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Guardians have finally found answers in the outfield

The outfield picture is clearer than ever

Division Series - Cleveland Guardians v New York Yankees - Game Five Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Every year, this space has seemingly been dedicated to answering the same basic question: Who are the Guardians going to find to play in the outfield?

But this year, the question is: Who can hold on to their outfield spot?

The safest bet would be Steven Kwan. After securing an Opening Day roster spot last year, his historic start to the season cemented his spot in left field. He eventually ascended to the top of the lineup thanks in large part to his otherworldly contact rate, slashing .298/.373/.400 and posting a 124 wRC+ in his rookie season. He was one of three finalists for the AL Rookie of the Year Award.

Myles Straw is no longer the sure thing he seemed to be at this time last year when he signed a five-year contract extension. He proceeded to deliver a career-best season in center field en route to earning a Gold Glove, but it was also a career-worst season for him at the plate. Among all qualified hitters, he ranked second-to-last in wRC+ (64). His struggles at the plate have cast doubt on his future as an everyday player for the Guardians, opening the door for an up-and-coming outfielder like Will Brennan to make a case for more playing time.

Brennan has already sewn up an Opening Day roster spot and I imagine he has his sights set on being more than a fourth outfielder. He was a late-season call-up last year, though he made the most of his audition. He posted a .357/.400/.500 slash line and 155 wRC+ in 45 plate appearances to earn a postseason roster spot. Coming off a solid spring, he is well-positioned to be an impact player for the Guardians this season.

The good news for Brennan is that center field may not be his only entry point into the lineup. Right fielder Oscar Gonzalez has his fair share of skeptics entering his sophomore season, even after carving out a place in Guardians lore with his postseason heroics last year. The knock against Gonzalez has always been his low walk rate and his poor contact rate. He hammered enough pitches near the strike zone last season to post a 122 wRC+, but not everyone believes that is sustainable. He has also started slow this spring, adding fuel to the fire.

All that said, I can’t remember the last time the Guardians opened a season with such a clear picture of their outfield. Even if you’re not sold on a Straw rebound or you resigned yourself to a dreaded Gonzalez sophomore slump, Cleveland has the depth to plug and play should the outfield spring a leak. Not to mention the fact that Kwan has effectively planted his flag in left field, laying claim to that position in a way that no one else has since Michael Brantley.

It’s a breath of fresh air, I must say.