Guardians Designate Zach Plesac for Assignment

Zach Plesac
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

The Rundown

Right-hander Triston McKenzie can now be activated from the 60-day disabled list after the Cleveland Guardians designated right-hander Zach Plesac for assignment on Sunday. Earlier this month, Plesac had been optioned to Triple-A Columbus. Right-hander Michael Kelly has been optioned to Columbus in order to make room for McKenzie on the active roster.

Plesac’s tenure with the Guardians has come to an end, which is undoubtedly upsetting for the player and the brand. Plesac, who was selected by the Guardians in the twelfth round of the 2016 draft, made his professional debut in 2019 and did great. He finished 2019 with a respectable 3.81 ERA (124 ERA+) in 115 2/3 innings pitched.

A While Back…

Plesac was optioned to the team’s alternate site after breaking Major League Baseball’s health and safety rules during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He took a step forward during his sophomore season, that at the time appeared to cement him as a stalwart of the rotation. Plesac’s 4.94 FIP and a strikeout rate of just 18.4% in 2019. Both of those numbers gave plenty of cause for concern. Plesac beat opposing batters to a 2.28 ERA (196 ERA+) in eight starts during the abbreviated season. Along with this, he recorded a noticeably higher 27.7% strikeout rate.

Sadly, Plesac’s power that he demonstrated in 2020 was short-lived. In 2021. His lack of punch-outs returned in full force as he struck out just 16.7% of the batters he faced. This was lower than all starters with at least 140 innings that season with the exception of five. Zach Plesac’s performance as a result was somewhat disappointing. He finished the 2021 campaign with a 4.67 ERA and 92 ERA+, both of which were slightly below the league average. Plesac’s dominant 2020 season suddenly started to seem like the distant past when 2022 turned out to be more of the same with an ERA+ of 88 and a strikeout rate of 17.6%.

Nevertheless, Zach Plesac was able to secure a spot in the Guardians’ Opening Day rotation in 2023. The McKenzie and Aaron Civale injuries helped Plesac’s sake. His time in the rotation turned out to be a complete disaster, though, as he produced an appalling 7.59 ERA across six starts. He failed to last into the sixth inning in all but one of his appearances. Due to this, the team last month decided to option him to Triple-A Columbus. There, he struggled with a 7.56 ERA in 25 innings.

What’s Next

Zach Plesac will now be given a week to be waived or traded by the Guardians before either being immediately assigned to Triple-A or being released. He has three years of experience in the major leagues, so he is free to refuse an immediate assignment. He would forfeit the rest of his $2.95MM compensation in doing so.

Therefore, it is unlikely that Plesac will opt to look for a job elsewhere. Of course, it’s possible that nothing will get that far at all. Despite his troubles, he’s a 28-year-old optionable pitcher with a track record of success in the major leagues. He could certainly garner interest from teams like the Rockies, Cardinals, or Rays.

Cleveland Rotation

After having his season delayed by a teres major strain, McKenzie will make his season debut. The Guardians selected McKenzie in the first round of the 2015 draft, and he came into his own last year. The 25-year-old posted a stunning 2.96 ERA (127 ERA+) and 3.59 FIP in 191 1/3 innings. He also recorded a 25.6% strikeout rate against a walk rate of just 5.9%. These numbers were crucial in the Guardians’ 2022 AL Central title. McKenzie is expected to take Cal Quantrill’s spot, who was placed on the IL earlier this week.

Kelly, who was recently added to the roster for the Guardians but has not played in a game, makes way for McKenzie on the active squad. He recorded a 1.61 ERA in 22 1/3 innings before his brief call-up. Kelly is expected to provide pitching depth for the Guardians at Triple-A Columbus moving forward.

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Nathan Leko

Senior student-athlete wrestler at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, covering the Cleveland Guardians and the AL Central.

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