clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Daniel Espino is our No. 1 Guardians prospect. Who should be No. 2?

The flamethrowing righthander has the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the system ... as long as he stays healthy.

2019 Major League Baseball Draft Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB via Getty Images

It wasn’t really that close as Daniel Espino captured 43% of the vote, outpacing Gavin Williams (27%) for the No. 1 spot on our 2023 prospect ranking list.

Cleveland’s first-round draft pick out of high school in 2019, Espino is the top-ranked prospect in the Cleveland system, and based on performance when he was healthy, he absolutely deserved it.

Espino entered the 2022 season on a ridiculous wave of hype that saw him compared to Jacob DeGrom and Stephen Strasburg, and he proved worthy of it based on his early appearances. The talented 21-year-old (at the time) made his Double-A debut and the results were incredible.

In four appearances, he dropped his walk rate to a career-low 1.96 per nine innings while spiking his strikeout rate to a ridiculous 51.5%. This includes a game where he struck out an absolutely ridiculous 14 batters in just 5.0 innings, which included whiffing the first 11 batters he faced in the game. After allowing a solo home run, he then struck out the next three batters. He also didn’t walk anyone.

Unfortunately, Espino’s 2022 season ended far too early. He was shut down for what was expected to be a short period of time due to patellar tendinitis in advance of his first start in May. Then, while rehabbing his injury in Arizona, he experienced shoulder pain. Given how talented he is capable of being, Cleveland decided to shut him down for the season rather than rush him back

When healthy, Espino is one of the scariest pitching prospects in baseball. He earned Cleveland’s “Minor League Player of the Year” award from Baseball America when he pitched a full season in 2021.

Espino’s fastball touches 101 mph and when paired with an elite wipeout slider, he’s got the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation starter. He’s just got to stay healthy.


Tanner Bibee, RHP (Age 23)
2022 (A+): 59.0 IP, 12 GS, 37.2 K%, 5.6 BB%, 2.59 ERA, 3.04 FIP
2022 (AA): 73.2 IP, 13 GS, 28.4 K%, 4.9 BB%, 1.83 ERA, 2.61 FIP

Fifth-round pick in 2021 who quickly established himself in High-A and added velocity throughout the season.

Bo Naylor, C (Age 23)

2022 (AA): 220 PA, .271/.427/.471, 6 HR, 11 SB, 20.5 BB%, 20.9 K%, 151 wRC+
2022 (AAA): 290 PA, .257/.366/.514, 15 HR, 9 SB, 12.8 BB%, 25.9 K%, 131 wRC+
2022 (MLB): 8 PA, .000/.000/.000, 0 HR, 0 SB, 0 BB%, 62.5 K%, -100 wRC+

Offense roared back with a vengeance in 2022 with a rare 20/20 season for a catcher, culminating with a cup of coffee in the big leagues.

Brayan Rocchio, SS (Age 22)
2022 (AA): 432 PA, .265/.349/.432, 13 HR, 12 SB, 9.7 BB%, 18.8 K%, 114 wRC+
2022 (AAA): 152 PA, .234/.298/.387, 5 HR, 2 SB, 7.9 BB%, 13.8 K%, 81 wRC+

Has the contact, speed, and defense the Guardians love, along with an 80-grade nickname of “The Professor”.

George Valera, OF (Age 22)
2022 (AA): 387 PA, .264/.367/.470, 15 HR, 2 SB, 13.4 BB%, 25.8 K%, 129 wRC+
2022 (AAA): 179 PA, .221/.324/.448, 9 HR, 0 SB, 12.3 BB%, 25.1 K%, 103 wRC+

A sky-high ceiling only limited by his strikeout potential. Average at Triple-A last season, but has historically adjusted quickly after reaching a new level in the minors.

Gavin Williams, RHP (Age 23)
2022 (A+): 45.0 IP, 9 GS, 39.9 K%, 8.3 BB%, 1.40 ERA, 1.64 FIP
2022 (AA): 70.0 IP, 16 GS, 29.1 K%, 9.2 BB%, 2.31 ERA, 4.03 FIP

A polished arm straight out of college; quickly pitched his way out of High-A with a 39.9% strikeout rate and continued to dominate in Double-A.

Poll

Who should be the No. 2 Cleveland Guardians prospect for 2023

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Tanner Bibee
    (43 votes)
  • 12%
    Bo Naylor
    (63 votes)
  • 10%
    Brayan Rocchio
    (50 votes)
  • 22%
    George Valera
    (110 votes)
  • 46%
    Gavin Williams
    (232 votes)
498 votes total Vote Now