Guardians show power potential in Spring Breakout

March 17th, 2024

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Fans lined up against a chain-link fence just to get a chance to interact with the Guardians’ top prospects, (No. 1) and (No. 2).

The two were waiting for their turn on Saturday just outside of Goodyear Ballpark to sit down and sign autographs on the left-field concourse when fans spotted them from afar. Manzardo had a conversation with a young fan peeking through the chain-link fence, and DeLauter chatted with a group who were so excited to interact with him. The excitement for their arrivals in the big leagues is mounting in Cleveland. The ability for fans to see and interact with them in person only allowed that to grow.

“It’s fun,” Manzardo said. “I think making sure you’re taking care of those younger kids that are showing up or asking their dad to stay and watch this game, I think that’s what helps baseball as a whole.”

The Guardians secured a 6-2 victory over the Reds in MLB’s inaugural Spring Breakout. Although they made plenty of highlights, three stood out from all the rest:

1. Power supply
(No. 29) and Manzardo were able to benefit from experience in big league camp this spring, and the two looked like they were in midseason form.

Noel got things started in the top of the second inning by leading off with a home run over the Guardians’ bullpen in left field. This is the power the Guardians are so excited about with the 22-year-old infielder/outfielder. If he’s able to be more patient in the box and more selective with the pitches he goes after, Cleveland might be able to benefit from the big bat in the middle of the order.

“If it’s Minor League or Major League, I want to do the same thing,” Noel said. “Not try to do too much and believe in myself.”

And then there’s Manzardo. The first-base prospect who was sent from the Rays to the Guardians in exchange for Aaron Civale last July has been everything and more that the Guardians could have asked for this spring. He has been the talk of camp and has fully displayed that he’s more than deserving of his spot on the big league roster. He doubled down on his case by smacking a long homer over the pavilion in right field in this prospect showcase.

2. Chourio adds a double
This game is designed to showcase players like (No. 6). He’s an 18-year-old kid in Single-A who has so much potential but doesn’t quite have the same hype as some of the older prospects who are closing in on their Major League debuts. He may have been one of the youngest guys on the field, but he was responsible for one of Cleveland’s six hits on the day, serving a double to right field.

“This is a great learning opportunity for me,” Chourio said through an interpreter. “Getting to learn from Manzardo, [Juan] Brito and guys who have been at the higher levels is a really good learning experience.”

3. Walters brings the heat
The Guardians need bullpen arms, right? Spring Breakout is supposed to highlight the future. But the way pitched, he showcased that he could easily be the present.

His new teammates for the day lined the railing in the dugout, smacking the top padding after his eighth pitch. Sure, Walters was one strike away from ending the game – something any group would cheer for. But this could’ve been even more significant. Walters (No. 27) had thrown eight consecutive strikes -- one pitch away from an immaculate inning.

“In the back of my mind [I can hear them],” Walters said. “But at the same time, I’m just out there competing."

The radar gun flashed the following numbers for his first six pitches: 98, 98, 99, 89 (offspeed), 90 (offspeed), 100. This resulted in two strikeouts.

The fastball started off the third at-bat (this one at 99 mph) and a 90 mph breaking ball in the dirt was so tempting that the batter couldn’t lay off of it. This is when the dugout started to go crazy for Walters to shut things down with an immaculate inning. Instead, a 99 mph heater was high -- his first ball. After a walk, he came back with three fastballs to the next guy to end the game on a swinging strikeout.

MLB Pipeline projects Walters will reach the Majors in 2025, but if the 23-year-old righty pitches like this all year in the Minors, 2024 is absolutely not out of the question.

“For me, it’s just doing what I’m doing out there right now,” Walters said. “Ultimately, refine all my stuff and be the best player I can be.”