2022 Cleveland Guardians Top 5 Prospects

2022 Cleveland Guardians Top 5 Prospects

by February 10, 2022 3 comments

The Cleveland Indians are now the Guardians. They missed the playoffs for just the second time in the last six years. Cleveland obviously needs help, especially in the lineup, but who are the players on the way to get the Guardians into the playoffs this year and beyond? Let’s take a look at some of their top prospects.

Make sure to check out all of our other Top Prospect Articles.

1. Gabriel Arias, Infielder

Hit: 50
Power: 55
Run: 50
Arm: 70
Field: 60
Overall: 55

When Arias was traded to Cleveland at the deadline in 2020, he had only made it to Single-A in the San Diego Padres organization. With the minor league season resuming in 2021, the Guardians started Arias in Triple-A Columbus. He played well in 115 games, slashing .284/.348/.454 with 13 home runs and five stolen bases. He also chipped in 29 doubles. Arias made consistent contact with a 22.8 percent strikeout rate.

The Venezuelan has improved his pitch recognition over the past few years and has begun to tap into his power. At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, Arias should have no problem hitting 20-25 homers once he settles in. He has good instincts on the bases even though he has average speed. That baseball IQ also helps him at shortstop where he is a smart player with good hands. Couple that with his cannon for an arm, and Arias should be able to stick at short. A good hitter with plus power and above-average defense at a premium position has Arias at the top of this list.

ETA: 2022

2. Tyler Freeman, Infielder

Hit: 70
Power: 40
Run: 50
Arm: 50
Field: 50
Overall: 55

Freeman fits the old school model of a “pure hitter”. He is a throwback to a time when guys didn’t strike out and the object of every at-bat was to put the bat on the ball. Since being drafted 71st overall in 2017 out of High School, the right-hander has just hit. His career in the minors spans 1,172 plate appearances and he has slashed .319/.378/.446 with 42 stolen bases. In that time he has struck out only 9.2 percent of the time.

Obviously, the hit tool is there. He is a line-drive hitter who uses the whole field. While his power may progress a bit, 15 homers could be his ceiling. He has decent speed which plays up due to his awareness and aggressiveness on the basepaths. Freeman has decent range and arm and would probably be an average shortstop. If the Guardians choose to move him to second, he could be above-average easily.

ETA: 2023

3. George Valera, Outfielder

Hit: 55
Power: 55
Run: 50
Arm: 55
Field: 50
Overall: 55

Valera’s power is his calling card. In just 86 games between Advanced-A and Double-A last year, the slugger hit 19 home runs. His pitch recognition is also excellent as he isn’t just a HR or a strikeout. He had a modest 24.2 strikeout rate while also walking 18.2 percent of the time. His defensive tools are decent as well. He will probably fit best in left field, but his arm is good enough to play in right. Either way, the Guardians will be looking to get his bat in the lineup in a few years. An international signing out of the Dominican Republic, although he was born in New York City, Valera may get the call next year.

ETA: 2023

4. Daniel Espino, Right-Handed Pitcher

Fastball: 70
Slider: 60
Curveball: 55
Changeup: 50
Control: 50
Overall: 55

Espino has the stuff that pitching coaches dream about, and he has been setting down hitters at an incredible pace. Last year between Low-A Lynchburg and Advanced-A Lake County, the right-hander struck out an amazing 40.5 percent of the batters he faced. The promising part of that is he also walked 10.4 percent and gave up just 64 hits in 91.2 innings.

Espino features two distinct fastballs with a four-seamer that sits 94-97 and a two-seamer a little softer but with sink. Throw in the 83-86 slider and the kid has three wipeout pitches. If he can get his offspeed stuff to develop, like a curveball he has been working on which sits in the mid-70s, then he could be the next ace for the Guardians.

ETA: 2023

5. Nolan Jones, Third Base/Right Field

Hit: 45
Power: 60
Run: 45
Arm: 60
Field: 50
Overall: 50

The second-round pick out of Holy Ghost Prep (PA) in 2016 has shown he isn’t just a power hitter. He hit 13 homers last year at Triple-A Columbus but also had 25 doubles and a .356 OBP. His pitch recognition has gotten better and at this point, it is just a matter of cutting down on his swing. At 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Jones doesn’t need to sell out for power.

Defensively, he played shortstop in High School but has made the transition to third base where he will likely stay. His arm is above-average and what he lacks in range, he makes up for in sure-handedness. He will be 24 in May and Cleveland will want to see him progress a bit, but they may be able to find him a spot on the major league infield this year.

ETA: 2022

What Does the Future Hold?

Another infielder to keep an eye on is Brayan Rocchio. The 21-year-old Venezuelan made it to Double-A last year and hit .294 with six homers and seven swipes in just 44 games at Akron. Gavin Williams is an arm in the system that could also make a fast move up the levels. While he didn’t pitch last year after being drafted 23rd overall, he has the size, stuff, and makeup to be successful once he gets going in Cleveland’s system.

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