Guardians land 7 on new Top 100 prospects list

January 27th, 2023

CLEVELAND -- The Guardians watched 17 prospects make their Major League debuts in 2022, and yet somehow their farm system is still stacked.

MLB Pipeline released its new Top 100 prospects list on Thursday and Cleveland tied the Dodgers with the second most on the list (seven). Only the Orioles had more (eight).

A handful of this year’s top prospects could be ready to go in 2023. If they aren’t, there’s no doubt they’ll be reaching the big leagues in the near future. Let’s take a look at why these guys are so exciting:

No. 16: Daniel Espino, RHP
The scouting report: Last year, big league hitters stopped in their tracks during batting practice to look over on the backfields in Goodyear, Ariz., to see Espino’s triple-digit heater and lethal breaking pitches. Rarely does an up-and-comer demand this much attention.

The future: The biggest question for Espino is whether he’ll be able to remain healthy. He missed nearly the entire 2022 season due to right shoulder problems, once again delaying his development after the canceled Minor League season in ’20. Without these hiccups, it’d be unrealistic to think Espino wouldn’t be in the Majors in ’23. Now? Maybe he’ll need more time to get reps under his belt before he’s promoted.

No. 42: Gavin Williams, RHP
The scouting report: A poll of a handful of hitters in Minor League camp last year resulted in a unanimous decision that Williams was the most difficult hurler to face in batting practice. He boasts a heater that can touch 100 mph and a curveball with outstanding metrics. After he was promoted to Double-A Akron last season, he owned a 2.31 ERA in 16 starts, with 82 strikeouts and 26 walks in 70 innings.

The future: Williams’ track record shows that he won’t need much time in the Minors before he’s a legitimate big league option. He won’t be a regular in the rotation early in the season, but it seems more likely than not that he’ll reach the Majors in 2023.

No. 51: George Valera, OF
The scouting report: In 2022, Valera earned a promotion to Triple-A Columbus after hitting .264 with an .837 OPS, 15 homers, 17 doubles and three triples in 90 games with Akron. His production dipped slightly after moving up, hitting .221 with a .772 OPS in 42 contests, but this hasn’t caused Cleveland’s opinion of him to change.

The future: It’s time to see Valera in the Majors. The problem is, where does he fit? Myles Straw and Steven Kwan are guaranteed spots in the outfield and Oscar Gonzalez has earned the right to prove 2022 wasn’t a fluke. It’s up to Valera’s play to demand a spot on the big league roster.

No. 64: , C
The scouting report: Naylor blew Cleveland’s player development team away with his bounce-back season in 2022. He struggled offensively the year prior and dedicated his offseason to making sure that wouldn’t repeat itself. His improvements awarded him a callup to the big leagues at the end of ’22 (and a spot on the postseason roster).

The future: The future is now for Naylor. The Guardians don’t want to rely on him right out of the gate, considering he has only half of a season in Triple-A and just five big league games under his belt. But expect to see him incorporated more in Cleveland's lineup as the season progresses.

No. 65: Tanner Bibee, RHP
The scouting report: Bibee forced himself into plenty of conversations last year. His numbers were electric and only improved after he was promoted to Double-A, owning a 1.83 ERA in 13 starts.

The future: Like Williams, Bibee won’t need much time in the Minors. Getting a callup to the big leagues by the end of ’23 seems more than attainable.

No. 75: Brayan Rocchio, SS/2B
The scouting report: Rocchio’s numbers dipped in 2022, as he hit .257 with a .756 OPS between Double-A and Triple-A, but his reputation as a quality contact hitter with exceptional defensive skills keeps him as one of Cleveland’s top prospects year after year.

The future: Rocchio is in the same boat as Valera. There’s no reason to think the 22-year-old can’t make his debut in 2023, but he’ll need to find a way to fit on the roster behind Amed Rosario, Andrés Giménez and Gabriel Arias.

No. 82: Chase DeLauter, OF
The scouting report: Taken in the first round of the 2022 MLB Draft, DeLauter boasts decent arm strength and speed, but his best tool is arguably his power.

The future: DeLauter is still a few seasons away, considering he has yet to play professionally.