Profiles of rookies and newer members of the 2022
AL Central Division Champion Cleveland Guardians
NOTE FROM EDITOR: Students in Professor John Kerezy’s MJS 2070, Sports Reporting and Broadcasting Class, at Cuyahoga Community College have prepared these mini-features on Cleveland Guardian players. Not all Guardian rookies and newcomers are profiled, as it is a small class. Bylines appear at the end of some of the features. If there’s no byline, John Kerezy wrote the profile. This composite work was done as a class assignment for educational purposes.
There are 13 players profiled here. Watch for updates in case more student writing appears. Unless noted, Photos are from the Cleveland Guardians roster website.
OUTFIELDER WILL BENSON
#29 6’5” 230 lbs. Bats Left, Throws Left
Benson made his Guardians debut on August 1 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He is a highly touted prospect that was drafted in the first round out of The Westminster School in Atlanta, Georgia in 2016.
The minor league proved to be a challenge in Benson’s early days. He struggled to hit anything higher than .240 from 2016-2021. He averaged 150 strikeouts a year from 2018-2021. The Minor Leagues abandoning the season in 2020 because of the Covid pandemic certainly didn’t aid in his progression.
But all that changed for Benson when he arrived at the Class AAA Columbus Clippers. He cut down on his strikeouts and batted .278/.426/.522 (Batting Average, Slugging Percentage, OPS) with 17 home runs in 316 at bats. That showed the Guardians that he was working hard to improve his contact rate.
“I think that was the biggest adjustment, just understanding when to look for stuff, when to just trust your ability to hit, looking at situations, Benson said. “It’s a game within the game, and that’s what all the greats do.”
“I don’t think anybody has ever questioned his work ethic or him as a person,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said about Benson. “We knew when we drafted him that we drafted an A+ kid. … Obviously I hope he helps us win. That’s why he’s here.”
The 6-foot-5-inch 24-year-old Benson got some much-needed exposure by gaining playing time with the Guardians in their playoff push. Right now he gives Centerfielder Myles Straw an occasional day off. He has made some fantastic defensive plays as he looks to improve his offensive output.
He projects to be a middle of the order power hitter with good speed if he can continue to improve his contact rate. We probably have not yet seen the power potential that likely comes with his massive frame. The Guardians have high hopes for him.
- Greg Spitzig
Follow on Twitter: @Silly_Willy18
OUTFIELDER WILL BRENNAN
#63 Bats Left, Throws Left 6’ 200 lbs.
The 24-year-old Brennan grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado, before attending college and playing baseball at Kansas State. He was selected by the Cleveland Guardians in the 2019 draft in the eighth round, with the 250th overall pick.
He rose steadily through the minor leagues, not spending more than half a season in any one level until
AAA. Brennan recorded only five errors throughout his minor league career. After spending 93 games with the Columbus Clippers and batting .316 with an OPS of .838, Brennan would be called up to the
Cleveland Guardians for his debut on September 21, against the Chicago White Sox.
In his first game with the Guardians, he would snag two hits and score one run. In his first 10 games and
only 37 at bats, he is batting .351 with a .400 OBP and an .886 OPS. With two stolen bases as well, Brennan has made a successful late season push for a spot on the playoff roster. He’s had at least one hit in nine of those 10 contests.
In the Guardians’ 7-5 win over the Kansas City Royals on Sunday (Oct. 2), Brennan would blast a homer into the second story deck. He would also score a triple and get his first extra-base hit of the season.
With only 3 weeks left in the season, Francona thought Brennan could still make an impact “It’s a pretty
big compliment to him.” Francona said in an October 2 story on MLB.com, “We felt like he could help us
moving forward when there’s only three weeks left in the season. That’s probably the biggest
compliment we could give him.”
- John Kilroy
RELIEF PITCHER EMMANUEL CLASE
#48 Bats Right, Throws Right 6’ 2” 206 lbs. (Pronounced Klaw SAY)
One newcomer to the Guardians who’s been essential to the team’s 2022 Central Division championship has been its closer, Emmanuel Clase.
A four-time AL Reliever of the Month this season, Clase leads all of baseball with 41 saves. He’s pitched in 76 games, with a 3-4 record, an ERA of just 1.38, and an infinitesimal 0.73 WHIP.
Chosen as an All-Star for the first time, Clase closed out the ninth inning in the American League’s 3-2 triumph over the National League. He struck out the side, using just 10 pitches, to preserve the victory.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Clase came to Cleveland in 2019 when the Guardians traded Corey Kluber to Texas. He’s also under a long-term contract with Cleveland, meaning that – barring injury – he’ll be in the closer slot for years to come.
Close throws a his best curveball at around 100 mph, and his slider clocks in at the low ‘90s in velocity.
Perhaps a defining game for Clase’s season came on July 3, when he got into – and out of – a jam to preserve the Guardians’ 2-0 triumph over the visiting New York Yankees. Two walks and an error led to the Yankees loading the bases, but Clase got Aaron Hicks to ground out to end the contest.
Francona said after the game that Clase good pitches in the outing, but he’s also matured with his patience and mental toughness in tight save situations.
“You got to have pretty good stuff,” Francona was quoted as saying. “But last year we saw a couple instances — a couple — where maybe things got a little quick like they do with young players. Now, he’s (Clause) got some opportunities under his belt and kind of pitches like a veteran even though he’s a young kid.”
On Twitter (not active) @emmanuelclas
ANDRÉS ALFONSO GIMÉNEZ
#0 Bats Left, Throws Right 5’11” 161 lbs.
Born and raised in Venezuela, Gimenez’s favorite players growing up were Omar Vizquel and Carlos Gonzalez. Today Gimenez starts at second base for the Guardians, and occasionally spells Amed Rosario at shortstop.
Gimenez was Cleveland’s Opening Day shortstop in 2021, but had offensive struggles and went down to AAA Columbus. He also suffered an injury, but when he came back to the show he was vastly improved. He batted .245 (27-for-110) with 6 2B, 3 HR, 11 RBI and 13 runs in 39 games (.702 OPS), and hit .342 (13-for-38) over his the13 games of the ’21 season.
In 2022, he’s been rock steady at the plate. He’s averaging .330, along with 17 homers and 26 doubles, with a .471 SLG and an .842 OPS. He’s also swiped 20 bases for the Guardians.
Gimenez help downed the Arizona Diamondbacks on August 1 with a four-hit, three steal performance. Manager Terry Francona praised his performance afterwards.
“He’s a keeper too, he’s getting better right in front of our eyes,” Francona said about Gimenez. “The ball out of the box where he gets the double, I mean it’s like he watches Jose (Ramirez) and takes it to heart and puts it in his game.”
Follow on Twitter: @andresgimenez
CATCHER AUSTIN HEDGES
#17 Bats Right, Throws Right 6’ 1” 223 lbs.
Austin “Hedgey” Hedges is a 6-foot-1-inch catcher that hits right and throws right for the Cleveland Guardians. He was acquired by the Guardians on August 31, 2020, via a trade with the San Diego Padres. He was part of a package that brought First Baseman Josh Naylor, Pitcher Cal Quantrill, and Minor League Infielders Gabriel Arias and Owen Miller.
Hedges played his first five seasons in San Diego after being drafted in the second round out of Serra Catholic High School in California in 2011. He made his Padres debut on May 4, 2015, against the San Francisco Giants. He was the backup on the Padres roster for the rest of that season and the following season before capturing the starting job there in 2017.
His offensive game has never translated to the Major Leagues yet. He was a career .273 Minor League hitter, but he plays this season with .190 career average. He does offer some pop in the line-up, with double digit home run totals in four of the last five complete seasons.
The 30-year-old value lies in the defensive ability to call a game and his veteran leadership. “Any offense is welcomed by anybody … and he knows that,” said Francona. “I’d rather have him struggle hitting rather than catching. Again offense is welcomed, but if he hits and doesn’t catch we’re not in a good spot.”
In a world where everyone wants to have a potent hitting lineup from top to bottom, people sometimes forget the tremendous value a defensive minded catcher that handles the pitching staff offers. The veteran leadership that he displays is also very important to this Guardians team that is the youngest team in Major League Baseball.
- Greg Spitzig
OUTFIELDER STEVEN KWAN
#38 5’ 9” 170 lbs. Bats Left, Throws Left
Steven Robert Kwan was chosen by the Cleveland Indians in the 5th round in the 2018 draft after playing collegiately at Oregon State for three seasons. He has become a staple atop the lineup of the 2022 Guardians, batting leadoff regularly after breaking records in his first few games.
Kwan reached base twelve times in his first three games, which was 2 more than any other player had since 1901. He went on to win Rookie of the Month for April by slashing .354/.459/.500 (Batting Average, On Base Percentage, On Base Slugging Percentage). He had a bit of a disappointing May by only hitting .173 but has hit around .300 for every month following that. He also won Player of the Week from September 19th to September 25th in which he hit .438 with an astonishing 1.221 OPS.
At season’s end, Kwan’s averages are .301/.375/.777 with 19 steals as well. Possessor of a 18-game hitting streak in July and August, he is considered by many to be a top American League Rookie of the Year candidate. Kwan has 167 base hits, the most for an Indians/Guardians rookie since Hal Trotsky in 1934.
The 24-year-old California native became a name to keep an eye on during the 2021 Minor League season. In 51 games for the AA affiliate Akron Rubber Ducks, Kwan hit .337/.411/.539. In his short stint with Columbus Clippers, the AAA affiliate, Kwan hit .311/.398/.505 in 26 games.
Kwan had struggled with his mental health and even sought to overcome his lack of confidence by seeing a sports psychologist in his college career. “I just did not believe in myself,” Kwan said. “I was unbelievably insecure, I had huge impostor syndrome, I just didn’t think I belonged there at all. We had all these high recruits and I didn’t feel like I belonged. It was talking to a sports psychologist, diving into the mental game of meditation, visualization, affirmations, all those kind of things. Taking little bits from it and being able to apply it to my game.”
The Guardians are glad that Kwan sought help to deal with his lack of confidence. “Steve’s been special,” Guardians hitting coach Chris Valaika said. “I love the contact-first approach. I do think that he has some more in the tank that he hasn’t shown yet, but I think a guy like him to break up some swing-and-miss in the lineup, I think he’s really going to help us.”
- Greg Spitzig
CATCHER LUKE MAILE
#12, Bats Right, Throws Right 6’3” 225 lbs.
Luke Maile was signed to the Guardians during the off season after spending his first five seasons with Tampa Bay, Toronto, and the Milwaukee Brewers.
Maile has had an injury-ridden career thus far, being sent up and down with Milwaukee and Tampa Bay throughout his early career. After suffering a severe hamstring pull in early April, Maile was sent on rehab assignment to the Clippers before being fully activated on April 25.
Maile has seen action as the backup catcher in 75 games this season and has been a strong presence behind the plate, allowing just one passed ball and gunning down 14 runners. On offense, he has had his ups and downs with a .215 batting average, 16 RBIs and 3 home runs.
During the month of August Maile was on fire, batting .394 with 8 RBI in only 10 games played. The 31-year-old Maile will look to be the Guardians backup catcher as they head into the postseason.
A native of Edgewood, Ky., Maile played baseball at The University of Kentucky before being drafted with the 272nd overall pick by the Tampa Bay Rays in the eighth round of the 2012 MLB Draft.
- John Kilroy
RELIEF PITCHER KIRK MCCARTY
#59 5’9” 185 lbs. Bats Left, Throws Left.
McCarty, coming on in relief, is a member of the Guardians young pitching corps and a key part of the Guardians Central Division championship season this year. McCarty is from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. McCarty was drafted in the 7th round of the 2017 MLB draft, pick no. 222. McCarty is 26 years old.
Before pitching and attending college at Southern Mississippi, McCarty played football and baseball at Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg. His offensive coordinator was Brett Favre. McCarty threw for 4,000 yards and 44 touchdowns in his senior year there.
“He saved our bacon,” Terry Francona, Guardians manage, said about McCarty’s central part in the 15-inning game versus Minnesota on September 17. McCarty hurled three innings and got the win in a 7-6 Guardians victory, one which essentially removed the Twins from playoff contention. “He pitched, competed. It made a potentially really frustrating ending into a good night.”
McCarty has a 4-3 won-loss record for Cleveland. His earned run average (ERA) is 4.48 in more than 35 innings of work. He’s recorded a 1.33 WHIP with the Guardians.
Follow on Twitter: @KirkMcCarty2
Webs and video links:
- Ryan Bernstein
STARTING/RELIEF PITCHER CODY MORRIS
#36 6’ 4” 205 lbs. Bats Right, Throws Right
He made his debut for the Guardians on September 2. After starting the season on the 60-day injured list in the rookie league while rehabbing from a shoulder injury, it wasn’t likely that Cody Morris would be seeing time in the big leagues this year. But due to injuries to other Cleveland pitchers, Morris got a chance.
After only six innings of work at Class AA Akron Morris moved to AAA Columbus. There he would pitch only 15 innings with an ERA of 2.35. This would be enough to complete rehab, and Morris moved up to the bigs.
Morris has appeared in seven games, five times as a starting pitcher. He has 1 win and 2 losses on the season with a 2.28 ERA. In the September 23 game versus the Texas Rangers, Morris struck out 5 batters in 5 innings in a solid display. A late-season addition to the Guardians, Morris could play a role coming out of the bullpen in the playoff run.
Manager Terry Francona has been impressed by Morris’ play so far. “I thought he was terrific,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said in a September 18 article on MLB.com. “He filled up the strike zone, better each time out, changeup was effective. As he gets more consistency with that curveball, that’s certainly going to help.”
After attending South Carolina, Morris was drafted by the Guardians in 2018’s draft in round 7 with the
223rd overall pick.
- John Kilroy
CATCHER BO NAYLOR
#44 Bats Left, Throws Right 6’0” 205 lbs.
Noah “Bo” Naylor – A catcher who bats left, throws right, Bo is the younger brother of Guardians staring first baseman Josh Naylor. The Naylors hail from Mississauga, Ontario. Unlike his big brother, who came up in the San Diego organization until the Guardians obtained him and Cal Quantrill in a trade in 2020, Bo has risen through the Guardians’ organization. He was the team’s No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft.
Only 22, Bo has had a phenomenal 2022 season, being promoted to the Class AAA Columbus Clippers after starting the year with the AA Akron Rubber Ducks. His .888 OPS is one of the highest in the minor leagues this year. He had 21 homers and stole 20 bases in his minor-league season. He got called up to the Guardians on October 1, and could be the third catcher on the team’s playoff roster.
“Bo went into the offseason making some adjustments, partnering with the Guardians, put their heads together, came up with a plan and we’re seeing it come to fruition this year,” said Andy Tracy, manager of the Columbus Clippers, in July. “He’s controlling the strike zone and impacting the ball when it’s in the zone,”
In his first few games with the Guardians, the younger Naylor is already making a powerful impact. He threw out a Kansas City base runner on Saturday (10/1),He caught more than 32% of opposing runners trying to steal while behind the plate for the Clippers.
“There’s some things there like if you pinch-hit him, you don’t have to pinch-run for him,” Guardians Manager Terry Francona sad about Naylor in a story in the October 2 Akron Beacon Journal. “We’re trying to set up our roster the best we think we can, and this was something that we felt we wanted to get to and try to get to it before the season was over to give the kid a little bit of a chance to play a game or two.”
Follow on Twitter: @_BoNaylor_
Web and video links:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTpCN2VfDto (Tools of the trade video)
#1 Bats Right, Throws Right 6’ 2” 190 lbs.
Rosario, nicknamed Rosie, came to Cleveland in early 2021 with Andres Gimenez as part of the trade with the New York which sent Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco to the Mets. Finishing up his fifth season in the Majors, Rosario has a .310 batting average, a .403 SLG, and a .713 OPS as the Guardians enter the playoffs.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Rosario has pop in his bat as well. He’s hit for 26 doubles, 9 triples, and 11 home runs so far this season. He also has a .977 fielding average in his 138 games at shortstop.
Born in Santo Domingo, Rosario donates cleats, equipment and clothing to area children in his hometown. He’s a member of the board of Players for the Planet (https://www.playersfortheplanet.org/) an international, environmental-based organization dedicated to united all athletes to bring lasting and measurable transformation to the Earth
Rosario’s play in the field and at the plate have made a difference in the outcome of many Guardian games this year, including three walk-off game winning hits. An early home run, paired with a last at-bat RBI single, helped Cleveland beat Arizona 6-5 on August 1. He also had walk-off hits on September 17 vs. Minnesota and again on September 28, when he came off the bench as a pinch-hitter to help the Guardians beat Tampa Bay 2-1.The latter victory came at a cold, rainy game in Cleveland.
“We didn’t have to put him in the game,” Francona said about Rosario. “I mean, the guy plays every day. But man, pretty good pinch-hitter. He rifled that ball.”
On Twitter: @Amed_Rosario
RELIEF PITCHER NICK SANDLIN
#52, Throws right, bats right 5’11” 175 lbs.
Nick Sandlin, Cleveland Guardians relief pitcher, has made his debut this year for the Guardians.
Sandlin from Evans, Georgia, was drafted in the 2018 MLB draft by the Cleveland Guardians. He was the 67th pick in round two of the draft, and comes from Southern Mississippi. He’s a native of Evans, Georgia.
Now 25 years old, Sandlin is putting his mark on the Guardians franchise. “That was really exciting. That stuff was exciting last night He’s doing good,” said Terry Francona, Cleveland Guardians manager, after Sandlin pitched for the Guardians in a game against the Seattle Mariners back on March 31st. “We’re going to have to keep an eye on him early and not overuse him because he’s such a weapon. But when you see him throw like he did last night, you get excited.”
Used solely in relief, Sandlin, has five wins and only two losses. His earned run average this season is at 2.25. He has pitched a total of 44 innings this year and has recorded stops (no runs allowed) 41 times.
Sandlin also has a microscopic 1.16 stat in a key area for relievers: WHIP, or walks plus hits per inning pitched.
Follow on Twitter: @nick_sandlin
Webs and video links: https://www.cbssports.com/fantasy/baseball/news/guardians-nick-sandlin-steady-work-late-inseason/
- Ryan Bernstein
OUTFIELDER MYLES STRAW
#7 Bats Right, Throws Right. 5’10” 178 lbs.
Myles James Noble Straw came to the Guardians in the middle of the 2021 season, and he’s been a solid fixture at centerfield for the team ever since. Drafted by Houston in 2015, Straw saw part-time action with the Astros in 2018 to 2020. He played in 158 games last year, 98 with Houston and 60 more after being traded to Cleveland.
Solid defensively, Straw was batting lead-off for the Guardians at the beginning of 2022. But Manager Terry Francona moved him to the No. 9 spot once Steven Kwan got hot. Straw is also a base-stealing threat, swiping 30 sacks in 2021 and stealing 20 more – while only being caught one time – in 2022.
Although his season batting average is .219, Straw has been steadily improving and delivering timely hits down the stretch and as the playoffs approach for the Guardians. His average is .313 in the month of September, He scored 13 runs, drew eight walks, and notched seven RBIs in 27 games for the month.
Straw hit two RBI doubles in the July 27, 7-6 come-from-behind win against the Red Sox. Francona said that “Hitting [Straw] where he’s at now gives us almost a second leadoff type hitter and when he’s on and Kwan is up it really is a good look … It’s the way we play, it allows us to play that way more often.”
A native of Garden Grove, CA, Straw was drafted while playing for St. Johns River Junior College near Jacksonville. Myles, his wife Lily, and their daughter Rylee live in Bradenton, Fla., in the off season.
Follow on Twitter: @myles_straw
Interview with Myles Straw after a two-double game at Fenway Park in July:
LINK TO THE ENTIRE GLEVELAND GUARDIANS ROSTER IS HERE