Analyzing Guardians' 3B depth behind Ramírez

January 14th, 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.

We’re back with another edition of Around the Horn. If you’ve missed any of the previous installments, our goal is to go position-by-position to examine what questions the Guardians may need to answer before the end of Spring Training.

We’ve covered catcher, first base and second base. Let’s move to third base.

Projected starter: José Ramírez
I guess we don’t need the word “projected” here, but we’ll stick with the weekly format. There’s no question that Ramírez will be back at the hot corner in 2024. Maybe last year wasn’t as loud of an offensive season as he’s had in the past, but he still finished with a .282 average, an .831 OPS, 24 homers and 36 doubles -- enough to warrant him a trip to his fifth All-Star Game and a 10th-place finish in AL MVP Award voting.

Year in and year out, Ramírez has been steady for the Guardians and the expectation is for him to once again be the core of this offense.

Backup options: Tyler Freeman, , ,
Freeman and Rocchio may have more experience up the middle, but both have proven that they can handle the hot corner in the rare times when Ramírez is given a breather.

Fry turned into the ultimate utility man last year, catching, pitching and playing the corner spots in both the infield and outfield. His versatility is attractive to carry on the roster. The Guardians will also need to find a backup for the middle infield spots (like Freeman and Rocchio), so one of them could take a spot on the 26-man roster. But De Los Santos, who was selected in this year’s Rule 5 Draft, only has experience at first and third base, so he could also factor into the backup mix at third.

Question to answer: How does De Los Santos fit in?
This is one of the biggest questions for the Guardians to answer in general, let alone just at third base. We touched on this when we looked at first base last week, but it’s worth revisiting.

De Los Santos, the club's No. 12 prospect, has only seen time at first and third base, which limits his versatility. Plus, he’s certainly known for his bat more than his glove. To think he’d be carried on this roster strictly to step in for the 10 or so games that Ramírez might miss in the field is hard to believe, especially when other utility guys could fill the void. It wouldn’t be surprising to see De Los Santos get some work in the outfield during Spring Training to see if that would be a possibility, but it’s really difficult to determine how he fits into the puzzle before everyone arrives in Goodyear, Ariz., next month.

The reason De Los Santos is so intriguing is because he’s the opposite of the majority of Cleveland’s lineup. He’s known for his power, and with that, comes a lot of strikeouts. But for a team that was at the bottom of the home run leaderboard in the Majors last year, his profile is a needed one.

However, De Los Santos is only 20 years old. He’s never played above Double-A. He must stay on the Guardians’ Major League roster if they don’t want to risk sending him back to the D-backs, per Rule 5 guidelines. So for a young, inexperienced hitter to struggle with strikeouts in the Minors, it’s likely going to be difficult to see immediate success in the big leagues. The Guardians will need to figure out how to balance getting him reps to adjust to the Majors while also fielding as competitive of a team as they can each night.

How will De Los Santos fit into that picture? Maybe we’ll have a better idea at the end of Spring Training, but we may have to wait for the regular season before we get the full answer.

Who else is in the Pipeline?

No. 14 SS/3B Angel Genao (age: 19, Single-A Lynchburg)
No. 26 3B/SS Dayan Frias (age: 21, High-A Lake County)
No. 29 OF/3B/1B Jhonkensy Noel (age: 22, Triple-A Columbus)