The latest on Cleveland's up-and-comers

October 18th, 2021

CLEVELAND -- Cleveland had a stretch of success over the last few years calling up young players like Francisco Lindor, José Ramírez, Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale from the Minors. So, who could be the next big name to come out of their system?

Cleveland had a difficult 2021 season, relying on a lot of young and inexperienced players due to a handful of injuries, especially to the starting rotation. But the farm system is starting to strengthen once again, as it ranks No. 13 of all 30 clubs according to MLB Pipeline. And the team is certainly expected to give opportunities in '22 to some new names who haven’t reached the Majors just yet.

“That's part of the beauty of our game," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. "You don't know who it's going to be. But as you watch them develop and start to do things maybe they didn't do the year before, they gain confidence and they get stronger and all of a sudden you think 'Hey, maybe this kid can help us win.'”

Let’s take a look at some of those potential names in our 3-2-1 Minors report:

3 players who forced their way onto the radar this year

One easy answer is a reliever who forced his way onto the club’s radar so much that he was added to the big league roster. Francisco Perez debuted on Aug. 12 when he was thrown into a bases-loaded jam and gave up three runs in 1 1/3 innings. He was sent back to Triple-A Columbus before coming back up a month later to showcase who he had been in the Minors, tossing 5 1/3 scoreless relief frames. The 24-year-old lefty began the year at Double-A Akron, where he owned a 0.67 ERA (two earned runs in 27 innings). After his promotion to Triple-A, he pitched to a 3.12 ERA in 19 appearances with 36 strikeouts but 20 walks in 26 innings. Perez's potential at the big league level is evident, and Cleveland will keep a close eye on his development.

Logan Allen also falls under this category. No, not the Allen we’ve seen already in the big leagues, the other left-handed starter named Logan Allen, who spent the 2021 season at High-A Lake County and Double-A Akron. In the first half of the season, Allen pitched to a 1.58 ERA in nine starts with 67 strikeouts and 13 walks in 51 1/3 innings. He moved up to Akron at the beginning of July and owned a 2.85 ERA in 10 starts (12 total appearances), which landed him on MLB Pipeline’s 2021 Prospect Team of the Year. And somehow, Cleveland finds itself in a position with more starting pitching depth once again.

Finally, let’s shift to the outfield, which has been the team’s biggest need for a handful of years. While looking externally for some help will be essential, Steven Kwan has given Cleveland a solid in-house option. In 51 games at Double-A Akron, Kwan hit .337 with a .950 OPS, 12 doubles, three triples, seven homers and just 23 strikeouts. He was promoted to Triple-A on Aug. 31 and finished the year hitting .311 with a .903 OPS in 26 games with Columbus.

2 possible breakout players to watch in 2022

Amed Rosario is strongly considered to return as Cleveland’s starting shortstop next season, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Gabriel Arias doesn’t get a decent number of starts at short at some point in 2022. Cleveland's No. 4 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Arias hit .284 with an .802 OPS and 29 doubles in 115 games at Triple-A. He was moved around the infield, seeing time at second and third base to help him be more defensively versatile in order to hopefully contribute in some capacity next season.

We’re going to cheat a little with the second answer to this question. He’s not technically a prospect, but watching Anthony Gose make the transition from outfielder to relief pitcher qualifies him for this category. Gose got his first taste of the big leagues as a hurler this season and showed tremendous growth with his command, giving up just one run on two hits and two walks in 6 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts. He struggled during the Minor League season, but after he participated with Team USA in the Olympics, he was dominant -- so much so that it would be surprising if Cleveland didn’t keep him on the 40-man roster over the winter.

“No matter how things play out from here, it's an incredible success story,” Cleveland’s president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. "But we think this is just the beginning.”

1 big question for next season

He was expected to make an impact in the big leagues in 2021, but Jones had a tough Triple-A season, struggled to balance his transition to learning how to play the outfield and ended the year with a left ankle sprain that required surgery. Cleveland is hoping Jones will be ready before Spring Training, so that the club’s former top prospect can get back to the hitter he once was.