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Fantasy Baseball Insider Report: Cleveland Guardians, Baltimore Orioles

Colton Cowser - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB Injury News

Scott Engel’s Fantasy Baseball Insider Series continues on RotoBaller. Every year during the season, Scott chats with prime MLB sources to gather exclusive insights. Current and former players, team executives, MLB scouts, media members, and others inside the game provide their in-depth observations on notable players. Scott adds in fantasy baseball analysis on the information shared.

The newest edition of the FSWA award-winning Insider Series features early-season takes on two American League teams, the Cleveland Guardians and the Baltimore Orioles. Former MLB reliever and Guardians analyst Jensen Lewis (@JLEWFifty) of Bally Sports Cleveland and MLB Network Radio, and Cordell Woodland (@CordellWoodland), who covers the Orioles for 105.7 The Fan, supply their early-season scouting reports. Lewis is the defending champion of the MLB Network Radio fantasy baseball league.

Lewis and Woodland appeared as MLB insider guests on RotoBaller Radio on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio with Scott Engel and Michael F. Florio. Excerpts from their discussions with Scott and Mike are included here, along with Scott’s fantasy spins on their player evaluations. Top MLB insiders will regularly join Scott and Mike during the fantasy baseball season on RotoBaller Radio.

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Insider Views on the Cleveland Guardians

Josh Naylor

“When you think about last year, when he missed almost two months, he was on pace to have a career year. It was remarkable to see that he achieved nearly 100 RBI while missing upward of 40 games. Right now, you think about where his numbers are, I think they are right where we anticipated if he could get off to a good start. That has translated into Jose Ramirez being very effective and opposing pitching staffs having that ‘pick your poison” mentality. When you think about guys you don’t want to face from the seventh inning on, he’s as good as it gets.”

Insider Angles: Despite the time missed with an oblique injury last season, Josh Naylor drove in 97 runs in 121 games. After the first 17 games of 2024, he was hitting.328 with four home runs, 12 RBI, and 11 runs scored. The full ATC projection for him over the full campaign is to hit .278 with 20 HRs and 78 RBI. The early xBA is at .334 and the .590 SLG has a .566 xSLG behind it. In late and close situations this season, Naylor is hitting .400 with four RBI and three runs scored in 12 plate appearances. The 26-year-old can certainly outperform his projections and NFBC ADP of 120, as he appears ready to deliver a career year.

Bo Naylor

“I actually ranked him as my No. 10 catcher in our MLB Network Radio rankings by the end of the season. I feel like he’s got a great opportunity to really break out. The average is not going to jump off the page, but you can kind of see he’s getting into a groove. It started to slow down for him in September and he was starting to hit the ball with authority, I would anticipate as we get into the bulk of the season that you see a lot more of that on a consistent basis.”

Insider Angles:  The “other” Naylor was hitting .186 with two home runs and five RBI after 13 games. The full season projection is for Bo Naylor to finish at a .229 average with 13 home runs and 43 RBI. He was striking out 38.5 percent of the time, but the Cleveland backstop also had four hits in his last five games entering play on Thursday. Bo Naylor’s hard-hit rate was at 47.8, so better times should be ahead in terms of power and RBI for a No. 2 fantasy catcher, while the strikeout percentage gets closer to the projected 25.3 percent.

Andres Gimenez

“I would not be deterred by the lack of stolen bases at this point. He’s a guy that pretty much has the green light at any time, even more so now that he’s got Jose Ramirez hitting predominantly behind him. I would still expect him to get his 20 to 30-plus bags.”

Insider Angles: After the first 18 games of the season, Gimenez had only two stolen bases, while he is projected to steal 26 on the season. He also did not hit a home run in those games. Gimenez’s sprint speed is at 28.5, which is not far off from last year’s number of 29.2. This may be a good time to attempt to trade for Gimenez before the counting stats start to improve.

Logan Allen

“He’s that kind of that change-of-pace left-hander. But he’s got sneaky stuff. For me, it’s always been about that fastball command, because it allows him to expand the plate with his off-speed stuff. He’s been somewhat inconsistent, but I think he kind of has an opportunity to be sneaky good. You’re never going to see him pile up a boatload of strikeouts, but he will be serviceable if you need an innings guy.  From a fantasy perspective, you kind of plug and play him for streaming opportunities.“

Insider Angles: After allowing three runs in his first two starts of the season, Allen allowed nine in his next two against two highly different levels of opponents. He lasted only four innings against the White Sox and logged 5.2 innings pitched vs. the Yankees. Allen’s xFIP is at 3.98 and the projected ERA is 4.14 with a 22.5 strikeout percentage. The rough start vs. Chicago is concerning, but Allen should still be started when the matchup is right going forward.

Kyle Manzardo

“This Guardians lineup can use every ounce of offensive reinforcement possible. There’s no question that he had an impactful spring training. As an organization, there’s no way you trade an Aaron Civale and not have this guy in your plans in a very short amount of time. He showed in the Arizona Fall League that the power is starting to come along, as well as in the spring.”

“I would expect that maybe sometime in the middle of May or towards the end of the month you will get a real serious look at him in a Guardian uniform.”

Insider Angles: Manzardo did not make the team out of spring training, but as Lewis indicates here, we could see him in the majors in the near future. In his first 14 games at Triple-A this season, the 23-year-old has hit .265 with one HR, six RBI, and eight runs scored. Mazardo is a .283 career hitter in the minors, and he hit 17 HRs in 97 minor league games last year.

The run production and OBP potential (.383 in the minors) is evident with the lefty hitter, so he must be on the radar as a possible add in the weeks ahead. Of course, patience is always needed with young players, and it should be noted that Manzardo hit .159 against left-handed pitchers last season and he is hitting .214 in six games against that side this season.

 

On the Beat With the Baltimore Orioles

Colton Cowser

“At some point, he’s got to cool off. I do think what we’ve seen from him so far this season is a glimpse of the type of player he can be. We’ve seen this youth movement from the Orioles the last couple of years and these dudes have come in and lived up to the hype for the most part. Last year he was called up and he wasn’t given a lot of opportunities, and the opportunities that he did get, he didn’t capitalize on them.”

“This year Colton Cowser seems totally different. Brandon Hyde has talked about how he seems more aggressive this year. At the plate last year, he was a little too patient and was getting behind in counts early. This year he seems to be more in control at the plate. I do think this is a guy that can definitely hit for power to all fields no matter what ballpark he plays in. He’s a very strong guy. I  think he will be a good player and one of the key players for the Orioles this season. “

Insider Angles: If you spent a hefty amount of FAAB dollars on Coswer last week, this is a comforting scouting report. In the first 17 games of the season, Cowser hit .400 with 15 RBI, as he enjoyed some of the results of a .519 BABIP. The aggressive approach also produced a 30.6 strikeout rate, so colder times are coming. The xBA is at .309 and the wild .800 SLG has a .582 xSLG behind it.

Most preseason projections were not very optimistic in terms of the upside, but Cowser seems to be for real and could ultimately provide a respectable batting average with good pop.  Those who added him will go on an exciting ride to see what the ceiling will be.

Jackson Holliday

”To be honest, I am not really concerned with him at the plate. We’ve seen some of these other young studs for the Orioles get off to slow starts. I’ll go back as far as Cal Ripken Jr., who got off to a slow start when he came up. Adley Rutschman got off to a slow start. When he came up last year, Gunnar Henderson couldn’t hit anything for about the first month and a half. “

“Jackson Holliday is a guy who hasn’t really struggled at any level to this point. This is the first time that he’s really stubbing his toe. I think that’s good for him, to see how he responds to this adversity. I think Jackson Holliday is still a pure hitter. He’ll be fine.”

Insider Angles: Holliday has gotten off to a terrible start, hitting.040 with a 53.8 strikeout rate. Woodland, however, preached patience and does not think Holliday will be sent back to the minors at some point, noting that executive vice president and GM Mike Elias is firm on keeping his top prospects in the majors once they arrive.

At 20 years old, the son of the 2007 NLCS MVP is certainly looking like an overmatched youngster, as even the xBA is at .096. You should simply keep Holliday reserved for now while waiting for him to work out the issues and eventually deliver on some of the promise.

Grayson Rodriguez

“I think the addition of Corbin Burnes is going to be really good for Grayson. I think it will push him to be even better than he was last year. Corbin has been everything and then some for the Orioles so far this season, and he looks like a bona fide ace. The thought is that Grayson will eventually be an ace as well. As long as he can stay healthy, he’s done a really good job of staying out of trouble, not putting guys on base, and he is still a strikeout artist at his best. I think the sky’s the limit for him this year.”

Insider Angles: This is a case where the star veteran gains a good relationship with the ascending teammate, to the significant benefit of the young player. The 24-year-old has already won three games while not allowing more than two earned runs in any of his four starts. Rodriguez has a 2.63 ERA, but the xFIP is at 3.55, which is comfortable.

Woodland pointed out that Rodriguez was very in tune with his teammates on the pitching staff all throughout his climb to where he is now. Consulting with Burnes could be another elevating factor on the way to a breakthrough year, and Rodriguez is a good trade target for those needing to plug a starting pitching hole.

Ryan Mountcastle

“Nobody has suffered more from the left field wall dynamics at Camden Yards. There have been so many times when Mountcastle has hit a ball to left field and he has hit the wall or the top of the wall and had it stay in play. Mountcastle’s face shows it all. He can’t hide his displeasure with that wall at times. That wall will be a big reason why you won’t see him reach that 30-home run plateau again. But his bat is still good and he’s still an RBI machine.”

Insider Angles:  If you are hoping to see a redux of Mountcastle’s 2021 campaign, this take will keep your expectations in check. Still, Mountcastle can deliver a rebound year overall in which he approaches 25 homers. His early hard-hit rate is at 46.3. The NFBC ADP came in at 238, so Mountcastle can provide a good return for the value draft price that was spent and he is worthy of early trade consideration if corner infield help is needed.



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