May 25, 2024

Guardians to call up top prospect Kyle Manzardo, place Steven Kwan on IL: Source

CLEVELAND — The countdown began the instant the Cleveland Guardians traded Aaron Civale to the Tampa Bay Rays last summer.

The Tampa Bay Rays didn’t want to part with Kyle Manzardo, but they needed to bolster their thin pitching staff. The Guardians figured Civale’s trade value had peaked, and they were dubious about their chances in the second half after a sluggish first four months of the season. They had struggled to develop middle-of-the-order bats, especially ones who could muscle a fastball over the outfield fence.

So, the two teams hooked up for a trade. One league source told The Athletic at the time that Tampa would come to regret the swap. Nine months later, we’ll start to find out if that’s the case.

The Guardians are expected to add Manzardo to their active roster on Monday, a club source told The Athletic.

It will come at a cost: Steven Kwan will head to the 10-day injured list with a left hamstring injury.

Kwan has fueled Cleveland’s lineup for the first six weeks of the season, a key reason the Guardians sit in first place in the AL Central and boast the third-best run differential in the league. Now, it’ll be up to Manzardo to deliver some power and patience from the left side, behind José Ramírez and Josh Naylor in the meat of Stephen Vogt’s batting order.

Steven Kwan is second in the American League with 47 hits and 28 runs. (Michael Wyke / Associated Press)

Manzardo, 23, has checked every box on the organization’s to-do list thus far. He returned from a shoulder injury last summer and showcased his blend of power and plate discipline both at Triple-A Columbus and in the Arizona Fall League. He thrived in spring training, to the point that Guardians hitting coach Chris Valaika said he reminded him of Wade Boggs in the batter’s box (and not just because of his mustache).

In 29 games with Columbus this season, Manzardo has recorded a .303/.375/.642 slash line, with nine home runs, 10 doubles and healthy walk and strikeout rates.

He certainly seemed like he had nothing left to accomplish in the minors, but the Guardians resisted promoting him sooner, sources said, because of the composition of their big-league roster. They’re already short on right-handed bats, so they’re hesitant to cut ties with veteran Ramón Laureano so early in the season. They’re still curious about what Estevan Florial, Will Brennan and Tyler Freeman can contribute, too. With Kwan sidelined, they have more time to sort out their mess in the outfield while also working Manzardo into the daily lineup equation.

The Rays selected Manzardo in the second round of the 2021 draft out of Washington State. The native of Couer d’Alene, Idaho, was ranked the No. 66 prospect in baseball by The Athletic’s Keith Law before the 2024 season. Manzardo and outfielder Chase DeLauter are widely considered the organization’s top two prospects. DeLauter, however, is dealing with a fracture in the fifth metatarsal in his left foot, the same foot he had surgery on in January 2023. He will meet with a specialist on Wednesday. DeLauter had started the season at Double-A Akron after a torrid spring performance earned him plenty of attention from the organization’s chief decision-makers.

Kwan, meanwhile, suffered his hamstring injury on Saturday night while chasing a fly ball in left field. He had no shortage of hamstring flare-ups throughout his college career at Oregon State and in the minors, but he has avoided injuries during his two-plus seasons in the big leagues. He leads the AL with a .353 batting average and ranks fourth with 1.9 fWAR.

(Top photo of Kyle Manzardo practicing with the Columbus Clippers on March 27: Adam Cairns / Columbus Dispatch / USA Today Network)