Cleveland Guardians’ 2023 Top Prospects: No. 90 to 81

Guardians 2023 Top 100 Prospects Numbers 90 to 81 - Sport Relay
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GOODYEAR, AZ. —  As long as the Cleveland Guardians have good prospects the team’s prospects of winning are even better. That was evident Friday in a 7-4 win over the Milwaukee Brewers. First an update from Guardians Spring Training, then a continuation of the 2023 top prospects, numbers 90 to 81.

None of the 10 prospects previewed below in the ongoing SportRelay.com countdown of the top 100 prospects in the Cleveland system saw action. Players who will appear on the list in the coming days, Petey Halpin, Tyler FreemanJordan Jones, Will BrennanTim Herrin, Hunter Gaddis, Brayan Rocchio, Nick Mikolajchak, and others did contribute.

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Freeman, seeking a spot in Cleveland’s infield, singled, walked, stole a base, and scored twice. Halpin, a speedy young outfielder had a two-run double and three RBI. Rocchio, a highly regarded shortstop added an RBI.

Cleveland starter Zach Plesac trailed after eight pitches. Garrett Mitchell singled up the middle on a 2-2 count and Luis Urias drove a 1-1 pitch to left for an RBI double and a 1-0 Milwaukee lead. After an out, Plesac walked two and was replaced by Jones, who got Abraham Toro to ground into a double play on his second pitch. Plesac then returned and worked hitless second and third innings. Gaddis fanned three over two innings, Herrin threw one hitless inning and Mikolajchak fanned two in a perfect ninth for the save.

Brewers starter Bryse Wilson fanned four over two innings. The only Guardian to solve him was Will Brennan, with a one-out double to right-center in the second. Jose Ramirez‘s RBI single tied it 1-1 in the third. Amed Rosario‘s RBI double made it 2-1 in the fifth.

Hitting Prospect George Valera Ailing

Outfield prospect George Valera is sidelined with a sore right wrist. He has had two surgeries regarding the hamate bone in the wrist, the last to remove it. Valrera, 22, played in the 2022 Futures Game and hit .250 (121 for 484) with 25 doubles, 24 homers, and 82 RBI at Class AA Akron and Class AAA Columbus.

“This was the wrist where he had the surgery,” manager Terry Francona told reporters. “The trainers really don’t know if that’s part of it. It’s hard to imagine that it’s not affecting (it). They’re going to give him a couple days to see how it reacts to them treating it. If the results aren’t good, they may image (MRI) it. But they don’t want to rush into it.”

Guardians 2023 Top 100 Prospects: 90 to 81

And now, SportRelay.com presents the second 10-player set of rankings in our 2023 preview of the top 100 prospects in the Guardians’ organization.  Eight of the 10 are recent international free-agent signings. Cleveland has been increasingly active in signing international infielders the past few years, then using the draft to obtain college and high school pitchers. In case you missed it, here’s the story on players 91 to 100: Guardians 2023 Top 100 Prospects 100 – 91.

90. Fran Alduey, INF     2021 International free agent (Dominican Republic)      5’7” 155 B: S T: R 1/7/2004

Signed for $1.2 million at age 17. Paul Gillespie, Guardians vice president of international scouting, told Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com then: “He’s a compact, athletic, quick-twitch type player. He has the feet-hands-arm package to remain at shortstop. He has a nice compact swing from both sides of the plate, showed the ability to control the strike zone and make frequent hard contact.”

Only some of that was displayed over 71 games in the low minors: 20-for-25 in steal attempts, 13 extra-base hits in 247 ABs – but also 73 strikeouts, a .215 average, and a woeful .247 on-base percentage. His short stroke seemed to get longer and with a more pronounced uppercut, likely due to trying a bit too hard to hit his way out of the funky times. He’s also made 26 errors, including 19 in 44 games at shortstop. Scouts do love his overall athleticism. He has to start getting better results in all aspects of the game, however.

89. Christopher Espinola, OF     2021 International free agent (Dominican Republic)      5’8” 167 B: L T: L 9/19/2003

Signed for $150,000 at age 18, he has a bit of a leg kick that leads to a very sweet, smooth swing, producing line drives. He’s pulled the ball nearly 60% of the time without much of a fly-ball rate. That’s just fine for a guy with his plus speed. He has played all three outfield spots with good range in center field and enough of an arm for right. In 78 games total the last two seasons in the Dominican Summer League, he slashed .an impressive .298/.374/.808 with 23 extra-base hits and 40 RBI in only 265 at-bats. Now it is time to move to the Arizona Complex League at age 19 and see if he can do what three others that age did there in 2022. Angel Genao hit .322, Maick Collado .310, and Juan Benjamin .300; we rank all three a bit higher.

88. Victor Planchart, C-1B      2017 International free agent (Venezuela)      5’8” 188 B: S T: R 5/17/2001

He’s small, slow and often defensively challenged, a switch hitter who can display some pop at the plate and loves to play. That all replicates a guy named Carlos Santana and the comparison likely played at least somewhat of a role in Cleveland signing him at age 16. Santana’s exemplary bat-to-ball skills when he was young have only occasionally popped up on Planchart’s resume, which includes a .271 average, .376 on-base percentage, and .758 OPS in 176 pro career games. In 120 games behind the dish, he has 31 errors. Ugh. But the offense is at least mildly intriguing, especially in an organization in need of backstops who can consistently put the bat on the ball.

87. Dylan DeLucia, RHP     6th-round pick (202 overall) in 2022 6’1” 205 B: R T: R 8/1/2000

He was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2022 College World Series (3-0, 1.59 ERA, 38 strikeouts, and 3 walks) after leading Mississippi to the championship, “We watched him at the end of the year just compete,” said Scott Barnsby, the Guardians’ director of amateur scouting. “That’s the biggest stage they can absolutely play on. He took the ball when the game was on the line and carried them. I think that’s one of the things that’s a separator, to be able to slow the moment down.”

Signed for $275,000, he uses a four-seam fastball that hits 95 MPH with movement, an excellent low-90s sinker, and a decent slider. Trying a changeup will likely be an instructional priority if the Guardians consider him a starter. Before 2022, DeLucia split time between the bullpen and starting. His fastball mix and intense nature may make him better suited for relief work. He’s the sixth Rebel picked by Cleveland in history, including lefties Drew Pomeranz (No. 5 overall in 2010) and Doug Nikhazy (58th overall) in 2021. Overall, 31 of 177 players picked from Ole Miss have played in the majors.

86. Jose Cedeno, C     2022 International free agent (Venezuela)      5’7” 145 B: L T: R 3/1/2005

Signed for $100,000 at age 17, the lefty hitter showed good plate discipline with 27 walks to 17 strikeouts while batting .317 with an .892 OPS in a 40-game debut. Not bad. And though he threw out 33 of 73 runners attempting to steal (31%) in 35 games at catcher, he also made nine errors. Not good. Lefty-swinging backstops are coveted everywhere. With the Guardians, catcher is always considered a defense-first position and so plenty of instruction and repetitive work will be the order for 2023. The key will be to make significant strides behind the plate without losing luster at the plate. His bat will find him a position, perhaps in the outfield though the Guardians will avoid that route and work, work, work him at catcher as long as they can.

85. Zach Pettway, RHP     16th-round pick (486 overall) in 2021      6’2” 215 B: R T: R 1/29/1999

A four-year starter at UCLA (16-11, 3.77 ERA), he went 1-1 with a 2.02 ERA and one save in his pro debut season last year in 20 games, 19 of them in relief. He had a 6.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, fanning 49 and walking only 8 in 35.2 innings across two levels. His short-arm, overhand delivery is deceptive. He adds to the trickery by sometimes pausing his motion ala Johnny Cueto or Luis Tiant to disrupt a batter’s timing. Working in relief may add a tick of needed velocity to an ordinary fastball in the 87-91 MPH range, slider and change.

At age 24, it is time to test his bag of tricks against more advanced players. If he replicates 2022, his magical mystery mound show may move up a level. UCLA has sent 101 players to MLB, including the legendary Jackie Robinson, Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer, Chase Utley, Bobby Grich, and Chris Chambliss whose 2,175 MLB games are the most played by a former Bruin. Cleveland has picked 10 Uclans overall: Chambliss, current Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, LHP David Huff, and RHP Adam Plutko made it to Cleveland and are among 72 of 290 (24%) of those drafted from the school to play in the majors.

84. Juan Benjamin, INF     2019 International free agent (Dominican Republic)      5’9” 165 B: S T: R 4/25/2003

FanGraphs.com has him ranked as Cleveland’s 35th-best prospect. Not exactly sure why, it seems a little premature for that, though he has skills. Maybe his lusty swing caught their eye along with a fine .405 on-base percentage in 56 games as a pro. He hit .282 overall with 16 extra-base hits, 36 RBI, and 38 walks in 233 plate appearances. A small sample, but good. Yet another switch-hitter signed by Cleveland as a shortstop, he was immediately moved to second base and third as a young pro. To do that before age 20 and being only 5-foot-8 likely means he’s destined for a utility role. He seems adept at recognizing breaking pitches, which goes a long way toward making consistent contact, although his swing-from-the-heels approach negates some of that. Whether or not he can turn on a fastball or at least flick it the other way for hits remains to be seen.

83. Maick Collado, 1B-3B     2022 International free agent (Dominican Republic)      5’11” 182 B: S T: R 12/24/2002

He got $200,000 to sign as a 16-year-old shortstop but the switch hitter immediately switched positions, only playing the two corner infield spots in 72 games across two seasons in the Dominican Summer League. He’s considered an offense-first prospect with a fine batting eye (51 walks to 47 strikeouts) and a line-drive bat. He hit .310 in the Arizona Complex League in 2022 and could open at Low-A Lynchburg at age 20 this year. He has much more upside than his older brother Offerman, who was a weak-hitting infielder in the Kansas City Royals system (2013-19). With apologies to NBA great Air Jordan, if this Collado achieves stardom, thousands of Dominicans shall proclaim, “I want to be like Maick!”

82. Junior Sanquintin, 1B-3B     2018 International free agent (Dominican Republic)      6’0” 205 B: S T: R 1/8/2002

Signed as a shortstop at age 16 for $1.25 million after being ranked No. 12 by MLB.com in the 2018 international signing class, he was quickly moved to corner infield play as a pro. He was considered an offense-first prospect then and even more now, though high strikeout totals have dulled enthusiasm. The switch-hitter does damage when he connects but must curb over-aggressiveness. In 435 at-bats over the past two seasons in the Arizona League and Low-A Lynchburg, he combined for 16 homers and 76 RBI with 40 walks, 147 whiffs, and only a .306 on-base percentage. He has a strong arm and is a solid fielder, but poor footwork has caused throwing errors and likely a permanent role at first base or DH. He may open 2023 back at Lynchburg at age 21 or move up to High-A Lake County should he display development.

81. Wardquelin Vasquez, RHP      2018 International free agent (Dominican Republic)      6’3” 214 B: R T: R 7/25/2001

He’s had mixed results in a mixed role, making 15 starts in 37 games over four years in the low minors. In 95 innings overall, he has given up only 7.5 hits per 9 innings, including an outstanding 5.0 rate (24 in 43.1 innings) last year in Arizona. Nothing in his four-pitch mix rates highly except for maybe a sweeping curveball in the 76-79 MPH range. He has a 91-94 MPH four-seam fastball, 85-87 MPH cutter, and an okay changeup and remains fairly raw.

So why would a scout take notice? They look first for body frame and long, strong fingers. Vasquez gets a checkmark for both and they forecast from there. If an adjustment or two to his delivery and overall mechanics can coax a bit more velocity out of his muscular frame, Vasquez may move up a couple levels this year — and show that scouts sometimes see the unseen by measuring what little they can see. It’s almost as much fun for them as it is for the player when it pans out.

NEXT: Prospects 71 to 80 and continuing coverage of spring games. On Saturday, the Guardians travel east across the valley to play the Oakland Athletics at Hohokam Ballpark.

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