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Guardians Mid-Season Grades, Pt. 1 — Position Players

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MLB: JUL 02 White Sox at Guardians
Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Recapping the hot and cold performers out on the field over the first half of the season

Well, the first 81 (give or take) games of this season have went by in a flash. The Guardians have made an incredible bounce back from last season so far, and they look like a whole new unit under the leadership of rookie manager Stephen Vogt. They are a united ballclub from top to bottom, and are shaking up the league with their versatile style of play. The start they were off to will go down as one of the best in franchise history, and it was filled with both expected and wildly unexpected contributions from the organization’s Island of Misfit Toys. Such contributions were most evident from the position players on this roster, and as a two-part recap, I will be starting off by grading the contributions of the majority of the Guardians’ position players so far this year.

(Note: I will be grading position players who have at least 70 plate appearances and are present on the big-league roster. So, guys like Kyle Manzardo, Jhonkensy Noel, Estevan Florial or Ramon Laureano will be left out)

José Ramírez — A+

This was obvious. Jose Ramirez has made a huge bounce back from last season so far, and he doesn’t seem to be relenting. If Jram stays on track, he may eclipse his career high single-season home run record of 39. He’s already one away from tying his total from last year (24).

After 87 games, Josey is slashing .271/.323/.531 with a spectacular 137 wRC+. And of course, you cannot leave out his RBI total of 76, which is second only to Aaron Judge. Though he has slowed down in the fielding category a bit, making some more mistakes and getting less starts at 3rd, I think that an A+ is the most plain grade for his performance this year.

Andrés Giménez — B+

Minus a huge slump in June, Andres Gimenez has made some good improvements with his bat from last year. Now, there is still a question as to if he is going to fully return to the form he was at earlier on this season, but the changes in his performance at the plate are still noticeable.

Right now, he is slashing .252/.307/.344 with an 89 wRC+ after 81 games. I expect that to rise as he tries to build back up after an ice cold month of June.

His fielding abilities need no introduction either. With 7 defensive runs saved and 8 outs above average, he obviously has the most prolific glove on the squad. His bat and excellent fielding ability have combined for a 1.5 WAR for him throughout the first half of the season, so that would be counted as a win in my book.

Josh Naylor — A-

Josh is coming off his career-best season, where he practically carried the Guardians offense on his back in 2023. He came into 2024 looking to build off such a successful year after having such a rocky and injury-plagued start to his career.

And he picked up right where he left off, and then some. Naylz has already set his career high for single-season bombs at 21 (the record was 20 in ‘22). He is driving in runs at a rate very similar to his counterpart at the other corner of the infield. He is tied for 5th in the league in RBIs (65), and is putting up a 126 wRC+ . Despite some rocky fielding as well, Josh is putting up a 1.5 WAR, on pace to top his previous one of 2.7.

Steven Kwan — A+

Steven Kwan is cementing himself as a true star right before our eyes. Being a contact-first hitter for the majority of his college and professional career, the question was whether or not his success was sustainable at the major league level with such an absence of pop. But now Kwan has unlocked a store of power that was never noticeable previously in his career. Now, Kwan is still a contact-first hitter, but his incorporation of a slightly bigger power approach while maintaining his plate discipline and contact ability cannot be ignored.

He is at 9 bombs so far this season, which is almost as much as his previous two season totals combined. His wRC+ is 176 while his batting average is an unreal .365. He flirted with a .400 average just a couple weeks ago.

Oh, and this is all while he is putting up yet another Gold Glove-caliber season. He is leading the league in both defensive runs saved (8) and outs above average (4), and this is all while he has logged the third least innings among qualified left fielders.

Of course, this would all combine to give Kwanny a superb 3.7 WAR. Just unreal what he is doing right before our eyes.

David Fry — A

David Fry might be the underdog story of the year for the MLB. Acquired as the player to be named later in a trade with the Brewers for JC Mejia, Fry was never thought to have an impact with his bat. He had value in the form of positional versatility, but nobody thought he would burst to the scene with his bat this late in his pro career.

Fry’s scorching hot streak from late-April to early-June was one for the ages. He posted a 226 wRC+ from April 28th to June 9th, displaying incredible plate discipline and punishing any pitch that even sniffed the zone. He posted a .366/.480/.683 slash line in that stretch, while plating 20 runs.

But, how are those stats over the rest of the season? Well, though he has definitely cooled off since that scalding hot stretch, David has still maintained a steady pace despite some regression in the plate discipline category.

He still has a 160 wRC+ and is slashing .306/.412/.508. Combine that with his extremely good versatility on the field and he combines for a 1.9 WAR over 66 games.

Tyler Freeman — B-

Tyler was given a very steep task of learning a new position, and perhaps the hardest one on the field. Freeman may not be superlative at playing center field, but he for sure has managed while making some sweet plays here and there. He totaled 2 defensive runs saved in center field, which is pretty solid for a newbie at such a hard position.

As for his bat, I can confidently say that he is not a rally starter. He has been very poor without runners on base (60 wRC+), but when they are on base, he excels. With runners on base, Tyler has had 121 plate appearances and a 136 wRC+. When runners are in scoring position, Tyler takes that performance to an even higher level, with a 189 wRC+.

Though T-Free has a lot of kinks to work out, he definitely has been useful in the chance he’s been given.

Gabriel Arias — D+

Unfortunately, Gabriel Arias has been a very low spot for the Guardians roster. He hasn’t been able to really get something going, and when he does, it is only for so long.

I don’t like ripping into players so much, so I will say that his defense is still supreme. And his arm remains yet to be confiscated by the government because it is a bazooka. However, that is as far as his upsides go.

Will Brennan — B-

The Birdman has been pretty good in his role so far this year. Mainly serving as a platoon option, his splits against righties are very solid. He’s hitting .260 against righties with a .438 SLG and 119 wRC+.

Though his fielding is often subpar, I can say he’s doing enough to have an impact in the role he’s given.

Brayan Rocchio — C

Like Arias, Brayan has been struggling in his pursuit of consistency at the plate. His pop is still absent and he is having trouble getting lift on the ball. I think one of the more frustrating things, however, is that he doesn’t seem to have much of an approach at the plate. I will say, though, he has been at the very least okay at the plate. But not okay enough to justify his spot in the everyday order just yet.

That being said, what really bumps his grade up for me is his impact at the shortstop position. He is 3rd in the league in defensive runs saved (7) and also posts 2 outs above average. Again, though, that bat needs to be better in order to keep him in the lineup everyday.

Daniel Schneemann — B+

David Fry wasn’t the only player who had such a large impact after a late call-up in his career. Though he still has a lot to prove, I have been very impressed by Schnee’s ABs. It seems like he goes deep into every count and, when he doesn’t, he jumps on a mistake pitch early in the AB. He’s competitive and is scorching baseballs left and right. Considering his defensive versatility and early success at the plate, I am very satisfied with him so far and I am eager to see where he takes this start further down the line.

Bo Naylor — B

Now, Bo had a horrific start to the season at the plate. He was going through a painful Sophomore slump for the majority of the first half of this season, so it was plain to see why so many people were frustrated with him.

However, he really started to turn things around since mid-June. Josh’s little brother has posted a 126 wRC+ since June 16th, with a .286/.321/.490 slash line.

On top of his recent surge at the plate, Bo has been quietly putting together one of the better defensive performances in the league at the catcher position. He is the league-leader in framing runs at 4.5 (while not even being qualified) and has caught 11 runners stealing, placing 19th in the league.

Austin Hedges — C (A+ for vibes of course)

There’s not much to say about Austin except for the fact that he is just always excellent with the pitching staff. His defensive capabilities are second to none, and the vibes he brings to the table make him one of, if not the most lovable character on this squad. Of course, the bat is a liability, but the intangibles he provides totally justify his spot on the roster to me. I love the man, and I’m sure most can agree with this too.

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