We recently wrapped up the SB Nation Offseason Simulation over at Royals Review and, frankly, it’s become one of my favorite little offseason activities. I had the White Sox this year and while I was looking at their roster and prospects, it made me curious to further evaluate the rest of the AL Central to see when other teams may try to “go for it” and how their next competitive window lines up with the Royals imminent window that should be opening in 2023.
I’ve already written about Chicago and Minnesota. You can follow the links to their write ups. Today we’re going to talk about the Cleveland Guardians. The Guardians will be entering their first season since changing the name of their longtime mascot and they’re going to have their work cut out for them to get this team back to perennial contender that they were just a few short years ago.
Here is a quick look at the core of the Twins roster heading into 2022, their age on Opening Day, and the year in which that player becomes a free agent:
- Amed Rosario, 26, 2023
- Jose Ramirez, 29, 2023
- Franmil Reyes, 26, 2024
- Bradley Zimmer, 29, 2024
- Shane Bieber, 26, 2024
- Myles Straw, 27, 2025
- Andrews Gimenez, 23, 2025
- Cal Quantrill, 27, 2025
- Zach Plesac, 27, 2025
- Aaron Civale, 26, 2025
- Oscar Mercado, 27, 2025
- James Karinchak, 26, 2025
- Emmanuel Clase, 24, 2026
- Triston McKenzie, 24, 2026
- Bobby Bradley, 25, 2027
Here’s a list of their top prospects that are getting pretty close to the big leagues and could be contributors both in 2022 and the long-term:
- Nolan Jones (top 100 prospect in baseball)
- Tyler Freeman (top 100 prospect in baseball)
- Gabriel Arias (top 100 prospect in baseball)
- Bo Naylor
- George Valera (top 100 prospect in baseball)
- Daniel Espino (top 100 prospect in baseball)
Cleveland might be in better shape long-term than I gave them credit for. They have a new offensive core coming in hot and they have one of the better pitching development systems in baseball. The good news for the rest of the AL Central is that the ownership group is an unmitigated disaster and will look to pawn off their best players every chance they get. I don’t think Cleveland has the top-end talent coming that the Royals do, but they may have more depth offensively and we know they’re going to keep pumping out good starting pitching. They’ve got a great manager in Terry Francona and if ownership can get out of their way, I can see this being a pretty quick rebuild for the Guardians, especially if they go ahead and trade Jose Ramirez for a couple of top-tier prospects.
- The Guardians pitching staff is probably going to keep them semi-competitive in 2022, but their offense could really struggle again if the younger guys don’t step up and hit a little better. If they trade Jose Ramirez this team could be in for 90+ losses regardless of how good their pitching staff is.
- I like the Guardians young offensive core of prospects, but I don’t know how much I “love” them. They’re deeper than the Royals current crop but the Royals have a bit higher ceiling in Pratto, Melendez, and Witt Jr. Not to mention the likes of Pasquantino and Massey behind them.
- I’m not sure what the Guardians window looks like. It really depends on this young group of hitters because I’ve just accepted the fact that they’ll probably always have a decent pitching staff. Their window honestly lines up pretty well with the Royals if everything goes right, I just don’t know afraid I am of them getting in the Royals way of achieving their goals