Cleveland Guardians Top 42 Prospects

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

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 fourth 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 we 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.

Guardians Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Chase DeLauter 22.5 AA RF 2024 55
2 Brayan Rocchio 23.2 MLB SS 2024 50
3 Jaison Chourio 18.9 A LF 2027 45+
4 Angel Genao 19.9 A SS 2027 45+
5 Kyle Manzardo 23.7 AAA 1B 2024 45
6 Ralphy Velazquez 18.8 R 1B 2028 45
7 Juan Brito 22.5 AAA 3B 2025 45
8 Angel Martínez 22.2 AAA SS 2024 45
9 Welbyn Francisca 17.9 R 2B 2029 45
10 Robert Arias 17.6 R CF 2030 45
11 Parker Messick 23.4 A+ SP 2026 45
12 Joey Cantillo 24.3 AAA SP 2024 40+
13 Alex Clemmey 18.7 R SIRP 2028 40+
14 Andrew Walters 23.3 R SIRP 2026 40+
15 José Tena 23.0 MLB 2B 2024 40+
16 Kahlil Watson 21.0 A+ 2B 2026 40+
17 Rafael Ramirez Jr. 18.7 R SS 2028 40+
18 George Valera 23.4 AAA RF 2024 40
19 Petey Halpin 21.9 AA CF 2025 40
20 Dayan Frias 21.8 A+ SS 2026 40
21 Will Dion 24.0 AAA SP 2025 40
22 Jackson Humphries 19.7 A SP 2027 40
23 Jacob Zibin 19.2 R SP 2027 40
24 Alex Mooney 21.7 A SS 2026 40
25 Cooper Ingle 22.1 A+ C 2027 40
26 Franco Aleman 23.8 AAA SIRP 2025 40
27 Cade Smith 24.9 MLB SIRP 2025 40
28 Joe Lampe 23.3 A+ CF 2027 40
29 Justin Campbell 23.1 R SP 2026 35+
30 Johnathan Rodriguez 24.4 AAA RF 2024 35+
31 Jake Fox 21.1 A+ CF 2026 35+
32 Jose Devers 20.9 A SS 2027 35+
33 Hunter Stanley 26.4 AAA SP 2025 35+
34 Doug Nikhazy 24.6 AA MIRP 2025 35+
35 Jhonkensy Noel 22.7 AAA 1B 2024 35+
36 Jake Miller 23.7 A+ SIRP 2025 35+
37 Daniel Espino 23.2 AA SIRP 2026 35+
38 Maick Collado 21.3 A 1B 2027 35+
39 Nate Furman 22.7 A+ 2B 2027 35+
40 Christian Knapczyk 22.3 R 2B 2026 35+
41 Tyler Thornton 23.7 AA SIRP 2025 35+
42 Davis Sharpe 24.2 AA SIRP 2025 35+
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55 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2022 from James Madison (CLE)
Age 22.5 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 235 Bat / Thr L / L FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/55 55/55 40/55 45/40 45/55 60

DeLauter was a fascinating draft case and is still a bit of a mystery prospect in some ways, as he’s lost a lot of time due to the pandemic and injuries, and scouts are divided on his unique swing. He barely played as a freshman due to the pandemic, and a broken foot ended his uneven 2022 junior year early. DeLauter crushed the Cape prior to his draft year and was shy of 21 years old on draft day, so it seemed likely that model-driven teams were going to be all over him despite his weird looking swing (which at the start of 2022 was totally out of whack); it’s unsurprising that Cleveland landed him in the first round. DeLauter didn’t play pro ball after the draft and his 2023 got off to a delayed start because he had to have another surgery on his foot. He disemboweled High-A pitching once he returned (.366/.403/.549) and then looked great in the Arizona Fall League, where six weeks of watching DeLauter hit made it easier to believe in his swing.

DeLauter’s truncated finish through contact and the way his lower body interacts with his swing are both pretty weird to watch. He is adept at altering the posture of his body to manipulate the barrel around the zone rather than just do it with his hands. There’s some risk he won’t be able to do this as readily against major league velocity, which he really hasn’t seen consistently yet. But even in instances where his swing isn’t well connected, he’s strong enough to hit the ball hard somewhere. While he’s best at golfing low pitches, DeLauter is also capable of taking ones on the outer third deep to the opposite field. His background contact rates (88% z-contact%) and lack of chase both reinforce the hitterish scouting look. It’s tough to call a hitter who has only played about 60 games a year for the last four years “stable,” but from a skills and tools standpoint, DeLauter feels that way. He’s tracking like a middle-of-the-order mainstay. DeLauter’s chalk 40-man clock puts him on pace for a September 2025 call-up, but he’s performing so well during the spring of 2024 that he may kick down the door and debut this season.

50 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela (CLE)
Age 23.2 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr S / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/60 40/45 40/45 45/45 45/50 50

Rocchio’s calling card is still his switch-hitting offensive ability, specifically his bat-to-ball skills, which have made him a 50 FV mainstay since he finished his first domestic pro season. He’s coming off his first full season at Triple-A, during which he hit .280/.367/.421 — right in line with his .276/.349/.426 minor league career marks. He has lovely all-fields ability to hit, snatching hanging breaking balls and inner-third fastballs to his pull side and spraying lots of middle-away fastballs to the opposite field. He’s not quite as deft a hitter from the right side, but he’s still plenty dangerous. Rocchio has not developed power as hoped even as he’s filled out. He has shown progress in the plate discipline department and posted a career-high 11.2% walk rate in 2023, his second consecutive year with improvement in this area. Rocchio’s body has gotten thick enough that he’s more reliant on skills and acrobatic actions at shortstop than range. None of Cleveland’s many interesting middle infield prospects of the last few years has emerged as a Dude, but Rocchio does enough to be considered a solid everyday shortstop and won the everyday job during 2024 spring training.

45+ FV Prospects

Signed: International Signing Period, 2022 from Venezuela (CLE)
Age 18.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr S / R FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/55 40/55 20/55 50/50 30/50 40

Chourio was a Pick to Click last offseason who didn’t quite do enough in 2023 to make the universal Top 100 list (plus he looked a little stiff and haggard playing winter ball), but if the way he has looked out of the gate in the spring of 2024 is any indication, he’s poised to make the leap this year. Chourio has a terrific offensive skill set that includes at least a little bit of all three core skills: contact, power, and plate discipline. He has feel for making in-swing adjustments to his posture in the hips and back to alter the location of his barrel, and he’s already strong enough to do damage on some of his awkward looking swings. The square-framed switch-hitter has room for more strength and (hopefully) raw power, which should allow him to profile as an everyday left fielder, Chourio’s most likely future defensive home. How much power he develops will dictate whether Chourio becomes a Robbie Grossman type of big leaguer, or makes a leap into the Ian Happ/Shin-Soo Choo 추신수 level of impact. Because we’re talking about a corner defender, I want to see the power manifest more in games than it has so far (two home runs in two seasons) before valuing Chourio’s profile in the Top 100 range, but it looks like we’re about to get that.

Signed: International Signing Period, 2021 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 19.9 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr S / R FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/45 35/50 20/50 50/50 45/55 55

Genoa looks now like Juan Brito did a couple of years ago: He’s a projectable switch-hitting infielder with a fantastic early career bat-to-ball track record and some questions to answer on defense. Genao slashed .263/.345/.385 at Low-A last season while playing mostly shortstop and third base. His arm accuracy, which is very inconsistent, is the biggest defensive shortcoming he needs to remedy, but he’s talented and athletic enough to continue developing at shortstop to see if he can.

On offense, Genao’s contact performance is exciting for such a young switch-hitter. He’s still figuring out how to pull the ball as a left-handed hitter, but he’s fairly short to the baseball and has precocious bat control. He also swings with exciting verve from both sides of the plate and looks like he has room for 15-20 more pounds of muscle before he starts to slow down. He could have the offensive package to profile at a corner position if it turns out he can’t play shortstop. There are scouts who dare to dream that all the aspects of Genao’s skill set will come together as hoped and that he’ll become a build-around, everyday shortstop. That outcome is definitely in play, but it’s a bit too out of focus to value Genao’s prospectdom at that level already. He was a preseason Pick to Click who could break out in a profound way in 2024.

45 FV Prospects

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2021 from Washington State (TBR)
Age 23.7 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
55/60 45/45 40/45 40/40 40/50 40

A former Idaho high schooler, Manzardo’s would-be breakout sophomore season at Wazzu was cut short by the pandemic. His pre-draft resume was largely built on one huge year of performance as a junior, and he signed for just $750,000 in the second round. Manzardo has raked all the way up the minor league ladder, slashing .284/.384/.542 in the minors overall and .239/.340/.470 in 2023 at Triple-A across the Rays and Guardians orgs. Cleveland acquired Manzardo for Aaron Civale at the 2023 trade deadline, and he looked like he was winning the battle to be the club’s primary first baseman during big league spring training this year, but he was reassigned to minor league camp in mid-March.

Manzardo’s feel to hit has carried most of his profile’s weight his entire time as a prospect. In 2022, it looked like he might have special, John Olerud-level feel for contact, but across the last year and a half, his performance in this regard has been more “very good” than “exceptional.” His 2023 contact rates (79% overall, 87% in the zone) are both better than average (even among first basemen) but not quite to the level of a Yandy Díaz, Wilmer Flores, or the other very successful first basemen who share Manzardo’s lack of huge raw power. One takeaway from my recent audit of the 2017 Top 100 was that the first basemen without huge power tended to produce below my expectations across their pre-free agency seasons, and that was a big part of why Manzardo slid some compared to last season’s evaluation. He’s still a good hitter who is going to help stabilize a position that has been subject to odd, late-season experimentation each of the last couple of years (Gabriel Arias and Kole Calhoun), but Manzardo is probably a “win with” first baseman rather than a 30-homer, “win because of” guy. He looks stronger to me this spring than he did in the 2023 Fall League and I think he clearly worked hard in the weight room during the offseason, but I checked with a front office person who hasn’t seen a meaningful uptick in his measureable power this spring, and I still think Manzardo is more likely to slug closer to .400 than .450 during the next half decade.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2023 from Huntington Beach HS (CA) (CLE)
Age 18.8 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 50/60 25/60 30/20 30/40 40

Velazquez’s bat speed stood apart from most of his peers in the 2023 high school draft class, and even though he wasn’t a lock to catch, his huge offensive upside made him a late-first round prospect. His defense needs a ton of work, but he’s a fairly athletic mover with the size to withstand 100 games worth of the beating catchers take. Ralphy’s arm isn’t great and his tendency is to be very active back there when, a lot of the time, good catchers operate with stillness and control. But Velazquez is a pretty good all-around athlete and amid his general inconsistency are flashes of rare defensive ability. The most catching my scout sources and I have seen him do since turning pro, however, has come when he has warmed up the pitcher, so he hasn’t even had an opportunity to quell concerns about his defense yet.

He might hit enough to profile at a corner position even if it turns out he can’t stay behind the plate. It looks like he’s already made a swing tweak that has shortened up his operation without sacrificing power. Often when a catching prospect’s bat is very far ahead of his defense, he ends up moving off the position because of timing rather than ineptitude (e.g. at some point, both the bat and theoretical 1B/OF defense will be ready sooner than one can be expected to develop as a catcher). That’s feasible for Velazquez and some would even call it likely, but a decision like that is several years away. For now, he’s a very volatile, high-variance developmental catching prospect with substantial ceiling.

7. Juan Brito, 3B

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (COL)
Age 22.5 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 202 Bat / Thr S / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/60 40/45 30/40 35/35 30/35 40

When the Guardians traded Nolan Jones to the Rockies for Brito on 40-man deadline day 2022, it made sense from a talent standpoint but was confusing from a roster fit point of view. The Guards were fathoms deep on the middle infield (not just on the big league roster, but in the upper minors as well), but arguably thin at the positions Jones plays and light on his most prominent skill (power). Perhaps this is evidence that the Guards coveted Brito, who had a precocious, switch-hitting, contact-driven skill set similar to a lot of the players they target. Jones had a fantastic 2023 in Colorado while Brito had a solid season at mostly Double-A Akron, at least on offense. He slashed .276/.373/.444 there while seeing more time at third base than ever before. That’s a rock solid line for a college-aged infielder in the upper levels of the minors, but some of Brito’s underlying data is pedestrian (chase and power), and he hasn’t progressed very much on defense, where he remains pretty bad. He has below average hands and range, and his exchange tends to be slow on double play attempts. Scouts are starting to say things like, “He has a chance to stay at third base” rather than, “Let’s hope this guy remains at 2B/SS,” and when you put on the tape from Brito’s 2023 winter league stint or from early 2024, he looks bigger and stronger but not any more mobile or deft on defense. It’s what kept him just outside the overall Top 100.

If Brito is going to be a corner infielder, or maybe even a left fielder, it will be more important for the OBP and power portions of his skill set to improve. His trunk and shoulders look bigger and stronger at the onset of the 2024 season, so perhaps a power breakout is looming.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 22.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr S / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/50 40/45 30/40 55/55 45/50 55

Martínez is the most traditionally athletic-looking middle infielder of the Guardians’ many 40-man roster options, and for that reason there are scouts who prefer him to Bryan Rocchio and José Tena. Martínez wows you with certain aspects of his athleticism and not so much with others. As he’s filled out and gotten stronger, he’s stiffened some, and many of his actions on both offense and defense now feature a lot of effort and violence. For instance, Martínez often swings so hard that his ill-fitting helmet careens off his head in the middle of his hack. He’s also more comfortable throwing from body positions typical at second base than he is on the left side of the infield, where he often either throws across his body or has to take a few steps to set himself before getting the baseball over there. Martínez’s performance with the bat for a hitter his age has been very impressive. Still just 22, he’s a career .264/.347/.415 hitter and spent the last month plus of 2023 at Triple-A Columbus. He often swings underneath high fastballs as a left-handed hitter and might struggle to maintain above-average rates of contact as he faces big league velocity. He’s likely to be a well-rounded utility infielder without a true plus tool.

Signed: International Signing Period, 2023 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 17.9 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr S / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/55 40/50 25/50 60/60 40/50 40

As an amateur, Francisca was billed as a switch-hitting bat control savant and ranked fifth in the class despite getting a bonus of just $1.3 million. His 2023 pro debut in the DSL, during which he slashed .316/.419/.500, was sterling, though not necessarily in the way I would have expected. Francisca’s bat-to-ball performance was closer to average, while he showed precocious power. On tape, Francisca’s swing is a little less dynamic than expected, but he’s a fantastic athlete and has rare ball-striking power for an athlete of his size, especially at this age. Arm strength may limit him to second base, but the bat is the carrying tool here and Francisca still has everyday infielder upside in that regard, though it will probably take quite a while for him to reach the bigs.

10. Robert Arias, CF

Signed: International Signing Period, 2024 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 17.6 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/70 30/40 20/45 55/55 40/50 50

The Guardians always seem to have prospects who qualify as high-probability hitters atop their international signing class, and Arias is the most recent. Teams that manually track swings decisions and rates of squared-up contact in the international space indicate Arias’ performance is very special. The lefty-hitting outfield prospect seems to sear line drives all over the place despite a somewhat odd-looking swing. If you look past his choppy, downward cut, Arias checks all the boxes. He runs well, his broad-shouldered frame is very projectable, and he tracks pitches as if his eyes are fitted with some kind of baseball-seeking laser. He also makes flush, loud contact with remarkable consistency. There are scouts who think Arias needs to get much stronger, and others who view the way he’s performed despite a lack of strength as encouraging. I am mostly in the latter camp. Arias’ feel for the barrel is quite special and he could be a table-setting center fielder even if he fails to develop power. He was one of my top 2024 international amatuer prospects. He signed for $1.9 million in January and will begin his career in the DSL this summer.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2022 from Florida State (CLE)
Age 23.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 235 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/45 50/55 50/55 60/60 50/60 91-94 / 95

At Florida State, the stout Messick was an advanced pitchability lefty (144 strikeouts and 18 walks in 98 innings as a junior) with a plus changeup, exactly the kind of pitcher Cleveland tends to target in the draft: a guy who does everything but throw hard. As is standard operating procedure for Guardians pitchers, he didn’t pitch at an affiliate after the draft and instead got his pro career underway in 2023, a season that saw Messick strike out 136 hitters and walk just 39 in 121.2 IP across both A-ball levels. This spring, he looks more svelte and trim than ever before, though his fastball velocity remains parked in the low-90s on the Goodyear backfields. Messick’s fastball lives off of shallow angle and deception. He hides the ball well and has a whippy arm action that the Guardians seem to have shortened up a bit this spring. All of Messick’s secondary pitches are above average in terms of a visual evaluation of stuff, but some quants don’t like them as much as scouts tend to, and metrics like Stuff+ don’t really like his pitches. There’s been no change to Messick’s grade here. He’s still tracking like a no. 4/5 pitchability starter with a great changeup.

40+ FV Prospects

Drafted: 16th Round, 2017 from Kailua HS (HI) (SDP)
Age 24.3 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 40/45 55/55 60/60 35/45 91-94 / 95

Cantillo had trouble staying healthy in 2021 and 2022, and because of the pandemic, there was a four year gap between the seasons in which he worked about 100 innings like you’d want a starter prospect to. He had a healthy and fairly successful (if walk-prone) 2023, as he set a career mark with 119.1 IP while maintaining his usual low-90s velocity.

Cantillo has four big league-quality pitches and below-average control. His fastball’s movement and angle mean that he doesn’t need surgical command for his heater to play, but he does need to improve his strike-throwing by another grade to work with a big league starter’s level of efficiency. Any projection in this regard comes from Cantillo’s relative lack of experience due to all that time off. His changeup is so good that even though he doesn’t locate it consistently, it has still played like an impact pitch so far because of pure stuff. He also has two distinct breaking pitches, one of which (the slider) Cantillo locates better than all of his other offerings. With two option years left, there’s still time for Cantillo to polish his control enough to project as a starter. If 12 months from now Cantillo has had another season in which he’s walked 5/9 IP, it will be time to consider a move to long relief.

13. Alex Clemmey, SIRP

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2023 from Bishop Hendricken (RI) (CLE)
Age 18.7 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/70 45/55 30/45 20/40 92-95 / 98

Clemmey, a lanky Rhode Island lefty, was signed away from a Vanderbilt commitment with a $2.3 million bonus as a second round pick and didn’t pitch at an affiliate after the draft. Clemmey’s high-octane delivery generates mid-90s velocity and an occasionally plus breaking ball. His cacophonous mechanics make for a very uncomfortable at-bat, especially for lefties, and also create a lot of relief risk. After he was parked in the 92-95 mph range on the showcase circuit and with Team USA, Clemmey will now show you 92-98 over the course of a full start. His NBA-shooting-guard frame and explosivity are signs that he is going to continue to throw hard, but probably not with touch-and-feel precision. Finding a more consistent breaking ball will be a huge key for Clemmey in pro ball because his current 78-83 mph offering has inconsistent finish. There’s exciting raw material here, as Clemmey should at least become a good reliever with a monster fastball. His size and athleticism mean you can dream on more.

14. Andrew Walters, SIRP

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2023 from Miami (CLE)
Age 23.3 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
70/70 40/55 30/40 96-98 / 100

Walters was selected by Baltimore in the 2022 draft as an eligible sophomore but didn’t sign. Back with Miami in 2023, he struck out 72 and walked just seven in 44.2 innings and signed for just shy of $1 million. To this point Walters has been a “fastball-only” pitcher, with close to 80% heater usage at Miami in 2023, which was actually down from 2022. His mid-90s college fastball had incredible riding life, generating tons of swings and misses throughout the strike zone, and in the 2024 Spring Breakout game with the Guardians, Walters was throwing even harder and touched 100. It’s a dominant offering that could be enough to spearhead a high-leverage single-inning relief role in pro ball. Walters had no feel for finishing his slider/curveball in college and that offering desperately needs to be developed for him to hit his ceiling as a set-up man or closer. His slider has shown flashes of late, nasty movement early in 2024, but it’s very inconsistent. Walters is pretty likely to be at least a middle reliever on the back of his fastball, and he has upside beyond that if he and the Guardians can find him a second plus pitch.

15. José Tena, 2B

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 23.0 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 50/55 30/45 45/45 45/50 60

Tena is a tough eval. On paper, he isn’t all that different from Zack Gelof (very similar in all contact rate and measurable power aspects) or Brandon Lowe (who generates much more consistent pull-side lift than the other two), until you compare that trio’s ability to pull the ball. Tena’s swing has a hitch that often causes him to swing underneath in-zone fastballs, and he peppers the third base line with slasher-style contact because he’s often a little too late to do pull-side damage, where his power is biggest. Also a fairly aggressive hitter, the OBP aspect of Tena’s game is likely to be below the big league average as well.

Tena doesn’t necessarily have the defensive skill set to be projected as a utility man. His exchange is incredibly quick, but the other aspects of his defense (especially his range) are not a comfortable shortstop fit, and while he’s played all over the infield, he fits best at second base and might be landlocked there. Right now I have Tena evaluated as an above-replacement second base option rather than an on-roster role player. As his options run out while other middle infielders ascend through the org, rival teams looking to be active on their roster margins should be sensitive to Tena’s presence on Cleveland’s 40-man bubble and consider how their dev group might help to get his swing on time such that he pulls the ball more often. He’d be an interesting target if they think they can.

16. Kahlil Watson, 2B

Drafted: 1st Round, 2021 from Wake Forest HS (MIA)
Age 21.0 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 178 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/30 50/60 35/55 60/60 30/45 45

Watson is now over a year removed from a 2022 last straw on-field incident with an umpire that spurred his temporary dismissal from the Marlins. Watson was performing slightly above the Midwest League offensive average when the Fish sent him packing as part of the 2023 Josh Bell trade with Cleveland. He ended the 2023 season on a power-hitting hot streak and, across both orgs, hit 14 homers and stole 25 bases in just 83 games. After a couple years of pro ball it’s now pretty clear that Watson is going to be limited to second base on defense (while he still played a lot of shortstop last season, he doesn’t have the arm for it) and has fairly severe swing-and-miss issues, but he remains an incredible rotational athlete who generates explosive pull-side power for a hitter his age. Both Watson’s plate discipline and contact rates improved in 2023, especially the former, which played closer to average. If Watson can continue to target the specific middle-in pitches that he’s best able to drive with power, he’ll get to enough of his power to be a Danny Espinosa type of player.

Signed: International Signing Period, 2022 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 18.7 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/30 45/60 25/50 50/50 40/50 55

Ramirez came to 2024 camp looking significantly stronger than he did last year and is flashing much more pull-side power than he showed last season, when he slashed .250/.453/.426 and had 13 extra-base hits in 41 games. There is still substantial swing-and-miss risk here, and the fact that he struck out at a 28% clip on the complex is a ruby red flag for future hit tool projection, but viable shortstops with burgeoning left-handed power like Ramirez’s don’t exactly grow on trees. I have him graded on par with a second round high schooler. He’s pretty similar to 2024 draft prospect Bryce Rainer.

40 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 23.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/30 55/60 45/55 45/45 55/55 60

Valera has only had one completely healthy full season in pro baseball since signing in 2017, and already had another hamstring injury during 2024 spring training. In 2023, it was a combination of a strained hamstring and broken hamate that limited him to 79 games and a career-worst line on offense. I’d usually be inclined to ignore offensive performance immediately following a hamate surgery, but Valera’s injury track record has now become long enough to reconsider his grade. He’s historically whiffed at rates right near the bottom of what is viable for a big league corner outfielder, and it’s imperative that his plate discipline and power play like plus attributes if he’s going to reclaim the luster of a strong side platoon option on a good team.

Valera has a sweet looking (but not especially practical) lefty stroke with considerable low ball loft. He swings underneath a ton of high fastballs and pitches on the outer third, enough that he ran a sub-70% contract rate. On defense, Valera’s feel for center field is pretty good, but his speed and range are not. He makes lots of tough reads off the bat look easy, and also often cedes ground to his corner outfielders on gappers because he isn’t fast enough to get there. He could play center field in a pinch but is better in right, where his excellent arm can consistently impact the game. Valera doesn’t quite have the monstrous physical tools of a Josh Lowe or Will Benson type, and so he falls behind them in the pecking order as a second-division corner platoon option.

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2020 from St. Francis HS (CA) (CLE)
Age 21.9 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/55 35/40 30/40 60/60 40/50 70

Halpin has tracked like a future fifth outfielder for practically his entire pro career based largely on his speed and defense. Even though he has drastically altered his swing since entering pro ball (his stance has really opened up), his offensive profile is very similar to his amateur scouting report. Halpin’s swing is geared for low-ball contact and he tends to inside-out the baseball to left field. His strikeout rates have crept up as he’s climbed through the minors, and he’s likely to mature into below-average offensive tools, but Halpin’s secondary skills will give him roster utility as a fifth outfielder.

20. Dayan Frias, SS

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Colombia (CLE)
Age 21.8 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 40/45 30/40 40/40 50/60 60

Frias was left off Cleveland’s 40-man and passed over in the Rule 5 Draft despite slashing .260/.356/.426 at High-A in 2023. He’s still a little too inconsistent on defense to be a slam dunk 40-man infielder right now, but he has flashes of acrobatic brilliance and projects as a plus third and second base defender. He didn’t play as much shortstop at Lake County last year (Milan Tolentino did), but Frias got reps there in Colombia during the winter, making some spectacular plays and fumbling others. He is similarly talented (and maddening) on offense, as Frias tends to chase secondary stuff, but he sure takes a healthy left-handed hack for a guy his size and can move the barrel around to spray doubles pop to all fields. Frias is going to have situational impact via his defense and ability to put the ball in play from either side of the plate. He plays the game hard and should eventually be a solid utility guy.

21. Will Dion, SP

Drafted: 9th Round, 2021 from McNeese State (CLE)
Age 24.0 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
35/45 45/50 50/55 45/50 30/50 87-89 / 91

Dion had another successful season, this time mostly at Double-A, despite continuing to sit 87-90 mph with his fastball. You’ve seen Dion’s delivery before if you’ve ever watched Clayton Kershaw pitch, as his short-levered overhand stroke is uncannily similar to that of the Hall of Fame lefty’s. It imparts similarly deceptive riding life on Dion’s fastball, which, like Kershaw’s, plays better than its raw velocity, though Dion doesn’t throw nearly as hard. He still managed to post strikeout rates north of 26% at every level since turning pro. Dion’s curveball was his money pitch in college, but he’s accelerated his changeup and slider usage so far in pro ball. All of his secondaries are about average to the eye, but his feel for locating his changeup so consistently has helped that pitch play closer to plus. If Dion can suddenly throw harder, he’ll outpace this projection substantially because his fastball’s life is like a force multiplier for velocity. Until then, he looks more like a fifth starter.

Drafted: 8th Round, 2022 from Fuquay-Varina HS (NC) (CLE)
Age 19.7 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/50 45/60 60/60 35/45 20/45 91-93 / 95

Humphries’ first full pro season is an example of how Cleveland’s tendency to stay on prospects who had a rough pre-draft spring (but who looked better in prior seasons) can seemingly pay off. Humphries was better as a junior than as a senior but Cleveland still gave him $600,000 to eschew a commitment to Campbell, one of the many excellent “smaller” programs in the southeastern quadrant of the country. Humphries has shown two budding breaking balls that are tough to distinguish out of hand. His delivery has some head whack to it, and he was walk-prone on the complex last year before he was promoted to A-ball down the stretch. There’s relief risk here (both in terms of the walk rate so far and the way Humphries’ delivery looks) and the left-hander is still several years away from the big leagues, but he has progressed quickly in other areas. If you dropped him back into the draft, he’d get closer to $1 million, so this already looks like $600,000 of bonus pool space well spent, but I’m being careful not to over-grade Humphries, who realistically has the ceiling of a 45, just because of that context.

23. Jacob Zibin, SP

Drafted: 10th Round, 2022 from TNXL Academy (FL) (CLE)
Age 19.2 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 218 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/50 50/55 45/55 20/50 92-96 / 99

Zibin reclassified from the 2023 draft and was the youngest prospect in the 2022 class. A native of Canada, he spent his pre-draft spring at an athletics-focused school in Florida. Early in the spring, he was peaking in the upper-90s but usually sat more in the 92-95 mph range with varied feel for location. His arm strength trended down throughout the spring, but Zibin’s secondary offerings — a two-planed slider and fading changeup — were both very promising components on their own, and even the lesser version of Zibin’s fastball, without the downward-trending context, was exciting for a pitching prospect who wasn’t quite 17-and-a-half on draft day. He was given a $1.2 million bonus in the 10th round and didn’t pitch at an affiliate after he signed, instead only getting a few innings during instructs. Then Zibin had Tommy John in May of 2023 before he could throw an official inning of pro ball. A typical TJ rehab schedule would put him on pace to return in the middle of the 2024 slate.

From a frame, delivery, and stuff standpoint, Zibin is a developmental starting pitching prospect with two potential plus secondaries. How his arm strength trends and sustains over an entire pro season will be a key component of his future evaluation. He’s on a post-2026 40-man/Rule 5 clock and theoretically has two-and-a-half seasons to develop from scratch.

24. Alex Mooney, SS

Drafted: 7th Round, 2023 from Duke (CLE)
Age 21.7 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 45/50 30/45 55/55 40/45 60

Mooney was old for the 2021 high school class and broke out with a .938 OPS as a draft-eligible college sophomore in 2023. He did not have a good pro debut on either side of the ball, but it was a small sample. Mooney is a fairly well-balanced player with average potential tools almost across the board. The area in need of the most development is his defense. His arm is plus but Mooney tends to take an extra few steps to field and gather himself to throw, resulting in a lot of too-close-for-comfort plays at first base. After the draft he struggled with throwing accuracy.

Mooney’s hand speed in the batter’s box is very exciting. He has a quick, authoritative top hand through contact and can turn on most anything. His front foot is sometimes down late and he struggles to spoil sliders away from him, even ones that finish in the zone, because he’s so pull-oriented. But there’s both barrel control and bat speed here, enough offense to make Mooney a high-probability utility infielder who could be more than that if he can actually improve as a shortstop defender.

25. Cooper Ingle, C

Drafted: 4th Round, 2023 from Clemson (CLE)
Age 22.1 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/65 30/35 30/20 40/40 30/45 40

Ingle is a small, contact-oriented catcher with fringe defensive tools. His receiving looks better this spring than it did at Clemson but it still isn’t great, and Ingle tries to make up for a lack of arm strength with a quick exchange, which sometimes impacts his accuracy and forces the infielder to make a great tag. He’s good enough to project as a viable defender, but it’s unlikely he’ll ever be plus back there. As such, Ingle projects as a bat-first backup. He has excellent plate coverage and feel for oppo spray, especially against high fastballs. He also has plus plate discipline, which may keel off at the upper levels as pitchers go right at Ingle without fear of him doing huge damage.

26. Franco Aleman, SIRP

Drafted: 10th Round, 2021 from Florida (CLE)
Age 23.8 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 235 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
60/60 60/60 50/50 94-97 / 99

Aleman has altered his approach to pitching since leaving Florida (he was at St. John’s River and Florida International prior to UF) and is now much more apt to take advantage of the way his fastball plays at the top of the zone. He’s also added a couple ticks of velo, averaging 95.7 mph on his fastballs last year. The size of an NBA wing player at a long-levered 6-foot-6, Aleman also releases the baseball seemingly right on top of the hitter. His low-ish slot wreaks havoc on righties’ ability to pick up the baseball out of his hand and makes it tough for them to spot his slider. Aleman is a pretty standard fastball/slider middle reliever likely to see big league time either late in 2024 or early in 2025.

27. Cade Smith, SIRP

Undrafted Free Agent, 2020 (CLE)
Age 24.9 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
65/65 55/55 30/35 94-96 / 98

Smith was drafted out of high school by the Twins in 2017 but didn’t sign, instead settling for $20,000 as an undrafted free agent because of the shortened COVID year draft. He has struck out nearly 40% of his pro career opponents thanks to his fastball’s combination of velocity and nasty movement. Smith has a deceptive, low-slot delivery that hitters struggle to pick up, and he imparts nasty rise-and-run action on his fastball, which bores in on the hands of righty batters. When Smith is locating to that high, arm-side location, he is nearly unhittable, but he doesn’t repeat his violent delivery very well and he scatters fastballs all over the place. Smith’s lack of feel for release also impacts his slider’s performance, though that pitch flashes plus movement. Smith’s a little too inconsistent to be considered a high-leverage relief prospect, but on pure stuff, he should be a good middle reliever.

28. Joe Lampe, CF

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2022 from Arizona State (CLE)
Age 23.3 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 40/45 30/40 70/70 40/50 45

Lampe entered the 2022 college season as a speed-only prospect, but the quality of his contact took a huge leap and he hit four times as many homers as he did during the 2021 college season even though he separated his shoulder in the middle of the year. He then had a surprisingly good 2023 from a contact standpoint, as he only struck out 19.4% of the time at High-A while slashing .235/.336/.332 and swiping 21 bases on 22 attempts. Lampe is still likely to mature into below-average hit and power. His speed should enable him to play a quality big league center field and pinch run in big spots. He’s a fifth outfield prospect who’s still a couple years away.

35+ FV Prospects

29. Justin Campbell, SP

Drafted: 1st Round, 2022 from Oklahoma State (CLE)
Age 23.1 Height 6′ 7″ Weight 219 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/50 45/50 50/60 30/50 91-94 / 97

Campbell could have easily been in the Black Box Pitching group of this year’s Picks to Click. The graceful 6-foot-7 righty was Cleveland’s 2022 first rounder, but he has yet to throw a pro pitch at an affiliate because he was shut down post-draft and then had surgery in May 2023 to relieve pressure on his ulnar nerve. Now he’s rumored to be undergoing Tommy John in the spring of 2024, which would shelve him for yet another season.

Campbell had premium extension/approach angle traits, a plus changeup, and a starter-worthy command foundation when he was drafted, characteristics that have him primed to explode if he can reach and maintain greater velocity in pro ball, which is becoming more common for college arms. Oklahoma State has also not been very good at maxing out their pitchers while Cleveland has. The crux of Campbell’s projection in this area is his size. At a graceful 6-foot-7, Campbell releases the ball right on top of hitters, and he still has room to fill out and maybe throw harder. His low-90s fastball (which peaks in the 95-97 mph range) has riding life at the letters, he can turn over an above-average changeup even from his high slot, and he can create vertical depth on a pretty vanilla low-80s slider. If he can throw harder, he’ll probably end up having more of a power, mid-80s breaker.

Now we’ll be waiting until 2025 to see him. There’s a gap between Campbell’s healthy projection (which was that of a 45 FV player) and his present trade value (this grade), which is impacted by multiple years of severe injury. Campbell is impossible to evaluate and so is tough to “value” as if he were part of trade discussions, but because his stuff has been all elbow while Daniel Espino’s issues have been more varied and have involved his shoulder, there’s a gap between those two otherwise very talented fellows here.

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2017 from Carlos Beltran Academy HS (PR) (CLE)
Age 24.4 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 224 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 65/65 45/55 40/40 40/40 70

Rodriguez was one of the youngest players in the 2017 draft and didn’t turn 18 until several months after he was selected. He was also, unsurprisingly, one of the most raw, and it took him over a half decade to be added to the 40-man roster, as he struggled with strikeouts and had an early-career dalliance with switch-hitting. He’s now a pretty chase-prone, power-hitting right fielder.

Rodriguez’s swing is big, aggressive, and a little long such that he struggles to be on time against fastballs. An outsized portion of his extra-base contact comes against mistake breaking balls that he can pull. There’s big raw power here, but not the contact and OBP combination typical of a corner outfielder. We’re talking a 50% swing rate and a 77% in-zone contact rate undercutting comfortably plus power and an impact arm. It’s not quite as extreme a skill set as Guardians fans were subject to during the last couple of years of Oscar Gonzalez, but it’s close, and while Rodriguez has what Cleveland’s big league lineup has lacked, he probably isn’t more than a Triple-A band-aid.

31. Jake Fox, CF

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2021 from Lakeland Christian School (CLE)
Age 21.1 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/50 30/30 20/30 60/60 50/60 60

Fox was a contact-oriented high school prospect who signed for $850,000 in 2021 rather than go to Florida. After entering pro ball as an infielder, Fox began what looked like a full-time transition to the outfield in 2023 (though he has played some second base again in the spring of 2024) and again performed above his league’s average, slashing .256/.330/.398 with a 105 wRC+ as a 20-year-old in the Midwest League.

Fox took to center field pretty well. He doesn’t have elite range, but his ball skills and reads are surprisingly good considering he hasn’t been playing there very long, and he has an impact arm. A successful revisitation of the infield is going to be key for Fox’s development because it would give him plus defensive versatility and impact, and he’s unlikely to have another plus tool on his scout card. Fox does have deft feel for contact, but the quality of that contact is so poor due to his lack of power that his hit tool will probably play down a bit. Fox is on the smaller side and isn’t especially explosive. He swing features big, slow movement in his lower body but short action with his hands, and he can alter the posture of his upper body to put the bat on the ball (which is a trait common in this system). Brett Wisely and Jacob Young are present-day comps for Fox’s offensive projection, which overall is that of a bottom-of-the-40-man type who plays two premium positions but probably only one of them well.

32. Jose Devers, SS

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 20.9 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 145 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 35/40 30/40 60/60 40/50 60

Devers made his full season debut with a .252/.345/.398 line in 2023, and he not only hit a surprising 11 home runs, but his hard-hit rate (30%) was pretty good for a narrowly built 20-year-old. Devers is so slender that it’s tough to feel confident that he’ll add strength; he’s in the Carlos Tocci physical mold. He runs well and, most importantly, is a good shortstop defender. This is a key player to watch for unexpected physical development because the underlying skill set is otherwise pretty strong.

33. Hunter Stanley, SP

Drafted: 11th Round, 2021 from Southern Mississippi (CLE)
Age 26.4 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 203 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/40 50/50 45/50 60/60 91-93 / 95

Stanley is a high-floored depth starter prospect thanks to his outstanding command. He has no plus offering, but he throws a ton of strikes with average stuff and wrings a ton of swing-and-miss effectiveness out of a pedestrian slider. He worked 119 innings at Double-A in 2023 and enters his 40-man platform year as a reliable upper-level starter poised to be in the starting pitcher no. 6-10 mix in the near future.

34. Doug Nikhazy, MIRP

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2021 from Ole Miss (CLE)
Age 24.6 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
40/45 60/60 30/30 50/55 30/35 90-93 / 95

A dominant college starter despite 30-grade velocity and middling control, Nikhazy has really struggled to throw strikes as a pro. He is throwing a little harder than he was at Ole Miss, sitting more 90-93 now, and his heater’s ride and angle make it viable at that velocity. He’s also developed a new, hard slider/cutter in pro ball and his curveball has plus-plus spin, showing a huge spike above his college spin rate. Nikhazy has made basically no progress as a strike-thrower, but his fiery on-mound demeanor and plus secondary stuff should still give him utility as a long reliever, a role where his sneaky fastball could play up a little more than it has as a starter.

35. Jhonkensy Noel, 1B

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 22.7 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 250 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 70/80 50/60 30/20 30/45 55

Noel has been a power-hitting prospect of note for the last several years, as he had absurd exit velocities for a teenage hitter in the lower levels of the minors. Poor plate discipline has begun to have a more meaningful impact on Noel’s performance as he has climbed the minor league ladder, and as he has become a relatively immobile first base-only athlete (especially for his age), it looks increasingly less likely that he will be able to clear the high offense bar necessary for a hitter with his flaws. Because the Guardians are so starved for power, it’s plausible Noel will be up and down this year if one of their thumpers gets hurt. This is a fringe 40-man guy who (and it’s rare for me to write this about such a young player) is probably two years away from being a candidate for pro ball in Asia.

36. Jake Miller, SIRP

Drafted: 20th Round, 2021 from San Diego (CLE)
Age 23.7 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/50 40/45 60/70 30/40 91-93 / 96

Miller looked like he was breaking out early in 2022 when he blew out and needed Tommy John in late July. At the time, he was sitting 93-95 mph with huge extension and big arm-side action on a plus mid-80s changeup, which one scout source put a 70 on in their look before the injury. Miller returned to the mound late in 2023 and threw 20 innings before the end of the year. His fastball velocity wasn’t all the way back, with Miller sitting mostly 91-93 and making heavier use of his slider, which is a work-in-progress. If his pre-TJ arm strength returns in 2024, he could move quickly as a reliever and be in position for a postseason 40-man add. Until we see for sure that the velo is back, Miller is more a high-priority guy to monitor than he is a true prospect.

37. Daniel Espino, SIRP

Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Georgai Premier Academy (GA) (CLE)
Age 23.2 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
80/80 60/70 55/60 45/55 45/50 97-100 / 102

Born in Panama, Espino had the best arm strength among the high school pitchers in the 2019 draft, but concerns about his delivery and arsenal depth dropped him to the 24th overall pick. His stuff got even better under the tutelage of Cleveland’s player dev system, and he dominated during his 2021 full season debut, putting up a strikeout rate north of 40% while shortening his arm action and altering his slot to impart more vertical movement on his heater. Espino had taken another leap at the onset of 2022, sitting in the 98-102 mph range with a fastball that sometimes had 20-23 inches of vertical break that spring.

Then Espino’s health began to spiral. He was shut down with a knee injury early in 2022 and started having shoulder issues during his rehab. Those shoulder issues have snowballed and Espino had surgery for a capsule tear in May of 2023, then was revealed to have more capsule and rotator cuff issues at the start of 2024 that required yet another surgery. When he next pitches it will have been at least three years since his last competitive inning. Spring 2022 Espino was one of the best pitching prospects I’ve ever seen, but his career officially feels like it’s on thin ice now, as he’s had chronic shoulder problems spanning multiple seasons, something pitchers tend not to recover from. I feel especially bad for Espino, who appeared to take tremendous and disciplined care of himself before all of this started to transpire, but it’s also a loss for the rest of us, as we’ve been robbed of the chance to witness something pretty special unfolding in Cleveland.

38. Maick Collado, 1B

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 21.3 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr S / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/55 40/45 30/40 30/30 35/60 50

Collado is a personal cheeseball of sorts. He’s an undersized first baseman who has just four career home runs in three seasons. Ordinarily a guy like this would be in the Honorable Mention section of a prospect list, but Collado’s swing is so sweet, and his feel to hit strong enough, for me to gas his grade a bit. He has a much more traditional looking style of hitting than the contact-only bats below him on this list, with all-fields doubles pop right now. The sizzle on his balls in play looks stronger this spring, as he made a ton of flush sweet-spot contact during my in-person spring looks leading up to list publication. Because Collado is a compact guy, it’s tough to project sufficient raw power for him to profile as an impact 1B/DH, but I believe in the hit tool enough to project him as a lower-end option or a contender’s switch-hitting bench weapon.

39. Nate Furman, 2B

Drafted: 4th Round, 2022 from UNC Charlotte (CLE)
Age 22.7 Height 5′ 8″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
55/70 30/35 20/20 70/70 30/40 40

A twitchy little second baseman who can really hit, Furman had nearly twice as many walks as strikeouts as a draft-eligible sophomore with UNC Charlotte. He turned 21 just a few days after the 2022 draft, so of course Cleveland was all over him and gave him $300,000 in the fourth round. Furman didn’t play pro ball immediately after he signed, with his career instead getting underway in 2023, when he posted one of the lowest swinging strike rates in all of the minors leagues at a microscopic 3.2%. Furman’s full season staline illustrates his skills pretty well. He hit .264/.397/.306, and as you can imagine, he has an extreme hit-over-power skill set.

The ceiling on Furman’s offense looks something like Adam Frazier‘s career, and similar to Frazier, Furman is not a very good second base defender. He’s speedy and should be able to run around in the outfield if the Guardians are inclined to try that, as they have with some other players. A 2B/LF mix could put Furman more in line with the Tony Kemp archetype, though Kemp is a much better second base defender. Barring meaningful development on defense (like if Furman suddenly takes to center field like Jake Fox did last year), Furman’s outcomes are probably binary: either he sustains elite contact ability and gets to be a flawed everyday second baseman, or not. Because Furman’s best tool is the one I care about most, I think he has some trade value as a flier even though his profile is on pretty thin ice.

40. Christian Knapczyk, 2B

Drafted: 5th Round, 2023 from Louisville (CLE)
Age 22.3 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 35/35 30/30 50/50 30/40 40

Knapczyk was one of the stronger bat-to-ball performers in the entire 2023 draft, especially among the college ranks, but it’s still unclear where he fits on defense due to severe issues with arm accuracy and fielding the ball cleanly at Louisville. He was a career .328/.444/.425 hitter for the Cardinals, a carbon copy of Nate Furman in many respects, except on a one-year echo. He’s not a good defensive infielder despite having played shortstop at one of the country’s bigger programs and might have to move to the outfield as a pro, though I’ve only seen him playing second base this spring. Again, the carrying tool here is the one I care about most and I value Knapczyk a little more than other precariously-profiled defenders because of it, but he needs to perform in a superlative fashion in his first pro season to stay here.

41. Tyler Thornton, SIRP

Drafted: 21th Round, 2021 from Arizona State (CLE)
Age 23.7 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
60/60 40/50 30/40 91-93 / 95

If low release heights and shallow approach angles are your jam, then Thornton is for you. His drop-and-drive delivery is so extreme that his rear knee threatens to graze the mound on every pitch, which combined with his low three-quarters arm slot creates a very strange angle on his stuff. He throws upshot fastballs almost three-quarters of the time and it plays like a dominant pitch even though Thornton only sits 92 mph. It’s not exactly like Adam Cimber’s delivery, but that’s getting close. Thornton showed a five-tick bump right after leaving ASU (he sat 94 during 2022 instructs), but things tapered off just a little throughout the 2023 campaign. He struggles to locate his slider at the moment and that needs to improve, but in every other way Thornton looks like a lot of modern low-slot relievers in terms of his frame, athleticism, delivery, and stuff.

42. Davis Sharpe, SIRP

Drafted: 13th Round, 2021 from Clemson (CLE)
Age 24.2 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Cutter Command Sits/Tops
30/30 70/70 50/55 55/60 90-94 / 95

Sharpe has been unable to sustain the velo bump he showed shortly after signing, instead relying on his plus-plus breaking stuff and command to strike out about a quarter of his opponents in a multi-inning relief role during each of the last two seasons. He’s posted microscopic walk rates in pro ball and has had success missing bats with a slider-heavy approach to pitching. Though he’s worked as a long reliever so far, Sharpe’s pitch mix is so vulnerable against lefties that it’s tough to see him working across most of an entire lineup at the big league level. A lack of fastball velo will probably limit Sharpe to an up/down single-inning role.

Other Prospects of Note

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

More Little Guys From Rookie Ball
Pedro Dalmagro, C
Esteban Gonzalez, OF
Reyden Hidalgo, INF
Jonathan Martinez, INF
Juan Frances, OF

The Guardians have a glut of players like this up and down their system, smaller hitters with contact skills and limited physical projection. Their ceiling tends to look like Tyler Freeman or Brayan Rocchio. Dalmagro, 18, had a strong pro debut in the 2023 DSL, where he hit .361/.425/.528. He’s little and needs to catch much more before we can say whether he’ll be able to perform amid the physical toll of playing the position, but he’s a loose athlete with good strength for his size. Gonzalez is the only complex-level hitter from last year in this group. He’s a compact 5-foot-8 and swings really hard. He hit well in his second ACL stint; let’s see how he does in full-season ball. Hidalgo had maybe the most traditional-looking frame/athleticism from last year’s DSL group, but he was repeating the level for the second time. Martinez was the youngest player in the D.R. and posted an above-average wRC+. Frances’ surface stats were terrible, but he’s an incredible athlete who can really swing despite his size, and his underlying contact data is special.

Let’s Check in on Some Famous Names
Lenny Torres Jr., RHP
Ethan Hankins, RHP
Nic Enright, RHP
Jack Leftwich, RHP
Trenton Denholm, RHP
Mason Hickman, RHP
Tommy Mace, RHP
Tanner Burns, RHP
Steve Hajjar, LHP

Torres had a velo rebound last year and was sitting 97-99 mph for me this spring, but the pitch plays down considerably despite its velocity and Lenny is going to need to take a slider-heavy approach. Hankins, a famous high school draftee, sat 94 last year across a little more than a half season of starts. He’s had trouble finding a second impact pitch and/or good command. Enright is a pretty standard 93-94 mph fastball/above-average slider guy who should perform at Triple-A. Leftwich (Florida) has a good fastball and could be an up/down reliever on the strength of that, but he’ll need to find a second weapon to stick around. Denholm had a velo spike after he was drafted but has tapered off into the low-90s again. Hickman (Vanderbilt), Mace (Florida), Burns (Auburn), and Hajjar (Michigan) were big time college starters who have slipped into upper-level relief roles as pros.

Injured
Nick Mikolajchak, RHP
Andrew Misiaszek, RHP

Both of these guys looked like fast-moving relievers at one point (especially Mikolajchak, who was 94-97 with a plus slider at peak), but they’ve each been hurt for multiple seasons now.

Guardians Prospects With Power Projection?
Yanki Baptiste, OF
Yerlin Luis, OF
Jose Pirela, OF
Luis Merejo, OF

Guardians prospects with power projection! This is a bigger-framed group who might grow into meaningful power as they mature and all have enough hit tool risk to be kept off the main section of the list. Baptiste has huge juice and an extreme uppercut swing that might not be sustainable. Luis had a stronger grade last year when he was thought of as more of a well-rounded offensive player, but whiff issues cropped up and he belongs more in this area now. Pirela’s on-paper performance in 2023 was incredible, but I don’t believe in his swing, which is stiff and choppy. Merejo is more physically mature and relatively unremarkable from a athletic standpoint.

A Grab Bag of Hitters Who Almost Made the Cut
Wuilfredo Antunez, CF
Juan Benjamin, 2B
Jeffrey Mercedes, 1B
Bryan Lavastida, C

Antunez hits the ball hard for his size, but he’s a stretch in center field and isn’t as physically projectable as a typical corner outfield prospect. Benjamin is a 2B/3B type with a shot for a 50 bat and 40 power; Mercedes is a version of that more likely to play first base. Both of those guys are good upper-level org sticks who have a shot to make it as 40s. Lavastida fell off the 40-man roster, but he’s athletic enough and has enough pop to consider him a good upper-level depth option.

Older Pitchers
Trey Benton, RHP
Ryan Webb, LHP
Zach Jacobs, RHP
Zane Morehouse, RHP
Shawn Rapp, LHP
Adam Tulloch, LHP

Benton, 25, sits 94-95 and has two above-average breaking balls, but he walked more than 5/9 IP last year. Webb, 24, had a good 2023 season as a starter at High-A and pitched in Cleveland’s Prospect Breakout game, where he sat 91-94 and flashed an average braking ball and changeup. His arm swing is kind of long, but he otherwise has a depth starter look. Jacobs is a version of that except a year behind. He sits about 90 (with carry), and has good natural breaking ball shape and starter-quality control. The rest of this group has one great pitch and needs to develop other stuff. Morehouse was 93-95 with natural cut for me this spring. Rapp and Tulloch have great lefty sliders.

Younger Arms
Jacob Bresnahan, LHP
Jogly Garcia, RHP
Kendeglys Virguez, RHP

Bresnahan is a very projectable lefty with a good-looking arm action who signed for $375,000 last year rather than go to Oregon. Garcia is an athletic, medium-framed righty with a good slider. Virguez is a hard-throwing, wild 19-year-old who I’ve seen up to 96.

System Overview

This system is down a little right now, in part because so many pitchers in the big league rotation were prospects last year and recently graduated. The Guardians have a plan and they execute it. They love contact-oriented amateur players in the draft, and they go to great lengths to try to track bat-to-ball data in the international space too. Sometimes their system feels monochromatic and like the org overestimates the rate at which these types of players have big-ceiling actualization. For every José Ramírez and Mookie Betts, there are a million Myles Straws and Ernie Clements. When you don’t fish in the toolsy pond at all, and even go so far as to trade away guys like Junior Caminero, Nolan Jones and Will Benson, you’re left with an offense like Cleveland has had the last couple of seasons, which included a playoff lineup that had Oscar Gonzalez at the heart of it. There needs to be some reflection here, if not an explicit shift in philosophy, because the org is clearly very good at many aspects of scouting and dev but can’t quite attain true contender status, in part because they’re seemingly always on the Nate Furman types and not the Christian Encarnacion-Strands.

In the case of Chase DeLauter, the Guardians landed a middle-of-the-order bat because DeLauter didn’t have a great pre-draft spring and fell in their lap. This is another Guardians signature: buy low. Players whose stock was super high early in the scouting process but fell closer to the draft end up in Cleveland. Hankins was that and Shane Bieber was that, with guys you’ve never heard of like Andrew Calica included in that mix. This, plus Cleveland’s tendency to target younger draft prospects, speaks to the use of a model in the draft room. They have the first pick in a pretty bad draft and it will be fascinating to see how this org, which doesn’t send scouts to watch college games in person until very late in the year, approaches things given that they’re not used to picking near the top and the talent of this year’s group is down.





Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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EonADS
1 month ago

I’ll admit, Rocchio has been better than I expected in the early going. More disciplined, making good contact. He’s even done some good plays at short. Still think he’s more of a 2B, but I was expecting him to flail and fail immediately.

Not really sure what to think on Manzardo. His numbers and what I can see from his games indicate a high-value hitter, but I do trust Eric’s decision on his zone contact (still think he should be a 45+ and not a 45). I wonder if he might end up trading a bit of contact for pull-side power, as he did last season after injury. He knew he couldn’t get his usual swing on and started trying to drive the ball to the pull side when he could. He was back to the contact game in spring training. I could see it going both ways.

Starting to think Cade Smith might become more like Trevor Stephan. His addition of a splitter has changed his outlook. Statcast sees it as having plus movement (even moreso than Stephan’s so far) and it looked pretty intimidating in ST, both as a swing-and-miss option and as a way to generate more ground-ball contact. He’s also throwing it more than his slider. That’s big for us, losing Stephan for the year sucked.

God, Espino’s spiral is depressing.

bosoxforlifemember
1 month ago
Reply to  EonADS

I can do no more than repeat your mention of Espino and say that seeing him where he is on this list is depressing. It reminds me of another super-prospect who we have been robbed of watching by the fickle finger of fate. I speak of Anderson Espinoza who, several years ago, while still in the Red Sox organization, was being projected to have everything needed to be a star. I have been a fan of baseball for a long, long time and, as I reminisce, perhaps watching potential star pitchers have their arms fall off has been as disappointing as anything. In the backdrop of baseball it has meant more than the normal ups and downs that go along with being a fan. The name Karl Spooner may not mean anything to most here but in late September of 1954 he came up and threw back to back shutouts while allowing 7 hits and striking out 27. This was 1954 and 27 K’s was beyond comprehension, then his arm fell off. He struggled through 1955 then had to quit. Many more have come and gone since then and whether it was a brief shooting star like Karl Spooner or a transcendent superstar like Stephen Strasburg each one takes a little bit out of the game.

Last edited 1 month ago by bosoxforlife
bosoxforlifemember
1 month ago
Reply to  bosoxforlife

I no more than submitted this comment when I went to MLB and saw that Eury Perez is headed for TJ surgery which does not help raise my spirits.

Cool Lester Smoothmember
1 month ago
Reply to  bosoxforlife

Nooooo! I love Eury!!!

fjtorres
1 month ago
Reply to  EonADS

Worse, it brings flashbacks of Adam Miller.

Thatguy47
1 month ago
Reply to  EonADS

It’s unfortunate that these guys still aren’t being promoted to the majors more aggressively. Maybe Espino still had some kinks to work out but I’m pretty sure his 16.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 as a 20-yo in A+ would’ve played in the MLB.

Same with Sixto. He wasn’t as good but he was pretty good in his 2020 debut and likely would’ve been solid in his age 20 2019 season when he ran an 8.5 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 in AA.

Painter only has a torn UCL fortunately and not shoulder problems but he’s gonna end up missing 2 seasons and would’ve been pretty great probably in 2022 when he ran a 16.1 K/9 vs 3.7 BB/9 in A, 12 K/9 1.7 BB/9 at A+, and 11.8 K/9 .6 BB/9 at AA. Hopefully he recovers well.

If I was an MLB GM I’d be promoting these guys even in their late teens and early 20’s & even if they aren’t that fully developed as even swingmen/RP’s/piggyback SPs b/c their early to mid 20’s aren’t guaranteed.

EonADS
1 month ago
Reply to  Thatguy47

Sometimes they are. Garrett Crochet was sent straight to MLB and got injured almost as fast. He’s looking better now, but with a big shift in velocity and pitching motion. Sometimes all you can do is throw up your hands.

Thatguy47
1 month ago
Reply to  EonADS

The idea isn’t to lower injury risk it’s just to get as much out of them as possible even if it’s only at 70% of what a healthy peak might look like. Crochet might be a mid rotation arm now that he’s healthy but even if he never came back they would’ve at least gotten a good relief season.

Also what’s the deal w/ his 2020 xFIP? He had a 12 K/9 36.4 K% and no walks or HRs and a 61.5 GB%. 1 HBP. His FIP was 1.02 and his xFIP was 2.63. Why was is so much higher w/ such elite K and BB numbers and such a high GB%?