Cleveland Guardians Top 48 Prospects

© GREG WOHLFORD/ERIE TIMES-NEWS / 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 second 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.

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

All of the numbered prospects below also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It has more details 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 Daniel Espino 21.3 AA SP 2022 60
2 Brayan Rocchio 21.3 AA SS 2023 50
3 Steven Kwan 24.6 MLB CF 2022 50
4 Gabriel Arias 22.1 AAA SS 2022 50
5 Nolan Jones 24.0 AAA RF 2022 50
6 George Valera 21.4 AA RF 2023 50
7 Tyler Freeman 22.9 AA 2B 2022 50
8 Gavin Williams 22.7 A+ SP 2025 45+
9 Bryan Lavastida 23.4 MLB C 2022 45+
10 Angel Martinez 20.2 A+ SS 2023 45
11 Xzavion Curry 23.7 AA SP 2023 45
12 Jose Tena 21.1 AA SS 2024 45
13 Petey Halpin 19.9 A+ CF 2025 45
14 Dayan Frias 19.8 A SS 2024 45
15 Ethan Hankins 21.9 A SP 2023 40+
16 Jhonkensy Noel 20.8 A+ 1B 2023 40+
17 Logan Allen 23.6 AA MIRP 2024 40+
18 Cody Morris 25.5 AAA MIRP 2023 40+
19 Isaiah Greene 20.6 A CF 2025 40+
20 Nick Mikolajchak 24.4 AAA SIRP 2023 40+
21 Trenton Denholm 22.4 A SP 2025 40+
22 Davis Sharpe 22.2 A SP 2025 40
23 Tommy Mace 23.4 A+ SP 2025 40
24 Jaison Chourio 16.9 R RF 2027 40
25 Peyton Battenfield 24.7 AAA MIRP 2023 40
26 Lenny Torres 21.5 A+ SP 2023 40
27 Robert Lopez 18.3 R C 2026 40
28 Bo Naylor 22.2 AA C 2023 40
29 Angel Genao 17.9 R SS 2027 40
30 Tanner Burns 23.3 AA SP 2024 40
31 Doug Nikhazy 22.7 A+ SP 2025 40
32 Richie Palacios 24.9 AAA DH 2022 40
33 Hunter Gaddis 24.0 AA MIRP 2023 40
34 Josh Wolf 21.6 A MIRP 2024 40
35 Milan Tolentino 20.4 A SS 2025 40
36 Aaron Bracho 21.0 A+ 2B 2024 35+
37 Carlos Vargas 22.5 A- SIRP 2023 35+
38 Tobias Myers 23.7 AAA SP 2022 35+
39 Konnor Pilkington 24.6 MLB SP 2022 35+
40 Joey Cantillo 22.3 AA SP 2023 35+
41 Jake Fox 19.2 A SS 2026 35+
42 Alexfri Planez 20.7 A+ RF 2024 35+
43 Junior Sanquintin 20.3 R 3B 2023 35+
44 David Fry 26.4 AAA C 2022 35+
45 Reny Artiles 20.3 A SP 2024 35+
46 Trey Benton 23.8 A SIRP 2024 35+
47 Andrew Misiaszek 24.7 AA MIRP 2023 35+
48 Nic Enright 25.3 AA SIRP 2023 35+
Reading Options
Detail Level
Data Only
Full
Position Filter
All

60 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Premier Academy HS (GA) (CLE)
Age 21.3 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
70/80 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 has gotten even better under the tutelage of Cleveland’s outstanding player dev system, and he dominated during his 2021 full season debut, putting up a strikeout rate north of 40%. Espino is pure power defined. He frequently sits 96-98 mph and has been in the 98-102 range early on in 2022, and his fastball sometimes has 20-23 inches of vertical break. More striking than the velocity itself is the ease with which Espino generates it. Even as he has become more and more muscular entering his 20s, he has maintained a freaky level of flexibility, which he has attained by stretching four times per day. His slider can bend in as hard as 94 mph and has late, two-plane finish. It would be an above-average pitch were it simply in the low-to-mid-80s, but at this velocity, this is a 70-grade weapon, and Espino has consistent feel for locating it down and to his glove side. His curveball has 12-6 shape and plus depth and power, used as a way of garnering called, early-count strikes. It has enough depth to have bat-missing utility below the zone and generate groundballs even when hitters sniff it out in mid-air. He barely throws his low-90s changeup, but he still has good feel for locating it in an enticing location away from lefty batters. Even his two rarely-used pitches (he only used his curveball and changeup a combined 8% in 2021) could be above-average at maturity.

We’re at a point where we think Espino is a unicorn of sorts and we moved him into 60 FV tier based on how he’s looked this spring. His stuff is comfortably better than Jack Leiter’s, as is his command, and he’s further along the minor league ladder. His velocity and track record of health are better than those of recent No. 1 pick Casey Mize. In a typical draft, a college pitcher like Espino would be the heavy, heavy favorite to go first overall. His repertoire is very similar to that of Shane Baz, who has reached the majors but who also recently had an arthroscopic elbow surgery, so they’re now stacked together on the Top 100. Espino is perhaps still a couple of years from the big leagues, leaving plenty of time for things to go wrong as they have with so many pitching prospects before him. He doesn’t have to be added to the Guardians’ 40-man roster until after the 2023 season, and Cleveland has tended to handle prospect promotions in ways that maximize the length of team control rather than considering major league readiness as the primary driver — a strategy enacted in response to budgetary restrictions imposed by ownership. But if the Guardians are in the thick of the Central race in July or August and Espino continues to look like he has during the 2022 spring, he’s going to force the issue.

50 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela (CLE)
Age 21.3 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr S / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/60 40/45 30/40 60/60 60/60 50

The Professor has officially solidified himself as a guy who can roll out of bed and rake, as the 20-year-old Rocchio hit .277 split between High-A Lake County and Double-A Akron last season after he had no stateside activity in 2020 due to Venezuelan travel restrictions. He also set a career high in homers with 15, more than double his pro total entering the year. He is now a career .284/.347/.431 hitter in the minors, having always been quite a bit younger than the level to which the Guardians have assigned him. He’s worked to add muscle to his compact frame and has reached a point of viable big league physicality without compromising on the defensive end, where Rocchio is very good. As the statistical evidence that Rocchio is a little too aggressive at the plate built up (he’s walked at a 6% career clip), we rounded down his game power projection since he tends to put balls in play rather than hunt pitches he can really damage. Of the shortstops in the 30-50 range on the overall Top 100 list, Rocchio has the best feel for contact but the least power projection. If he takes another step forward in this area during his first option year, he may end up in next year’s 55 FV tier. He’s tracking like an everyday shortstop who’ll soon tussle with Andrés Giménez for reps.

3. Steven Kwan, CF

Drafted: 5th Round, 2018 from Oregon State (CLE)
Age 24.6 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
70/80 30/30 30/35 60/60 55/60 50

It isn’t as if Kwan wasn’t seen or scouted when he was an amateur. He was part of the great Oregon State teams led by Nick Madrigal, Adley Rutschman, Trevor Larnach, and others, and Kwan was typically the leadoff hitter on those squads. He hit .329/.431/.418 throughout his college career and was barely regarded as a bench outfield prospect since he was a 40-grade runner who scouts doubted could play center field. Kwan walked twice as often as he struck out in college, but hit just three career home runs, an extreme skills-over-tools sort of prospect.

Cleveland drafted Kwan in the fifth round in 2018 (former Baseball America writer Conor Glassey was the signing scout) and after a couple years of light-hitting performance commensurate with a bench outfielder, he exploded in 2021 and slashed a preposterous .328/.407/.527 combined at Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. He was part of a huge contingent of prospects who the Guardians either had to add to the 40-man roster after the season or expose to the Rule 5 draft, and they ended up offloading roughly one-fifth of their 40-man to create space for Kwan, among others. Of that prospect contingent, several players (Jose Tena, Richie Palacios) were sent to the Fall League, while the 24-year-old Kwan was shockingly part of Cleveland’s instructs roster (a group that typically includes young, low-level players), which suggests that they knew what they had here and didn’t feel the need to stress test Kwan like they did Tena and Palacios. Kwan has a 3.3% swinging strike rate since entering pro ball, the second-lowest in the entire minor leagues among players with at least 650 PA during that span, with Madrigal the only hitter ahead of him. His short levers and excellent hand-eye coordination make it hard to get him to whiff, and his ability to spoil pitches is reminiscent of Johnny Damon.

While we don’t think Kwan can slug anything close to .527, there have been mechanical changes to his swing that indicate he’ll now have enough power to be a viable everyday big leaguer. His stance has narrowed, his leg kick has gotten bigger, and his hands load lower than they used to. His swing is positioned to ambush letter-high fastballs and yoink them into the right field bleachers, which we think he’ll do 12-15 times per year. Kwan gets out of the box in a hurry and will post some sub-4.00 run times to first even though he’s still not a blazingly fast runner. His instincts in center field are terrific and he’s an above-average defender there now, though he could be plus-plus in a corner if Cleveland decides they like Myles Straw better out there (an update between the publication of the Top 100 and the Guardians org list: they do). Even if that ends up being the case, we still think Kwan is a 50 in the Brett Gardner mold. He broke camp with the big league club and got off to a white-hot start.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela (SDP)
Age 22.1 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 201 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 55/60 40/50 45/45 55/55 60

Arias was part of San Diego’s huge 2016 international signing class, inking a deal worth just shy of $2 million. He quickly became the most promising of the young infielders the club signed that year and was pushed to full season ball late during his age-17 season, well out ahead of the others in his class. After a rough statistical 2018 as a very young player at Low-A Fort Wayne, Arias had a great ’19 season on paper, hitting .302/.339/.470 as a 19-year-old at High-A Lake Elsinore. He was part of the Mike Clevinger trade with Cleveland and was sent right to Triple-A in 2021, where he hit .284/.348/.454 as a 21-year-old.

Arias’ approach and hit tool still scare scouts and analysts. His 55% Swing%, per Synergy Sports, would have made him the 10th swing-happiest player in the majors last year. Arias has historically been apt to chase pitches out of the strike zone, and looks like a player who’ll wind up with career OBPs in the .290-.310 range. But he is tooled out, a viable shortstop defender with a big arm and rare power for that position. The Padres threw every developmental trick in the book at him during the 2019-20 offseason, including virtual reality training, to try to get him to better identify balls from strikes and chase less often. His chase rate in 2021 was much lower than in ’19, so this may have actually worked and/or have been something brought about by Cleveland dev after they acquired him, though it seems to have occurred without Arias having played in any games during that stretch. He’s a below-average hitter and will be reliant on power and defense to make an impact. The tantalizing and frustrating Orlando Arcia presents a pretty clean comp to Arias, which perhaps means that having him on here is too aggressive and that he actually belongs in the 45 FV tier, projected as a second division shortstop rather than someone who’ll compete with Rocchio and Andrés Giménez for middle infield duties soon. But Arias’ performance at Triple-A at his age and the upward trajectory of the traits that once badly hurt his offensive production have bred renewed optimism.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Holy Ghost Prep HS (PA) (CLE)
Age 24.0 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr L / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 70/70 50/60 40/40 40/50 70

Jones got off to bad start in 2021, hitting just .189 in May, which is bad even for him (he historically struck out at a 32% clip). He rebounded and hit .251/.361/.468 the rest of the way, much more in line with his career norms. The huge-framed Jones puts very few balls in play, with 44% of his career plate appearances ending in either a walk or strikeout. Some of this is because he runs very deep counts. He barely offers at pitches, swinging just 40% of the time at Triple-A, which would rank among the bottom 10 qualified big leaguers in 2021. Jones hasn’t historically hit for as much power in games, but he does have huge raw strength and an athletic swing that entices one to believe he could eventually find something that works for him and generates more lift. While a huge arm covers up some of his other defensive ills, he is not a great defensive third baseman and began playing right field in 2021. With José Ramírez entrenched at third for the long haul, Jones is more likely to compete for left-handed RF/1B/DH at-bats with Josh Naylor and Bobby Bradley in the near term. He had surgery to stabilize a high ankle sprain last September and began the 2022 season on the IL, only starting baseball activity in mid-March. He’s poised to bring high OBP and moderate power as a corner platoon bat for a while, with a chance to find big power later on.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 21.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 55/60 45/60 50/50 50/55 60

There’s still rampant industry disagreement about whether Valera is actually going to hit. He only struck out 22% of the time as a 20-year-old at High-A in 2021 (that ticked up to 30% in a small Double-A sample) and when he takes a comfortable hack, he swing is reminiscent of Robinson Canó’s. But Valera’s swing also makes it tough for him to get to hard stuff toward the bottom of the zone and it looked choppy and stiff during his LIDOM and Caribbean Series run with Estrellas Orientales. He idea of the strike zone seems to be quite good, although because of early-career injuries and the pandemic, we have a much shorter track record for Valera than most other players his age, and the 86 games he played in 2021 were by far the most in his career. The OBP piece of his skill set and Valera’s ability to tap into power in games keeps him in the 50 FV tier, but there isn’t universal industry support for this assessment.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Etiwanda HS (CA) (CLE)
Age 22.9 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/70 40/45 20/30 55/50 45/50 45

Freeman rakes, making an extremely high rate of low-impact contact while playing a decent middle infield. He’s generated lots of David Fletcher comps because his frame, bat-to-ball skills, expansive approach, and more natural defensive fit at second base are all akin to Fletcher’s. Freeman has a 5% swinging strike rate since entering pro ball, one of the best in all the minor leagues during that time, another of the many hitterish amateur players drafted by the Guardians who seem to be working out. He hit .323/.372/.470 as a 22-year-old at Double-A Akron but ran a .357 BABIP and only walked 4% of the time in a 41-game sample, as his season was cut short due to a labrum tear. He doesn’t have much extra-base power and is limited to second base due to a lack of arm strength, so the defensive versatility feature that comes with other top 100 prospects like Austin Martin and Vidal Bruján is not present here. Still, Freeman’s track record of hitting is fantastic and he plays up the middle, making him a high-probability everyday player. Still rehabbing from the labrum surgery, Freeman began the 2022 season on the IL.

45+ FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2021 from East Carolina (CLE)
Age 22.7 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 238 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Command Sits/Tops
65/70 50/55 50/55 30/50 95-98 / 101

Williams worked in the 89-93 mph range as a high schooler and had some suitors willing to offer a mid-six figure bonus at that time. Then he exploded in college, hitting 100 mph as a freshman at East Carolina. His secondary pitches progressed while he was a sophomore and, as a starter, he was working in the mid-90s and developed two average breaking balls to go with starter’s control. By his draft year, the physically imposing Williams was sitting 95-99 mph throughout entire starts, and punched out at least eight hitters in each of his final 11 starts, culminating in a 13 K postseason outing against Vanderbilt. While there were some pre-draft industry concerns about a balky back, Williams’ innings-eating frame, his intense on-mound presence, and the ferocity of his stuff made him a slam dunk first round prospect. His slider execution is especially consistent, though his curveball has the more visually pleasing movement. His curveball has good back-foot angle against lefties, so he’s a good bet to start in pro ball even without a changeup. Williams didn’t pitch at an affiliate after the draft, but did pick up innings during instructs, where he sat 96-98 and seemed to be emphasizing the changeup. There’s perhaps more than average injury risk here, but Williams has mid-rotation stuff.

Drafted: 15th Round, 2018 from Hillsborough Community College (FL) (CLE)
Age 23.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/45 50/50 35/45 40/40 40/45 45

Though he squatted a few times in JUCO play in the month leading up to the 2018 draft, Lavastida only totally moved from shortstop to catcher after he entered pro ball. The strides he has made on defense in what amounts to just two full seasons are incredible, as he’s molded himself into a viable big leaguer receiver and ball-blocker during that span. He climbed three levels in 2021, finished at Triple-A, and was added to the 40-man in the offseason, opening this season as the big league backup. He is in position to be Cleveland’s catcher of the future, largely because of his offensive ability and the likelihood that he has yet to hit his ceiling as a defender. He has a quick bat and is a career .305/.397/.447 hitter in the minors, capable of doing big pull-side damage. Lavastida’s bat path and style of hitting causes him to push a lot of contact to the opposite field, and upper-level pitchers have begun to work away from him to try to limit the damage he does. He’s still a threat to do damage to the opposite field, just not as frequently as when he turns on pitches on the inner third. His swing is very athletic and often has a gorgeous, high finish. His strikeout and walk rates are very encouraging for any kind of prospect, let alone a catcher. His offensive ability gives him a chance to usurp Austin Hedges as the starter by the end of 2022 and put himself in position to take the lion’s share of catcher reps in Cleveland for the next half decade or so.

45 FV Prospects

10. Angel Martinez, SS

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 20.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr S / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/50 45/50 30/35 60/60 40/50 60

While Martinez has exciting bat speed (especially for a switch-hitting shortstop), there are fair questions about his swing efficacy and ability to actually hit for power. Exceptionally twitchy, he is also kind of stiff and doesn’t have the same body composition as a lot of toolsy, projectable shortstops in their early-20s, so he has a cloudier path toward big future power output. Barely 20 years old, one could argue this will still arrive simply through maturation. Martinez can play any infield spot, and he has average feel for contact and patience. Whether he develops meaningful power will dictate whether he’s an everyday shortstop or just a good utility player, which is the role in which we’re currently projecting him.

11. Xzavion Curry, SP

Drafted: 7th Round, 2019 from Georgia Tech (CLE)
Age 23.7 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 45/50 50/55 30/35 55/60 89-94 / 95

Drafted in 2019, Curry’s first affiliated games came in 2021 because he dealt with shoulder inflammation in his draft year. He was utterly dominant throughout 2021, walking just 16 batter in 19 starts and reaching Double-A. Curry lives off his deception and his fastball’s angle and ride. He’s on the smaller side and has a drop-and-drive delivery as well as a short, compact arm path and perfectly vertical arm slot. All of those components together help to create an illusion of rise and a tough-to-square line on his heater. Aiding Curry was a little bit of a velo uptick. He sat 89-92 mph in college but has been more 91-94 in pro ball, including early in 2022. Even at 45-grade raw velocity, his fastball’s other traits make it plus, and it is easily his best and most dominant pitch. While Curry’s secondaries (in order of frequency: slider, curveball — big gap — changeup) aren’t great, he has consistent glove-side slider command, and his arm slot helps create vertical depth on the curve, a pitch that is especially hard to discern from his fastball out of hand.

An important component here is Curry’s command. While he doesn’t throw all that hard and his secondaries are only okay, he absolutely hammers the zone with his fastball, which plays fine in the heart of the zone due to its shape. Since 2017, he has walked just 95 hitters in a shade over 350 total innings, with a third of those walks coming during his freshman season at Tech. Ignoring the premium command portion of their profiles is what caused us to be light on Aaron Civale and (even though we were high relative to others) Zach Plesac. We’re not making that mistake here. You could argue this is aggressive placement due to Curry’s injury history, but on stuff and execution, he’s in the 1.5-ish WAR starter realm and looks like he’ll be ready very soon.

12. Jose Tena, SS

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 21.1 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/45 45/50 30/45 45/45 50/55 60

Tena is an extremely tough eval, as he has some undeniably exciting skills, but also some concerning underlying indicators, mostly related to his approach. He hit 16 bombs in 107 games as a 21-year-old at High-A in 2021, and was added to the Guardians 40-man in the offseason. Tena generates above-average bat speed even though his swing is simple, especially his lower half. He can sizzle line drives to all fields, but he doesn’t have very good ball/strike recognition and tends to offer at pitches that he either can’t damage, or can’t hit at all. His peripherals (6% BB, 26% K) and swinging strike rate (16%, worse than the big league average of 12%) are both in an area of concern. Tena’s full-body cut tends to work uphill, and he has a propensity for swinging underneath fastballs up and away from him, which is where Double-A pitchers have frequently been working him to start the 2022 season. While his short levers and bat speed are things we tend to love at this site, the missing approach piece doesn’t allow those characteristics to shine, and big league pitchers are well-equipped to take advantage of these issues. Then again, Tena swings very hard and he’s a pretty slick defensive shortstop. He certainly needs some polish, which is fine for a 21-year-old at Double-A, and his throwing ability (more his ability to contort his body and get the ball where it needs to go in time rather than his max arm strength) is special. Again, the broad strokes profile here — lefty-hitting middle infielder performing as a young-for-the-level prospect — is in our wheelhouse, but we’re fearful of the combination of Tena’s approach and lack of plate coverage, and think he’s more likely to be a low-OBP utility type.

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2020 from St. Francis HS (CA) (CLE)
Age 19.9 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 35/45 30/40 60/60 45/55 60

Halpin separated himself from the exciting group of teenage hitters in the lower levels of the Guardians system and was promoted to Low-A last year while most of the others stayed back on the complex. He slashed .294/.363/.425 in a little less than half a season at Lynchburg, striking out 20% of the time and posting a 10% swinging strike rate, both impressive marks for a young 19-year-old. Halpin was still just 19 at the start of the 2022 season and broke camp with High-A Lake County. His profile seems to be right in the crosshairs of Cleveland’s draft style/model. He was a SoCal high schooler a tier below the glitzy Pete Crow-Armstrong group (Halpin was pushed to center field on the NorCal Area Codes team by the SoCal outfield depth), was young for the draft class, and has an impressive feel for contact, all of which seem to be drivers for the Cuyahoga contingent’s draft preferences.

Though he’s wiry and skinny looking, Halpin has sneaky pop because of how consistently he gets the bat head on the baseball. His amateur swing had a very upright front side through finish and yet he was still able to drop the bat head and impact pitches toward the bottom of the strike zone, and in general, he has great top-to-bottom coverage of the zone. He seemed to be working with a more open stance in the fall and had clearly added muscle during the 2020 layoff. He’s still working with an extremely open stance but the added strength hasn’t yielded big home run power, in part because of Halpin’s propensity to hit lots of line drives and grounders. That’s fine, as Halpin’s speed and style of hitting fit in a traditional leadoff hitter mold already; adding feel for loft and in-game power will be icing on the cake if he comes to it. He runs well enough to stay in center field and has the makings of a plus hit tool, which already puts him in 45 FV territory and in position to move into the Top 100 if he adds meaningful strength and power over the next couple of seasons.

14. Dayan Frias, SS

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Colombia (CLE)
Age 19.8 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr S / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/55 35/45 30/40 45/50 40/50 50

Frias’ profile has a very good heuristic foundation — he’s a switch-hitting middle infielder who has performed on paper — and he has some physical projection despite his measurables. It’s not like Frias is 6-foot-3 or anything, but he is taller than his listed 5-foot-7, and already has a pretty strong lower half and forearms. He’s also a good rotational athlete with above-average bat speed when he takes his best rips, and he has plus bat control from both sides of the plate. While his walk rates in pro ball have been good so far, Frias has tended to expand the zone in our in-person looks, especially against pitches below the strike zone. It’s the biggest hole in his current skill set, which is otherwise extremely well-rounded and advanced. If there’s another yellow flag, though, it’s Frias’ high-end exit velos, which are only in the 101-104 mph range, a 30 on the scale. His 2021 barrel rate (about 16%) was still quite high relative to those max exit velos, so he was hitting the ball hard consistently, just not super hard.

In addition to the statistical case (he hit .322/.420/.520 on the complex in 2021) and all of the eyeball scouting boxes he checks (an athletic swing, bat control, viable and perhaps still-developing physicality, and the feet, hands and internal clock to stay at shortstop), Frias is also seen as a instinctive, gamer/grinder type of player who has responded well to big game situations. He was on Colombia’s 2021 U23 National Team and was an important part of the Colombian team that slayed the Dominican dragon and won the 2022 Caribbean Series for the first time in the country’s history. That stuff is the cherry on top of a well-rounded sundae of skills. The lack of overt physical projection (if he were a lanky 6-foot-2, and it were more obvious that he was going to grow into above-average power, he’d be a 45+ FV) means Frias’ hit tool will likely need to be what carries him to an everyday big league role, but we think that’s in play.

40+ FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Forsyth Central HS (GA) (CLE)
Age 21.9 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 50/55 50/50 45/50 30/50 92-95 / 97

Hankins was a fascinating high school draft prospect coming out of central Georgia. He was dominant at times, pumping 95-97 mph with a plus slider at peak, but his delivery was odd, his frame was maxed out, and his stuff slipped the closer it got to the draft. His stuff and conditioning fluctuated during the early portion of his pro career, too, but then Hankins had a strong showing (from a pitch data and video scouting standpoint) at the 2020 alternate site, and was nails that fall throughout instructs. He appeared a little more svelte, had both a good curveball and slider, and was also turning over an improved changeup. Still needing to polish his command, Hankins’ arm action was shortened the following spring, comparing closely to the change Lucas Giolito made where his arm circle was tightened (though Hankins’ levers aren’t nearly as long as Giolito’s). The change didn’t have any impact on Hankins’ stuff and he was sitting about 95 mph and bending in good secondaries during 2021 minor league spring training, but alas he never threw a pitch at an affiliate. Instead, he was shut down early in the year and underwent Tommy John surgery in May. The timing of his surgery means he’ll also miss most of 2022, his 40-man evaluation year. He is a high-priority target for scouts throughout his rehab process in the late summer and fall, as they and Cleveland assess his big league readiness ahead of the Rule 5 Draft. Purely based on peak stuff, Hankins belongs next to Gavin Williams on this list, but his volatile track record and current rehab status have to factor into how he lines up here.

16. Jhonkensy Noel, 1B

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 20.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 60/70 35/60 30/20 30/50 55

Noel had been toward the bottom of the last couple of Cleveland lists despite being a swing-happy, right/right (likely) first baseman, because his power is so big, especially for his age. He doesn’t have an elaborate swing, his hands load very shallow and he’s relatively short back to the ball, and it’s amazing how much power he generates over such a short distance. While he doesn’t have a chiseled physique (in fact, while he’s not yet 21, Noel’s build could limit him to 1B/DH in short order), he is an explosive rotational athlete, which you can see in the way his hips fire throughout his swing. His hips clear and his hands rip through the zone with big uppercut, enabling Noel to strike the baseball in the air with consistency and get to his power in games. Those components helped him slash .340/.390/.615 in 2021 and land on the Guards’ 40-man even though he’s still only 20 years old.

There are some sizable red flags here. Noel’s approach is not good, and it’s rare for any first base-only player who chases as much as Noel does to pan out, let alone one who is also at a platoon disadvantage most of the time. His walk rates have been in the 4-9% range in pro ball, well below what is typical of future big leaguers in the low minors, and ZiPS (which loves Noel) projects his walk rates in the 4% range. Since 2010, the only first basemen with at least 1,000 career plate appearances and a walk rate below 5% are Ryon Healy and Jordan Pacheco. Players with skill sets similar to Noel’s are guys like Mark Trumbo and C.J. Cron, good role players but not stars. Only José Abreu has bucked the trends and become a foundational star as a first baseman with some of these underlying statistics, and even he only K’s about 20% of the time, better than league average. These things are likely to be a barrier between Noel and a star turn that would put him among the top 10-15 first basemen in the big leagues for most of his career, but he has so much power that, like the comparables mentioned above, he may have peak seasons with 35-plus home runs.

17. Logan Allen, MIRP

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from Florida International (CLE)
Age 23.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / L FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Splitter Command Sits/Tops
55/55 40/45 60/60 45/55 89-92 / 94

We are currently in the narrow window during which one Logan Allen is in the big leagues while the other is not, making it easier to distinguish their player pages from one another. That won’t last long, though, as the younger Allen is coming fast, already at Double-A and carving up opposing hitters. Allen was an undersized, pitchability high school lefty who worked 88-92 mph, with mostly average secondary stuff and a changeup that flashed plus. While his changeup is still his best pitch, he has undergone a stylistic change and is taking a power pitcher’s approach with the fastball, ripping it past hitters at the letters with a high-effort delivery. He still only sits in the low-90s but similar to Curry, Allen’s fastball has other traits that help it play up. He’s short, he gets way down the mound (which helps create shallow angle on the pitch), and even though he has a three-quarters arm slot, his hand position is more north/south on release, which helps him create backspin and ride on the pitch. It plays as an above-average offering even though Allen’s raw arm strength is comfortably below average. His split/changeup (it only has about 1200 rpm of spin, definitely in split territory) has plus sinking action, but the direction of its lateral movement is highly variable. At times, it has typical sink and tail; at others, it has sink and careens toward Allen’s glove-side like a slider. Because this is Allen’s finishing pitch, the fact that it’s kind of all over the place is fine, and its unpredictability is arguably an asset. While he has good glove-side command of an actual slider, that pitch lacks finishing depth and has limited utility, working best as a cutter-like weapon in on the hands of righties, not as a bat-misser. With just two effective pitches and his current grip-it-and-rip-it style, Allen is looking more like a multi-inning reliever. We’re projecting a velo bump in relief here.

18. Cody Morris, MIRP

Drafted: 7th Round, 2018 from South Carolina (CLE)
Age 25.5 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 50/55 60/60 40/45 92-95 / 98

Morris’ health and stuff have both come and gone throughout his career, dating back to high school. He was a power-armed prep righty from Maryland who was ushered toward college by a Tommy John surgery, which he rehabbed from during a redshirt first year at South Carolina. He performed well throughout both healthy seasons in Columbia, with his innings total doubling from 2017 to ’18. Cleveland shut him down after the 2018 draft, then asked him to make 20 starts (at a little over four innings per start) in ’19, which is when he first popped up on our radar and Cleveland’s prospect list. Morris was throwing very hard early that year but his stuff wavered late in the season. During 2020 instructs, he was again parked in the mid-90s, up to at least 98 mph, and had a plus changeup and average curveball, but this was in a controlled developmental setting. We moved Morris into the 40+ FV tier (23rd in a deep system) at that time as a way of indicating that he had big upside, while also factoring in the risk related to his injury track record and fluctuations in stuff. He got off to a late start in 2021 due to a strained lat, then was incredible when he first came back, punching out 36% of hitters while once again sitting 94-96 mph. Pitch data sourced from 2021, combined with our access to Synergy Sports, indicates Morris’ velo dipped again throughout the year. The full-season data provided to us by a source shows Morris’ average fastball velocity on the season was about 95.5 mph, while Synergy has his velocity from his final nine appearances at Triple-A Columbus averaging 92.5. Morris suffered a shoulder sprain during 2022 spring training and is poised to miss about a month and a half as of initial Guardians list publication. He has a chance to be an impact part of a pitching staff when healthy, but he hasn’t tended to be, and his misfortune has made it hard for him to build a foundation of starter’s innings, which makes him more likely to play a multi-inning relief role when he finally entrenches himself on a pitching staff.

19. Isaiah Greene, CF

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from Corona HS (CA) (NYM)
Age 20.6 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 45/60 30/50 60/60 45/55 45

Greene came over from the Mets in the Francisco Lindor deal and has an interesting blend of soft skills and power projection. He’s an extremely patient hitter with below-average bat speed and power right now, but he is super lanky and loose and should grow into more strength and power as he matures. Greene’s feel to hit is not as advanced as his idea of the strike zone and because he’s so skinny and young, he needs to use his whole body to swing hard and tends to take big rips right through the center of the zone without real feel for the barrel. He glides from gap-to-gap and is a viable center field candidate for now, though at his age and with his frame there’s a chance he fills out in a way that pushes him to a corner, but of course that might come with lots of power. Still in very nascent stages of development, Greene is a slow-burning prospect who needs to get stronger to be a big leaguer at all, but he could break out in a big way if that physicality arrives.

20. Nick Mikolajchak, SIRP

Drafted: 11th Round, 2019 from Sam Houston State (CLE)
Age 24.4 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
60/60 55/60 50/55 50/50 40/45 90-93 / 95

Mikolajchak bounced back and forth between the Sam Houston bullpen and rotation during his final two years there, looking best in relief and projecting there in a big league role. He was 90-95 mph with an above-average breaking ball after signing in 2019. Then Mikolajchak blew up throughout 2020 instructs. He sat 90-92 in his first outing, then wrapped up his year pumping 95-97, which he was blowing past everyone. The two pitchers sounded so different that Eric had to make sure neither of the scouts he spoke to had the wrong player (they didn’t). There’s also evidence of a leap in Mikolajchak’s pitch data: more spin, more induced vertical movement on his fastball and a harder curveball that we now have classified as a slider. We had the expectation that Mikolajchak’s repertoire might be pared down as he was being fast-tracked in relief, but he threw all four of his pitches in 2021 (fastball, slider, cutter, and changeup) amid about 40 strong innings at Akron, with his velo settling into the middle range of that crazy 2020 instructs run at 93-95. He had less arm strength this spring, sitting 91-93 in a big league spring training game at Colorado. That pitch has substantial margin for error because of its vertical break and we still view Mikolajchak as more than just a middle reliever, though not quite an elite late-inning option.

21. Trenton Denholm, SP

Drafted: 14th Round, 2021 from UC Irvine (CLE)
Age 22.4 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 50/55 55/60 35/50 91-94 / 96

Denholm entered 2020 (his junior year) coming off a breakout sophomore campaign in which he posted a sub-2.00 ERA. His velocity was down during the pandemic-shortened season and he went back to school for another, but he didn’t rebound, again sitting just 88-89 mph (down two ticks from ’19); he went in the 14th round as a fourth-year junior. Only a few months passed between when Denholm last pitched for Irvine and when he took the mound for 2021 Instructional League, and yet he was a totally different pitcher. He was suddenly living in the 92-95 range and touching 96. The sudden, skyrocketing arm strength is mindblowing. What’s more, Denholm retained his trademark changeup and command, and was flashing an above-average curveball throughout the fall. The curve was mostly in the 80-82 mph range, which is also about 5 mph harder than his average college curve. While some of the other college pitchers from Cleveland’s quickly-developing 2021 draft class (like Davis Sharpe) have the makings of plus secondary stuff, only Denholm and Tommy Mace have it right now, and Denholm’s fastball has better shape. There’s risk he won’t sustain this velocity for the entire slate, but at some point pitchers who are having a real velo spike have only just begun to have one.

40 FV Prospects

22. Davis Sharpe, SP

Drafted: 13th Round, 2021 from Clemson (CLE)
Age 22.2 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
45/50 55/60 40/45 50/55 30/50 91-94 / 96

Sharpe, whose attention was divided between hitting and pitching while at Clemson, has already had a velocity spike and his repertoire has been overhauled since Cleveland drafted him. He entered his draft year with considerable profile but struggled and dealt with an elbow issue that limited him to just 36 innings. He didn’t pitch at all during his post-draft summer and instead looked great during 2021 instructs and again throughout spring training this year. His fastball averaged 90-91 mph before the draft, then was 93-94 in the fall and spring. Sharpe has also developed two different breaking balls, one an upper-80s cutter (which is new) and the other a sweeping, two-planed slider in the low-80s. The latter pitch spins around 3,000 rpm and is often plus. Sharpe’s command, especially of his cutter and slider, has also been, uh, sharp during these in-person looks. He doesn’t have quite the same feel for his upper-80s changeup, a pitch that was a tertiary part of his repertoire in college. The cutter and slurve have enough utility (the cutter can garner weak contact, and he can pitch backwards off the slurve and also use it as a finishing pitch) for him to operate as a starter without a changeup, though it would be helpful if Sharpe had a second pitch with arm-side movement. Perhaps a “tip of the iceberg” type of prospect — he was two-way college guy and had what felt like a 2020 breakout was cut short because of the pandemic, then his elbow was compromised the next spring — the rate of Sharpe’s development is exciting considering he was a 13th rounder less than 12 months ago and already looks like a quick-moving backend starter.

23. Tommy Mace, SP

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2021 from Florida (CLE)
Age 23.4 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 55/60 45/50 40/50 35/55 91-95 / 97

Mace was draft-eligible in 2020 but went unselected due to a gap between where the industry had him ranked and where he felt he’d go if he pitched better the following year. Mace was right. He went in the second comp round and signed for just over $1 million in 2021. Mace has a four-pitch mix but works primarily off his fastball (up to 97 mph, sitting 92-94) and mid-80s slider, which he has fantastic glove-side command of. He worked 91-92 last fall during instructs and was throwing a ton of changeups, which will probably be a focal point of his development since Mace’s fastball shape is of the sink/tail variety, mimicking his change. That pitch’s development is the lynchpin of Mace’s profile, and he could be a fourth starter if it becomes an impact pitch on par with his slider.

24. Jaison Chourio, RF

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2022 from Venezuela (CLE)
Age 16.9 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/55 20/45 20/45 45/50 30/50 50

Cleveland’s run of young-for-the-class switch-hitters, both via the draft and in the international market, continues with Chourio, who signed in January of 2022. The square-framed youngster is a pure projection bet at this point, with flat, low-impact swings from both sides of the plate, but very exciting hand-eye coordination and feel for contact. The contact/athleticism/fame projection foundation is a great starting point for new international signees, and Chourio will be in the states for 2022 extended spring training, which for Cleveland gets underway about a week after initial list publication.

25. Peyton Battenfield, MIRP

Drafted: 9th Round, 2019 from Oklahoma State (HOU)
Age 24.7 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 224 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
50/50 50/50 45/45 55/55 35/45 92-95 / 96

A favorite of erstwhile FanGraphs writer Kevin Goldstein, Battenfield was drafted by Houston and then acquired along with Cal Stevenson when the Astros needed to add a depth arm in changeup artist Austin Pruitt. Battenfield sits 91-94 mph and his fastball has plus vertical movement, which plays nicely with his curveball. There are some scouts who think his mid-80s slider/cutter is his best pitch, but it has looked average during our in-person looks. He can also create some arm-side action on his changeup. It’s a backend starter’s repertoire, though Battenfield’s athleticism isn’t on par with the typical big league starter and we tend to think he ends up in a long relief role.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Beacon HS (NY) (CLE)
Age 21.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/45 50/50 45/55 40/50 92-95 / 97

Torres had surgery in 2019, which combined with the lost pandemic year, caused him to miss two full seasons. The 68 innings he worked in 2021 were the most he’s thrown in a single season dating back to at least his senior year of high school, when he only threw around 55 innings combined pre- and post-draft. Despite his relative lack of innings, Torres is still in position to be developed and project as a starting pitcher. If we assume a pretty standard 20-inning workload increase in 2022, he’ll be set up to throw about 90 innings this year, and about 110 in ’23, his first year on the 40-man. That still puts him on track to work a modern starter’s innings load in his second option year, allowing Cleveland to pace his development without tanking his roster flexibility.

Torres began to check one pretty important box in 2021: his changeup started developing. Bad suburban high school hitters in New York couldn’t catch his fastball and as a result, Torres had little cause to use his changeup during varsity play; some national evaluators would go whole starts without seeing it. He does a good job selling the pitch with his arm speed, and he’s adept at setting it up with a well-placed arm-side heater, though his feel for locating the changeup on that corner of the plate isn’t as consistent. The same is true of his slider, which wasn’t enticing to hitters during our live look this spring. While he averaged 93-94 mph in 2021 and was sitting in that range just before the ’22 regular season, Torres’ fastball lacks explosive movement and his delivery tends to be easy to time. Once a nasty fastball/slider prospect with relief risk and big perceived ceiling, Torres now looks like a backend starter prospect with three average pitches.

27. Robert Lopez, C

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2021 from Venezuela (CLE)
Age 18.3 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 150 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/55 35/40 20/40 40/30 40/50 55

His DSL numbers last season weren’t good, but Lopez impressed during 2021 instructs and ’22 spring training as Cleveland’s youngest attendee at both. He is a very compact, athletic catching prospect with promising catch and throw skills, and a very athletic swing. Still in the very early stages of development and evaluation, and part of the volatile teenage catching demographic, Lopez is a long-term follow with quite a bit of upside, especially if he continues to grow into his 20s.

28. Bo Naylor, C

Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from St. Joan of Arc HS (CAN) (CLE)
Age 22.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 55/60 30/45 50/40 35/40 55

Naylor hit just .188 in 2021, the first severe offensive struggles of a career that has otherwise been all about offensive performance. His grooved bat path and inability to catch up to letter-high fastballs became a real issue last year, and while he still brings an interesting toolset to the table for a catcher, his chances of being an impact everyday backstop now seem remote. He lacks the defensive polish of a typical upper-level catching prospect, especially one who’s still considered a prospect even though he spent a whole year hitting near the Mendoza line. Naylor’s foot speed and power are special for the position, though, and if we put his career in its proper context (he was a multi-positional Canadian high schooler who missed his age 20 season due to the pandemic), you can find optimism that 2021 was just a developmental hiccup. His swing is a persistent issue and can really only cut through the heart of the zone, something major league pitchers will be able to expose, likely limiting Naylor to a 30-grade hit tool. If he can get to power and be a viable defensive catcher, that will still play. Naylor is still rough around the edges defensively but he’s not in danger of moving to another position. He’s tracking like a power-dependent backup, with a sliver of hope left for him to rebound or eventually return to playing other positions (he has third base experience and runs well enough for an outfield corner) en route to a cool, versatile bench role.

29. Angel Genao, SS

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2021 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 17.9 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 150 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 35/45 20/45 50/50 35/45 45

Cleveland seems to prioritize switch-hitting, up-the-middle players in the international market and they have yet another in Genao, who signed in January and became much more physical in the months leading up to signing. His swing is crude from both sides, but he’s a good athlete with a good frame, a developmental prospect of extreme variance.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Auburn (CLE)
Age 23.3 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/45 50/55 45/45 45/50 40/50 90-94 / 95

Burns’ college numbers (a 2.86 career ERA notched mostly against the SEC, with a 3-to-1 K/BB ratio) were more impressive than his repertoire, which is spearheaded by an angle-reliant fastball and an above-average slider. While he touched 97 mph at Auburn, he only averaged about 92, and while he fills the zone with it, his command is imprecise. Historically, Burns has leaned heavily on his fastball. He used it 66% of the time at Auburn and 61% of the time last year. Typically, Burns has terrific feel for his slider, which he command consistently to his glove side. His changeup spin rates have changed over time, indicating he has a relatively new grip that better kills the spin on that pitch, though he still barely throws it. His curve and slider have overlapping velocity bands, but they have clear and distinct shape from one another. With all the strikes and a bevy of average pitches, Burns projects as a high-probability backend starter.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2021 from Ole Miss (CLE)
Age 22.7 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/45 45/50 55/55 30/40 35/55 89-91 / 95

Nikhazy only sat about 88-90 mph at Ole Miss but he still performed against SEC hitters, amassing a career ERA under 3.00 and tallying 142 strikeouts in 92 innings as a junior. He was dominant in large part due to his fastball’s carry (generated by his north/south arm slot) and the depth of his mid-70s curveball, his most-used weapons in college. Nikhazy did not pitch in affiliated ball after he was drafted, but ramped up for instructs, where he was working more frequently with his slider (83-86 mph, firmer and with more spin than in college) and changeup, the latter of which was finishing in dangerous parts of the strike zone. More notable in the fall was the increase in velocity. After averaging 89 mph during the college season, he was suddenly sitting 91-93 and touching 95. That velo backed into the 90-91 mph range during 2022 spring training. Nikhazy might really pop if he can sustain that flash of added arm strength and find another secondary weapon, with the slider looking like the more promising pitch right now. If not, he’s still probably a spot starter.

32. Richie Palacios, DH

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2018 from Towson (CLE)
Age 24.9 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/60 40/40 30/35 60/60 20/20 30

Palacios had an incredible 2021, his first participation in affiliated ball since 2018 due to multiple injuries and the pandemic. He hit .297/.404/.471 split between Double- and Triple-A, then went to the Fall League and crushed there, too. He lacks a position, struggling to throw accurately to first base from any infield spot (he has tried a lot of second base and some third in dev-only settings), forcing a move to the outfield. Palacios got his initial pro CF/LF reps during the 2021 regular season and played the outfield exclusively in the AFL. He is, at you might expect, raw out there. Because the move is so new (he did play some outfield in college, however), you can hope for him to find better feel for the outfield over time, but at age 25, that isn’t optimal. Palacios is the sort of defender you try to hide in left field, and while his on-paper SLG is pretty good, he does not have the kind of raw juice befitting someone who provides next to no defensive contribution. He swings super hard and somehow still manages to make consistent contact, but it’s often of the high-chopper variety and isn’t impact, big league-quality thump. In fact, purely on tools and where he fits on the defensive spectrum, Palacios barely belongs on here. He’s still in the 40 FV range because his drive and desire to succeed are remarkable, and we don’t want to bet against him finding some way to impact a big league club in a small bench role. He can hit, after all, the thing we tend to care most about at this site, but the other positionless prospects who might not be stars but still have on-roster utility tend to have more pop.

33. Hunter Gaddis, MIRP

Drafted: 5th Round, 2019 from Georgia State (CLE)
Age 24.0 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 212 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 45/45 40/40 55/60 40/45 90-93 / 96

Like a lot of other pitchers in Cleveland’s system, Gaddis showed a velo spike shortly after he was drafted. In this instance, that bump didn’t continue, and Gaddis has settled into the 91-93 mph range each of the last two seasons. He looks like a junkballer on the surface: he doesn’t throw all that hard, his best pitch is a screwball-style changeup, he occasionally lobs in a very slow curveball, and he generally lives off of deception. But instead, he utilizes a fastball-heavy, power pitcher’s approach, pumping his odd-angled heater past hitters at the letters. His screwball is a marvel (you can see his release at the 5:27 mark of the video linked in his blurb) with huge tail and sink, and it sometimes has upwards of 15 mph of velocity separation from his fastball. This is his best pitch, and it disappears beneath the bats of right-handed hitters when he releases it right. Gaddis can also create bat-missing depth on his slider, though it isn’t quite as consistent. He has a viable starter’s four-pitch mix, but the relative stiffness in his delivery, which includes a pretty violent head whack, pushes him to project in a multi-inning relief role.

34. Josh Wolf, MIRP

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2019 from St. Thomas HS (TX) (NYM)
Age 21.6 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/55 50/55 40/50 30/45 92-95 / 97

Wolf came over from the Mets in the Francisco Lindor deal looking like a pretty typical seven-figure teenage pitching prospect in terms of size and arm strength, with slightly nastier secondary stuff. After he was dominant on the Mets backfields in 2019, he had just a fair ’21 with Cleveland, struggling somewhat with walks and posting a 5.35 ERA. He was inducing a lot of groundballs, though, and is still a pretty projectable 21-year-old pitcher who already sits 92-95 mph, has a great slider (which he used a whopping 40% of the time in 2021) and natural arm-side action on his changeup. Wolf’s delivery and rail-thin frame have long put him in a relief risk area, and the early-career walks and a “minor” injury that kept him from breaking camp to start 2022 (Cleveland did not reveal the specifics to FanGraphs) add to that likelihood. Based on the depth of his repertoire, that could be in a multi-inning role.

35. Milan Tolentino, SS

Drafted: 4th Round, 2020 from Santa Margarita Catholic HS (CA) (CLE)
Age 20.4 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 40/45 30/30 55/55 45/60 55

The start to Tolentino’s pro career was far from what we anticipated given his look as an amateur. A slappy, contact-oriented, slick-fielding infielder from California, he spent his pro debut striking out 30% of the time and slugging close to .500 on the complex. Tolentino’s visual look isn’t that of a power-over-hit prospect. He throws the barrel all over the zone and can spoil tough pitches, though this also manifests in him offering at pitches he should take. Once in a while he’ll take a rip that makes you think he could actually hit for power, but Tolentino’s in-the-box footwork isn’t always well-timed, and when his footwork is out of synch, it can be tough for him to take a good, hard swing. Still in the early stages of his career, we’re inclined to continue to project Tolentino as a low-impact bench infielder.

35+ FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela (CLE)
Age 21.0 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr S / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 60/60 35/50 40/40 30/35 40

Bracho missed all of 2018 with a broken arm and then lost a chunk of ’19 to an oblique injury, which limited him to 38 (very productive) games that year. Then there was no 2020 season and Bracho had a dismal ’21, hitting just .174 as his strikeout rate doubled. At one point he looked like a switch-hitting version of Dan Uggla, barely capable of playing second base, deriving all his production from hard-hitting offense. The bat speed and ball striking power here is still special, especially for a hitter of Bracho’s modest size, but the swing-and-miss uptick is very scary and puts him in a bounce back flier area of the list rather than a spot that indicates he has a likely big league fit.

37. Carlos Vargas, SIRP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 22.5 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/65 55/60 35/45 30/40 94-97 / 99

There have been times when Vargas has been 97-101 mph with a plus slider and enough strikes to hope that he could start, and others when he was extremely wild. His violent, Kimbrel-esque arm action was hard to repeat and he is a likely relief prospect, but potentially an impactful one. Cleveland put him on the 40-man after the 2020 season, and Vargas ended up having Tommy John before his first spring on the roster had concluded, causing him to miss all of 2021 and the start of ’22 to rehab. Since he’s on the 40, Vargas will likely be pushed through the minors quickly once he’s brought back and could contribute to Cleveland’s bullpen by the end of the year. His arm action was altered not long before he got hurt but the impact of that change on his stuff and command is still not clear.

38. Tobias Myers, SP

Drafted: 6th Round, 2016 from Winter Haven HS (FL) (BAL)
Age 23.7 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 193 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
45/45 45/50 50/50 50/50 50/50 87-93 / 96

Myers has now been traded a couple of times, first from Baltimore to Tampa Bay and then to Cleveland during this past offseason. His stuff has fluctuated pretty significantly throughout his time in pro ball. Initially it looked as though he was enjoying a breakout way back in 2017, when the high school two-way draftee enjoyed a velo spike amid a fairly recent focus on pitching. His velo was down in 2019 (his fastball averaged 91 mph), then back up in ’21 (93 mph) as Myers reached Triple-A with the Rays and put himself on the cusp of their big league roster. He was traded to Cleveland for teenage prospect Junior Caminero at the 40-man roster deadline just prior to the lockout. He was coming off a season in which he looked like a plug-and-play backend starter, sitting 93 mph, commanding an average cutter, and flashing the occasional above-average changeup and curveball. This spring Myers came out with less velo again, and his fastball averaged just 87 mph during his first start, perhaps partly due to the chill of the northeast. He’s on Cleveland’s 40-man and very likely to pitch in the big leagues at some point this year, but the roller coaster of Myers’ stuff has us apprehensive about projecting him as a consistent rotation option.

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2018 from Mississippi State (CHW)
Age 24.6 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 240 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
30/30 40/40 40/40 50/50 55/55 89-93 / 94

Pilkington’s stuff is on the big league fringe but his strike-throwing efficiency is not. He goes right at hitters with four decent pitches — his fastball lives in the 89-93 mph range and his most-used secondary is his low-80s changeup — and projects as a big-league ready spot starter.

40. Joey Cantillo, SP

Drafted: 16th Round, 2017 from Kailua HS (HI) (SDP)
Age 22.3 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/40 40/45 55/60 40/55 87-90 / 92

Part of the Mike Clevinger trade, Cantillo missed several months of 2021 with a core muscle injury and only threw 13 innings in affiliated ball all season. He looked like his old self when he returned, which is kind of good and kind of bad, as Cantillo has always been the type of prospect who had the potential to truly break out if he started throwing harder, which he has not. His fastball velocity was where it was pre-injury, still just 87-91 mph and living off of its carry and angle. His trademark changeup is still plus, while his breaking ball is comfortably below average. He’s basically been the same guy since he was 18, so we’re inclined to think this is close to where things will settle for Cantillo, which puts him in spot starter territory.

41. Jake Fox, SS

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2021 from Lakeland Christian School (CLE)
Age 19.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/55 40/45 20/35 45/45 30/45 45

Cleveland tends to sign a hit-tool-oriented high schooler to an over-slot bonus around $1 million in each draft, and Fox, who signed for $850,000, was the 2021 version. He has a compact swing and tracks pitches really well, guiding the bat head to the ball even when it’s at the top of the strike zone. He’s not an especially projectable or athletic middle infielder, and he’s a better fit at second base than at shortstop, but he has a potential carrying offensive tool in his bat and projects up the middle of the diamond, so he remains in an area of interest in Cleveland’s system.

42. Alexfri Planez, RF

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela (CLE)
Age 20.7 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 55/60 35/55 45/45 30/50 60

Planez is a projectable, power-hitting corner outfield prospect with one of the more indiscriminate approaches in all of baseball. He hit 16 homers in 2021 but had a paltry .294 OBP and a microscopic 3% walk rate, not typically acceptable components of a corner outfield profile. The power Planez has at his age is very impressive, and his frame remains fairly projectable, so he might add more. If he can develop even a modicum of selectivity, then he could play a big league role as a power-hitting part-time corner guy.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 20.3 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr S / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 50/55 30/40 40/40 35/40 60

Sanquintin has moved down the defensive spectrum enough that he is now a corner-only defender playing a mix of third and first base, and his relative lack of plate discipline (which leads both to whiffs and poor contact) makes it hard to project him as an integral role player at those two positions. He is still a 20-year-old switch-hitter with plus bat speed, though, and we like him as a change-of-scenery candidate who could perhaps use a shakeup and get an opportunity to work at second base in an org without so many true middle infield prospects.

44. David Fry, C

Drafted: 7th Round, 2018 from Northwestern State (MIL)
Age 26.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/40 50/50 35/45 35/35 40/45 50

A 2018 seventh round senior sign, Fry’s combination of power and a chance to play several positions (including catcher) makes him an interesting potential bench piece.

45. Reny Artiles, SP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 20.3 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/45 45/50 45/50 45/50 30/45 91-94 / 95

Artiles popped on our radar during 2021 intructs, when he was still just 19 but topping out at 95 mph and showing four viable pitches. In looks last fall and this spring, he has been in the 91-95 range, at times with natural cut and ride, and during the fall he was bending in a shapely 75-78 mph curveball that would flash average. This spring we saw more firm, upper-80s changeups and mid-80s sliders, both of which are also showing average on the regular. It’s not a flashy repertoire, but when you take a step back to look at the pitch grades and consider that Artiles is barely 20 years old, he looks like a potential future rotation piece if he can rein in some of his current strike-throwing issues. He began the year in Low-A and is a sleeper with a modest ceiling.

46. Trey Benton, SIRP

Drafted: 15th Round, 2019 from East Carolina (CLE)
Age 23.8 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 209 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops
45/50 55/60 30/40 90-93 / 94

Benton was extremely wild in 2021 and is a few levels behind some other sleeper pitching prospects from Cleveland’s 2019 draft class who you’ll read about momentarily, but his stuff is more traditionally nasty than the other guys (especially his curveball), he seems to be in the midst of a velo spike (he was sitting 92-93 mph with carry this spring), and his delivery looks more consistent now than it did when he was walk-prone in 2021. He’s a relief-only prospect, but assuming his control improves, he looks like an up/down reliever with a shot to be more if the velo keeps coming.

47. Andrew Misiaszek, MIRP

Drafted: 32th Round, 2019 from Notheastern (CLE)
Age 24.7 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/45 55/55 45/50 35/50 88-92 / 94

Misiaszek struck out more than a batter per inning in 2021 even though his fastball averaged just 89 mph. He’s quickly reached the upper-levels of the minors and is in position to play a short-term role in the Guardians big league bullpen. His heater has flat angle and sneaks past hitters at the top of the zone, and his slider has big length and is tough on lefties, while Misiaszek’s fading changeup gives him a third viable weapon and a way to keep righty batters honest. He projects in a low-leverage, bulk middle innings role.

48. Nic Enright, SIRP

Drafted: 20th Round, 2019 from Virginia Tech (CLE)
Age 25.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops
50/50 55/55 30/45 89-91 / 94

Another late-round pick from 2019 whose sneaky fastball has helped him reach the upper levels very quickly, Enright had the third-highest swinging strike rate among full-season pitchers in this org last year, behind only Daniel Espino and Cody Morris. His fastball only sat about 90 mph but it has plus-plus carry and pairs well with his lovely 12-to-6 curveball. At this velocity, he projects as an up/down reliever.

Other Prospects of Note

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

More Young Hitters
Manuel Mejias, C
Luis Durango, CF
Richard Paz, C
Jose Devers, 2B

Mejias, 17, is one of many stocky catchers in the lower levels of this system. He’s a switch-hitter with above-average bat speed. Durango, 19, is a 70 runner who needs to add strength. Paz is another squat catcher with good bat speed who has been in the lower minors for a while. Devers, 18, is an athletic, projectable infielder with fair bat speed that might be plus as he adds much-needed strength.

More Potential Relievers
Raymond Burgos, LHP
Adam Scott, LHP
Robert Broom, RHP
Juan Mota, RHP

All of these guys are in their mid-20s and could play an up/down relief role fairly soon. Burgos is a three-pitch, low-ish slot lefty with a good changeup. He was 91-93 mph for me this spring. Scott is a four-pitch lefty with a good slider. He sits about 92. Broom is a submariner with, yes, a sweeping slider. He only sits in the mid-80s and has struggled to find his release early in 2022. Mota is currently on the shelf with a shoulder issue but has been 94-98 with a plus slider and 30 control in the mid-minors.

Spin Rate Freaks
Jerson Ramirez, RHP
Hugo Villalobos, RHP
Jared Janczak, RHP

All of these guys have breaking ball spin rates in excess of 2800 rpm. Ramirez sits 93 mph and has a mid-80s slider with huge spin. He’s amassed a career ERA just south of 2.00 and hasn’t walked an excessive number of hitters for a relief-only prospect, but he doesn’t have any advocates who have seen him in person and think he’ll stick on a big league roster. Villalobos’ mid-70s curveball pairs nicely with his low-90s fastball. Janczak was part of those great TCU pitching staffs from a couple years ago and has two plus breaking balls that he pitches backwards off of, though he has 30-grade fastball velo. If he can throw strikes, he’ll pitch in pro baseball all over the world for a long time.

Other College Draftees Who Could Pop
Mason Hickman, RHP
Rodney Boone, LHP
Tyler Thornton, RHP
Tanner Bibee, RHP
Will Dion, RHP

Hickman sits about 90 mph with vertical shape and can create depth on his slow curveball, the sort of pitcher who could break out if velo is layered onto his profile. Boone is very athletic and his fastball also has huge carry, but it only sits in the mid-80s. His changeup is also plus. Thornton has already been made to throw harder and has the look of a low-slot reliever sitting 92-95 mph with rising action. Bibee had a bevy of 40-grade pitches and good command at Fullerton. Dion was throwing hard for a brief stretch while he was at McNeese State but his velo has backed off, though this org has churned out lots of bounce-back guys whose stuff was down before they entered the system. If he can return to sitting 93-96, then he’ll be on the main section of the list.

One-Note Offensive Skill Sets
Joe Naranjo, 1B
Micah Pries, LF
Will Benson, RF
Jose Fermin, 2B
Carson Tucker, SS
Gabriel Rodriguez, 3B

Naranjo was a SoCal high schooler with a contact/power blend in a compact frame. He’s gotten bigger and stronger, and has started to adjust to the speed of pro baseball; he now looks like a potential low-end first baseman. Pries, 24, was drafted out of tiny Point Loma Nazarene University in 2019. He has above-average power and a big, broad-shouldered frame and he performed well in the low minors in 2019 and at instructs. He’s going to end up with a hit tool south of 40 but has a shot to be a big leaguer, which would be incredible considering where he was drafted out of. Benson had a 30% barrel rate in 2021 but doesn’t make enough contact to make the main list. Fermin doesn’t swing and miss but lacks passable big league physicality and is a better fit at second base than shortstop. Tucker, Cleveland’s 2020 first rounder, and Rodriguez were each once stuffed on this list but can’t seem to hit full-season pitching. They each show you glimpses of big rotational athleticism but don’t have great feel for contact.

System Overview

The Guardians show consistent patterns of acquisition in the amateur space, prioritizing compact, switch-hitting up-the-middle players internationally, while drafting lots and lots of domestic pitchability college arms who they try to help throw harder. They have also tended to target young-for-the-class high schoolers in the draft, though as that approach has become more popular around baseball, they have had fewer opportunities to do so.

The penchant for switch-hitting infielders is strong, like your friend who orders the same thing from your neighborhood lunch spot every time the two of you eat there. Of the 18 infielders on Cleveland’s extended spring training roster (all but two of whom are international signees), 13 are switch-hitters. Compact, short-levered hitters are also common throughout the Guardians system. The team shares an Arizona facility with the Reds, and the contrast between the size and physicality of the Reds’ position player prospects and the Guards’ youngsters was often striking this spring because the two clubs take such different approaches in the amateur markets. Cleveland has executed this stuff with such consistency that they now have a glut of hitterish little middle infielders throughout the mid and upper minor leagues, and they have another two (Dayan Frias and Angel Martinez) who will either be added or become Rule 5 eligible at the end of the year.

Because they lack overt power projection, Cleveland tends to churn out players who outperform scouting expectations. Some of that is because the Guardians are excellent at developing players (other than the upper-level outfielders who they’ve tried to platoon in recent years) and some of that is because of scout bias against and/or misevaluation of little guys like Steven Kwan. This system may only have one guy we project to be a star, but it has many who we think will produce like good regulars and many more who look like high-probability role players.

In memory of Andres Melendez.





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.

59 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Left of Centerfield
1 month ago

I’m sure I’ll have a lot of comments throughout the day but I’m glad for the last line of the article: “in memory of Andres Melendez”.

For those who aren’t familiar with the situation, Melendez was a 20-year-old catching prospect in the Guardians’ system who died suddenly this past December in Miami.

Oddly, there’s almost no information about what caused his death. An article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer by Paul Hoynes states the following: “The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner said Melendez died of natural causes brought on by multiple organ failures. No autopsy was performed.”

Seems quite strange that a 20-year-old athlete would die of multiple organ failure. And that there would be no autopsy performed to find out what caused the organ failures.

Anyway, I was quite shocked when I read the news this past December so I appreciate Eric including that line in the write-up. RIP Andres.

Last edited 1 month ago by Left of Centerfield