5 Guardians prospects to watch in the final weeks of spring

March 2nd, 2024

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The calendar has officially flipped to March. Evaluations of players will become more critical, roster battles will heat up and pitchers’ workloads will gradually get heftier as Opening Day grows near.

But one of the best parts about Spring Training is not only seeing the stars prepare themselves for a 162-game season -- it’s also a time to get eyes on the future. Whose debuts could be just around the corner? Who is giving fans a reason to be excited? Let’s take a look at five names to watch over the final weeks of camp.

Likelihood of making the Opening Day roster: Average
Manzardo is going to do everything he can to prove he belongs on this roster from Day 1. The Guardians have a complicated situation on their hands with Manzardo and Rule 5 Draft pick Deyvison De Los Santos. If De Los Santos makes the team, carrying two first basemen behind starter Josh Naylor doesn’t make a lot of sense. If De Los Santos doesn’t make the team, maybe the Guardians will opt to have Manzardo start the year with the big league club.

So far, Manzardo has done just about everything he can to make a strong impression on his new big league coaching staff. In his first four Cactus League games, he’s gone 3-for-5 with a walk and has caught the attention of nearly everyone who has seen him step into the batter’s box.

Likelihood of making the Opening Day roster: Low
DeLauter’s debut is still a ways off (although 2024 is not out of the question), but he’s giving every reason to get excited about what he’s going to do once he’s called on. DeLauter had a late start to his professional career after having surgery on his foot last January. Once he came back, he was as advertised and continued his success through the Arizona Fall League.

With some question marks in the Guardians’ outfield, it’s only a matter of time before his Minor League performance demands big league consideration. He’s not even technically in big league Spring Training since he’s just part of their depth camp to fill in late in Cactus League games, but he’s gone 4-for-7 with a monstrous homer and a walk in the time he’s gotten to play.

Likelihood of making the Opening Day roster: Mid-to-high
The term that should be used is “slightly above average.” The shortstop job seemed to be Gabriel Arias’ to lose since the offseason began. However, the Guardians expressed open-mindedness to giving Rocchio an equal look this spring, especially knowing the offensive struggles Arias went through last year.

Spring stats hardly mean anything when coaches and managers are evaluating a player, but Rocchio still has gone just 1-for-7 in his first three games after an impressive campaign in Venezuela over the winter. The Guardians talked to the shortstop about making routine plays consistently last season, and he has had one hiccup in the field thus far, but it’s nothing that would take him out of the competition. If Rocchio can prove he’s the better option over Arias in these final weeks, he could be the starting shortstop on Opening Day.

Likelihood of making the Opening Day roster: Low
Put Brito in the DeLauter category. It’s not quite his time yet, but the excitement is building. He’s hitless in his first six Cactus League games, but the Guardians are optimistic about his approach at the plate despite having nothing to show for it so far. What’s really been impressive is seeing his defense in action, whether he’s playing in the middle infield or even at third base. There’s a reason the Guardians wanted to trade a former top prospect in Nolan Jones to acquire Brito. If you watch closely enough, you may see a future middle infielder for Cleveland.

Likelihood of making the Opening Day roster: Average
There’s an opening for Smith; he just needs to showcase why he deserves it. Assuming the Guardians carry eight relievers, there are three open slots to fill in the bullpen. Guys like Carlos Carrasco, Xzavion Curry, Ben Lively, Tyler Beede, Tim Herrin and Hunter Gaddis will all be fighting for those vacancies. Although Smith doesn’t have Major League experience yet, he’s been impressive in the Minors and could be someone the Guardians choose to lean on, especially since he’s already on the 40-man roster.