2023 Preview: Cleveland Guardians

Thu Mar 23 2:30pm ET
Field Level Media

2022 record: 92-70, first in American League Central

Offseason headlines: In their first season known as the Guardians, Cleveland led the New York Yankees 2-1 in the American League Division Series before losing Games 4 and 5 against some top-tier New York pitchers. Not much has changed on this Cleveland roster since the final out of that series, leaving the club to run it back and see if it can push further into the playoffs. Signing Josh Bell on a two-year deal adds a bat at first base and designated hitter, though the Guardians will be hoping for the version of Bell that slugged .483 in a year and a half with the Washington Nationals, not the one who slugged .271 upon being traded to the San Diego Padres.

Spring storylines: It's clear Cleveland is a top-notch defensive team. The Guardians tied for fifth in team ERA last season and return all five starters, all of them dependable arms. Outfielders Steven Kwan and Myles Straw and second baseman Andres Gimenez won Gold Gloves. But can they increase their power? After ranking second-to-last in home runs last season, the Guardians are hopeful for a step forward from youngsters such as Oscar Gonzalez in that department.

One position that looks brand-new is catcher. Neither Austin Hedges nor Luke Maile was retained from last year's tandem; this year it'll be Mike Zunino (who batted .148 with the Rays last year) and Cam Gallagher (.214, Royals).

Young guns: Cleveland was the youngest team in baseball last season, but that doesn't mean more prospects aren't knocking on the door. According to MLB Pipeline, the Guardians' top six prospects all have an ETA of 2023. No. 1 prospect Daniel Espino, a right-handed pitcher, is currently rehabbing from a tear in his pitching shoulder.

Fall feeling: This team has played more October baseball than any other division team in recent years, making the playoffs five of the past seven seasons. Chalk it up, among other things, to Terry Francona, who has had only one team finish sub-.500 in 10 years. Chicago and Minnesota will take aim at the top, but in a relatively weak division, the Guardians are favored to repeat.

Odds: Bettors can get the Guardians to win the AL Central at +145 at Fanduel Sportsbook, a better payout than at DraftKings (+130) or Caesars (+135). Cleveland also owns the shortest odds of any AL Central club to win the World Series, but the 12th-shortest odds in baseball (+2200 at DraftKings, +2500 at Fanduel, +3000 at Caesars).

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