One way or another, there will be prospects playing baseball this season. They may be doing so under a few nonexistent major-league days or weeks, but the plan appears to be that the minors go on — lockout or no lockout. With that in mind and the calendar finally turning to January, we have something to talk about here at Covering the Corner: top prospect voting.
The annual top prospect vote is one of my favorite things we do every offseason, and this year should provide some excellent debates all the way from one through 20. And, unlike last year, we once again have a full year’s worth of minor-league games to contextualize these potential future stars.
Five players who appeared on our 2021 top-20 list spent time in the majors last season — Triston McKenzie, Bobby Bradley, Daniel Johnson, Owen Miller, and Emmanuel Clase — and 2022 could be a similarly big year for Cleveland prospect call-ups. At least one of our prospects up for the top spot today was expected to debut last season (Nolan Jones), while Tyler Freeman’s advanced bat held up with a .323/.372/.470 slash in Double-A and could land him with the Guardians sometime in 2022. You could also make a case that George Valera will rocket up the last couple levels and find himself playing in Cleveland this September.
Beyond the big-name prospects that could find themselves in the majors sooner rather than later, Cleveland’s system is full of depth at a couple of key positions. Brayan Rocchio and Tyler Freeman headline a deep and talented middle infield, and the Cleveland pitching factory just keeps producing (and acquiring) quality arms. Daniel Espino’s explosive strikeout potential has made him a prospect worth knowing, but Cody Morris looks like he’s on the cusp of a debut without as much fanfare yet. Don’t be surprised to see some rookie relievers in the majors this year, too.
That’s what could make this year’s countdown so intriguing. The top talent is there, the depth is there, and the arguments will surely follow.
For the newcomers to voting, here’s how this works: Every Monday through Saturday, from now until we reach 20 prospects, you’ll have an opportunity to vote on which prospect should be in that day’s spot. Voting will take place between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. and the winner will be announced and discussed in the next day’s post. The choices are curated by Covering the Corner staff, but the final vote is entirely up to who the community chooses. Vote in the poll below, and drop your feelings on the current rankings, as well as who you feel should be included in the next poll, in the comments.
Passion about prospects and their respective positions in the list is what makes this series so much fun, but remember to keep it civil. Debate other people’s opinions, don’t resort to personal attacks.
Daniel Espino, RHP (Age 21)
2021 (A+): 49.0 IP, 10 GS, 45.1 K%, 8.2 BB%, 4.04 ERA, 3.08 FIP
2021 (A): 42.2 IP, 10 GS, 35.6%, 12.8 BB%, 3.38 ERA, 3.20 FIP
Features a mid- to high-90s fastball, slider, curveball, and a work-in-progress change-up. Tremendous strikeout potential as a mid-rotation starter with some command refinement.
Tyler Freeman, SS (Age 22)
2021 (AA): 180 PA, .323/.372/.470, 2 HR, 4 SB, 4.4 BB%, 11.7 K%, 130 wRC+
One of the most polished bats in Cleveland’s system. Excellent bat speed and control; could wind up as a shortstop or second baseman, depending on Cleveland’s MLB needs.
Nolan Jones, 3B/OF (Age 23)
2021 (AAA): 407 PA, .238/.356/.431, 13 HR, 10 SB, 14.5 BB%, 30.0 K%, 113 wRC+
Expected to make his MLB debut in 2021, but a slow start in Triple-A prevented his ascension. One of the best players in baseball occupying his primary position in the majors doesn’t help either, but he could see a shift to the outfield.
Brayan Rocchio, SS (Age 20)
2021 (AA): 203 PA, .293/.360/.505, 6 HR, 7 SB, 6.4 BB%, 20.2 K%, 135 wRC+
2021 (A+): 288 PA, .265/.337/.428, 9 HR, 14 SB, 6.9 BB%, 22.6 K%, 110 wRC+
Reached Double-A as a 20-year-old and continued to show his potential as a future MLB middle infielder. Hit a career-high 15 home runs in 2021.
George Valera, OF (Age 21)
2021 (AA): 100 PA, .267/.340/.407, 3 HR, 1 SB, 11.0 BB%, 30.0 K%, 104 wRC+
2021 (A+): 263 PA, .256/.430/.548, 16 HR, 10 SB, 20.9 BB%, 22.1 K%, 165 wRC+
Dominated High-A over 63 games, but came back down to earth in a handful of Double-A games. Still young for his level and has a sky-high ceiling, but strikeouts appear to be an issue. Missed time in 2021 due to an oblique strain.
Who should be the No. 1 Cleveland Guardians prospect for 2022?
This poll is closed