Why the Cleveland Guardians have one of the brightest futures in MLB


Hayden Hutchinson, Managing Editor

It has been a lifetime since the baseball team from Cleveland has won it all. My grandpa was an 8-year-old when he went to the 1948 World Series (the last time they won), and he is now 83 years old. The now Guardians had a fresh start this season with a new but controversial name change. While it ended up in heartbreak (losing in Game 5 to the New York Yankees) this year was one of the most fun years to root for this team. The good news is hopefully the longest championship drought in the Major Leagues will end soon, as the Cleveland Guardians have one the brightest futures in the entire MLB.

The Cleveland Guardians are a relic of a former brand of MLB. They have little to no power, run the bases better than any team, and manufacture runs through a high contact rate. Their pitching staff also returned to a semblance of their once dominant self with ace Shane Bieber returning to form and Triston McKenzie taking a big step forward as a number two starter. The two most important ingredients of their success came from the bullpen and Jose Ramirez. The bullpen was the second best by ERA* in the second half and playoffs. It starts with Emmanuel Clase, the flamethrower with a cutter that averages over 100 mph. He is arguably the best closer in baseball and luckily the front office locked him up for four years and only $20 million. The bullpen continues with James Karinchak, Nick Sandlin, Tyler Stephan, Enymel De Los Santos, and Sam Hentges who are all under 30. This bodes well as the future is an important part of the future success of this franchise.

This year, there was a deal in place to send 4-time all star Jose Ramirez to the Padres in return for a haul of prospects. However, Jose marched into the president’s office and said the only place he wanted to be was Cleveland. As a result he took a generous team-friendly deal in order to stay in Cleveland. In today’s major sports leagues it is not often a superstar takes a pay cut, and considering Cleveland is not high on most players radars, the fact he took a pay cut to stay in Cleveland is one of the most selfless acts that a major player has made in a long time. This year he continued his all-MLB level play, finishing fourth in MVP voting and leading a young team to the second round of the playoffs. Not only did he take a pay cut but throughout the second half of the season Jose played through a thumb injury which required surgery after the season. If a team has a leader that is not only great at baseball but also sets a standard off the field they will always have a chance.

While there are two established reasons why the Guardians could find success the most promising reason is their young talent. This year, the Guardians had 17 players make their MLB debut. Some of these players contributed immediately, such as Steven Kwan (5.5 WAR*), Oscar Gonzalez (3 go-ahead hits in the playoffs), Will Brennan, Bo Naylor, Gabriel Arias, and Tyler Freeman. This does not even take into account Andrès Gimenez who, while not a rookie, led all Cleveland Guardians in WAR* while also being only 23 years old. He also made the all-star team and also finished sixth in MVP voting. While 17 players made their debut this year that is just the tip of the iceberg as The Guardians farm system ranked second in all of baseball according to MLB Pipeline. Players such as Jhonkensy Noel, Jose Tena, Daniel Espino, and my personal favorite George Valera are still primed to make their MLB debuts in the coming  years. All of this young talent also means farm system depth which can be traded for established stars such as Sean Murphy or Pablo Lopez.

All in all the outlook of the Cleveland Guardians is as bright as it has ever been with established stars Jose Ramirez and Shane Bieber, a strong bullpen lead by Emmanuel Clase and James Karinchak, and a plethora of young talent such as George Valera and Daniel Espino. All of these ingredients add up to what could be an exciting team for years to come. None of this would be possible without manager Terry Francona who recently won the American League Manager of the year award for this past season. If anything I have been conditioned for heartbreak as a Cleveland Guardians fan and as the saying goes “it’s the hope that kills you.” However, I am ready to get hurt again by this team and am excited for another exciting season all in the hopes of ending the longest championship drought in baseball.

*WAR- Wins Above Replacement. Takes what the average MLB player would do and figures out how many more wins a player would give than replacement level

*ERA- Earned Run Average. Takes the average of innings and runs a pitcher gives up