Tuesday, June 25, 2024
HomeMLB BaseballThe Guardians Lose Sizzling-Hitting Steven Kwan

The Guardians Lose Sizzling-Hitting Steven Kwan


David Richard-USA TODAY Sports activities

Steven Kwan has been instrumental in serving to the Guardians climb to the highest of the AL Central and compile the league’s second-best document (23-12) and largest division lead (2.5 video games). Sadly, the 26-year-old left fielder gained’t be round to assist them for awhile resulting from a hamstring pressure, although if there’s a silver lining, the damage has opened the door for the debut of considered one of their prime prospects, 23-year-old Kyle Manzardo.

Kwan felt tightness in his left hamstring and departed after the third inning in Saturday’s recreation towards the Angels. Through the inning, he had run into foul territory to make a basket catch on a Mickey Moniak fly ball, and afterwards, confirmed some discomfort:

An MRI revealed that Kwan had suffered an acute pressure of the hamstring, and on Monday, the Guardians positioned him on the 10-day injured record. That is Kwan’s first journey to the IL within the majors, however in keeping with the left fielder, he’s no stranger to hamstring accidents, having suffered them whereas in faculty at Oregon State and through his time within the minors. “I’ve had little ones right here and there on each legs,” he stated after Saturday’s recreation. “It’s a hamstring factor. Hamstrings at all times pops up.”

The damage, anticipated to sideline Kwan for 4 weeks, comes at a time when he’s been at his very best. He’s hitting .353/.407/.496, adequate to guide the AL in batting common and rank third in on-base proportion, fourth in WAR (1.9), seventh in wRC+ (164), and even thirteenth in slugging proportion. What’s outstanding is that he’s doing this the best way he at all times does: not often hitting the ball exhausting, however nearly at all times hitting it if it’s within the strike zone. Actually, Kwan’s 84.4 mph common exit velocity is the bottom mark of his three-year profession:

Steven Kwan Statcast Profile

Season BBE EV LA Barrel% HardHit% AVG xBA SLG xSLG wOBA xwOBA
2022 509 85.1 11.8 1.4% 20.8% .298 .268 .400 .341 .341 .312
2023 570 86.0 10.7 1.1% 18.8% .268 .282 .370 .358 .313 .317
2024 122 84.4 11.0 3.3% 18.0% .353 .322 .496 .426 .399 .355

Kwan’s exit velocity ranks in simply the fourth percentile, however don’t fear, he can go decrease. His hard-hit fee, which can also be a profession low, ranks within the first percentile, however his barrel fee — which has tripled relative to final yr — is waaaay up within the fifteenth percentile as a substitute of additionally rating within the first percentile, because it has in every of the previous two seasons. He’s already barreled 4 balls, placing him greater than midway to his profession excessive of seven. Equally, his three homers put him midway to his profession excessive of six.

Kwan couldn’t succeed with out performing some issues very nicely. He’s very disciplined on the plate, chasing simply 24% of pitches outdoors the zone in keeping with Sports activities Data Options’ measure. If he likes a pitch within the zone sufficient to swing, he doesn’t miss it. His 96.9% zone contact fee is the majors’ second highest, and in contrast to the one hitter with a better fee (Jeff McNeil, 97.5%), he’s been exceptionally productive; McNeil has not, hitting .231/.311/.306 (87 wRC+). Kwan’s 2.9% swinging strike fee is the bottom amongst qualifiers, whereas his 7.6% strikeout fee is second solely to Luis Arraez (6.7%). He hit the IL whereas driving a streak of 74 consecutive plate appearances with no strikeout, having final been punched out by Boston’s Kutter Crawford on April 15.

The place Kwan has been notably efficient relative to years previous is within the shadow zone, the area that’s roughly one ball width inside and outdoors the strike zone:

Steven Kwan within the Shadow Zone

Season PA H AVG xBA SLG xSLG wOBA xwOBA
2022 268 62 .256 .247 .318 .298 .284 .279
2023 318 71 .242 .253 .314 .303 .268 .271
2024 63 22 .379 .389 .517 .493 .417 .408

SOURCE: Baseball Savant

Kwan’s wOBA on these balls this yr is only one level beneath his wOBA on balls within the coronary heart of the zone (.409, by way of a .381 AVG and .556 SLG), which is simply ridiculous. 5 of his 11 extra-base hits have come on such pitches, together with a homer off Chris Sale on April 26, a triple off Justin Verlander on Might 1, and a few doubles on the expense of A’s outfielders who will need to have been testing their slapstick routines:

By Statcast’s swing/take metric, Kwan is three runs above common within the shadow zone, good for thirteenth within the majors and a 15-run enchancment relative to final yr.

No person will confuse Kwan’s batted ball stats with these of Shohei Ohtani, however he does excel in the kind of contact that’s mirrored by his candy spot fee, the proportion of batted balls hit with a launch angle between eight and 32 levels. Final yr, batters hit .593 and slugged 1.092 on candy spot contact, making such balls a bit extra productive than 95-mph-and-above hard-hit balls (.506 AVG/1.008 SLG), although not almost as productive as barrels (.742 AVG/2.493 SLG). Up to now this yr, batters are hitting .572 and slugging 1.007 on candy spot contact. Kwan hasn’t been fairly that good together with his candy spot contact (.528 AVG/.801 SLG), however his 40.2% candy spot fee is the best of his profession and locations him within the 86th percentile, up from 34.6% (61st percentile) in 2022 and 37.7% (eighty fifth percentile) in ’23.

The opposite factor to notice about Kwan is his protection. In each 2022 and ’23, he led all left fielders in each Defensive Runs Saved (21 runs above common in 2022, 16 final yr) and Statcast’s Fielding Run Worth (8 in 2022, 7 final yr). Clearly, the pattern measurement is small, however Kwan is tied for the most important league lead with 4 FRV and is tied for third with 4 DRS as nicely.

The Guardians will definitely miss him on each side of the ball. Monday night time’s recreation towards the Tigers provided a template for the way supervisor Stephen Vogt is prone to deal with Kwan’s absence. With righty Jack Flaherty on the mound, lefty Estevan Florial began in left discipline and led off, with lefty Will Brennan beginning in proper; each went 1-for-3, with Florial main off the house half of the primary with a double and Brennan plating him with a single. Within the eighth inning, towards lefty Joey Wentz, righty Ramón Laureano pinch-hit after which took over in proper — the place the place he typically platoons with Brennan — and bumped Brennan to left. Florial (.206/.286/.429, 105 wRC+) and Brennan (.245/.287/.415, 96 wRC+) have each been round league common, with low on-base percentages however very completely different approaches; the previous has struck out 38% of the time, the latter simply 14.9% of the time, however each have offered some much-needed pop to an outfield that produced simply 18 homers final yr. Vogt talked about that utilitymen Gabriel Arias and David Fry may very well be within the combine as nicely. Each are righties and have extra expertise in proper discipline than left; Fry, the much better hitter of the 2, is batting a scorching .327/.456/.462 (165 wRC+) by way of 68 PA.

Kwan’s roster spot was taken by Manzardo, a 23-year-old lefty first baseman whom the Rays drafted within the second spherical in 2021 out of Washington State after which dealt to Cleveland within the Aaron Civale commerce final July 31. Manzardo — whose title at all times places me in thoughts of an excellent Jerry Stiller second on Seinfeld — spent most of final season with the Rays’ and Guardians’ Triple-A associates, hitting an unremarkable .236/.337/.464 (97 wRC+) with 17 homers, a 13.3% stroll fee, and a 19.3% strikeout fee. After putting twenty eighth on our in-season Prime 100 record with a 50 FV grade, he fell out of the Prime 100 when considerations about his modest energy (45 uncooked, 40 recreation) led to his being downgraded to a forty five FV prospect this record cycle. Even so, his really feel for candy spot contact is robust sufficient to challenge him to supply at a position-appropriate stage.

Manzardo performed nicely sufficient throughout spring coaching that he most likely ought to have damaged camp with the staff, however between his not being on the 40-man roster but and Florial being out of choices, he drew the brief straw. Again at Columbus, he lit up the Worldwide League, hitting .303/.375/.642 with 9 homers and a 149 wRC+ in 128 PA whereas greater than doubling his barrel fee from final yr’s 9.6% to 19.8%; on 91 batted ball occasions, that’s not nothing. President of baseball operations Chris Antonetti praised his work at Columbus:

“He’s been good towards left-handed pitching, his method towards lefties has improved… He’s labored actually exhausting at his protection, each his footwork across the bag and his throwing and he continues to place up and handle actually good at-bats.”

Manzardo was a pushover towards lefties final yr, hitting .159/.267/.327 with three homers and an 8.6% barrel fee in 131 PA. He’s as much as .286/.323/.607 with a pair of homers and an 18.2% barrel fee in 31 PA this yr. He isn’t going to supplant first baseman and resident thumper Josh Naylor, who’s hitting .275/.360/.533 (151 wRC+) with a team-high eight homers. As an alternative he’ll primarily DH and spot at first when Naylor DHs. With Florial getting a plurality of the plate appearances amid a rotating solid that features José Ramírez, the Guardians have gotten a 118 wRC+ from their DHs, which has helped them to rank second within the league in scoring with 4.94 runs per recreation.

There’s no getting round the truth that dropping Kwan hurts. In the beginning, the Guardians don’t have anyone else who’s notably well-suited to setting the desk; after Naylor, their next-highest OBP is Andrés Giménez‘s .336. What’s extra, within the midst of his breakout, Kwan was on tempo to interrupt Shoeless Joe Jackson’s franchise document for hits (233 in 1911). At the least his absence offers the Guardians with an opportunity to see what they’ve in Manzardo, a prospect who’s earned his shot.

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