Guardians call up slugging No. 2 prospect Manzardo

May 6th, 2024

CLEVELAND -- The Era is about to begin in Cleveland.

The Guardians added Manzardo to the Major League roster on Monday afternoon in place of outfielder Steven Kwan, who was placed on the 10-day injured list with a left hamstring strain. Manzardo, 23, will bat seventh and serve as the DH in Monday night's opener with the Tigers.

Manzardo, the team’s No. 2 prospect and No. 52 overall according to MLB Pipeline, has done everything in his power to get this call. In his last 14 games alone, he’s hit eight homers with six doubles and 14 RBIs. His defense at first base has improved and his bat has been consistent since the Triple-A season began.

“He’s been good against left-handed pitching, his approach against lefties has improved,” Guardians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said prior to Cleveland’s 4-1 victory over the Angels on Sunday. “He’s worked really hard at his defense, both his footwork around the bag and his throwing and he continues to put up and manage really good at-bats.”

The problem was, the Guardians didn’t have room for young first baseman on the active roster. Josh Naylor handles the everyday duties at first base. Gabriel Arias brings defensive versatility to the table. Estevan Florial is still young and the team needs a longer look at him before deciding if it wants to part ways. Ramón Laureano is one of the few right-handed bats the team can turn to off the bench. There wasn’t a missing piece of the puzzle that Manzardo would be able to fill, despite how well he was hitting in Columbus.

That is, until now. This is the last way the Guardians would’ve wanted to add Manzardo to the roster, considering Kwan has been the best hitter in the American League this year. Entering Sunday, his 47 hits and .353 average were the best in the AL and he hadn’t struck out in an MLB-best 74 consecutive plate appearances. Adding Manzardo is something the team would hope would only improve the lineup, but this way, it’s coming with some drawbacks with the loss of the Guardians' leadoff hitter.

With Kwan on the IL, expect Will Brennan to see more time in left field and Laureano in right. Florial has the ability to play all three outfield spots, so the Guardians are still covered in the grass. Manzardo can work in at first base, but can also serve as the DH on days that Naylor is in the field.

However, Manzardo will now have his chance to prove that what he did all through Spring Training and in Triple-A can translate to the big league level. He was acquired at last year’s Trade Deadline from the Rays in exchange for righty Aaron Civale to bring some pop to the middle of the order that’s been missing from this lineup. With José Ramírez going deep on Sunday and Josh Naylor being the source of this team’s power all season, adding Manzardo has the potential to boost this lineup even more.

In 13 Cactus League games, Manzardo hit .381 with a .934 OPS, two doubles and two RBIs. The Guardians optioned him to Triple-A Columbus, hoping that he would show that his success at the plate would continue throughout the early weeks of the season. Once it did, it was clear that Manzardo was the only option to be promoted when a spot opened up.