5 Guardians prospects to keep an eye on

November 5th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Mandy Bell's Guardians Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click hereAnd subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The strength of the Guardians’ Minor League system has blossomed over the last few years. We saw so many of the biggest prospects in the organization this past year, considering 17 players made their Major League debuts.

Where does that leave the state of the farm system heading into 2023? Let’s answer a couple of questions.

3 players who forced their way onto the radar this year

OF Will Brennan: His .314 average with 40 doubles in 129 Minor League games this year were more than enticing for the Guardians to take a chance on. But because of an overcrowded outfield, the team thought it was best to leave Brennan (Guardians' No. 20 prospect) in the Minors until the very end of the season. In his short three-week span in the Majors (including the postseason), Brennan made a tremendous impact and left quite the impression for what his future could become.

RHP Tanner Bibee: Bibee was dominant in both High-A Lake County and Double-A Akron. After owning a 2.59 ERA in 12 starts with Lake County, he was promoted to Double-A and pitched to a 1.83 ERA with 81 strikeouts and 14 walks in 73 2/3 innings (13 starts). He ranks sixth in the team’s Top 30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline, and he has certainly caught plenty of attention this year.

LHP Will Dion: Dion is a little farther away from his Major League debut, but he still turned some heads in 2022. His 2.26 ERA with 142 strikeouts in 115 1/3 innings in Single-A Lynchburg prompted a promotion to Lake County at the end of the season. In his two starts there, he gave up one run in 12 2/3 frames (0.71 ERA). If anything, this proves that the Guardians, once again, have a deep line of starting pitchers throughout their system.

2 possible breakout players to watch in 2023

C Bo Naylor: With the Guardians ready to pass the torch to a younger backstop, Naylor could get a solid chance at playing time next year. The No. 5 prospect's offensive growth in the Minors this season, where he hit .263 with an .888 OPS between Double-A and Triple-A, may prove to be the answer behind the plate the team has been looking for.

OF George Valera: The outfield is overcrowded right now, which may make it difficult for Valera to find time in the grass in the big leagues, but there’s only so much longer the team can wait before its No. 2 prospect gets his chance. Between Double-A and Triple-A this year, Valera hit .250 with an .816 OPS, 24 homers and 82 RBIs in 132 games.

1 big question for next season: Can Daniel Espino have a healthy year?

Cleveland’s top-ranked prospect’s stuff is electric -- so much so that Espino caused big leaguers to stop in their tracks in the back fields at Spring Training last year to watch him throw live batting practice. But he missed nearly the entire 2022 season due to soreness in his right shoulder. At one time, it was easy to project Espino reaching the big leagues in '23. He now has a lot of development time to make up and has to prove that his shoulder can withstand a big workload.