Fantasy Baseball Sleepers & Busts: Cleveland Guardians

Detailing which players were worth drafting to your fantasy team.

The Cleveland Guardians were quite the surprise in 2022, ending up in the American League Division Series against the New York Yankees after going into the season as one of the youngest teams in the majors and one that was not expected to compete for the postseason.

To extend that postseason window, the Guardians went out and signed free agents Josh Bell and Mike Zunino, adding a productive veteran presence to a young team.

Now that the Guardians are expected to compete again after winning their fourth AL Central title in seven seasons, let’s take a look back at some of the surprises and busts from the Guardians’ lineup from 2022.




Steven Kwan

2022 stats (638 PA): .298 AVG, 89 R, 6 HR, 52 RBI, 19 SB

A surprise when making the major league roster out of spring training, Steven Kwan did not take long to establish himself as one of the AL’s top contact hitters. He quickly shot his way up the lineup into the leadoff role, partially helped by Myles Straw’s inefficiencies in the role to start the season, and set a record for the longest streak without a swing and miss for any batter to start his major league career at 116 pitches, but it didn’t stop there. At the plate, Kwan finished in the 100th percentile for whiff rate and strikeout rate.

While Kwan is not your typical power hitter, his numbers will come from simply putting the ball in play. Kwan’s wOBA of .341 was nearly 30 points higher than MLB average and his sweet spot percentage of 34.6% was also above average. He’s established himself as an everyday player and one that you can rely on to consistently put the bat to the ball and limit mistakes, despite his youth.

Kwan’s .373 OBP not only led all MLB rookies in 2022, but it is also indicative of a player that, when combined with a BB/K of 1.033, has above-average discipline at the plate. Kwan also fell one stolen base short of a 20-20 season in terms of doubles and stolen bases, two statistics that can accumulate extra points if he’s in your starting lineup on a consistent basis.

What made Kwan’s season so great was that it was completely unexpected from an unknown rookie. 2023 will be the true test of whether or not Kwan’s productivity is real or not.


Andrés Giménez

2022 stats (557 PA): .297 BA, 66 R, 17 HR, 69 RBI, 20 SB

At first glance, you might not think that Giménez had that great of a season, at least not to be a sleeper. But just like Kwan, Giménez was consistently a productive player in a season in which he was named an All-Star.

Giménez’s percentile rankings are not great, but basic statistics show that he can easily have a 20-home run season with 70-plus RBI when he’s on, and 20 stolen bases is well within his reach in a good year. His wOBA of .364 was in the top 9% of all major league hitters and his AL-leading 25 hit by pitches was instrumental in, though not relied upon, an OBP of .371 that was a top-15 mark in the American League.

Taking a closer look, Giménez has shown measurable growth as a hitter since making his debut in 2020. He has increased his hard-hit percentage from a bottom-five mark of 26.4% to 37.8%. While his walk percentage (5.8%) is below major league average, he has decreased his strikeout rate from nearly 26% in 2021 to under major league average at 21.6% in during his All-Star 2022 season.

Giménez pulled batted balls at a rate of 40.2%. With the demise of the defensive shift in MLB, it would make sense if he saw even more base hits and an increase in stolen base opportunities to boot. FanGraphs DC is projecting him to steal another 18 bases.


Amed Rosario

2022 Stats (670 PA): .283 BA, 86 R, 11 HR, 71 RBI, 18 SB

Amed Rosario might be the truest sleeper of this group. If you ask Guardians fans, they are ready for him to be on another team, but that might not be the smartest move. Rosario had a sneakily-good season, finishing third in the American League for hits (180) while leading the league in singles (134) and triples (9). Rosario was also third in runs scored (86), fourth in batting average (.283), and fifth in RBI (71) among all American League shortstops.

No, Rosario’s number won’t jump off the page at you, but you can see his offensive value, especially in fantasy baseball, if you take a closer look. According to Statcast, the shortstop’s 8 batting runs in 2022 is the first time he finished a season with a positive outcome. Which is good, considering Rosario swings at 53.1% of pitches he sees, 5% higher than the major league average.

Elsewhere, Rosario was in the 89th percentile for xBA while doing his best work during the last 28 days of the season, hitting .309/.325/.464 with an OPS+ of 119. He is able to positively affect a game with his offense without displaying the power that a lot of shortstops have come to have in recent years.



Myles Straw

2022 stats (596 PA): .221 BA, 72 R, 0 HR, 32 RBI, 21 SB

The Guardians’ version of Jekyll & Hyde last season was none other than Myles Straw. Traded to Cleveland from Houston midway 2021, he slashed .285/.362/.377 through 60 games. In 2022, his average plummeted 50 points and he routinely found himself below the Mendoza line well into the summer. As a result, manager Terry Francona moved him out of the leadoff spot (and replaced him with Kwan), pushing him to the 9-hole.

Moving down to the 9-hole did do Straw some good. From the top spot in the lineup, Straw hit .201/.294/.253 with 39 runs scored in 58 games. When Straw was the game’s first hitter, his numbers drop to .113/.190/.151, severely limiting his ability to establish his running game early on. His hitting improved in his 88 games hitting last in the lineup, slashing .237/.291/.292. However, with fewer opportunities to score from that spot, Straw only scored 32 times when batting ninth.

While Straw’s whiff rate was only 12.6% (compared to 13.5% in 2021 and 19.5% in 2020), his OBP was only .291 and his slugging percentage of .271 was the first time he finished a season under .300.

According to Baseball Savant’s Swing/Take rankings of 2022, Straw finished dead last out of 300 major league hitters and accounted for -38 batting runs. His offense was simply nonexistent last season for any fantasy owners that were hoping for consistency from being on base and, of course, base stealing.

Straw was still productive when he was on base, but fans and owners might have wanted more steal attempts from him. After he stole 30 bases out of 36 attempts in 2021, Straw stole 21 bases and was caught only one time in 2022. Base-stealing and defense continue to be Straw’s best asset currently. In 2022, he saw career highs in Runs from Baserunning (4), Runs from Fielding (17) and Runs from Replacement Level (20), according to Baseball Reference.


Featured Image by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login