How will Bo fare in first full big league season?

January 3rd, 2024

This story was excerpted from Mandy Bell’s Guardians Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Santa’s cookies have been eaten, the ball has dropped and now baseball season is just around the corner. As we approach Spring Training, we will use this newsletter to go around the horn to examine each area of the Guardians' 2024 roster. This installment focuses on Cleveland’s catching options.  

Projected starter:
It’s finally time for Naylor to get a full season under his belt. Last year, he waited until June to get a consistent Major League opportunity. With that transition comes plenty of responsibility, including learning a new pitching staff, figuring out how to call a game at the big league level, gaining the confidence to lead a staff and learning how to hit Major League pitching.

It wasn’t simple, and Naylor took some time to settle in. But once he got to September, he flourished, hitting .304 with a 1.052 OPS in 19 games. He’s done more than enough to finally earn the starting job on Opening Day. Now, he just needs to prove he can be the impact player the Guardians believe he will become.  

“I think that was one of the highlights of our season, is the way Bo transitioned to the Major Leagues and the year he ended up having,” Guardians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “He didn’t have the results immediately. But I think what we were able to see is he was able to learn from those experiences, and by the end of the year, he put together a really, really good year and was one of the most productive catchers in all of baseball from July 1 on.”

Backup options: Austin Hedges, David Fry
When the Guardians learned it would be possible for them to reacquire Hedges, they didn’t hesitate to make room for him on the 40-man roster. They had already brought in Christian Bethancourt, but they shipped him to the Marlins in exchange for cash to lock up Hedges on a one-year, $4 million deal.   

The Guardians are familiar with Hedges. He was with Cleveland from the Trade Deadline in 2020 through the playoff run in ’22. He’s an excellent leader who will be vital for this young clubhouse. But the Guardians also know he’s not the offensive answer they are looking for. He’ll be able to spell Naylor every few games and should be above average behind the dish with a calming effect on young hurlers adjusting to the Majors. He won’t necessarily be the guy to turn to in pinch-hit scenarios.  

Hedges understands it’s Naylor’s job, and he’s here to help whenever he’s called on.

As for Fry, he could fill the same role he did last season, occasionally getting some time at catcher when both guys in front of him are out of the lineup, assuming he’s on the roster to be a utility option again in 2024.  

Question to answer: Will having all these mentors help Naylor blossom in his first full season?
Not only will Naylor have catching coach Sandy Alomar Jr. and Hedges as mentors this season, but new manager Stephen Vogt and bench coach Craig Albernaz are former catchers as well. Naylor now has his own (limited) experience to draw on, but he can also turn to a plethora of resources to help him thrive in the Majors. Whether that will help him settle in and consistently play like he did last September remains to be seen.  

“He certainly won’t lack for resources,” Antonetti said. “I think what we want to make sure that we do is have a consistent message for Bo to help make sure that he’s progressing in the right path in a way that makes sense for him.” 

Who else is in the Pipeline?
Guardians No. 7 prospect 1B/C Ralphy Velazquez (age 18, Arizona Complex League)