Guardians owner Paul Dolan counting on offense improving 'organically'

Jan. 20—Baseball was in the air on Jan. 20 in downtown Cleveland. Don't let the outdoor thermometer or the snow in the driveway tell you anything differently.

Fans packed the Cleveland Convention Center for the annual Guards Fest. They are excited for 2024 and to see what first-year manager Steve Vogt can bring to the Guardians. Pitchers and catchers are due to report to spring training in Goodyear, Ariz., on Feb. 12. The first full squad workout is set for Feb. 20.

"It's been a lot of fun the last couple of days," Vogt said during an interview session with media. "Finally getting to see (players) in person and no longer zooming or on the phone or texting and just to get to meet everybody, see their personalities and get to watch some baseball yesterday, watch the pitchers throw some bullpens, see some guys take some swings. It's fun that we're getting closer to baseball."

Paul Dolan, owner of @CleGuardians, discusses Guards Fest, improvements to Progressive Field, and adding to power to the batting order through the farm system.

— Jeff Schudel (@jsproinsider) January 20, 2024

Vogt met dozens of fans before meeting with reporters. He said he felt their excitement with a new season around the corner.

"It's been amazing," he said. "The people that I've been fortunate to meet today, everybody's smiling. That's the beauty of a new season. Everybody's got the same record right now and we all feel like we're going to win the World Series. You could feel that energy from the fans. The welcome that my family and I have received here in Cleveland has been really humbling and we're really excited to be here."

But one question hovers over the Guardians like winter storm clouds. How will run production increase from last season when the Guardians finished third in the mediocre American League Central Division with a record of 76-86? They won the division in 2022 at 92-70.

Young future @CleGuardians get some hitting instructions from current Guardians Saturday at Guards Fest.

— Jeff Schudel (@jsproinsider) January 20, 2024

The Guardians finished last in the Majors home runs in 2023 with 124 — 27 fewer than the 29th-ranked Washington Nationals. They were 27th in runs scored with 662.

"We're always looking to improve the team," Guardians owner Paul Dolan told The News-Herald. "But, frankly, I think a lot of our improvement is going to come internally and organically. We've got a lot of young guys and we've got to see what they can do.

"They're about ready to break through. So this will be an interesting year to see what our young guys can do."

Steven Vogt is overflowing with enthusiasm as the first-year manager of @CleGuardians. His plan to add offense is to get the players already on the roster to hit the ball better.

— Jeff Schudel (@jsproinsider) January 20, 2024

One of the "young guys" Dolan referred to is first baseman Kyle Manzardo. Manzardo is the player acquired from The Tampa Bay Rays at the trade deadline last summer for starting pitcher Aaron Civale. At the time it seemed team president Chris Antonetti was giving up on the 2023 season, but now the trade doesn't look so bad — as long as Manzardo delivers.

Manzardo, 23, will be a non-roster invitee to spring training. He hit six home runs and drove in 19 runs in 22 games in the Arizona Fall League.

Mostly, though, Vogt is depending on the players already on the roster to add more scoring — players such as Jose Ramirez, Josh Naylor, Bo Naylor, Steven Kwan, Andres Gimenez and Will Brennan.

Vogt and hitting coach Chris Valaika want batters to approach hitting differently than they have in the past.

"Val and the hitting group, we're putting plans in place," Vogt said. "They've put players on really good plans this winter, improving swing speed and swing decisions to swing at pitches that we can do damage on and really just putting an emphasis on it.

"Outside of anything else than that, there's not much more you can do, but we've been talking about it and putting an emphasis on it and we're hoping to get a lot more power and impact the baseball a lot better."

Hope springs eternal.

PHOTOS: Guardians Fest, Jan. 20, 2024