Top Prospect Kyle Manzardo Makes MLB Debut for Guardians

Highly-touted Guardians prospect Kyle Manzardo made his big league debut against the Tigers on Monday night.

Kyle Manzardo of the Peoria Javelinas rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run in the fifth inning during the 2023 Fall Stars Game between the American League Fall Stars and the National League Fall Stars at Sloan Park.
MESA, AZ - NOVEMBER 05: Kyle Manzardo #9 of the Peoria Javelinas rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run in the fifth inning during the 2023 Fall Stars Game between the American League Fall Stars and the National League Fall Stars at Sloan Park on Sunday, November 5, 2023 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

The Cleveland Guardians are cooling down after a hot start. Entering Monday night, they were 6-6 over the past two weeks. They were averaging just 3.67 runs per game. Meanwhile, the surging Twins were quickly making up ground in the AL Central.

The Guardians eked out a 2-1 win against the Tigers last night, but their two runs on seven hits didn’t exactly silence concerns about a slumping offense.

Over the weekend, the team suffered a tough blow when left fielder Steven Kwan exited with a hamstring strain. Kwan has been Cleveland’s best player this season, leading the American League with a .353 batting average and ranking fourth – in between Gunnar Henderson and Jose Altuve – with 1.9 FanGraphs WAR. As of Monday, his Fielding Run Value (per Baseball Savant) ranked second among left fielders and in the 96th percentile overall.

His production will be difficult, if not impossible, to replace.

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However, even the darkest clouds have a silver lining, and for Cleveland, that silver lining is Kyle Manzardo. When Kwan landed on the injured list, the Guardians called up Just Baseball’s No. 52 overall prospect to make his MLB debut.

Top-100 Prospect Kyle Manzardo Debuts for the Guardians

Manzardo took the field in Cleveland for the first time on Monday night, batting seventh and playing DH as the Guardians battled their division rival Tigers. The lefty batter went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts, hardly an auspicious debut. It was only the fifth time in his professional career he has struck out three times in a game.

Still, the Guardians are hoping Manzardo can help light a fire under their offense. The 23-year-old has hit at every level. After his successful college career with the Washington State Cougars, the Rays took Manzardo in the second round of the 2021 MLB draft. He demolished High-A and Double-A in the Rays system during the 2022 campaign.

While he cooled down at Triple-A over the first half of the 2023 season, Manzardo turned things around after a midseason trade to the Guardians organization. He hit six home runs and eight doubles over his final 21 games, good for a .938 OPS.

The top prospect continued to swing a hot bat this spring, hitting .381 with a .935 OPS over 13 games in the Cactus League. It was more of the same over 29 contests at Triple-A Columbus. As of his call-up, he ranked among the top 10 International League batters in home runs (9), runs scored (25), and OPS (1.017).

Manzardo’s Future in Cleveland

Josh Naylor seems to have first base locked down in Cleveland for the foreseeable future. However, if Manzardo adjusts well to big league pitching, there will be room for him on the active roster all season as the Guardians’ primary DH.

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Estevan Florial, José Ramírez, and Will Brennan have each played a handful of games at DH this year, but Ramírez already has a job at third, and neither Florial nor Brennan will stand in Manzardo’s way if he looks anything like the hitter we saw in Triple-A. He has the skills to be a difference-making bat in this lineup right away.

Entering the year, Kyle Manzardo just missed the top 50 on our Top 100 Prospects list. For more on the 23-year-old first baseman/DH, here is what Aram Leighton had to say about Manzardo on Just Baseball’s preseason rankings:

52. Kyle Manzardo – 1B – Cleveland Guardians

Height/Weight: 6’1″, 205 | Bat/Throw: L/R | 2nd Round (62), 2021 (TB) | ETA: 2024


Fantastic contact skills paired with better exit velocities than his home run output may indicate, Manzardo is a high-probability big league bat who is trying to raise his ceiling.


Manzardo starts with his hands relaxed on his shoulder, using a toe tap for timing. A smooth swing with great plate coverage, his bat lives in the zone and he seems to barrel everything. The blend of whippy bat speed while living in the zone for so long helps Manzardo get to all types of pitches, posting a contact rate of 79% in 2023.

The left-handed hitter flashes plus power to his pull side and has worked to drive the ball with authority to all fields as he reached the upper levels. The effort to tap into more game power has made itself evident through a 2 mph jump in average exit velocity as well as similar gains in his 90th percentile exit velocity (104.5 mph).

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Some tough batted ball luck and selling out for lift–he has the lowest ground ball rate of all qualified Triple-A hitters in 2023–may have negatively impacted his batting average, but he found more balance as the year progressed.

His fantastic feel to hit, great approach, and above-average raw power already give Manzardo the floor of one of the safer bats in the Minor Leagues. Even with 20-25 home run power, he should be an above-average regular, but there’s hope he can reach closer to 30 home runs at his peak with the progress he has made impact-wise.


An average runner, Manzardo will not provide a ton of value with his legs or glove, but he should be an average defender or better at first base.


The way Manzardo controls his at-bats, as well as the barrel, is impressive to watch. How much power he taps into will ultimately determine his ceiling, but even above-average game power should be enough for him to be a solid big league bat because of his well-rounded offensive game. Manzardo is a high-probability regular who can carry the offensive weight of first base even if he is closer to 20 home runs than 30.