The Guardians have selected Will Benson’s contract from Triple-A Columbus, putting the outfielder in line to make his Major League debut. In corresponding moves, outfielder Alex Call was optioned to Triple-A, while Anthony Gose was moved from the 15-day to the 60-day injured list.
Benson was selected 14th overall by Cleveland in the 2016 draft, but after posting decent but unspectacular numbers in the minors, his prospect stock gradually fell to the point that neither MLB Pipelin or Baseball America list Benson as one of the Guards’ top 30 minor leaguers. However, Benson seems to have turned a corner in his sixth pro season, and is hitting .279/.426/.522 with 17 home runs over 401 plate appearances in Columbus this year.
While this production comes with the caveat of a .340 BABIP, Benson’s 22.7% strikeout rate is far and away a career low, and is a good sign that the 24-year-old has corrected a longstanding issue in making consistent contact. If this problem has really been solved, Benson can now better unlock his natural power and bat speed, and might even have some five-tool potential. Benson also has a strong throwing arm that has mostly placed him in right field throughout his career (but he has seen time in left and center as well), and he has good speed that has allowed him to steal 86 bases in 108 opportunities.
The outfield has long been a weak link in Cleveland, yet the Guardians have now established Steven Kwan and Myles Straw as everyday options in left and center field. Right field is still a question mark, but top prospect Nolan Jones and the unheralded Oscar Gonzalez have both played well at the position, with Franmil Reyes, Josh Naylor, and Kwan also getting a handful of games in right. Gonzalez is on a minor league rehab assignment after missing a month due to an intercostal strain, so it is possible Benson might just be a short-term callup until Gonzalez is healthy.
In terms of other lineup openings, Naylor has been slowed by a balky ankle lately, though he is healthy enough to DH. Reyes has seen the bulk of DH action but he also struggled for much of the 2022 season. If the Guardians wanted more pop in the lineup, Reyes might lose playing time for other players getting rotated into the DH role, which could create more opportunity for a youngster like Benson to establish himself.