As we continue our coverage of the upcoming 2022 MLB draft, which begins July 17th, I’ll be reviewing the last three Cleveland Guardians drafts, which have added considerable depth to their minor league system.
Now 2020 was a unique draft because it happened during the COVID pandemic when the entire minor league season was canceled. The draft only lasted five rounds.
Just FYI, the age listed below is the age of the players when they were drafted just over two years ago, so just add two years for their current age.
1 (23). Carson Tucker. SS/RHH. Age 18. $2M bonus.
The younger brother of MLB player Cole Tucker, Carson Tucker had high expectations when Cleveland took him with its first pick in 2020. Here’s what scouting director Scott Barnsby had to say at the time:
”We have a history with Carson with his brother from a few years ago. Ryan Perry, our scout in Arizona, did an outstanding job developing a relationship with him and really building that from the ground up. John Heuerman, one of our other scouts in Arizona, also has a great relationship with the family. Honestly, I think that played a big role. As we got to the moment, we felt really comfortable with Carson on the field as well as off the field, so that was really important for us.”
Tucker may have great make-up, but it hasn’t led to results on the field just yet. He played just six games in the Arizona Complex League in 2021, and injuries have kept him from the field for most of this season. Thus far, he’s made his full-season debut at Lynchburg, slashing just .135/.297/.154 over 18 games. And his big league brother? Cole has since been DFA’d by Pittsburgh and is currently struggling to a 46 wRC+ at Triple-A in the Arizona system.
2 (36). Tanner Burns. RHP. Age 21. $1.6M bonus.
Drafted out of Auburn with a first round competitive balance pick, Burns had the typical Cleveland college pitcher profile, someone who throws strikes and doesn’t issue walks while missing bats and eating innings. Here’s what Barnsby had to say on draft day:
”He’s been a mainstay in (Auburn’s) rotation there for the last three years. He’s been a workhorse for them. Not only has he been a workhorse, he’s been an extreme competitor. He always takes the ball. In terms of his stuff, he pitches comfortably 92-93 mph. He’s been up to 96 mph. Two different breaking balls. Both of them have the ability to miss bats.”
Burns showed off that workhorse style spending all of 2021 at High-A Lake County. He’s impressed this season at Double-A Akron to the tune of a 2.70 ERA over 12 starts while maintaining a solid 28.2% strikeout rate although he’ll have to get that 10.8% walk rate under control if he’s going to have long term success at the MLB level.
3 (56). Logan T. Allen. LHP. Age 21. $1.125M bonus.
The biggest success story of Cleveland’s 2020 draft thus far, “The One True” Logan Allen was the top performing pitcher out of several college arms that debuted at High-A Lake County in 2021. By midseason, it was clear he was ready for a new challenge and he was promoted to Double-A.
This season, Allen was straight up dominant at Double-A, striking out 10 or more batters in an outing three times already, which earned him a promotion to Triple-A. He’s struggled thus far at Triple-A in three starts, but his last outing was encouraging with nine strikeouts in 4.2 innings pitched.
4 (95). Petey Halpin. OF/LHH. Age 18. $1.525M bonus.
One of the top prep bats in the 2020 draft, Cleveland went over slot to sign Halpin. He was quickly challenged by making his pro debut in full-season Lynchburg last year, where he impressed with a 117 wRC+ as a 19-year-old.
Halpin was promoted to High-A Lake County this season, where he’s had mixed results. He’s currently slashing .241/.328/.328. On the bright side, his walk rate has increased to 10.1% while dropping his strikeout rate to 19.1%, but his power has been relatively non-existent. He’s also been unlucky with a .299 BABIP on the season. Here’s hoping he heats up in the second half.
5 (124). Milan Tolentino. SS/LHH. Age 18. $800K bonus.
Originally expected to be a glove-first middle infield prospect, Tolentino has impressed on offense thus far in his young career. He debuted at the Arizona Complex League in 2021, where his 121 wRC+ earned him a late season promotion to full-season Lynchburg.
After starting the 2022 season at Lynchburg, Tolentino showcased an elite eye at the plate, almost doubling his walk rate from 8.6% to 15.6% and cutting 10 percentage points off his strikeout rate. A 146 wRC+ and .333/.434/.423 slashline over his first 46 games earned him a promotion to High-A Lake County, where he’s maintained his elite walk rate, although his other numbers have regressed a bit. That being said, he’s still above average at Lake County with a 111 wRC+ in his age-20 season.
6 (154). Mason Hickman. RHP. Age 21. $340K bonus.
A starting pitcher at Vanderbilt, Mason Hickman was tossed into the first in his first pro season at High-A Lake County, where he was average, but at least dependable with a 4.88 ERA and an 8-8 record over 20 starts and 97 innings pitched. He showed occasional flashes of brilliance like a 6.0 shutout inning game with nine strikeouts.
He is repeating this year at High-A, where his strikeout rate has increased from 26% to an elite 31%, but his walk rate also has increased and he’s been more hittable. He’ll have to find that balance if he wants to continue to progress through the crowded Cleveland system or he’s going to find himself being passed by last year’s 18 college pitchers that the Guardians drafted.
Undrafted free agents
Since there were only five rounds in the 2020 MLB draft, it was much more likely that players signed as undrafted free agents that year. Cleveland signed four additional players.
Joe Donovan. C/RHH. Age 21. $125K bonus.
A solid and reliable defensive backstop, Donovan hasn’t shown much offensively and thus far, Cleveland has used him as an org-filler where the team needs a catcher. After playing last season at High-A Lake County, he’s been helping out the younger pitching staff at regular Single-A Lynchburg this season.
Cade Smith. RHP. Age 21.
A bullpen arm out of the University of Hawaii, Smith has shown elite strikeout rates at every level he’s played thus far, but he’s also been a bit too hittable and his walk-rates could use some work. Smith impressed at High-A Lake County this season, whiffing 44 batters in just 24 innings, earning a recent promotion to Double-A Akron, where he’s struggled with an 11.25 ERA in his first seven appearances.
Jaime Arias. LHP. Age 21.
Arias has bounced between long relief and spot start duty all around Cleveland’s system. He had his best success at Lynchburg last season. He’s played at Lake County, Akron and Columbus in 2022, but it’s primarily been to help fill gaps while Cleveland has played merry-go-round with the Clippers’ rotation and bullpen.
Alonzo Richardson. RHP. Age 17.
Originally a high school shortstop, Cleveland transitioned Richardson to a starting pitcher and the results have been impressive thus far. Richardson struggled last year in 18 games at the Arizona Complex League, but he’s been dynamite this season, currently leading the league with a 2.00 ERA after six appearances and three starts. He’s already gone over 5.0 innings four times and struck out a season-high seven batters on June 28.
AAA: 1 (Logan Allen)
AA: 1 (Tanner Burns, Cade Smith)
A+: 1 (Milan Tolentino, Petey Halpin, Mason Hickman, Jaime Arias)
A: 1 (Carson Tucker, Joe Donovan)
ACL: 1 (Alonzo Richardson)
Signed players/Still in the organization (10/10)