Cleveland Guardians

I overachieved with the Guardians system by writing up 18 players.  It’s a deep system with several potential Major League players.  George Valera tops the list again, and while many of you are tired of reading about him (I know I’m tired of writing about him), the tools are loud, and he’s just about ready.  Daniel Espino is the top pitching prospect but only pitched in four games before knee and shoulder issues forced him to the IL.  I also ranked Bo Naylor high after being blown away after seeing him this summer.  The kid can really play.  Brayan Rocchio started the season slowly but still has the tools to be an impact player.  I could go on and on, but I’ll stop and let you read the capsules.

Prospect Quick Shot

  • Top Prospect: George Valera
  • Biggest Mover: Tanner Bibee
  • Emerging Prospect: Jaison Chourio

1. George Valera (OF)

  • Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 OF
  • Tools Summary: Exciting package of tools should translate into an All-Star performer.

For those that roster George Valera in a Dynasty League, it’s easy for prospect fatigue to set in. He first made my list six years ago when the Guardians signed him for $1.3 million. Back then, that was considered a significant international sign. Now, it would be in the next tier. Regardless, the athleticism, bat speed, and overall swagger he plays the game could make him a star. Also, remember, he still is only 21 and was one of the youngest players in both Double and Triple-A. I maintain that the upside is an All-Star performer with 30+ home run pop, good OBP, and a decent batting average.

2. Daniel Espino (RHP)

  • Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 30 SP with upside
  • Tools Summary: He has a premium arsenal with a fastball that will touch triple-digits and improving control. Unfortunately, he spent most of the season on the IL with knee and shoulder problems.

It was a lost season for Daniel Espino. The hard-throwing right-hander left a game in April with what was reported as a patellar injury that then expanded into shoulder soreness. I was hoping he would pitch in the Arizona Fall League, but that did not happen either. When healthy, his fastball will top out at triple-digits with a slider that gets a lot of ugly swings and misses. I’ve always been worried about his ability to throw strikes consistently, but he improved in 2021, and in his four starts last season, he only walked four in 18.1 innings. I’ve put his ceiling as a number two starter, but he’s got all the tools to be ace.

3. Brayan Rocchio (OF)

  • Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 10 2B
  • Tools Summary: He started the season slowly, but once the weather warmed, so did he. He has the tools to be an impact fantasy performer.

It was another solid season for Brayan Rocchio. He continues to make excellent contact (17.5% strikeout rate) and even increased his walk rate (9%). When you see him play live, you know what all the fuss is about. He’s athletic with plus speed and enough bat speed to project at least 15 to 20 home runs annually. Defensively, he’s adequate at short but would probably fit better at second base. The one knock from a fantasy standpoint is that I don’t see many stolen bases. Sure, he has the speed but doesn’t get good jumps and continues to get thrown out more than he should be attempting to steal bases. Perhaps in the future, someone can unlock that skill for him.

4. Bo Naylor (C)

  • Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 5 Catcher
  • Tools Summary: The speed is real. The on-base skills are real. This dude is for real.

I saw Bo Naylor this summer and came away incredibly impressed. First, physically, he looks nothing like his brother. He’s athletic and can run with a great swing. He was batting leadoff for the Akron RubberDucks, and it was warranted. He walked more than he struck out in Double-A (not so in Triple-A), with 20 stolen bases and 19 home runs across both levels. The upside is a Top 5 fantasy catcher. Behind the plate, he’s an adequate catcher with a plus arm (1.9 to 2.0 pop time). He’s on schedule with George Valera and Brayan Rocchio to make his Big League debut sometime next season.

5. Gavin Williams (RHP)

  • Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 SP
  • Tools Summary: He has the size and arsenal to pitch at the top of the rotation. The command is not there yet, but I think it will be over time.

Gavin Williams was the Guardians’ first-round pick in 2021. The Guardians elected to rest him in 2021 and begin his professional career in High-A in 2022. Things went as planned, and he blew through the level after nine starts. I had a chance to see him in Double-A, and he was impressive. His fastball sat 94 to 95 MPH and touched 97 with three average to plus secondary pitches. I liked his slider the best. He didn’t always throw strikes and walked three on the evening. However, with his size (6-foot-6) and overall arsenal, the upside is that he is a number two starter. If he can throw more strikes, it could even be more.

6. Tanner Bibee (RHP)

  • Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2023Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP with upside
  • Tools Summary: One of the 2022 pop-up pitchers. He has plus stuff with elite control.

Could you repeat after me? Consider rostering every Cleveland Guardian pitcher on your Dynasty League.

I did with Tanner Bibee after his fast start, and I’m smiling ear-to-ear. He was overpowering in his debut last season. In 25 starts across High and Double-A, he pitched to a 2.17 ERA, striking out 11 per nine while walking less than two per nine. He has a double-plus fastball and slider combination, with his fastball sitting in the mid-90s and touching the upper nineties. His change-up will also flash plus and appears to be quickly becoming a consistent out pitch to right-handed batters. The delivery is a little stiff with some effort, and at 6-foot-2, he could be homer-prone, but with his strike-throwing ability and arsenal, there’s a lot to like.

7. Gabriel Arias (SS)

  • Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 SS
  • Tools Summary: He is still only 22 and has plenty of skills, but his approach at the plate is holding him back from realizing his ceiling.

Initially signed by the Padres, Gabriel Arias hasn’t yet lived up to his advanced billing, and after watching him play live several times, I find it frustrating. He can pick it at short, has an excellent swing with plenty of bat speed, and is an above-average runner. That’s enough for him to get everyday playing time in the big leagues. The problem is that he’s overly aggressive at the plate and currently lacks the on-base skills needed at the highest level. The Guardians used him in two Cleveland series, but he didn’t do enough to stick. His defensive chops will make him a big leaguer, and the ceiling is still a full-time regular, but he needs a better approach at the plate for that to be realized.

8. Chase DeLauter (OF)

  • Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF
  • Tools Summary: Intriguing fantasy power-speed upside, but he broke his foot in April, so there is not a lot of recent data.

Despite only playing in 24 games in his draft year, Chase DeLauter was the Guardians’ first-round pick last July. He looks more like a linebacker than a baseball player but moves well with plus bat speed. At 6-foot-4, there is some swing and miss in his bat, but in college, he walked more than he struck out. He broke his foot in April, and the Guardians decided to have him continue to rehab in 2022. He’ll make his debut next season.

9. Angel Martinez (SS)

  • Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS or 2B
  • Tools Summary:  While none of his tools are plus, he has solid all-around tools.

I didn’t know much about Angel Martinez before seeing him this summer. I saw him play in back-to-back games and came away impressed. He’s a pesky hitter, walking nearly as much as he strikes out with enough power to project 15 to 20 home runs at the highest level with double-digit stolen base potential. That’s not enough to make him a star, but it’s exactly the kind of player the Guardians play full-time. I know they are stacked in the middle infield, but in 2024, I think he forces the issues.

10. Logan T. Allen (LHP)

  • Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
  • Tools Summary: He doesn’t throw particularly hard, but hanging a 70 on his change-up is easy. Throw in plus control, and you can see at least a number four starter, maybe more.

Since making his professional debut in 2021, Logan Allen has dominated. He had no trouble with Double-A last season, pitching to a 3.33 ERA and striking out 12 per nine while keeping his walks down. He finally ran into trouble in Triple-A, where his walks uncharacteristically ballooned. The delivery is simple and clean. He pounds the strike zone and has a wicked change-up that fooled every hitter. They had no chance. His fastball and slider were average, though, with his fastball being pretty straight. When he located well, he was fine. If he caught too much of the plate, his fastball, in particular, was struck. In most organizations, I would put his ceiling as a number four starter, but I trust the Guardians to get the most out of him and therefore have put his ceiling a grade higher.

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