Adley Rutschman wasn’t the only Beaver to make a big splash in Major League Baseball this season. Steven Kwan finally hit the majors this year after working his way through the Cleveland Guardians organization, and immediately made a big splash. After a hot start, Kwan finished his rookie season with a .298/.400/.772 slash, and has been named a Gold Glove finalist.
Like we did with Adley, we reached out to someone who followed the Guardians all season. We reached out to Covering the Corner, SB Nation’s Guardians blog, and Managing Editor Matt Lyons was kind enough to answer a few questions. Here’s what Matt had to say.
John: Compared to Adley Rutschman, the other big Beaver prospect to hit the majors this year, Steven Kwan’s arrival was less anticipated. Did Cleveland fans see this season coming? Was there a lot of excitement for Kwan among the Guardians fanbase before the season started?
Matt: The hype around Kwan was a slow burn through the minors because of his lack of power, but I think anyone with an eye on the Guards’ system knew there was the potential for something special there. Especially once he got to Triple-A and got in front of more eyes, it was starting to look like he wasn’t just a flukey minor-league guy. The real excitement started once it was announced he was going to be here on Opening Day. With how rare the Guardians do that, I think that caused everyone to take notice and start to get excited.
John: Kwan had a hot start to the season before cooling off a bit in May. Whatever adjustments he made after that seemed to work, as he recovered and finished the rest of the season strong enough to become a Rookie of the Year candidate and a Gold Glove finalist. What would you like to see Kwan work on most in his sophomore season?
Matt: I’d love to see him draw some more walks in addition to not striking out, but that feels a little like wishing a Ferrari had an extra cup holder. If he consistently puts up seasons like 2022 I’ll be perfectly content with him as a lead-off guy, even if he doesn’t add any power. It’d be nice to say “oh I wish he’d hit the ball harder” but even if you can be as elite at one thing as he is, you ride that skill as long as you can.
John: Kwan came into the season on a rookie minimum contract. Has there been any word of the team locking him up long term? Is his age a concern in regards to an extension?
Matt: Honestly, your guess is good as mine here. The Guardians are notoriously tight-lipped about transactions, so if they are discussing an extension we probably wouldn’t hear about it until it’s done. I don’t imagine age is an issue as he’s only 25. Granted, that’s basically a dinosaur compared to the other kids on the Guardians’ roster, but they could lock him up long-term if they really wanted to without worrying about a steep decline at the end. The only real concern is that high-contact guys like him are a rarity nowadays, and he could either become Luis Arraez (good) or Nick Madrigal (bad).
John: With their young core the Guardians look well placed to control the AL Central and be a regular World Series contender. What would you say to a Beaver fan to convince them to jump on the bandwagon?
Matt: Have you seen this Steven Kwan guy? He’s really good. Oh great, you have. Well, he’s just the tip of the iceberg of how fun this team is. Oscar Gonzalez has SpongeBob as his walk-up music, Josh Naylor is a maniac, and they have a guy in the bullpen that throws 100 mph cutters. It’s wild times over here, and everyone is so young and cost-controlled that rooting for the Guardians means you’ll be rooting for the same fun players for several years. And take it from someone who was rooting for Cleveland during 2016-2019, the first season after everything comes together is the best time to get on the bandwagon. A couple more years of being great in the regular season without playoff success and things would get rough, but everything is all roses right now.
John: Finally, is there one moment from this past season that you’d show someone to make them a Steven Kwan fan?
Matt: There are plenty of on-field reasons to be a Steven Kwan fan, of course, but the way he absolutely loses his mind when his teammates hit a home run truly makes him endearing. Here’s just one example, but there are many more. You can’t not love this kid.
A baptism on a Monday afternoon? Kinda weird, but wow.#ForTheLand pic.twitter.com/jtrt4uVYMX— Cleveland Guardians (@CleGuardians) August 15, 2022
Once again, many thanks to Matt over at Covering the Corner for taking the time to answer all of our questions. If you want to follow the Guardians over the next season Covering the Corner should be the first place you visit.