As spring training continues to wind down and the Guardians head towards their April 7th opener in Kansas City, the positional battles are becoming clearer.
The Guardians entered spring training with questions marks on the middle of the infield and the corners of the outfield. Many of the candidates for these spots have had great springs making the decisions even harder. Let's take a look at each position and the favorites to win the Opening Day job at each spot.
Yu Chang has entered the forefront for the second base job out of spring training. He enters his 4th season with the big league club. Last season in 89 games Chang hit .228 with 9 HR's while playing all over the infield. This spring he is hitting .421 with 2 HR's and 8 RBI's in 7 games. At 26 years old it's time for Chang to prove he can be an everyday player.
Owen Miller made his major league debut in 2021 after tearing up AAA pitching in Columbus. He struggled in his initial stint in Cleveland but seemed to settle down and looked more comfortable by the end of the season. This spring he is hitting .476 with 2 HR's in 7 games. Miller is in line for a utility spot with the Tribe having the versatility to play all positions on the infield.
Ernie Clement had a utility position all bet set in stone entering 2022. He hit .231 in his first big league season in 2021. Clement is a solid defender anywhere on the diamond and can also handle the outfield if need be. This spring he is hitting .529 in 8 games.
It appears that last seasons starting shortstop Amed Rosario will be making the move to left field in 2022 opening the position for Andres Gimenez.
Gimenez opened the 2021 season as the starting shortstop but struggled mightily at the plate and was eventually sent down to AAA. His bat came around late in the season after returning to Cleveland in August. Gimenez is having a nice spring batting .438. There is no doubting his defense at short. If Rosario does indeed start in LF Gimenez will get the first crack at short.
Gabriel Arias did everything he needed to do this spring. The 22-year old impressed both in the field and at the plate. In 7 games this spring Arias hit .571 (8/14) and showed off his stellar defense and arm at shortstop. The future is bright for this young man who should make his debut in Cleveland at some point in 2022. He is the next man up should Gimenez falter.
This is the one spot that is still a question mark as we head through the final week of spring training.
Bradley Zimmer has not done much to help himself this spring batting only .211 with 11 strikeouts in 19 at bats. Last season Zimmer hit .227 but did show a power surge late in 2021. He is now 29 years old and out of options. If he does not make the Opening Day roster his days in Cleveland will come to and end.
Oscar Mercado seems to be another player reaching the end of his time in Cleveland. The 27-year old has struggled the past two seasons after a solid rookie campaign in 2019. This is most likely the last opportunity for Mercado to establish himself in Cleveland. This spring he is hitting .250 in 8 games.
Steven Kwan is an exciting prospect who appears ready to make his mark at the major league level. In the minor league seasons Kwan has hit a combined .301 only striking out 87 times in 947 plate appearances. The 24 year old has had a solid spring hitting .500 in 9 games. It is not out of the realm of possibility that Kwan will beat out both Zimmer and Mercado and be starting in RF on April 7th.
Josh Naylor is the wildcard. He is coming back from the horrific broken leg in 2021. He just played in his first spring game on Tuesday going 2 for 3 with a double. It is still not known if Naylor will begin the season with the Guardians or on a rehab assignment with Columbus. Naylor could also end up seeing more time at first base than the outfield.
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