Prospects Valera, Allen among first round of cuts

March 13th, 2023

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Guardians had already moved left-hander Andrew Misiaszek to Minor League camp due to a left elbow injury he sustained before Spring Training started. The team just talked to Bo Naylor this week to let him know he’d been optioned to Triple-A Columbus. But Cleveland’s first big chunk of cuts came on Sunday, and it included a few exciting prospects.

The Guardians announced prior to Sunday’s 7-6 loss to the Royals at Surprise Stadium that left-hander Joey Cantillo and outfielder George Valera had been optioned to Triple-A. Cleveland also reassigned righty and lefty Logan Allen to Minor League camp.

Valera -- No. 3 prospect
This isn’t how Valera expected his spring to go. The 22-year-old outfielder got just six plate appearances in four Cactus League games before he injured his right wrist while swinging -- the wrist on which he had surgery over the offseason.

Since then, Valera has been sidelined. The Guardians have been constantly monitoring his situation, but he has yet to progress past simply gripping a bat. Valera is still in pain and the club sees no reason to rush him back into Spring Training activities, despite how badly he may want to get back on the field. It was time for Cleveland to move him to the Minor League side to continue his rehab, but he still struggled with the move.

“[He’s] frustrated,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “I mean, he’s a young kid. He wants to kind of make his mark in Spring Training, which we totally get. We tried to remind him that, 'Hey man, if you would’ve gotten 20 at-bats here, it’s not going to define who you are.'”

Assuming this injury isn’t too big of a setback for him, Valera still has high chances of reaching the big leagues at some point this season.

Cantillo -- No. 19
Like Valera, Cantillo didn’t have his dream Spring Training. He was champing at the bit to show the club what he can bring to the table -- and rightfully so, considering his velocity skyrocketed last year and his ERA was 1.93 with 87 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings. But his workload has been limited the past two years due to injuries, one of which came last August (left shoulder soreness).

The Guardians weren’t going to be responsible for another bump in the road. The team was cautious in ramping Cantillo up this spring, having him wait until Saturday to make his first appearance. After one efficient inning, he’s heading back to the Minor League side.

“I think he wanted to pitch more,” Francona said. “But we told him, ‘Hey man, we’re trying to set you up for not just this year, but for your career.’ Because there’s a lot to like.”

Cantillo has pitched mostly as a starter so far, but with his injury history and sudden uptick in velocity, his future may lie in the Guardians’ bullpen. If he pitches like he did last year, it won’t be long before Cleveland tries to figure that out.

Allen -- No. 8
Allen (not to be confused with the pitcher who played for the Guardians from 2020-22 and is with the Rockies) thrived with Double-A Akron last year, turning heads when he struck out 104 batters in 73 innings with a 3.33 ERA. He struggled after his promotion to Triple-A Columbus, battling command issues, but he still threw himself into the middle of Cleveland’s radar. He was able to get some work in during Cactus League play, giving up four earned runs in 3 2/3 innings, but if he’s going to be a major part of the Guardians' starting pitching depth in the Minors, the team needs him to start getting stretched out on the Minor League side.

“Staying in camp for another week, although it might be fun, riding a bus over to Salt River to back up isn’t going to help them get ready for the year,” Francona said.

Battenfield took advantage of his opportunity to pitch in three games (five innings) this spring, giving up just two runs (one earned). His path to the big leagues is a little more clouded. Konnor Pilkington, Xzavion Curry and Hunter Gaddis are likely ahead of him in the pecking order, and with a strong start to the season, Allen could join that list as well. Eventually, Gavin Williams and Tanner Bibee will also get into the mix. So, Battenfield will need to prove he belongs in the big leagues.

“I think he’s in a pretty good place,” Francona said. “I want to make sure he tightens up his delivery where he doesn’t have different release points and things like that, but that’s what Triple-A and the Minor Leagues are for.”