which is not uncommon for a young power hitter. That's something he will have to work on as he advances to AAA and eventually Cleveland. There is definitely no doubting his raw power. The Guardians added him to the 40-man roster this past off-season.

George Valera (AA Akron)

Last but not least is the best prospect of the four in George Valera. He has all the tools to be a superstar at the next level. Valera is currently ranked as the Guardians #2 prospect by's Guardians top 30 prospect list. He broke out in 2021 split between High A Lake County and AA Akron where he hit .260 with 19 homeruns and 65 RBI. He has followed that up hitting .272 at AA Akron to this point with 14 homeruns and 54 RBI to go along with 15 doubles in 78 games. He has a sweet, quick & balanced swing from the left side of the plate and arguably the best bat flip in MiLB. He is destined for a promotion to AAA in the very near future with Cleveland not far behind.

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