Covering every single prospect in the Cleveland Guardians system would be a noble quest, and yet it is one that you and I will not embark upon today.
Instead, I will talk through some of the more interesting or noteworthy prospects in Cleveland’s minor leagues. One may play in the majors this year. Another has yet to play his first game in the organization. A third was selected with the nicest pick of the draft.
While you’re here, a look at which players our site readers selected as the top 20 prospects in our yearly countdown.
The Most Interesting Players in the System
He’s a natural center fielder who finished one more walk shy of a .300/.400/.500 slash line in Triple-A last season. He is 24 and turns 25 in September.
I think Steven Kwan will be the most intriguing player for most Guardians fans to watch this season. He snares corkscrewing deep flies and blazes liners into the gaps.
Plus, speed? Plus speed.
Short of a poor showing this spring it is my expectation that he’ll start for most of the season. If his excellent plate discipline holds he may also compete for Rookie of the Year.
Also, FanGraphs now lists his contact potential as 80-grade. That’s rare.
While Kwan is likely to be the most impactful to casual fans, prospect hounds may find themselves drawn to these other familiar names.
I may, from time to time, become somewhat annoying in regards to a prospect. It usually has to do with exit velocity. Jhonkensy Noel is a big man with ungodly rotational power and an uncanny knack for applying that power to a baseball via bat. As has been noted by more intelligent baseball writers than I, even a single exit velocity event of 118 mph (Noel has a few) can be predictive of future power production.
I think you’ll have a lot of fun watching this guy sublimate baseballs.
George Valera. You knew.
Hailing from Sunlake High School, Mace was first drafted by the Reds in 2017 during the 12th round. He elected to become a Florida Gator instead, where he posted a 22-7 record in 41 starts with 258 Ks in 269.2 IP.
Cleveland selected him with the 69th overall pick in the 2021 draft. Mace relies primarily on his sinker/slider combination, but during the pandemic, Mace put in some work at Driveline Baseball to add a four-seamer to his mix.
Florida, the top-ranked team in the country, also has SIX of the 200 best draft prospects entering 2021.— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) January 25, 2021
That includes RHP Tommy Mace at No. 38.
Our BA 200: https://t.co/4PR2psOYqE pic.twitter.com/vuBpXSTPKk
#DougDay may become an even more popular hashtag in the future. Mandy Bell provided a wonderful rundown of Nikhazy’s heart-on-the-sleeve approach to the game.
Here is my favorite quote from the article, which also gives away a lot of what the Guardians front office looks at when they decide to draft college pitchers:
“In college, I was kind of stepping across my body a little bit,” Nikhazy said. “When I got here with the awesome pitching team that they have, they’re like, ‘Hey, why are we doing that? It’s just killing velocity.’ … So they just cleaned all that stuff up, and then immediately, I have a little bit more velocity.”
Free velo? Nice. Guardians Baseball Insider also took a deep dive earlier this month.
Possibly the pitcher I am most interested and excited to watch in 2022 is our #21 prospect, LHP Doug Nikhazy.— Justin L. (@JL_Baseball) March 14, 2022
Really strong metrics on the FB/CB. Command is solid but could improve. Fun to watch on the mound as a competitor.
Report from @WillHoo99 https://t.co/cfoVgyGw4v
Rejoice, a talented middle-infielder.
Tucker has yet to debut in the Cleveland Guardians system. The first-round pick of Cleveland in 2020 out f Mountain Pointe HS in Arizona possesses the arm strength to stick at shortstop and offers further projectability with a compact and quick swing. I am uncertain as to where the Guardians will place him this season, but I would be a bit surprised to see him land anywhere higher than Short-Season A-Ball. Remember, however, that I am an idiot.
Halpin is an outfield prospect from San Mateo, CA, and he is the most intriguing to me out of this bunch. Drafted in 2020 at the age of 18, Halpin jumped straight to Single-A at age 19. He slashed .294/.363/.425 in 246 PAs. He even stole eleven bases!
I’m not sure how many high school kids have ever skipped a year of baseball and then kept up as a professional two levels above rookie league at age 19. It is not a guarantee of any future talents or production, but what an interesting thing to keep in mind as we watch his ascent through the system. He may very well be in Akron soon.
Other interesting players
I tend to leave this domain to Brian Hemminger as the depth of his prospect knowledge far outstrips mine. I also wish to hear from you about players outside of the consensus top 20 that you think are interesting or fun players.
I will choose to highlight Juan Hillman. You may recall that Hillman was the 2nd round pick of the Guardians back in 2015. Despite a bumpy start to his career, Hillman returned to form in 2019 and 2021 with ERAs of 3.85 in High-A and 3.77 in Double-A, respectively. A very brief trip to Triple-A ended poorly at the end of last year, but his arrival in Columbus will make for some interesting baseball.
And who will you keep an eye on this season? For more prospect fun, join me and Brian every Friday on the Around the Corner prospect podcast.