I’m old enough to remember when there were concerns Cleveland would start the season with Andrés Giménez at Triple-A to manipulate his service time.
Giménez laid those concerns to rest by seizing control of the starting shortstop spot in spring training, but the role of everyday shortstop has eluded him as manager Terry Francona has opted to platoon him. His grip on the shortstop spot would seem tenuous at the moment.
Giménez has started all 18 games this season for Cleveland when a right-handed pitcher is on the mound. Against left-handers, he has drawn five starts, with Amed Rosario getting the nod in the other 11 games that a southpaw has been on the mound. But their splits don’t demand a platoon.
Last season, his first at the big league level, Giménez posted nearly identical splits, slashing .261/.346/.391 against left-handers and .263/.330/.400 against right-handers. A small sample to be sure, but not exactly a hitter screaming to be platooned. Rosario, on the other hand, makes complete sense against left-handers. This is his fifth season with a big-league club and his career splits lend themselves well to a platoon, with a .296/.337/.466 slash line against left-handers compared to a .253/.287/.374 slash line against right-handers.
Through the first 34 games of this season, it hasn’t mattered whether the pitcher is left- or right-handed for Giménez. He has struggled equally against both, posting a .171/.220/.303 slash line and producing a paltry 44 wRC+ in 83 plate appearances for Cleveland. Rosario isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire, but his .261/.320/.413 slash line against left-handers gives Francona ample reason to keep him in the lineup against southpaws.
Rosario is also part of the conversation in center field. While Giménez has drawn every start at shortstop against right-handers, 10 of those 18 games have seen Rosario in center field, and he has slashed .163/.241/.286 against right-handers this season. Lately, Francona has been alternating him with Harold Ramirez, who has posted a career .281/.321/.431 slash line against right-handed pitchers. I’m not comfortable drawing many conclusions from Ramirez’s current sample size of eight games so far, but I will concede he is off to a promising start and hitting the ball hard.
There are no easy answers as to what Francona should do in center field. If Ramirez can recreate his 2019 campaign, in which he slashed .281/.318/.436 against right-handers, he would make an ideal platoon partner for Jordan Luplow. But at shortstop, Giménez’s overall struggles at the plate make that platoon seem increasingly untenable. If Francona is determined to platoon that position, there are options other than Giménez that he can pair with Rosario.
There is a case to be made that perhaps a trip to Columbus would be best for Giménez. He has never spent any time in Triple-A, making the leap from Double-A to the Mets last season. Currently, his 3.6% walk rate is the worst of his career, as is his 30.1% strikeout percentage. His .220 BABIP would suggest he has had some bad breaks, but his .183 xBA begs to differ. Giménez’s xwOBA and xwOBAcon both rank in the bottom 2% of the league.
Giménez’s retreat to Columbus would open the door for Owen Miller to make his big league debut. He can play shortstop and second base, and he slashed .276/.342/.406 against right-handers at the Double-A level in 2019. Miller is only seven games into his first season at Triple-A, but he is off to a torrid start, boasting a .444/.500/.630 slash line and an absurd 199 wRC+.
The 22-year-old Giménez could still very well be the shortstop of the future for Cleveland. But for a lineup desperate for offensive production, he is presently hurting more than he is helping.