Top Notes From the Cleveland Guardians ZiPS Projections for 2024

The Cleveland Guardians have enough quality players on their roster to contend in 2024, particularly in a weak AL Central division.

Jose Ramirez
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 16: Cleveland Guardians third baseman Jose Ramirez (11) is congratulated by Cleveland Guardians second baseman Andres Gimenez (0) after hitting his second home run of the game during the second inning of the the Major League Baseball game between the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Guardians on July 16, 2022, at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

A new era will start at Progressive Field in 2024, with former All-Star catcher Stephen Vogt taking over as the manager for the Cleveland Guardians.

The 39-year-old will have an almost impossible act to follow, as he’ll succeed future Hall of Famer Terry Francona. While Cleveland fell one game short of winning the World Series in 2016, the franchise now known as the Guardians did just about everything else during Francona’s 11 seasons as skipper.

Francona won the AL Manager of the Year on three occasions in Cleveland(2013, 2016 and 2022), leading the team to six playoff appearances and a pennant in more than a decade at the helm. In total, Cleveland went 921-757 (.549) with Francona as their manager, despite being consistently outspent by other AL powers.

We’re not saying Vogt won’t end up being an excellent manager in his own right, it’s just hard to project that right now given that he was still an active player two years ago and his only previous coaching experience came as the bullpen and quality control coach with the Seattle Mariners a year ago.

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Therefore, it’s difficult to know what to make of the Guardians as a whole in 2024, who went 76-86 in Francona’s final season.

Luckily, there are tools available like ZiPS to help project what the Guardians may look like this upcoming campaign.

For those unfamiliar, offers this synopsis of what ZiPS aims to do.

“ZiPS uses growth and decline curves based on player type to find trends. It then factors those trends into the past performance of those players to come up with projections…The system uses statistics from the previous four years for players from ages 24-38, and it weights more recent seasons heavier. For younger or older players, it uses weighted statistics from only the previous three years. The system also factors velocities, injury data and play-by-play data into its equations.”

Sound interesting? Let’s do a deep dive on the 2024 Guardians ZiPS projections.

Key Position Player Takeaways

  • ZiPS believes that José Ramírez will continue building his case for Cooperstown, projecting that he’ll homer 26 times, drive in 95 runs, steal 22 bases and post a 5.1 fWAR this upcoming season.
  • Andrés Giménez is projected to find a happy medium between his last two seasons, with ZiPS believing he’ll slash .272/.339/.424 with what would be a career-high 71 RBIs. Giménez will post a 4.7 fWAR in 2024, according to ZiPS.
  • ZiPS believes Josh Naylor will drive in 79 runs this season, which would mark the third consecutive season he’s posted at least 79 RBIs. Naylor set a new career-high with 97 RBIs in 2023.
  • Perhaps Steven Kwan won’t ever top the 4.5 fWAR he posted in his rookie season of 2022, but ZiPS projects a strong third season nonetheless for the 26-year-old outfielder: .274 batting average, 64 walks and a 2.9 fWAR.
  • Catcher Bo Naylor is probably never going to hit for a high average (ZiPS has him projected to hit .226 in 2024), but the system believes he’ll homer 16 times, drive 62 runs and post a .724 OPS across 488 plate appearances this season.
  • Non-roster invitee Kyle Manzardo is currently penciled in as the starting first baseman by Roster Resource. Acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays last July, the former second-round pick is projected to slash .243/.330/.435 with 14 home runs, 47 RBIs and a .770 OPS in 95 games for Cleveland this season.

Key Pitching Staff Takeaways

Starting Pitchers

  • What will former AL Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber — who has been limited by injuries in two of the last three seasons — do in his contract year? ZiPS projects he’ll post a 3.52 ERA and 151 strikeouts over 148 innings.
  • A right elbow sprain limited Triston McKenzie to just 16 innings pitched a season ago after a breakout campaign in 2022. The good news for the Guards is that ZiPS is projecting a bounce-back season for McKenzie: 10-8 with a 3.54 ERA and 3.81 FIP over 155 innings.
  • Meanwhile, the system thinks Tanner Bibee will be a solid middle-of-the-rotation arm, posting a 3.81 ERA and 4.01 FIP across 148 innings. That type of production — particularly from someone who isn’t even arbitration-eligible yet — is very valuable, even if it wouldn’t represent a continued ascension after a breakout season from the 24-year-old in 2023.
  • ZiPS believes that all five projected starters for the Guardians — the three mentioned above, along with Logan Allen and Gavin Williams — will log at least 130 innings pitched this season.

Relief Pitchers

  • Emmanuel Clase was arguably the best reliever in the sport between 2021 and 2022, but had some mortal moments a year ago. He still had a league-leading 44 saves, but also blew 12 save opportunities. Additionally, Clase’s ERA rose from the minuscule 1.36 in 2022 to 3.22 in 2023. In 2024, ZiPS believes Clase will record 33 saves, while posting a 2.88 ERA and 3.09 FIP over 73 games.
  • Scott Barlow was much better in 25 games for the San Diego Padres (3.07 ERA, 3.15 FIP) a year ago than he had been in 38 appearances for the Kansas City Royals (5.35 ERA, 3.62 FIP) earlier in the season. What can the Guardians — who acquired him in a trade from the Padres in November — expect from Barlow in his first season with the team? ZiPS believes the 31-year-old will appear in 61 games this season, posting a 3.55 ERA and 0.7 fWAR.
  • Sam Hentges is the only lefty likely to be in Cleveland’s Opening Day bullpen, and ZiPS believes he’ll be called upon to pitch 59 times this season, posting a 3.74 FIP over 57 innings.

Closing Thoughts

  • ZiPS projects that the Guardians and Minnesota Twins will finish in a tie atop the AL Central at 85-77. Of course, that assumes there won’t be any key in-season subtractions, which probably isn’t something that can be taken for granted in Cleveland.
  • How much better would Cleveland’s lineup look if they had held onto Josh Bell last summer? Sure, he struggled in 97 games with the Guardians, hitting .233 with a .701 OPS. But after a midseason trade to the Miami Marlins, Bell hit .270 with an .818 OPS. Jean Segura never played a game for the Guardians, and middle infielder Kahlil Watson is the organization’s No. 10 prospect. Was that return worth having such a short leash on Bell for?
  • Will president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti have the stomach to trade away Bieber this summer if they don’t feel like re-signing him is going to happen but the Guardians are still in playoff contention? Certainly, it wouldn’t be popular in the clubhouse, but that didn’t seem to affect how the team operated last summer, when they traded away both Bell and RHP Aaron Civale.
  • You can essentially pose the same question about Clase. The difference here is that Bieber can become a free agent after the 2024 season, and if he’s healthy this year, it would burn to lose him for just draft compensation next winter. Clase is due to make just $13 million over the next three seasons, with affordable club options for 2027 and 2028. Trading him away this summer, particularly if Cleveland is contending, will be a harder sell.
  • Perhaps the Guardians aren’t capable of spending at the same level as the New York Yankees. But Spotrac currently projects that their payroll will be at $84 million in 2024, more than $200 million less than the Yankees. The gap isn’t that big. Guardians fans deserve ownership that will spend to put a World Series contender on the field.