The Cleveland Guardians recently pushed the New York Yankees to five games in the ALDS. While they fell short, the AL Central champs have a lot to look forward to. As they always do, the Guardians have plenty of pitching up and down this list. The organization does not have a ton of power. However, Cleveland seems to be going about things contrary to many of the major league teams. Instead of prioritizing the long ball, they are focusing on defensive prowess, speed, and putting the ball in play.
#1 Daniel Espino, RHP, Georgia Premier Academy (GA), 24th Overall Pick (2019)
Espino left his fourth start of the season for Akron and didn’t return this year due to patellar tendinitis and shoulder soreness. Before that, he was showing off an electric arm that has fans excited for him to get to the big club. He struck out 35 of the 68 batters he faced and only allowed nine hits and four runs in 18.1 innings.
#2 Gavin Williams, RHP, East Carolina, 23rd Overall Pick (2021)
After nine dominating starts at Advanced-A Lake County, Williams was promoted to Akron. He showed similar dominance over his 16 starts for the Rubber Ducks. The big right-hander posted a 2.31 ERA and had a 29.1 percent K-rate while walking batters at just a 9.2 percent clip. For the season, Williams threw 115 innings and will look to contribute even more next year. Don’t be surprised if the flamethrower is in the big-league rotation at some point next season.
#3 George Valera, OF, Dominican Republic, Signed (2017)
Valera played 90 games at Akron and posted an impressive .837 OPS with 17 doubles and 15 homers. He was promoted to Columbus. In 42 games at the Triple-A level, Valera hit another eight doubles and blasted nine homers. He struggled a bit but put up a respectable .772 OPS. He is a solid fielder, and while he could man centerfield, he could be above average at a corner spot.
#4 Brayan Rocchio, SS/2B, Venezuela, Signed (2017)
The 21-year-old followed a similar path as Valera. Rocchio played 99 games at Double-A and put up a solid .780 OPS while hitting 13 bombs and swiping 12 bags. He also struggled a bit after his promotion to Triple-A but continued his slick fielding despite being younger than most of the competition like Valera. The Guardians are aggressive with their top prospects and Rocchio could be a beneficiary of that.
#5 Tanner Bibee, RHP, California State, 156th Overall Pick (2021)
He may have been a fifth-round pick just last year, but Bibee is putting up some great numbers. He has picked up some velocity since coming out of college and now throws in the mid-90s comfortably even touching 98-99 mph. His stuff may not be quite what Williams has, but Bibee fills the strike zone with three solid offerings and 27.2 K-BB percent is impressive.
#6 Chase DeLauter OF, James Madison, 16th Overall Pick (2022)
The centerfielder is built like a linebacker at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds. He is as athletic as they come and has translated that to the diamond. DeLauter finished his Senior year slashing .437/.576/.828 with 28 walks to just 21 strikeouts. Some may chalk up his bloated stats to the competition. However, DeLauter delivered in the Cape Cod League. With the wood bat the left-handed slugger slashed .298/.397/.589 with nine bombs.
#7 Angel Martinez SS/2B, Dominican Republic, Signed (2018)
Another one of Cleveland’s prospects who made the jump to Double-A Akron this season was Martinez. His plate discipline and defensive prowess are excellent. He is also praised for a high baseball IQ being the son of former catcher Sandy Martinez. He has gained some weight since making the pros and did hit 13 home runs last season in the minors.
#8 Logan Allen LHP, Florida International, 56th Overall Pick (2020)
After a dominant 2021 in the minors, Allen struggled a bit this season after his promotion to Triple-A Columbus. The left-hander still struck out 27 percent of the hitters with Clippers, but he walked more than 10 percent and allowed more than a hit per inning. He has enough feel to be a starter despite not having the big velocity. Allen has assuaged durability concerns by throwing 132.2 innings in the minors in 2022. Time will tell if he can get a better feel for the strike zone and limit hard contact.
#9 Justin Campbell RHP, Oklahoma State, 37th Overall Pick (2022)
Campbell is a big man at 6-foot-7. Generally, pitchers that size take time to repeat their deliveries and find the strike zone. In college, he had 4.57 strikeouts to every walk. As he moves up the minors, he will have to control the strike zone. While he doesn’t overpower hitters, he does have excellent spin rates on his secondary pitches. With an advanced knowledge of pitching, Campbell should progress quickly.
#10 Bo Naylor, C, St. Joan of Arc (Ontario), 29th Overall Pick (2018)
Naylor had a forgettable cup of coffee with the Guardians last year going 0-for-8 and striking out five times. Nevertheless, in 118 games between Akron and Columbus, he slashed .263/.392/.496 while hitting 21 home runs and stealing 20 bases. After losing the 2020 season and struggling mightily in 2021, Naylor seems to have bounced back strong. He improved his walk rate and consistently made pitchers throw strikes. Naylor could be Cleveland’s opening day starting catcher in 2023.
Notes and Other Players
Nolan Jones and Gabriel Arias were not included on this list as they had 94 and 57 plate appearances with the Guardians respectively.
Right-handed pitcher Tanner Burns is a name to look out for. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he locates very well. He has dealt with arm issues and has yet to break 100 innings in a season. If he can stay healthy, Burns has a good chance of being a solid back-of-the-rotation guy.
Jose Tena is another intriguing prospect. He can do everything above-average, but no particular skill stands out. He is just 21 years old and has showed surprising power over the last two seasons. Tena should be able to put up .280 and 15-15 with solid defense anywhere on the infield once he makes it to the majors.
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