The Guardians announced a quartet of roster moves, including the activation of Zach Plesac from the 15-day injured list and the selection of Bo Naylor’s contract from Triple-A. To create roster space, infielder Tyler Freeman was optioned to Triple-A, and right-hander Bryan Shaw was designated for assignment.
This will be Naylor’s first taste of Major League action, as the 22-year-old will get a chance at making his debut in the Show before the 2022 season is over, and the unique thrill of suiting up alongside older brother Josh. The 29th overall pick of the 2018 draft, the younger Naylor is rated as the 58th-best prospect in the sport by Baseball America, while MLB Pipeline has Naylor rated 75th.
It hasn’t exactly been a smooth ride for Naylor in the minors, as after posting respectable numbers in his first two pro seasons, he and countless other prospects had to sit out the canceled 2020 minor league season. While Naylor still got some reps at Cleveland’s alternate training site, the lack of proper game action seemed to severely impact him in 2021, when he hit only .189/.280/.332 over 335 plate appearances for Double-A Akron.
Remaining at Double-A to begin 2022, Naylor has now regained his status as a potential catcher of the future for the Guardians. Naylor has hit a cumulative .263/.392/.496 with 21 home runs over 510 PA this season (220 PA at Double-A, 290 at Triple-A). As per Pipline’s scouting report, Naylor got on track “by using a much more disciplined approach and utilizing the opposite field more often,” which also bodes well for his longer-term development as a big league-caliber hitter.
Cleveland has long prioritized defense at the catcher position, and Naylor has also drawn solid reviews for his blocking and framing ability. He could continue the Guardians’ focus on glovework while also bringing some much-needed pop behind the plate, if he delivers on his potential at the MLB level. Naylor is also the rare catcher who has five-tool ability, as he stole 20 bases in 24 chances in the minors this season.
As much as the Guards have relied on young players to fuel their run to the AL Central crown, it probably seems likely that the team will stick with the veteran duo of Austin Hedges and Luke Maile heading into the postseason. Naylor’s presence does at least give the Guardians another potential option to consider for the playoffs, but this late-season call-up could be more about rewarding Naylor for his big season and taking a look to the future. Hedges is a free agent this winter, so Cleveland could potentially head into 2023 with a tandem of Naylor and Maile (who is still arbitration-eligible), though there has been speculation that the Guardians could make a bigger move at catcher, such as past trade target Sean Murphy.
Plesac will start today’s game against the Royals, as the righty returns after missing just over a month of action. Plesac suffered a fracture in his pinkie finger in rather unusual fashion, as he punched the mound in frustration after allowing a Jake Lamb home run in his last start on August 27.
The injury continued what has been a rough season overall for Plesac, who has a respectable 4.39 ERA over 127 innings but also a slate of unimpressive Statcast numbers. It remains to be seen whether Plesac will get any consideration for a postseason start should the Guardians advance beyond the wild card series, and in the bigger picture, there have been some whispers about whether or not Cleveland could look to trade Plesac this winter. Though Plesac still has all three years of arbitration eligibility remaining, questions about Plesac’s maturity and focus have been asked for the last few seasons, and the Guardians could prefer to sell relatively high on Plesac as a controllable young starter.
The DFA likely brings an end to Shaw’s latest stint in Cleveland, as the veteran righty returned on a one-year, $3MM free agent deal in March. That contract contained a $4MM team option for 2023, yet it already looked like the Guards would instead use their $500K buyout rather than exercise Shaw’s option. The 34-year-old has eaten a lot of innings (58 1/3) out of the bullpen this year, but has a 5.40 ERA and a below-average 19.9% strikeout rate and 10% walk rate.
This isn’t the first time Shaw has run into some struggles, as his 2021 season helped right the ship after a shaky three-year stretch with the Rockies and Mariners. Returning to Cleveland on a minor league deal in the 2020-21 offseason, Shaw posted a 3.49 ERA over 77 1/3 innings and a league-leading 81 appearances. However, his inability to recapture that form in 2022 now puts Shaw on the outside of the Guardians’ playoff roster plans.