Cleveland Guardians Prospect Countdown: 70 to 61

Cleveland Guardians Prospect Countdown: 70 to 61
(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

GOODYEAR, Az. — The hits just keep on counting down here at as we present 10 more players from our top 100 Cleveland Guardians prospect results with numbers 70 to 61 for 2023.

The countdown is still working its way through a number of future prospects. Until about No. 40, it will be rare to see a ranked player suddenly pop up in uniform to play at Progressive Field. These players have potential yet need substantially more work and instruction in the minors. In some instances, these players may have more raw talent and the potential to exceed what those ranked lower may accomplish.

An age-old question has been: Are great ballplayers born or made? The truthful answer is yes and yes. Born with natural talent, their work and the instruction they get along the way make them into big-league players. For now, however, it is wait-and-see. Mark down the names. Follow them here throughout their minor-league seasons.

Here are the previous listings: Guardians Prospect Countdown 80 – 71 | Guardians Prospect Countdown 90 – 81 | Guardians Prospect Countdown 100 – 91

Two Dominicans and a Cuban 

  1. Jerson Ramirez, RHP      2017 International free agent (Dominican Republic)      6’1”      210       B: R     T: R    11/24/1998

Until putting up terrible numbers last year at Double-A Akron, the right-hander’s future looked bright as a prospective closer. In his first three pro seasons, he went 8-5 with 31 saves in 74 games. In 105.2 innings, he yielded only 63 hits, striking out 138 with a 1.88 ERA, though he did walk 45. It all went into the dumper last year in 31 innings over 31 games: a 6.68 ERA, and 26 walks (7.5 per nine innings). Once a very confident closer with an exuberant style, he became understandably tentative as the season wore on and he sat in the bullpen instead of being used.

He must gather himself in 2023 and get back on track if he can. A clue as to his demise comes from a fine fastball, clocked in the mid-90s, that doesn’t show enough movement. Combined with inconsistent breaking stuff and he discovered that more advanced hitters are going to hit straight pitches no matter the velocity. Here’s another project for organization coaches. They can’t fix them all, but Ramirez’s early numbers show it is worth the time and effort to give it a serious go.

Clutch-hitting Cuban

  1. Raynel Delgado, INF      6th-round pick (193 overall) in 2018      6’2”    200     B: L    T: R   4/4/2000

Considered an advanced offensive player in high school in Florida, the native of Cuba had a college commitment to Florida International that pushed him down in the draft. Cleveland believed its scouting reports were worth changing that and paid him $900,000 to sign, well above the $235,000 slot value for a 6th-round choice in 2018. There were concerns about his defense. Yet he has been mostly solid at every infield spot except for an unsightly 18 errors with the High-A Lake County Captains in 2021. He cut that to nine in combined time with the Captains and Double-A Akron RubberDucks in 2022.

The offense has disappointed everywhere, attributable to a 27% strikeout rate. In 320 pro career games, he has only 16 homers and a .242 average. Yet he does seem to come up big in late-inning pressure situations. The quick, slightly uppercut swing is there. Perhaps better concentration in every at-bat can improve things. How can that be accomplished? Thousands of former minor-league hopefuls wonder about that for years.

The DR is Not in, Yet

  1. Elvis Jerez, RHP      2019 International free agent (Dominican Republic)      6’4”   210   B: R    T: R    2/5/2000

He has pitched all 70 of his pro games in relief and though he has 137 strikeouts and only 66 hits allowed in 99 innings, way too many walks (78, or 7.1 per 9 innings) have stymied his progress. He added muscle to a powerful frame and may have turned the corner in 2022 at High-A Lynchburg with a 2.22 ERA, 9 saves, 15 hits, and 17 walks in 28.1 innings with 40 strikeouts. That was still too many free passes though.

He must begin to command a moving fastball in the 94-95 mph range, curve with a fine spin rate, and developing changeup. He has 12 pro saves, but his best save effort has come off the field. Signed for only $5,000 at age 18, he gave some of that money and began a GoFundMe account to try and provide clean drinking water for a low-income town near his home in the Dominican Republic.

Fun Outfielders To Follow

  1. Connor Kokx, OF      12th-round pick (366 overall) in 2021     6’1”   200   B: R    T: R    2/24/2000

He had a nice .366/.481/.571 slash line with 7 homers and 14 steals in his third and final season at Cal-Long Beach in 2021. Last summer, it was fun to watch his development at the plate at High-A Lake County. Often looking lost and batting only .224 with 14 RBI over the first four months, he hit .297 with 15 RBI in 92 fewer at-bats after August 1. He clearly displayed much more confidence at the plate with a better ability to work the count (12 walks, 12 strikeouts) and wait for a pitch he could drive.

He was consistently smooth and confident all year at all three outfield spots with only one error. Kokx hit .563 (9-for-16) in the Captains’ final five games and went off for more work in the Arizona Fall League. He hit .283 in 18 games there. He will likely move up to Double-A Akron in 2023. If he can consistently get on base to go with his speed and defense, he is at least a fourth-outfielder prospect.

Beach Batter Bingo

Embed from Getty Images He’s the ninth player picked by Cleveland from Cal-Long Beach. None have made the majors. Former Cleveland reliever Bryan Shaw went there. The best of 64 alumni to make the majors are tennis star Billie Jean (Moffitt) King’s brother Randy, Troy Tulowitzki, Evan Longoria, and slugger Jason Giambi, who hit 440 homers from 1995 thru 2014 for four teams including Cleveland (2013-14). Californians being Californians, the name of the school and its’ athletic teams have varied. Founded as Los Angeles-Orange County State College (1949-50), it became Long Beach State College (1950-64), California State College at Long Beach (1964-1972), and either Cal-Long Beach, Long Beach State or California State University, Long Beach since.

Most interesting (and west-coast weird) tidbit about the school is its nicknames. It was 49ers (founding date) until 2019 when it was changed to Beach. Yeah, Beach. The Long Beach Beach. As in the Department of Redundancy Department. The baseball team, however, has been called the Dirtbags since 1989. Its’ unofficial mascot, The Long Beach Dirtbag, is a long-haired grifter who roams the ballpark, shouting at the opposition and trying to bum cigarettes from fans. If Kokx makes the big time, you can pass on this utterly useless info to friends and watch them roll their eyes as you just did.

Straw Man Sun Devil

  1. Joe Lampe, OF      3rd-round pick (92 overall) in 2022        6’1”    185     B: L     T: R     12/5/2000

Embed from Getty Images In his second season at Arizona State, which has sent 515 players to the majors, Lampe hit .340 with 12 homers, 41 RBI and 17 steals in 55 games as a sophomore in 2022. In 436 at-bats over two seasons for the Sun Devils, he slashed .321/.389/.537 with 15 homers, 68 RBI, and 23 steals. Signed for $800,000, he is an adept defensive center-fielder with bat-to-ball skills and strike-zone awareness — an ideal leadoff type similar to Myles Straw.

A fun video to watch on the internet is Lampe scoring from second base, turning a long out into a surprising sacrifice fly RBI. He transferred to ASU after batting .424 with 17 steals in 2020 at Santa Rosa Junior College, where he was considered the fastest player since Tommy Harper in the late 1950s. Harper, one of nine Bear Cubs to make the majors, had 408 steals and scored 972 runs in 1,810 games for seven teams including one year (1968) for Cleveland. He stole 73 for the 1969 Seattle Pilots, then hit 296, with 31 homers, 38 steals, and 104 runs in 1970 for Milwaukee. Don’t expect that from Lampe, though an MLB career should be on the horizon.

Cleveland’s Sun Devils

As for Lampe’s Arizona State connection, it was a decent bet Cleveland would take him. He is the 28th Sun Devils star picked by the team with second baseman Jason Kipnis (2nd round, 2008) being the best. Chris Bando (1978) and Luis Medina (1985) also played for Cleveland. Four other Cleveland picks eventually got to the majors with other teams. Medina’s story is worth retelling. The Indians were the SEVENTH team to draft the slugger, who spurned previous offers from the Mets (twice), Yankees, Reds, A’s, and Astros (as a 1st-round pick) before Cleveland snagged him in the ninth round. The 6-foot-4 OF-1B hit a combined .306 with 91 homers over four minor-league levels before a spectacular 16-game trial in 1988. He hit six homers for Cleveland and fans expected him to be a rookie-of-the-year candidate in 1989.

Instead, he was sent back to Triple-A, sulked, and hit just .175 with three homers. He had other big years at Colorado Springs (.324, 27 homers, 98 RBI in 1991) and finished his career in Japan. Medina isn’t even the most interesting ASU player picked by Cleveland. That honor goes to an athletic infielder chosen three times by the organization (1973, 39th round; 1974, 3rd round; 1975, 5th round). The only pro contracts he ever signed were during 13 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, where he spent four years (1976-79) as a punter and then replaced Pro Football Hall of Famer Roger Staubach as the starting quarterback in 1980. He went 62-30 as a starter with 155 touchdown passes and 10-8 in the postseason with 15 more TD tosses. Cleveland just could not convince Danny White to return to baseball.

Cleveland’s Colombia Connection

  1. Dayan Frias, INF      2018 International free agent (Colombia)     5’10”  180   B: S   T: R   6/24/2002

Signed as a 5-foot-7 third baseman at age 16, Frias has grown, added muscle, and shown signs of development mixed with spotty results. Part of it may be his approach from the left side of the plate. Right-handed, he tends to maintain good balance and use all fields, but he sells out and often over-swings as a lefty. When he debuted as a pro in 2019, he showed a fine eye at the plate, some speed, and a nice line-drive batting stroke.

Embed from Getty Images This spring, he’s with Team Colombia in the World Baseball Classic. Manager and former infielder Jolbert Cabrera,  infielder Gio Urshela, and outfielders Oscar Mercado and Harold Ramirez all played in Cleveland. Frias helped Colombia win the Caribbean Winter Series for the first time in 2022, then saw his strikeout rate soar at Low-A Lynchburg, where he split time between third, second, and short making 22 errors, many on poor throws. He also hit only .236 though had career highs of six homers and 46 RBI. His all-out effort plays well in the field, but he must calm down with a bat in his hands and learn to pick out a pitch he can handle. This year may define Frias’ future as he needs to show more consistency in all areas. He’s got game. He’s got to eliminate the gamey ones.

Fast Track From FSU

  1. Parker Messick, LHP     2nd-round pick (54 overall) in 2022     6’0”   225   B: L   T: L   10/26/2000

Embed from Getty Images He has yet to throw a pitch as a pro but going a combined 19-8 with 316 strikeouts in 200 innings at Florida State and the 2020 Florida Coast Summer League has put the chunky lefty with the funky motion on a fast track. He gets strikeouts by pounding the zone with a fastball-changeup mix. Hiding the ball well through his delivery helps. He throws a plus-rated change to both sides of the plate, usually down-and-away yet will not shy away from jamming a batter. The development of his ordinary slider and curve will determine if he remains a starter or goes to the bullpen, where his over-the-top aggressiveness may play even better. He signed for $1,300,000 and coming from a major program, may start his pro career at High-A Lake County.

If he continues to command the zone as he did in college (67% strike rate with a 6.7-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio) he could advance quickly. He’s the ninth Seminole drafted by Cleveland. The only one to make the majors was outfielder Tyler Holt, a 10th-round pick in 2010. He hit .228 without a homer in 45 games for Cleveland (2014-15) and 111 for Cincinnati (2016-17). The first of 83 Florida State players to get to the majors was catcher Dick Brown in 1957 for Cleveland. Next was shortstop Dick Howser in 1961. He played for Cleveland (1963-66) and managed the Yankees to 103 wins in 1980 and the Royals to the 1985 World Series title. Howser gave me occasional tips when I was a boy. None were about baseball. I delivered The Cleveland Press to his high-rise apartment in suburban Lakewood.

Golden Eagle Good As Gold?

  1. Hunter Stanley, RHP     11th-round pick (336 overall) in 2021     6’0”  205   B: R   T: R   11/25/1997

When the Guardians get a scent of success, they follow their scouting noses. That explains why Stanley joined Nick Sandlin (2018) and Kirk McCarty (2017) as pitchers drafted by Cleveland out of Southern Mississippi. After two years as a reliever, Stanley joined the Golden Eagles’ rotation in 2021 and was very impressive – striking out 127 in 102 innings while yielding only 19 walks and 74 hits. He got off to a fine pro debut at High-A Lake County last spring, going 2-1 with a 1.84 ERA in 14.1 innings over four relief outings. He went on the disabled list in May and returned in September to pitch well in the Arizona Fall League, fanning 24 in 20.1 innings. Already age 25 and without an overwhelming resume, he’s got a lot of catching up to do.

The Guardians like his over-the-top delivery that includes a bit of a twitch that can upset a hitter’s timing. Though not physically imposing, his fastball has reached 95-97 mph. He’s got a decent low-80s slider and tosses an occasional changeup. Commanding all three pitches in the zone is a must. As for the 28 Southern Miss players who made it to the majors, one of the first to do so was Cleveland fan favorite Bubba Phillips in the 1950s. He went to college on a football scholarship in 1946 and chose to sign with the Detroit Tigers as a third baseman in 1949. He played from 1955 thru 1964 for the Tigers, White Sox, and Indians. His best season was 1961 with Cleveland: .264, 18 homers, 72 RBI. Nobody called him by his first name, John.

Like Father, Like Son?

  1. Christian Cairo, INF     4th-round pick (130 overall) in 2019      5’8”  170   B: R    T: R   6/11/2001

The son of long-time MLB infielder Miguel Cairo got a $955,000 signing bonus in 2019. That was the second-highest of all fourth-round picks that year. Thus far, he has clearly been a defense-first prospect. He has quick feet on the bases and in the field. That gives him advanced lateral range and balanced footwork, He can play anywhere in the infield, staying low to the ground and getting in front of balls, using his soft hands and strong arm.

Cairo has his moments at the plate, just not enough of them thus far as a pro although he has been sidetracked by injuries. He holds his hands high and has a downhill swing plane with good extension and looseness through contact. Free of injuries, he should develop into a high-contact line drive hitter. Dad hit .264 over 1,490 games for nine MLB clubs over 17 seasons. He was interim manager of the White Sox to end 2022 and now is the Mets’ minor-league infield coordinator. Christian has inherited his dad’s skills and learned to play the game instinctively while growing up. This could be the make-or-break season for Junior as far as fulfilling his potential.

No Ordinary Joe

  1. Joe Naranjo, 1B      3rd-round pick (101 overall) in 2019      5’8”  198   B: L   T: L   5/11/2001

Embed from Getty Images Got $770,000 to sign out of high school, where his batting skills made him a nice prospect. Missing all of the COVID-shutdown 2020 season may have hurt his offensive development. An absolute joy to watch around the first-base bag, he had ups and downs the past two years at High-A Lake County, where he hit exactly .235 each season. He should be better than that and showed some development in 2022, raising his homers from 6 to 18, walks from 44 to 82 and runs scored from 44 to 72 in just 11 more games. Scouts early on compared him to ex-Cleveland 1B-OF Jake Bauers.

He is infinitely better defensively and sometimes shows the ability to make better contact but not with as much power. He has exceptional footwork in the field that has enabled him to save many teammates from throwing errors and put himself in a good position to make plays, especially on sharp grounders hit to his backhand side. When he is on his offensive game, he will take outside pitches the other way for singles and work deep into the count. Sometimes he is too patient at the plate, ignoring a fat pitch and eventually having to swing at a tough breaking ball. He may be a tad short to play first as a regular but has the athleticism to move to the outfield – if his offense improves and makes him a legitimate MLB candidate.

Today’s Game: Angels 6, Guardians 0

Embed from Getty Images Cleveland got only four singles and a double by Gabriel Arias in the loss to the Los Angeles Angels in Tempe, Az. Arias’ error at third base with the bases loaded allowed two runs to score in a four-run fifth off right-hander Xzavion Curry. Guardians starter Aaron Civale allowed one hit, a long homer by Hunter Renfroe, over two innings. All-Star closer Emmanuel Clase worked one perfect inning in his spring debut.

Cleveland And The World

Embed from Getty Images Current and former players in the Cleveland organization are taking part in the 2023 World Baseball Classic. The following is a table of all of the players, past and present, with their positions and with the letter x if they are formerly associated with the organization.

Current and Former Cleveland Players Taking Part in the WBC

Country Players
Canada C Bo Naylor, RHP Cal Quantrill, RHP Cade Smith, x-RHP John Axford, coach Denis Boucher
Chinese Taipei x-RHP C.C. Lee, x-C Kungkuan Giljegiljaw, x-INF Yu Chang
Columbia Meibrys Viloria, INF Dayan Frias, x-INF Gio Urshela, x-OF Oscar Mercado, x-OF Harold Ramirez, x-MGR Jolbert Cabrera, x-coach Orlando Cabrera
Czech Republic x-C Martin Cervenka
Dominican Republic RHP Enyel De Los Santos, x-C Francisco Mejia
Great Britain x-RHP Ian Gibaut, x-OF Trayce Thompson
Israel x-RHP Rob Kaminsky
Mexico x-LHP Oliver Perez, x-coaches Jacob Cruz, Ever Magallanes, Tony Perezchica
Netherlands x-C Sicnarf Loopstok, INF Richie Palacios, x-pitching coach Bert Blyleven
Nicaragua x-RHP J.C. Ramirez
Puerto Rico x-SS Francisco Lindor,  x-OF Eddie Rosario, x-coaches Juan Gonzalez, Luis Rivera, Victor Rodriguez
USA x-MGR Mark DeRosa
Venezuela x-RHP Jhoulys Chacin, INF Andres Gimenez, x-OF Anthony Santander, x-coach Rouglas Odor
x denotes former players in the Cleveland organization. All other players are current.

Coming Up

The Guardians do not play on Tuesday, play host to WBC participant Team Mexico on Wednesday and we keep counting down Cleveland’s prospects.

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