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Who is Andrés Giménez’s double play partner?

Cleveland Guardians v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Tom Hamilton said on the radio broadcast for Sunday’s game that the team is looking at the rest of 2023 as a chance to figure out who their shortstop is for 2024, whether that means switching Andres Gimenez over or putting a young player there to pair with Gimenez. So, who should we expect to take the reins?

Let’s take a look back at the top four contenders and how they performed in Double-A, relative to their ages. We are looking at Double-A in all but one player’s case because that’s the highest level at which all of the Guardians’ most advanced 2B/SS have played, so far.

The Candidates

Gabriel Arias, RHH 21 years old (Triple-A) - 113 wRC+, .166 ISO, 23.3/8.1 K/BB%, .355 BABIP

Juan Brito, SH 21 years old - 128 wRC+, .175 ISO, 19.2/10.7 K/BB%, .341 BABIP

Brayan Rocchio, SH 20-21 years old - 121 wRC+, .181 ISO, 19.2/8.7 K/BB%, .318 BABIP

Tyler Freeman, RHH 22 years old - 130 wRC+, .146 ISO, 11.7/4.4 K/BB%, .357 BABIP

Additionally, being the Guardians, they have a two other shortstop prospects hanging around who are of a little lesser prospect pedigree, but still notable:

Jose Tena, LHH, 21-22 years old - 98 wRC+, .136 ISO, 26.3/7.5 K/BB%, .348 BABIP

Angel Martinez, SH 20-21 years old - 99 wRC+, .151 ISO, 18.9/9.2 K/BB%, .281 BABIP

Some general takeaways:

-Each of these players was young for their level playing in Double-A, save perhaps Tyler Freeman.

-Arias skipped Double-A due to losing a year of development for COVID.

-If you’re looking for power, Rocchio had the highest ISO, but his pop has mostly disappeared in Triple-A. Juan Brito is not far behind where Rocchio was at Double-A.

-Martinez has been the most unlucky of the bunch in batted-ball results, and Freeman and Arias were the most fortunate in that category.

-General industry consensus is that Arias, Rocchio, and Tena are major league quality defenders as shorstops, with Arias being the most skilled, Tena being the second most skilled and Rocchio being third of a good bunch at short. There is risk of Freeman and Martinez being best suited for 2nd base, though Freeman has looked adequate at third base and shortstop in brief stints in the bigs. Brito is generally considered not a legitimate option as a shortstop, defensively, but likely an adequate second-baseman.

-He’s only played 11 games, there, but for whatever reason, Jose Tena has absolutely raked in Triple-A with a 165 wRC+, .277 ISO, 21/9 K/BB%.


In my opinion, the bell cows in this race seem to be Rocchio and Arias. Freeman is still in the running, with Tena and Brito remaining the most interesting darkhorse options.

Rocchio managed a 99 wRC+, .134 ISO and 12.6/10.6 K/BB% in Triple-A. Those numbers, as compared to what he did in Akron, make him LOOK like a player who may have intentionally tried to prioritize quantity of contact over quality of contact. Conversely, they could show us a player who doesn’t have the hitting skills necessary to punish superior pitching than what he saw in Double-A. Determining whether or not Rocchio can rediscover more of the power he showed in Double-A is the key issue for him. It looks like his glove plays, he’s seems likely to make sufficient contact (despite a recent run of strikeouts)... but if he doesn’t find some of that power as he ages, he is going to be a slap-hitting utility player who won’t provide what the Guardians need. His 67 wRC+ in a small sample size so far in Cleveland isn’t going to cut it, obviously, but he is still very young and inexperienced.

If you go on Arias’s Baseball Savant page, he has all red numbers so far (a good thing). 93rd percentile in max exit velocity, 90th in arm strength, 68th in sprint speed and 73rd in outs above average. However, this rosy picture belies the biggest issues with Arias due to sample sizes for other numbers. While being 6% above league average for in-zone swing rate, Arias is 10.2% below average for in-zone contact. While being about average in chase rate, he is 16.6% below average for chase contact. He is 11 runs below average in swing/take rate, he has a ground-ball rate 11.5% above league average, a fly ball rate 7.4% below league average and a pull percentage 3.3% below league average.

In summary, Arias isn’t making league average contact, and when he does make contact, he is often times hitting it on the ground and to center-opposite field. When he does manage to lift the ball, he hits it hard enough to get a home run or a double. Now, Arias has raised his hard-hit rate in the majors from 2022 to 2023 by 11%, his sweet spot rate by 15% and his barrel rate by 0.6%. The question is whether he can increase these gains given further opportunities, or if a lack of launch angle and contact rate will doom him to a constant boom or bust existence similar to Yu Chang’s far too infrequent boom.

One thing that is not of any doubt is Arias’s ability to play good defense anywhere you put him. His arm is special and he can dazzle with his glove with the best of them. This floor of value may give him a leg up on Rocchio and Freeman.

In contrast, Tyler Freeman makes contact both in and out of the zone at 6% and 9.8%, respectively, higher than league average. He just can’t hit the ball hard consistently, doing so at a rate 12% below Arias’s and has yet to get a single barrel on the ball in 2023. He doesn’t have a particularly strong arm (30-40th percentile), but has been slightly-above league average as a defender anywhere he’s been put.

To me, Freeman is the easiest of this bunch about which I feel comfortable coming to a conclusion. He’s a useful utility player who will be able to consistently make contact, get some hit-by-pitches, and provide speed in the 70th-80th percentiles. That’s a player who is likely destined for a lengthy major league career, but probably not as a starter. He is unlikely to offer the slugging upside the Guardians should aspire to attain in the role of their starting shortstop or second-baseman.

As for Tena, of course, it’s silly to think that he was just stuck in neutral in Double-A and it took a promotion to Columbus to kickstart him into being the player Keith Law always dreamed he could be. ...or, is it???

Hey, you may remember another Cleveland middle-infield prospect by the first name of Jose who never showed an ISO over .200 until he had been in the majors multiple years. Development isn’t always linear, so I’ll be watching Tena closely the rest of the season, expecting his numbers to come back to earth but rooting for something magical, instead.

Finally, I’d advocate that Brito should be promoted to Columbus, or even to Cleveland (sending Rocchio to Triple-A to try figuring out where his slugging went), to see if the bat-to-ball skills and plate discipline he’s shown at a young age are legitimate. If he hits a wall as several of these other prospects have, fine, you continue to give the majority of starting reps to Arias and Rocchio while monitoring Tena, Brito and Martinez. But, if Brito shows he can translate what he’s been doing at the plate in Akron to the majors, I think the team should give serious consideration to moving Gimenez to shortstop and making us all happy the Nolan Jones trade happened when we see our brand new, switch-hitting second baseman stride to the plate in 2024.

If you’re tuning out on the Guardians’ season because they are busy losing season series to the Tigers and the White Sox, I can’t really blame you. But, I would like to encourage you to tune in to Cleveland, Columbus and Akron games to follow the unfolding saga of figuring out who is going to replace the legend Amed Rosario on the infield in 2024. It seems to be the most fascinating storyline remaining, one that can help redeem a lost season if the answer emerges in one of these six young players.