Fry’s breakout season opening everyone’s eyes: ‘isn’t a fluke’

3:22 AM UTC

CLEVELAND — Steven Kwan is just like any other Guardians fan watching David Fry play.

Over the last month, when Kwan was on the injured list, he’d sit at home and watch his team on television. Every time Fry would get a hit or launch a home run, Kwan would excitedly text his girlfriend, giving her updates on what Fry did. Even if you’re his teammate, it’s impossible not to be a Fry fan.

Why? Well, what was a “hot start” turned into a “reliable bat” off the bench. What used to be a reliable bat off the bench turned into a player the Guardians needed to work into the lineup as often as possible. And now, Fry is simply one of the most dangerous hitters in Cleveland’s lineup.

Fry proved it once again on Friday, launching a three-run homer to help lift the Guardians to a 7-1 victory over the Nationals at Progressive Field. Cleveland has won eight straight games at Progressive Field and owns MLB’s best home record (19-6).

“What David is doing right now isn’t a fluke,” Guardians manager Stephen Vogt said.

Two years ago, Fry was a player to be named in the trade that sent J.C. Mejía to the Brewers. A little more than two months ago, Fry was desperately fighting for a spot on the Guardians’ roster. But now that he’s gotten this opportunity, he hasn’t let it slip away.

Fast-forward to the end of May and Fry is at the top of the leaderboard in a handful of offensive categories for not just his team, but all hitters in the Majors. Of those with at least 100 plate appearances entering Friday, Fry was No. 1 in on-base percentage (.485, second was Lamont Wade Jr.’s .470), OPS (1.093, second was Aaron Judge’s 1.020) and wRC+ (209, second was Shohei Ohtani’s 187).

“Watching David work at every position [in Spring Training], watching him hit, watching him go about his business, it was in there,” Vogt said. “He’s getting to see and he’s getting to be an example of what it looks like to work and be a hard worker and earn more.”

His performance was a factor in the Guardians’ decision to designate outfielder Estevan Florial for assignment prior to Friday’s matchup. Cleveland was getting Kwan back from the IL, which meant Fry would no longer be getting consistent reps in left field. He can get behind the plate from time to time, like he did against the Nationals, and he can spell guys at the corner-infield spots when they get days off. But the only other option to keep him in the lineup (other than DH) is by playing him more in right field. Eliminating one other outfielder from this mix helps get Fry more at-bats — plate appearances that he’s earned.

“Luckily Vogter’s been fighting for me, getting me in the lineup,” Fry said. “So that’s all I can say. He’s been awesome for me.”

A third-inning walk extended Fry’s on-base streak to 18 consecutive games. In that span, he’s hit seven homers with 18 RBIs and 18 runs scored. In Fry’s 57 games in 2023, he didn’t reach those numbers, hitting four homers with 15 RBIs and 12 runs scored. So, what’s the difference?

“Just more experience, more confidence being here and trusting that I belong on the team,” Fry said. “Our staff’s done an unbelievable job helping me out with all the different positions and staying ready for at-bats and can’t give them enough credit.”

Although Fry’s seventh-inning home run came off of lefty reliever Robert Garcia, Washington also started a southpaw in Patrick Corbin. That already put the edge in Cleveland’s favor.

The Guardians have now won 11 of 14 games in which their opponent starts a lefty this season. This is largely due to having the best hitter against lefties in the Majors hitting in the five-spot of their lineup. Entering the day, Fry was slashing .419/.594/.791 against southpaws. His 1.385 OPS was the best among all MLB hitters with at least 40 plate appearances this year. The homer and walk will only help his case.

It certainly made Kwan an even bigger fan than he already was.

“We knew what could do and he was just patiently waiting, waiting his time,” Kwan said. “Now you see him play every day and what he can do. It’s really special. If we’re going to go far this year, it’s gonna be because of him.”