Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 6 – Brandon Guyer
Bob Toth | On 28, Mar 2017
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Countdown to Opening Day – 6
One of the more underrated midseason acquisitions for any club last season was the Indians’ addition of outfielder Brandon Guyer from the Tampa Bay Rays on August 1.
The move quietly transpired on the final day of the non-waiver trading period and helped Cleveland resolve some of the outfield concerns on the roster for both the rest of the regular season and the team’s future run through the postseason. The losses of Michael Brantley for the season with injury, Marlon Byrd with a PED suspension, and Abraham Almonte for any playoff action because of his own spring PED absence, left the club with just Rajai Davis, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Tyler Naquin in the outfield.
Guyer was not a big name and, strictly looking at some of his basic offensive statistics, was not a big bat to add for the club. Having received regular playing time at all three outfield spots for a Rays team limited by injuries, he had logged 63 games of action through the first four months of the season and had put together a .241/.347/.406 batting line.
What the Indians may have been attentive to was the fact that Guyer’s ability to plug in at all three outfield spots and some of his more specialized splits and unique skills at the plate made him a valuable upgrade to the roster.
“We made the trade for Brandon because we were in a competitive position and all of those games were so meaningful to us,” said Chris Antonetti after the season after the Indians and Guyer reached a contract extension. “When you bring a guy over to a new environment, you have to be thoughtful not only of how he will fit on the field and how his skill set can help the team win, but how he’ll transition into a new clubhouse and new culture. To Brandon’s credit, he transitioned seamlessly. He fit right in and he made immediate contributions on the field.”
Guyer had appeared in 18 games over his first two big league seasons in 2011 and 2012 before spending all of 2013 in the minors. He hit .266 with a .334 OBP in 97 games in 2014 and followed it with a .265 effort with a .359 OBP in 128 games in 2015. The big drop off for him in 2016 was his lefty-righty splits. Getting fairly regular playing time instead of use in a platoon, Guyer had slashed .344/.488/.594 against left-handers in 31 games, but just .196/.277/.324 against right-handers. The numbers remain the same over his entire body of work, but the gap is historically less dramatic (.289 lifetime average versus lefties and .236 against righties).
Guyer was used in the early going specifically against left-handers for the Tribe and continued his hot hitting against them, slashing .328/.435/.517 over the course of 31 games. Nineteen of his 27 hits with Cleveland came from the right side of the plate and all of his power did too, as he had five doubles and two homers against left-handers. He helped balance out the weakness in Chisenhall’s game, as the Indians’ main right fielder would hit just .217 against southpaws over the course of the season (36 games) with four doubles, a triple, and just four of his 57 RBI for the season.
Guyer’s bad results against right-handed pitching ended during his stay with the Indians, as that .196 average against them while with the Rays to start the season disappeared. In 16 games and 27 plate appearances against righties for Cleveland, he hit .348 with eight singles and six runs batted in.
The far more intriguing statistic put up by Guyer over the course of the season (and the last two seasons, in fact) is his unique way of being a magnet for the baseball while at the plate. The bizarre and largely unhealthy relationship between ball and Guyer has led to a positive jolt to his on-base percentage overall, especially in light of a generally low walk percentage (5.5% between Tampa and Cleveland last season). He was plunked eight times last season with the Indians and had been hit 23 times in his 63 games with the Rays, giving him a MLB-leading 31. Twenty of those times struck came against left-handers, a total that exceeded both his number of walks and his number of times struck out by portsiders. He was coming off of a season when he was hit 24 times, the top mark in the American League by nine.
Defensively, he helped fill the void in left field more than anything, appearing 26 times there and just seven times in right field. He won’t contend for a Gold Glove any time soon and he has just five outfield assists (four from left) over 1,996 1/3 innings in the grass, but he is a durable player who can be counted on with the flexibility of filling gaps at any of the three outfield spots as needed.
During his first playoff games of his career last season, he was right there and productive when called upon by manager Terry Francona. He was 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored in his only game action in the ALDS against Boston. He was 0-for-4 in the ALCS versus Toronto in two games, but he made his mark in the World Series against the Chicago Cubs (the team that drafted him and later traded him to Tampa), getting on base at a .563 clip while appearing in all seven games. He had two singles, a double, four walks, and two hit by pitches, drove in two runs, and scored four times. He was on base in Game 7 in the bottom of the eighth inning, delivering a key RBI-double to bring the game within two runs before scoring on Davis’ game-tying blast off of Aroldis Chapman. He drew a two-out walk in the tenth inning, moving to second on indifference and scoring on a single from Davis to make it a one-run game, the final run scored in the Indians’ magical 2016 season.
He left his mark on the coaching staff in his three months with the club and was rewarded in the offseason with a contract extension prior to going to arbitration. The deal locked him up for 2017 and 2018 with an option for the 2019 season. It bought out his final year of arbitration eligibility following the 2017 season.
Now 31 years old and on a club built for contention, Guyer will continue to give the Indians a dangerous bat off of the bench against left-handers. His versatility in the outfield will help Francona give his regulars rest, but his platoon splits will help the Indians skipper to create the best matchups possible on a daily basis. He is already at game speed in spring training – despite appearing in just eleven games after a delayed start with a tweaked hamstring, he is tied for the team lead in times hit by pitch.
Other notable 4’s in Indians history: Lew Fonseca (1929), Johnny Hodapp (1930), Joe Vosmik (1931-36), Ray Mack (1939-43), Bob Lemon (1946), Ken Keltner (1947-49), Minnie Minoso (1951), Larry Doby (1953), Rocky Colavito (1958-59), Harvey Kuenn (1960), Joe Azcue (1963-69), Jim Thome (1991), Lou Marson (2011-13)
Photo: Rick Yeatts/Getty Images