Things are already getting tight in our top prospect voting, but with 32% of the vote, Tyler Freeman narrowly beat out Daniel Espino (30%) and Gabriel Arias (27%) for the No. 3 spot on our list.
One look at Freeman’s statline at any level tells you, on the surface, what kind of hitter he is. Last year with the Akron RubberDucks he slashed .323/.372/.470 for a wRC+ of 130 — but that came with just two home runs a 4.4% walk rate. Where he sets himself apart is his ability to make contact, plain and simple.
Among batters with at least 180 plate appearances, Freeman finished seventh in the Double-A Northeast league with an 11.7% strikeout rate and had the 21st highest on-base percentage despite the low walk rate.
The lack of home runs could be a concern, but his bat-to-ball skills are so elite that it hasn’t deterred scouts from giving him high marks. It’s also not like he’s lacking any power whatsoever — the balls just haven’t left the yard yet. His .470 slugging percentage was 16th in the Guardians organization last year, and despite missing time with injuries, he finished with 18 extra-base hits (14 doubles, two triples, two home runs). As far as I know, we don’t have public access to exit velocity data for minor-leaguers, but Baseball America noted that he “posts solid exit velocities” in their most recent scouting report of Freeman. Right now he looks like a potential doubles machine in the majors who puts the ball where the defenders aren’t, but the potential for home run power could be hiding in there somewhere.
He also had a personal highlight video created and posted on his Instagram; you have to respect the confidence there.
Not to make too lofty of comparisons here, but he has a swing that at least projects power (even if it hasn’t shown in the minors yet), he makes elite contact, he doesn’t strike out a lot, he’s a little on the small side, and he’s likely to start his career bouncing somewhere between second and short before he settles somewhere. That sounds an awful lot like a current second-baseman-turned-third-baseman who deserves a gigantic extension from Cleveland this offseason.
Just sayin’. I’m not sayin’, but I’m just sayin’. You know what I’m sayin’? Just sayin’.
Freeman’s 2021 season was cut short by shoulder surgery in August to fix an issue that lingered throughout the year and caused him to miss time. His production in Double-A should have been enough to warrant a start in Triple-A in 2022, though, and there’s a chance he could make the leap to the majors at some point.
Logan T. Allen, LHP (Age 23)
2021 (A+): 51.1 IP, 9 GS, 33.5 K%, 6.5 BB%, 1.58 ERA, 2.80 FIP
2021 (AA): 60.0 IP, 10 GS, 32.9 K%, 5.6 BB%, 2.85 ERA, 3.73 FIP
Made an impressive MLB debut after being drafted in the second round of the 2020 draft. Earned a promotion to Double-A after just nine starts, where he continued to show a plus changeup, a mid-90s fastball, and impressive command.
Gabriel Arias, SS (Age 21)
2021 (AAA): 483 PA, .284/.348/.454, 13 HR, 5 SB, 8.1 BB%, 22.8 K%, 115 wRC+
Spent the entirety of 2021 in Triple-A and held his own as a 21-year-old with an improved plate approach. Expected to debut with Cleveland sometime in 2022, likely as their starting shortstop.
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.
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.
Bo Naylor, C (Age 22)
2021 (AA): 356 PA, .188/.280/.332, 10 HR, 10 SB, 10.4 BB%, 31.5 K%, 69 wRC+
Offense took a step back in 2021, but has earned good marks for his defense and framing behind the plate. One of the youngest players in Double-A last season.
Gavin Williams, RHP (Age 22)
2021: 1st round pick in MLB Draft
Drafted 23rd overall by Cleveland in the 2021 MLB Draft. Features a high-90s fastball capable of touching triple digits. Led East Carolina to the College World Series.
Who should be the No. 4 Guardians prospect for 2022?
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Logan T. Allen