Impact of 3 Rookie Starting Pitchers

August 4, 2023

Tony Camino

Will Guardians limit rookies and how will those limitations be implemented?

Even before the Aaron Civale trade, the Guardians were going to need to figure out how to get through this year with four rookies getting significant innings. Typically, rookie pitchers have an innings limit early in their career to slowly ease them into throwing 150 innings or more.

  • Gavin Williams, Tanner Bibee, and Logan Allen all over 100 innings between Triple-A and MLB
  • The health of Shane Bieber, and Triston Mckenzie would make limits easier
  • Noah Syndergaard, Cal Quantrill to see big roles; Columbus pitchers underwhelming

The next month of the season impacts these decisions in numerous ways. If the team finds themselves out of the divisional race, they may decide to limit players’ innings. However, things get really interesting when trying to manage innings during a September playoff race.

Rookie Starters with over 100 innings pitched

To this point, the rookie starters have all surpassed 100 innings this year between two levels. The team has not explicitly stated the limit they will have this year (if any at all), but assuming they want to keep them near the 130 innings mark, that gives them about a month left of starting pitching with no limits. They could always elect to cut them down to four innings at most in games, but that’s a risky game to play considering the performance of the bullpen recently.

Currently, I don’t think the team has an official plan for limits, and they’re probably going to take it one day at a time. Gavin Williams is coming off a five-inning game where he threw over 90 pitches, an outing that doesn’t indicate unusual limits. Between the potential of important September baseball and postseason baseball and the uncertainty of health in their veterans, other things need to sort themselves out before the team really decides what they’re going to do.

Shane Bieber and Triston Mckenzie to save the day

Last year’s one-two punch in Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie is the most important factor for having good starting pitching while limiting the rookies. While Bieber is for sure out until mid-September, the return of the two would make life a lot easier for Terry Francona.

Having the top two pitchers on the staff return alongside Noah Syndergaard would allow the team to manage the rookies and give them innings in bullpen-game-type situations. Once the rosters expand in September, there should be more than enough arms to navigate through more bullpen games. Instead of Xzavion Curry opening, allowing Gavin Williams, Logan Allen, and Tanner Bibee to open and go three to four innings is a nice middle ground.

Noad Syndergaard and Cal Quantrill are in line for bigger roles

After an impressive yet fairly lucky debut, Noah Syndergaard is going to be tasked with eating a ton of innings to end this year if he’s healthy. It’s the best situation for both sides, as the Guardians can give the rookies a break, and Syndergaard gets more innings to figure things out and prove he deserves a role somewhere else. Hopefully, he can give up less hard contact going forward and be a guy the team can count on to give the bullpen a rest.

Another guy who’s likely to get starts at some point again this season is Cal Quantrill. He has been pretty bad this season but showed he can be serviceable in the past years with the team, posting around league-average expected ERAs. Coming off injury, hopefully, he can rediscover what was working the last few years to give this rotation some relief.

If all else fails, guys from Triple-A will likely be called on when the rosters expand. Although nobody left in Columbus has impressed this year, Daniel Norris and Zach Plesac have a good amount of major-league experience. Joey Cantillo and Hunter Gaddis are younger guys who have struggled but could be thrown into the mix if the organization goes full-thrust with the youth movement. Hopefully, it doesn’t come down to any of these guys; however, that would likely mean they fell out of the race.


This next month should make the entire situation a lot clearer, with injury updates and an idea of where the team stands in the standings helping them make their decisions. In the event that the team is still in the race in September, the returns of Shane Bieber and/or Triston McKenzie solve almost all the issues. They would move forward with healthy veterans eating up the majority of the starting innings, allowing the rookies to get occasional work in relief roles or bullpen games.

Without getting the veterans healthy, it’s unlikely to see a playoff push, especially considering what the rotation might look like. I would expect the next month to be pretty normal for the rookies, with limits coming when the rosters expand to allow for more bullpen games and the returns of veteran starters.

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