These Guardians prospects finished 2023 strong

September 27th, 2023

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

The Guardians still have a few more days before they head into the offseason, but Cleveland’s Minor League affiliates have already wrapped up their 2023 seasons. That means we have just enough time for one last Minor League roundup.

Who were some standouts from the final days of the Minor League seasons? Let’s take a look:

Triple-A Columbus: INF Brayan Rocchio

Prior to the final game of the season for the Clippers on Sunday, Triple-A Columbus manager Andy Tracy and bench coach Greg DiCenzo presented Rocchio with the 2023 Clipper of the Year Award.

In 116 games with Columbus, the 22-year-old Rocchio posted a .280 average with a .788 OPS, seven homers, 33 doubles, six triples, 60 walks and 66 strikeouts. He led his team in average, hits, doubles, triples, stolen bases and on-base percentage, and maintained a .970 fielding percentage at shortstop.

Rocchio is ranked as Cleveland’s top prospect according to MLB Pipeline. He was able to get a feel for the big leagues this season with multiple short stints before what will likely be a position battle in Spring Training next year.

The Guardians have given Gabriel Arias the majority of reps at shortstop since Amed Rosario was traded to the Dodgers, but it doesn’t mean the decision on who will be the 2024 starter at that position has been made, especially if the organization doesn’t believe Arias can be the offensive answer it needs. That would likely lead to a competition among Arias, Tyler Freeman and Rocchio in the spring, with Juan Brito and José Tena next in line.

Double-A Akron: OF Chase DeLauter

Be ready to hear this name a lot in 2024.

DeLauter missed the start of this season after having surgery on his toe in January and the anticipation from Guardians fans grew to see the No. 4 prospect make his professional debut. Once he did, he proved he was worth the hype.

In 42 games with High-A Lake County, DeLauter hit .366 with a .952 OPS, 18 doubles and four homers. He was promoted to Double-A Akron before the end of the season and went 8-for-22 (.364) in his six games, with a double and four RBIs.

MLB Pipeline projects the 21-year-old outfielder to arrive in the big leagues in 2025. But if he can continue to knock the door down in the Minors and force his way to Triple-A Columbus quickly in 2024, there’s no reason to believe he couldn’t get a look on the big stage by the end of next season, especially if the Guardians are still in need of outfield help.

High-A Lake County: OF Jake Fox

As long as we’re talking about outfielders who have a chance to help the big league team in the next few years, let’s talk about Fox. He led the Captains with 53 RBIs in 101 games this season, and added 23 doubles, five triples and eight homers.

The club’s No. 12 prospect was able to enter the offseason on a high note, knocking in four runs, and finishing a double shy of the cycle in a 3-for-4 effort in Lake County’s penultimate game.

Fox played shortstop in high school and began his professional career as a second baseman, but because the Guardians have so many middle infielders in their system, they tried him in center field. With his athleticism and high baseball IQ, he was able to make the transition and will continue to play there moving forward.

Assuming he can continue to improve his defense at his new position while developing more offensively, Fox could be in the outfield mix in 2025.

Single-A Lynchburg: 1B C.J. Kayfus

Kayfus only played in 17 games for Lynchburg this season, but he had a good excuse: He wasn't drafted by the Guardians until mid-July.

In his limited time, he smacked four homers, four doubles and knocked in 19 runs. His average was .271 and his OPS was .971.

Kayfus was a third-round pick out of the University of Miami. The soon-to-be-22-year-old first baseman is known more for his contact-first approach than his power, but he flexed his muscles in his first impression with his new organization.

MLB Pipeline ranks Kayfus as the team's 30th-best prospect with an estimated arrival time to the Majors in 2026.