Guards Talk 7/25/23 | With Andy Billman and Tony Camino

July 25, 2023

Andy Billman

 Andy Billman and Tony Camino Analyze 5 Guardians Prospects Currently On the Roster


Will Brennan

Andy

I am a big fan of Will Brennan.  He has taken over for Oscar Gonzalez full-time, and a big reason is he has produced multiple big hits in big spots throughout the season. 

Brennan is a gamer, and he fits in the Cleveland fandom mold well as he’s an underdog type of player.  He does not jump off the page with athleticism or power, but he loves the game of baseball and makes a lot of contact at the plate.

Brennan is finding himself defensively; he’s a solid right fielder and a decent center fielder.  He has a good arm and can make a big throw to the plate.  He can play every day in right field, and Terry Francona can feel comfortable with his defensive ability.

Brennan is playing on most nights, sitting one to two games out a week.  For a while, he was the Guardians best-hitting outfielder as he had a strong June hitting .333.  From reports, Brennan is a guy who shows up early, stays late, and is thinking 24/7 about baseball, so one has to imagine he is well-liked in the organization and the locker room. He fits in well with the Francona mold. Brennan has earned the right to be playing every day.  


Tony

I like Will Brennan, but it’ll be interesting to see how he fares with the organization long-term. His hitting in big moments has fit right in with what this team needs, although he’s slowed down lately. His above-average defense and ability to show up when it matters most will keep him on the roster.

My biggest concerns aren’t necessarily with Brennan long-term, but the infield would need to have a major shakeup to survive with a Kwan-Straw-Brennan outfield that will combine for less than 30 homers every year. His underlying metrics are slightly concerning, as his average exit velocity is lower than almost all qualified hitters. He fails to barrel up the ball consistently and really needs to work on pitch selection.

Overall, Will Brennan has shown he’s a major-league-level outfielder in all aspects of the game, but the roster needs some changes if he’s going to be the guy long-term in the outfield. Steven Kwan has already solidified his spot in the future, so having another future guy without major power concerns me. At the very least, Brennan deserves a spot on the bench, getting spot starts and pinch-hit opportunities.


Tyler Freeman

Tony

In limited playing time, Tyler Freeman looks like a more patient Amed Rosario with much better defense. Offensively, Freeman has hit for average in limited plate appearances with no home runs and a 103 wRC+. His defense has been impressive, as he has great versatility at multiple infield positions.

In order to get a true idea of Freeman, we have to start seeing him more. In all likelihood, that will be in 2024 as the guy at shortstop, with Amed Rosario slated to be a free agent. Freeman is another player who isn’t going to hit for a lot of power, but he’s a great contact hitter with a ton of defensive versatility and speed on the bases.

The shortstop position isn’t one that you typically rely on for providing power, and his defense at the position will more than make up for his lack of power. The last shortstop prospect to come to the majors was also said not to have any power (Francisco Lindor), and we see how that turned out. While Freeman isn’t on the same level as Lindor was as a prospect, I’m excited to see how Freeman fares as the everyday guy next year.


Andy

When it comes to Tyler Freeman, I need to see more of Freeman to make a complete evaluation, but he has earned the right to be the everyday shortstop in 2024. 

He only has 76 at-bats, but in those 76 at-bats has shown no home run power as he is still looking for a home run in 2023.  He can hit for average, batting .293.  So, another Guardian who can make good contact in a limited amount of time, but I don’t see him ever being a 20-plus home run guy a season in the big leagues. 

Where Freeman makes up for his lack of power is his defense.  He is a good infielder who can play multiple positions, mainly shortstop and second.  He is very steady, and Terry Francona can feel comfortable playing him daily with his glove.

I need to see more of Freeman, but I have seen enough where he is the full-time replacement for Amed Rosario next season.


Gabriel Arias

Andy

Gabriel Arias is a pure example of baseball patience.  Arias needs time to develop more at the plate before making an official evaluation of what he will be on the everyday level for the Guardians.

With that in mind, Arias right now is an out anytime he comes up to the plate and in the field is very reliable and can play multiple positions well. 

I want to see more of Arias regarding his bat, as I don’t think he’s as bad as we currently see. I think some time in Columbus would be suitable for Arias, as he needs to play every day to work out his bat. 

I will become more concerned if his struggles at the plate continue in 2024.


Tony

Gabriel Arias is in a precarious situation and needs to be addressed either this year or next. While he has struggled offensively in his limited plate appearances, his hard-hit rate is up there with the big hitters on the team, but his swing-and-miss percentage is concerning. Arias approaches hitting the ball differently compared to many players in this league, and I’d love to see him get consistent playing time, even if that means going back to Columbus.

The concern with this situation is that it could become another scenario similar to Will Benson, Yandy Diaz, or Nolan Jones. The team must avoid letting go of another young player without giving him a fair chance, only to see him thrive elsewhere.

Arias isn’t achieving good results, but he is hitting the ball hard. His defense has been average to above average despite playing in various positions he’s unfamiliar with. Arias needs to work on reducing his swings and misses, which could improve with consistent playing time. I don’t think he belongs on the major league team if he’s never going to play, and the more he rides the bench, the more likely the organization will undervalue him and potentially lose him for less than he’s worth.


David Fry

Tony

Definitely, something I didn’t have on my radar this season was David Fry finding his way into the lineup almost every day in July, and it’s hard to say he doesn’t deserve it. In just 75 plate appearances, he’s making good contact and has a wRC+ of 125, along with delivering hits in the most clutch spots.

While I like Fry and think he could be a great addition to this roster, I don’t believe he should be eating away at all of Bo Naylor’s playing time. His unique skill set allows him to become a super utility guy, creating an extra roster spot for the team. I would like to see Fry long-term as the backup catcher, but also a guy who gets spot starts in the right field, as the DH, and in other positions. While his defense at Catcher is pretty average and a little questionable everywhere else, his ability to play multiple positions is incredibly valuable.

I think the team should move on from Cam Gallagher and allow Fry and Naylor to handle the catching duties, especially with Shane Bieber out until early September. Fry’s ability to deliver in the clutch and play multiple positions makes him a dream utility player, in my opinion, and I would love to see him fill that role going forward.


Andy

I must profess my bromance for David Fry, I saw him play in the spring, and he did well, and I have liked him ever since—a true fandom love at first sight.

Fry fits in the mold of Will Brennan, he’s a gamer and can hit in a big spot, like the game-tying home run on Sunday in the bottom of the 9th, but he makes more contact than Brennan.  He is hitting .290 and has three home runs in only 69 at-bats.  Fry might get 20 home runs a season if he can play 100-120 games out of 162.  He has only played 36 games in 2023 because of a log jam at the catcher position.

The one issue with Fry is that I don’t know if he’s a catcher. I see Bo Naylor as more of an everyday defensive catcher.  With that said, I believe Fry’s best position is catcher.  One can see the issue Cleveland is battling with Fry as they want to play Bo every day behind the plate, but they need to get Fry’s bat in the lineup, and he does not have a natural position currently outside of Catcher.

He’s played right field and is ok at best, does not make you feel comfortable yet, and he makes me nervous when he plays third, so he’s more than likely a catcher for now.  He might be an everyday DH in future seasons.

Fry needs to get more at-bats, and he can develop more comfortably behind the plate or in the field.  The Guardians will have to get creative with him and Bo on creating both simultaneously, which is a challenging task.


Bo Naylor

Andy

The excitement from fans about Bo Naylor was high when he came up from Columbus.  Bo was one of the top prospects coming into the season, and with the energy of his brother Josh Naylor, it makes for a lot of positive juju. 

Bo looks like a catcher behind the plate, and he is a rookie, so he does make some mistakes, but from the naked eye, he looks like an everyday catcher.  He just needs time to work with the pitching staff and work on the major league level to, I believe, possibly become an excellent elite defensive catcher.  Bo has a great arm and can throw out runners already, and he is athletic so he can move behind the plate pretty well.

When it comes to hitting, I will give it an incomplete so far.  He has yet to show that he can hit consistently on the major league level, but he only has 76 career at-bats, so hard to tell what he can do.  Bo also plays only two to three games a week, making it harder to understand what he can do.

Bo Naylor is the classic case of needing to see more to make a complete evaluation, but he looks the part behind the plate as a defensive catcher. The jury is out on what he can do as a hitter. Time will tell.


Tony

The management of Bo Naylor has been frustrating to me, although I understand it, given the team’s current landscape. Before the emergence of David Fry, there was zero reason for Bo Naylor not to be catching every day, as Mike Zunino and Cam Gallagher have been abysmal at the plate. Fry has become the team’s most consistent offensive option at Catcher, but Naylor and Gallagher are much better defensively.

Naylor’s hitting has been very up-and-down, which is understandable when a guy gets one start in six days. It seems that whenever Naylor has a big game, he’s out of the lineup the next day and has zero chance to build on his success. Young players need consistent playing time, and the team is benching him every time they face a left-handed pitcher. If that’s going to be the case, and his hitting versus lefties isn’t major-league-ready yet, he should be in Columbus, where he can improve every day and not just watch from the bench.

Naylor is another example of questionable management in the development of young hitters, and it stems from the organization’s need for more clarity in their direction. Young players won’t improve by sitting on the bench, especially in a position like catcher. Hopefully, the team fully commits to Naylor by the start of next year, or he might be another player who never gets a fair shot.


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