The Guardians announced Thursday that they’ve optioned struggling right-hander Zach Plesac to Triple-A Columbus. It’s the first time he’s been optioned to the minors since the 2020 season.
Plesac’s 2023 campaign has been a disaster thus far. While he’s walking fewer hitters than ever (4.8%), he’s also sporting a career-low 13.3% strikeout rate. Opponents have posted a staggering .374/.404/.576 batting line against Plesac, and while a .410 average on balls in play surely points to at least some small-sample randomness that might even out over the course of a season, his struggles can’t be solely pinned on bad luck. Plesac has yielded a 91.7 mph average exit velocity, and 43% of the balls put in play against him have been hit at 95 mph or greater. His fastball has averaged a career-low 91.4 mph, and this season’s 9.6% swinging-strike rate is his lowest since debuting back in 2019.
Now 28 years old, Plesac had a strong debut effort in 2019-20, tossing 171 innings of 3.32 ERA ball with a 21.3% strikeout rate and 6.8% walk rate. That performance helped him earn a place in the team’s long-term rotation, but it’s been a steady downhill trajectory since. That early success was in no small part due to a tiny .246 average on balls in play and lofty 81.5% strand rate. Those numbers regressed toward the league averages in 2021-22 and did so in conjunction with velocity and strikeout rate both taking a step back. The result was 274 1/3 innings of 4.49 ERA ball — a passable but unexciting set of results that looked more commensurate with a fourth or fifth starter than what Plesac had displayed in his first two seasons.
Now, with Plesac optioned out, the Guards will seemingly go with a mostly young and inexperienced group in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Shane Bieber remains entrenched atop the starting staff, and righty Cal Quantrill is holding onto a spot despite some struggles of his own. Behind that pair, the Guardians currently have a trio of rookies: Tanner Bibee, Logan Allen and Peyton Battenfield. Bibee and Allen are both on Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list and have enjoyed excellent debut efforts. Battenfield impressed with strong Triple-A numbers to earn a look in the big league rotation, and while his results have been mixed, he’ll get a longer look to sort things out.
It’s at least possible that Plesac’s stint in the minors alters his trajectory to free agency, though it’d need to be a lengthy stay in Triple-A for that to happen. The right-hander entered the 2023 season with three years, 86 days of Major League service time, meaning he needed another 86 days to reach four years of service and remain on track to hit the open market following the 2025 campaign. He’s already picked up 35 of those 86 days, so as long as he returns for at least 51 days, he’ll hit the four-year mark. If Plesac is relegated to Triple-A work for longer than that, it might be a moot point anyhow, as if he can’t pitch his way back into the big league mix he’d become a non-tender candidate this winter.
It’s sad that it’s come to this, but something had to be done. He’s been incredibly ineffective this year, and things haven’t improved at all. Plesac needs to just suck it up and work on his command in Columbus along with getting some consistent movement on his pitches. It’s like half his pitches literally have no movement.
Worth noting too that the Guardians reached some sort of agreement with him last year that paid him roughly $2m instead of league minimum. This was apparently some sort of settlement/agreement related to him being optioned to the minors for an extended period in 2020 for violating quarantine protocol with then teammate Mike Clevinger.
He’s also injured his hand twice. Once by aggressively opening a button on his shirt, once by punching a mound. Both required lengthy IL trips.
Team seems pretty done with him.
I was surprised they didn’t trade him last offseason. Cleveland must not have gotten an offer they liked.
I assume that’s what it was. They had a couple of internal options they could try in his spot – Gaddis, Curry, Pilkington, Battenfield – and it would have made all the sense to move on from him. It’s also kind of an issue that 3 of their rotation have the exact same free agency departure (Quantrill, Plesac, Civale), and moving on from one would have helped get ahead of that.
They had all the reasons to move on, but I don’t think any team out there was going to give up much of anything for a guy who’s injured his pitching hand twice in anger and isn’t even particularly special when he is healthy. I think the hope is/was he would do well enough to garner trade interest.
Uncle Dan should be calling him and giving some advice.
That’s his problem. He’s been crying “uncle” for two years.
He’s been mediocre as far as someone who was expected to be a mid-rotation piece.
Guards have it tough, if they slip this year they might have to consider losing part of the front of their rotation. Cleveland cannot afford a Bieber extension. It’s deadline or the offseason.
Typically Cleveland would sell Bieber but they could win a WS in 2024. Bibee and Allen have been extremely promising & Gavin Williams is coming next.
Put those 3 with Bieber & McKenzie and you have a hell of a rotation with depth options behind that. They’re the best in the business at pumping out starters.. They may feel OK with those 4 + Quantrill/Civale and deal Bieber. We’ll see
Plesac will be dealt before or non tendered this off-season though. I’d bet on that.
No matter where Plesac ends up, he’ll always be remembered as the pitcher who was on the mound when three no-hitters were thrown against the Indians in one season.
Bieber is going downhill, and fast. His stats don’t show it yet, but the underlying numbers certainly do. It’s sad, too, because he’s still young.
In nurse follars
Plesac, Pilkington, Addis, battenfield and curry are placeholders, “were “ in Pilkington’s case. Bieber. Mckenzie quantrell, , allan, civele and biebee will make or break the season, by the way, both bo Naylor and ruccio are hitting at Columbus.
As is Freeman. Even Pries and Zach Collins are hitting. Most of those guys aren’t right handed, though.
That’s the thing. The Guards just dropped both parts of two doubleheaders against the Tigers and Marlins. Those teams deployed the super strategy of just sending 2 lefty starters to the hill. The Guards have been terrible against lefties this year. Jose has terrible splits, Naylor has bad splits, and 2 of their 3 biggest bats right handed (Gonzalez and Rosario) have both slumped big time.
Naylor would supplant their only good right handed bat in Zunino. Valera, who isn’t playing yet but hopefully is soon and might supplant their RF platoon, would be yet another lefty. Rocchio is switch and Freeman is right handed, but they’re both just going to supplant Rosario if they pull the trigger on that. They need a right handed bat, badly.
I’ve written this about both the Guardians and Orioles…..
They have too many LH hitters, and RH hitters don’t have especially hit LH pitching well.
There’s reasons for this. Generally LH hitters are better hitters because of their physiology. Breakdowns of how the body works when swinging at pitches and subsequently the way the call comes off their bats shows LH hitters have a big edge. And even some parks (like Camden Yards and Yankee Stadium) favor LH hitters. But the other side is that because most pitchers are RH, LH hitters generally struggle against LH pitching as they don’t see that many lefties.
When Shapiro was there they did the same thing – over build the team with LH hitters, The result was that teams were calling up LH pitchers from the minors before a series with Cleveland, and having never even see those lefties Cleveland struggled.
And you are correct about the situation with Bo Naylor and Valera. To put it mildly this is simply awful roster construction, and that’s going to limit what that team can accomplish.
This is the FO shortcoming – instead of balancing the roster, they fall in love with something that shows statistically, and overdo it. Winning MLB teams have to have balance. One would think they’d know that by now.
Slow day at work
As a Braves fan, this sucks… because we play the O’s this weekend
Dr. Van Nostrand
Doofus Comment Award
Legitimate question: What does this have to do with either the Orioles or Braves? Trying to figure out what I’m missing here…
I am your father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate…
“What does that make us?”
— Absolutely nothing!
my guess is that someone mistakenly thought that Plesac plays for the Orioles.
He had value and was expendable in the offseason. Would’ve could’ve should’ve traded him
Send him to the Rangers for: Harrison Smith, Jose LeClerc and Chase Lee.
Guardians will find themselves at a crossroads with Quantrill also when McKenzie and Civale return from the IL later this month. He labors through every start, throws way too many pitches, and there has been no improvement over the first month. Both he and Oscar Gonzales are just a whisker away from Columbus.
As I wrote elsewhere…..
Tito and his coaches have a lot of in-season work to do with that roster.
Coaches and the managers are extremely important in modern MLB. It’s always been a game of adjustments, but because of technical capabilities that’s gone up 10 fold.
(And it’s why long-term individual public statistics are flawed – they don’t show what a player was working on – or what physical issues
he may be working through – from what period of time to what period of time. Unless people citing those stats have connections
with the players and coaches they’re making assumptions – and
some coaches are more effective with some players than others.)