Cleveland Guardian’s Top 50 Prospects

Jeff Lange / USA TODAY NETWORK

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Cleveland Guardians. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. This is the third year we’re delineating between two anticipated relief roles, the abbreviations for which you’ll see in the “position” column below: MIRP for multi-inning relief pitchers, and SIRP for single-inning relief pitchers. The ETAs listed generally correspond to the year a player has to be added to the 40-man roster to avoid being made eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Manual adjustments are made where they seem appropriate, but I use that as a rule of thumb.

A quick overview of what FV (Future Value) means can be found here. A much deeper overview can be found here.

All of the ranked prospects below also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It has more details (and updated TrackMan data from various sources) than this article and integrates every team’s list so readers can compare prospects across farm systems. It can be found here.

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Other Prospects of Note

Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category.

Personal Cheeseballs (copyright Baseball America)
Micah Pries1B
Rodney BooneLHP
Jackson Humphries, LHP
Kendegly’s VirguezRHP
Joe Naranjo1B

None of this group fits in another Honorable Mention bucket but save for maybe Naranjo, they all nearly made the 35+ tier. Pries has a statuesque baseball frame, plus power and above-average speed, but he only fits at first base and may not have the hit tool to support that profile. Boone sits 86 mph, but his fastball has huge carry and his changeup is the best of his many viable secondaries. Humphries, a high school eighth rounder from 2022, was up to 95 in the fall and his breaking ball flashed plus a few times. Virguez, 18, sat 93-95 in the DSL, Cleveland’s hardest thrower down there (that I know of). Naranjo is in a similar first base-only conundrum as Pries, with plus plate discipline rather than speed.

Catching Depth
Manuel MejiasC
David FryC/1B/3B
Robert LopezC
Jose CedenoC

Mejias, 18, is a stocky switch-hitter with above-average bat speed and a strong early career bat-to-ball track record. Fry, 27, only catches every once in a while and plays a few other positions, making him an interesting 26th man candidate. Lopez looked good on the backfields in 2021, but he regressed offensively in ’22 and isn’t a lock to catch. He’s still young and has a big-bonus pedigree. Cedeno, who was born in 2005, barely swung and missed at all in the 2022 DSL (93% z-contact, y’all), but that’s about all I have on him right now.

The Fall League Arms
Mason HickmanRHP
HunterStanleyRHP
Lenny TorresRHP
CadeSmithRHP

Hickman and Stanley have sneaky low-90s fastballs that play well with their curveballs. Hickman’s only averages 70-72 mph but still garnered a ton of whiffs in 2022. Stanley got hurt in May and didn’t pitch again until the fall, when he was 91-93 with a bevy of 45-grade secondaries. Torres was a high profile amateur prospect whose fastball shape makes it tough for him to survive at 92-94 mph, even if his slider is still quite good. Smith’s low-90s uphill fastball has enabled him to K opposing hitters at a nearly 40% clip, and he also struggles with walks.

Outfield Sleepers
Connor KokxOF
Johnathan RodriguezOF
George BurgosOF
Christopher EspinolaOF
Lexer SaduyOF

Kokx, 22, can hit and run but has very little power. He seemed to be swinging harder during the Fall League. Rodriguez has a huge arm and had a power breakout in his sixth per season, clubbing 26 homers in 2022. His hit tool is still dicey. Burgos, Espinola, and Saduy are all compact, lefty-hitting outfielders in their early 20s who have performed in the lower levels.

fall friends
Junior Sanquintine3B
Alexfri PlanezR.F
Josh WolfMIRP
Aaron Bracho2 B

This group has had substantial profile at various points in the past. Sanquintin and Bracho were big IFA signees who hit early on as pros but have plateaued or fallen off since. Bracho’s decline was especially strong and seemed to coincide with his injuries. Planez is the closest of this group to the big leagues. He has plus bat speed, but his swing path and control of the zone aren’t great. Wolf was part of the Lindor trade and has become a slider-heavy relief-only prospect with 40-grade velocity.

System Overview

Cleveland finished the 2022 season as our third-ranked farm system and even though a couple of the end-of-year Top 100 guys fell off, which will cause the org to slide a bit, there’s so much depth here that this system is still probably in the five to seven range across baseball. Pitching development has been key to keeping it deep. It’s not as if Guardians pitching prospects are immune to busts and regression, but they tend to have a couple of players come out of nowhere and become real prospects every season, including lots of physically mature guys who have unexpected spikes in arm strength. They seem to be targeting pitchers from college programs that tend not to max out their players’ stuff, lots of West Coast and Southwest colleges like Fullerton and Arizona State that have been lapped by other schools in the pitching development space. The Guardians also tend to weigh the year prior to a given prospect’s draft year more heavily than other clubs and end up with guys who had good sophomore years but bad junior years, as if they’re taking a buy-low opportunity. This is what netted them Shane BieberDavis Sharpe, Trenton Denholm, and probably Chase DeLauter.

As I’ve noted ad nauseam over the past couple of years, Cleveland also has clear patterns of talent acquisition in the amateur space related to age, size, and contact proclivity. Many of the team’s international signees are short-levered switch-hitters (I’m 5-foot-11 and towered over their entire instructs group), and their domestic high school draftees are almost always among the youngest players in the class. Again, this doesn’t ensure success (Raynel Delgado, Christian Cairo, Yordys Valdesetc.), but it is part of what yielded the homegrown core that propelled the Guardians to the 2022 postseason and has poised them flush with upper-level prospects to contribute to the big league cause.

Amed Rosario is a free agent after the 2023 season and Cleveland will likely replace him from within, but the team has so many candidates that, especially as their option years and roster flexibility seep away, it makes sense that at least a few of those players will be traded to patch some of the Guardians’ offensive holes. Their lineup was simply not as deep and dangerous as those of other playoff teams in 2022. Other clubs maintain that Cleveland is among the most difficult and stubborn with which to try to strike a deal, so even though there may be opportunities to find roster equilibrium with several trade partners in need of a young infielder, don’t expect the Guardians to make a “fit-based” trade like the Gabriel Moreno/Daulton Varsho swap we saw a few weeks ago.

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