Photo: Scott Galvin / USA Today Sports
The Cleveland Guardians are entering the final few weeks of Spring Training in Goodyear, Arizona. Roster moves are starting to come in as minor league players are assigned to the affiliates with whom they will be starting the 2023 season.
The major league lineup is set for the most part. The outfield on Opening Day barring injury should consist of Oscar Gonzalez in right field, Steven Kwan in left field and Myles Straw in center field. Will Brennan is expected to be the fourth outfielder and top bat off the bench. The Guardians front office is said to be "in love" with Brennan. Could he be in for a bigger role in 2023?
Brennan got his start with the Guardians last season after tearing it up in AA & AAA. He hit a combined .314 between Akron and Columbus in 2022 with 13 HR's and 107 RBI while striking out only 69 times in 590 plate appearances. He earned a call up to the big league club on September 21st batting .357 in 11 big league games to close out the regular season. The small sample size of success earned him a spot on the Guardians 2022 postseason roster where he went 2 for 11 in five games including two starts.
Myles Straw struggled mightily at the plate for the Guardians in 2022 with a measly slash line of .221/.291/.273 in 152 games. He was removed from the leadoff spot in favor of Kwan and batted 9th for the majority of the season. Straw's gold glove defense kept him in the lineup everyday. Despite the stellar defense, his struggles at the plate contributed to a black hole at the bottom of the Guardians lineup.
If Straw gets off to a similar bad start offensively in 2023, the argument can be made for Brennan to take over in centerfield. For his professional career, Brennan has logged 178 games in center including one last season with Cleveland. He holds a .986 career fielding percentage in the minors with five errors in 1,536 innings while playing center. He has enough speed and athletic ability to hold his own. Straw could slide into the fourth outfield spot giving you an ideal pinch runner, late inning defensive replacement and spot starter off the bench.
Of course the main benefit of planting Brennan in centerfield is his bat. While he does have some pop, Brennan is more in the mold of another talented, young left-handed hitting outfielder in Steven Kwan. Brennan is a contact hitter who makes his living hitting line drives and getting on base. In three minor league seasons he is a career .296 hitter with only 158 strikeouts in 1,283 plate appearances. He is also having a nice spring batting .308 so far in the Cactus League. You can envision him batting second in the lineup giving you back to back pesky contact hitters to set the table for the meat of the order which now possesses Josh Bell in the cleanup spot behind MVP candidate Jose Ramirez.
With Brennan waiting in the wings on the major league roster, will there be a short leash on Myles Straw in 2023? Guardians manager Terry Francona is a big fan of both players. With the Guardians in "win now" mode for 2023, putting the best lineup on the field would be in their best interest. We all saw the offensive struggles during the 2022 postseason. Adding Brennan's bat along with Bell and a hopefully rejuvenated Mike Zunino could give the Guardians a potent lineup in 2023!