The Cleveland Guardians need to keep letting Gabriel Arias try

Arias has struggled mightily with the Guardians, mostly due to injury. But, with some changes, there could be a chance for him to bounce back.
CLEVELAND, OH – MAY 7: Gabriel Arias #13 of the Cleveland Guardians runs to second after hitting a double during the fourth inning of the game against the Minnesota Twins at Progressive Field on May 7, 2023 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Lauren Leigh Bacho/Getty Images)

With the Cleveland Guardians sending Oscar Gonzalez down to Columbus, there was an opening in the outfield. Much of the time will go to Tyler Freeman, who Cleveland called up in Gonzalez’s place. This move will allow Gonzalez to find his rhythm again and for the Guardians to get a spark on offense from Freeman. On paper, this move makes a ton of sense for Cleveland. But, this move was also a quiet opportunity for struggling prospect Gabriel Arias.

After such high hopes when acquired from the San Diego Padres in the Mike Clevinger trade, Arias seemed a bit shaky during his rookie season. Arias dealt with several injuries last season, including a fractured hand – which caused him to miss nearly a month of play. While with the Columbus Clippers, Arias batted .240 in 2022. He was with the Guardians near the end of the season, batting .196 in 16 games. Thankfully, Arias was able to bounce back during Spring Training and hit .341 with 15 hits in 44 appearances at the plate. Unfortunately, Arias could not capture that Spring Training lightning in a bottle and struggled when the games started to matter.

While it’s still early into the season, Arias is hitting .196 and only has nine hits. Arias also has had just 44 plate appearances this season which is the second-lowest for a player on the Opening Day roster. The only player with fewer at-bats is Cam Gallagher, who has 30, followed by Tyler Freeman (7) and Meibrys Viloria (3). Nevertheless, there’s still confidence from Cleveland’s clubhouse that Arias could turn things around and become the player that made him a highly regarded prospect.

“He’s too important to our future,” Guardians manager terry Francona said of Arias. “He hasn’t swung the bat great, but we got to find a way to get him some at-bats, so we’ll work him into that mix in right field too, along with when he plays the infield, just to kind of get him some more at-bats.”

DETROIT, MI – APRIL 19: Gabriel Arias #13 of the Cleveland Guardians during an at-bat against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning at Comerica Park on April 19, 2023, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

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To Francona’s credit, he stuck to his guns when finding more opportunities for Arias all over the field. On Saturday evening against the Minnesota Twins, Arias was a starter for Cleveland. Surprisingly, it wasn’t his usual spot in the infield along the second baseline. Instead, Arias trotted to the opposite end of Progressive Field, nearly parallel to the Guardians’ dugout, as the team’s starting right fielder.

To be clear, Arias hadn’t played the outfield this season before Saturday’s win, but we’ve seen it before in Spring Training and the minors. He didn’t play it on Sunday in Cleveland’s second win over Minnesota, either. Instead, Arias started at shortstop – his more natural position. But he did return to right field on Monday night, where the Guardians were routed by the Detroit Tigers 6-2. This variation all over the field was a way to showcase Arias’s versatility as a prospect. More importantly, it helps him build on-field confidence and make highlight plays with his cannon for an arm.

With a semblance of normalcy forming on the field, Arias is showing some growth at the plate after the recent shakeup. Since Gonzalez was sent to Columbus, Arias has a batting average of .190 with two hits in seven appearances. Sure, it could be a more considerable sample size and it’s not really a sign of Arias turning things around spectacularly. But, considering that roughly 22% of Arias’s total production this year has come in the last handful of games, it does give some reason for optimism.

The confidence from the Guardians to just let Arias try could be paramount in his development going forward. It’s hard for any player, Arias included, to stand out in such a crowded field of infield prospects. His versatility as a player on the field and his intangibles help Arias emerge from the pack and could be this difference-maker in his future with Cleveland. Arias won’t be getting regular starts at shortstop as long as Amed Rosario is a Guardian. But between his stellar defense and a couple of promising at-bats, he’s at least proved he deserves to stick around a little longer with the main club.

Evan Dammarell is a sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email him at [email protected] He can also be found three to five times weekly on Locked On Cavs, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network.

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