Top 100 prospects countdown

For whatever reason, comments in my other Fanpost got closed, so I'll continue my writeups countdown here. If anyone has a better idea how to proceed, please let me know.

Original post with rankings and writeups in comments, here:

49 2B/CF Nate Furman (21.6yo)

Furman (along with Guy Lipscomb) was one of my favorite "Kwan-List" mid round sleepers going into the 2022 draft. The qualifiers for that list are: strong performance track record, lopsided BB/K ratio, hit/speed combo yet still ranked outside all top 200 draft lists. Furman checked all those boxes and as cherry on top was very young for his class as a true Sophomore, so CLE felt comfortable securing him in round 4 (121st overall) of the draft.

Furman starred at UNC Charlotte from day 1 and after 2 years and 420 PA there he left with a 351/482/468 slash and 71/41 BB/K.

He also got a lot of summer league action with wooden bats and against better competition. In 352 PA combined over 3 different summer leagues his bottom line is almost a copy of his college one: 344/483/453 and 66/43 BB/K

In college and summer ball combined he stole 61 bases in 70 attempts.

These numbers highlight his strengths and weaknesses. He's a consistently good contact hitter with good speed. FanGraphs grades both as potentially 70 (plus plus) at maturity. Otoh, he doesn't have any power and his EV aren't high. But, like Kwan, high end EV are less important when you consistently make solid contact. Or, as one draft profile put it: Furman consistently ranks among the elite in college baseball in terms of contact rates and chase rates. He protects the zone beautifully, even if the impact with the bat isn't quite present.

Defensively, Furman is considered a pure 2B, though some believe he'll not stick there and foresee a move to CF, so there's some Richie Palacios risk in his defense profile.

Entering his first pro season, Furman is another slasher, hit and run type prospect worth following closely. He will probably open at class A Lynchburg, but should also get significant A+ playing time if all goes according to plan.

50 RF Alexfri Planez (21.5yo, ranked 44th in 2022)

Planez is another slow burn RH power bat in the Guardians system despite being very young for every level he's played at. In terms of age/level, he was in a group of top prospects as a 20yo in A+ last year and he held his own compared to this select group.

The most encouraging development Planez accomplished was cutting down his K rate from 29% to 24% while slightly upping his BB from 3% to 4%. This improved approach helped him get to even more power (225 ISO, among the best in A+, especially in his age group). Like last year he had 40 XBH, but in fewer trips to the plate.

Despite his evident plus power and free swinging approach, Planez is not a bad hitter, as he kept his BA at a respectable 251, despite a career low BABIP (281). He continues the trend of having one of the lowest OBP, but highest ISO, but overall he remains an interesting prospect because he's not overmatched despite being so young for his levels.

Overall, Planez improved his wRc+ from 99 to 106 despite an almost 60 point BABIP drop from 2022. He will most certainly open at AA Akron as 21yo, just entering his physical maturity, so there's probably even more power upside. If he continues to hit enough while collecting XBH, Planez is another RH power bat at the upper levels that could make his way to Cleveland. Alexfri's upside is still huge and I've just successfully convinced myself that this ranking is one tier too low.

51 RF Johnathan Rodriguez (23.3yo, ranked 50th in 2022)

Johnathan Rodriguez was drafted as a very young 17yo in round 3 in 2017, so his path through the system was slow, as 2022 was only his second year in full season minors.

Starting in A+, Rodriguez enjoyed a power breakout that was long anticipated. He was one of the best power bats at the level with an ISO just under 300, hammering 21 HR and 39 XBH in just 321 trips to the plate. That sort of dominance earned him a call up to AA in early August. He struggled that month, going only 6 for 49, but he finished mighty strong in September with a 276/311/690 slash, 16 for 58, but 12 of those hits were XBH (5 HR).

On the downside, Rodriguez batted ball data got worse, probably the price for his aggressiveness swinging for power, but his 292 BA in A+ shows that it's not either/or. He's always been a good hitter and still is one.

If you look at Rodriguez' overall wRc+ by level (117, 123, 121, 133), that's a damn fine, consistent hitter. Here's what I wrote one year ago:

"So the slow burn of Rodriguez’ development has continued and he remains a prospect worth following, because he’s steadily beating the levels, but without truly breaking out. He’s above average, average or slightly below in most categories, a little better adjusted for age. He’s a steady, but unspectacular prospect with a chance of a balanced, very average toolset across the board. Good LD% and SwStr% indicate there’s potential for more, especially power in that 6’3 body. Rodriguez also has a plus arm and is a true RF fit. He’s given up switch hitting (mixed reports if he ever really did as a pro) and is now a RHB. He’s entering the physical maturation years and will open 2022 on the A+ roster at a level appropriate age, but with a bit more pressure for the bat to perform."

Hmm, does that remind you of another late blooming Guardians RF with power that was considered a fringe prospect?

There are certainly similarities between Rodriguez and O. Gonzalez. Sponge Bob had lower K rates, but also lower walk rates, so the BB/K are comparable even at its worst for Rodriguez in 2022. The September power surge gives hope that Rodriguez can crush AA too and if he does and makes it to AAA, the Guardians will have a decision to make as Rodriguez will be a minors FA after this season, so they need to roster him on their 40. Rodriguez' 2023 performance will dictate his future in this org or he could become a trade chip at the deadline, but outside of Noel, Johnathan is the only upper level RH power bat in the system, so there's a real chance Rodriguez powers his way all the way to Cleveland.

52 1B Joe Naranjo (21.8yo, ranked 53rd in 2022)

Naranjo was considered one of the best pure hitters from the HS ranks when CLE drafted him in round 3 in 2019 and signed him for over slot money. In many ways, he had the typical HS hitter profile this org keeps stockpiling: smallish, good contact hitter with some power potential down the road. Not so insignificant difference? Naranjo is not a MIF, he's only ever played 1B as a pro, so that inevitably puts much more pressure on the bat.

The org believes in Naranjo's hitting ability. They've aggressively put him on the A+ roster as a teenager in 2021, making him one of the youngest players at the level. Naranjo held his own, but didn't pass the test, and because of Noel's prospect priority at 1B, Naranjo repeated the level last year (still young for A+) and the results were much better where it mattered most for him.

Naranjo tightend up his approach and doubled his BB/K ratio. With improved selectivity came more power too as he also doubled his ISO to 179. As a consequence, Naranjo's wRc+ jumped from 84 to 120. Among almost 100 prospects within his age class (21yo and under with 200+ PA in A+), Naranjo ranked solidly in the top 20-30% in most relevant statistical categories, so in his 2nd look at the level, he beat it.

Naranjo enters this upcoming season as the starting 1B of AA Akron. He'll be still only 21yo for the start of the season and turn 22 in May, that's well ahead of the age/level curve. His improved power output keeps him relevant as a 1B prospect, especially as he earned the minors Gold Glove honors last year.

Double A will be an important test for Naranjo. He was supposed to be hit over power, but as his power is coming along, the contact part isn't quite as advertised yet. There are glimpses and flashes of a good hitter, but the consistency isn't there yet and there's still too much swing and miss in his profile. If Naranjo can carry over his approach and power while consistently making more contact, he will be a big riser in the system. He's on the verge of a breakout, watch out.

53 OF Jorge Burgos (21.1yo, ranked 43rd in 2022)

Burgos was an under the radar signing from the 2018 IFA class which featured Gabriel Rodriguez and Junior Sanquintin. Before last season this class looked bleak next to the strong 2017 class, but it's slowly catching up with the breakout of Angel Martinez and the re-emergence of G. Rodriguez. Pop up CF prospect Wuilfredo Antunez is another member of this class and adds intrigue, then there's also the steady Dayan Frias. Might be a good class after all.

Anyway, quietly, the athletic 6'0 Burgos is the other steady Eddie of the class like his teammate Frias. The LHB keeps beating every level he's played at while being about a year younger than the average at every stop. Burgos' athleticism helps him play every OF spot.

He's every bit his 114 wRc+ he delivered last season, as in: statistically above average everywhere. Only his power is below average, though he hit 6 HR after only 1 in his entire pro career before.

Burgos is your prototypical Guardians slasher type hitting prospect. He's improved from his groundball heavy style in rookie ball towards more linedrives and flyballs and continuing this development trend will be key for him and his power output. Looking at his career BA and batted ball data, it's safe to say that Burgos has an easy 55 hit tool ceiling, so if he can get his power to a decent 40 with 50 speed/field, you're looking at a useful 4th OF profile.

Jorge "Diesel" Burgos. Nobody talks about him, he doesn't have pedigree, he doesn't have hype helium, but he just keeps on trucking and delivers on time. Next stop in 2023: Lake County

54 RHP Dylan Delucia (22.5yo)

Delucia was the Guardians 6th rd pick in last year's draft, another excellent mid round value selection. After two strong seasons at JuCo powerhouse NW Florida State (1.91 ERA, 0.93 WHIP in 127 IP with 163/32 K/BB), Delucia transfered to the SEC and pitched for Mississippi and ended up winning the CWS with them after a strong season. He threw a complete game shutout in the semis vs Arkansas and became the first SEC pitcher since 1993 to accomplish that.

The 6'1/205 Delucia has been remarkably durable in college. He has been used mostly as a SP, but also multi innings reliever. Delucia is straight out of central casting for Guardians college pitchers. He has very good control and commands his FB well. He sits low 90s and has both a two and four seamer (t94), has an above average secondary (SL) and a workable changeup. He's known as a fierce competitor and has performed at a very high level.

We've read this sort of profile before. All it takes is a slight velo uptick here or a new pitch or wrinkle there and Delucia becomes the next pitching factory product. The added intangibles increase the chances of Delucia developing further and turn into an even better pro pitcher than in college.Worth noting that the Guardians added two more college SP with similar traits in Austin Peterson (9th rd) and Jack Jasiak (12th), so they keep adding and stockpile those profiles. And why not?

Delucia could easily skip low A and go straight to A+ to debut but the SP depth already in the pipeline could push him to Lynchburg first. Regardless, Delucia is a very interesting SP talent, who's development is worth following closely this year.

55 RHP Ross Carver (23.4yo)

Carver was the trade return for long time intriguing CLE RHP prospect Carlos Vargas, who hung around a couple of years on the 40 roster, but just as he was close to debuting, he ran out of time in the org. This deal wasn't fair on talent, CLE simply needed a roster spot and preemptively got as good as they could back. They basically traded a 40 spot for a lotto ticket who still has 2 seasons of development left before a roster decision needs to be made.

Carver was drafted by Arizona in the last round (20th) of the 2021 draft and signed for only 50K. He was drafted before out of JuCo, but didn't sign and went to RP University Dallas Baptist. But there, he only pitched a total of 19 wild innings in two seasons, so I'd speculate injuries were the main culprit.

Carver had a strong start to his 2022 season as he was one of the better A+ pitchers with 80+ IP (3rd out of 90 in WHIP). After 15 starts at that level, he got the call to AA. He got 9 starts there and got bombed, allowing 15 HRs in 36 IP which led to a ridiculous 31.3% HR/FB rate. But Carver also struggled with command. While his BB/9 looks acceptable (3.75), he hit an additional 10 batters. So as good as Carver's start to the 2022 was, as bad was his finish.

But, considering he barely pitched in his last 2 years before, the 117 IP from last year was a huge bump in innings, so his bad finish arguably could be the result of fatigue.

Like most arms from Dallas Baptist, Carver features a heavy FB that sits in the mid 90s. His best secondary is a slutter and he mixes in a curve. Considering this stuff and control problems, Carver is destined to a bullpen role, where his velocity could reach another gear. That's his ticket to the show, unless of course the Guardians development system reverse-engineers Carver into another Bibee. That's always a possibility. But if Carver concentrates on his plus FB/SL combo, he can carve out a significant future MLB bullpen role, cool name and all.

56 LHP Rodney Boone (22.8yo, ranked 62nd in 2022)

Rodney Boone is good, really good. That's what I thought pre-draft 2021 and why he was one of my favorite day 2 targets. He was widely seen as a 5-7 rd talent, so I was elated CLEFO somehow got him late in round 8. Boone was one of 5 Big West Conference selections from that draft (4 pitchers and CF Kokx), which is obviously a conference they like.

The 6'1 Boone went to UCSB, which is Shane Bieber's alma mater. He had a stellar career there, with both performance and durability. So why did he drop to round 8 again? For one, it was the first draft after the shortend 2020, so the mid round college talent pool got almost doubled since the prior draft only lasted 5 rounds. And, of course: Boone was pitchability over velocity. No velo, no love. We know by now that this is exactly the talent pool CLEFO is fishing in on day 2 and 3 of the draft.

So how was his first pro year? Boone simply dominated class A. He was top 5 or top 10 (out of 350+ P) in every imaginable stat, which is incredible. From K/BB to WHIP (on a 313 BABIP!), ERA etc. He was 3rd in FIP, behind only STL top prospect Tink Hence and fellow teammate Jack Leftwich and even 3rd best in SwStr%, so both pitchability and stuff.

So after only 10 starts, Boone was promoted to A+ Lake County. There, he struggled for the first time in his career, mixing good with very bad starts in his first 7 starts. But then, he quickly adjusted and finished dominating there too. In his last 6 starts, covering 33 innings, Boone delivered a 3.00 ERA with an insane 44/4 K/BB.

Scouts still don't like him, because he sits 86mph (according to FG), but they also acknowledge that he has a bunch of good secondaries, especially his changeup. Boone was 87-91 in college, so his reported 86 avg seems suspect. Maybe he didn't throw harder because he got great results anyway?

It's noteworthy that Boone allowed many more HR after the promotion (11 to 2), so that suggests better hitters will crush him going up the ladder. But otoh, Boone has everything else but FB velocity and he's a SP prospect in a system known for generating upticks. If Boone can get in the 88-92 range, it might be enough to elevate him from interesting depth prospect to viable ML rotation candidate. Boone's profile reminds me of Joey Cantillo's, who saw a significant velo uptick in this system. We've seen this before, we're seeing this sort of development every year in this org. So why not another Big West arm in Rodney Boone, he's really good.

57 CF Guy Lipscomb Jr. (21.9yo, 2022 5th rd pick}

Gotta love a guy named Guy. CLEFO certainly did and picked their Guy, Lipscomb, in round 5 of the last draft out of Belmont university, making him the highest picked player out of Belmont since 1975. Lipscomb (along with 4th rd Furman) was one of my favorite college bats in the draft. He was widely ranked as a mid to late 2nd day pick (rd 6-9), so CLE secured him sooner and got him to sign below slot.

Lipscomb was a true Sophomore and played only 2 years in the OVC conference. After a meh and part time FR season, he exploded in 2022 with a 406/484/548 line and 42/48 in stolen bases. Oh, and of course he barely struck out and walked more (29/18 BB/K). So your typical CLE college bat target.

Lipscomb's profile is very similar to the other college day 2 CF they've drafted and successfully developed lately (Kwan, Brennan, Kokx). Contact and speed but no power. Guy jr has easy plus plus speed as his best tool. With no wooden bats summer league track record and only one successful college season, CLE is taking a risk on how real Lipscomb's contact ability really is. He's 6'2/195, so he's got the frame to add more power to his game and his speed gives him a leg up to remain in CF.

All in all, Lipscomb represents a rare piece of developmental clay for a college draftee. From his small school background, to age/class, frame and athleticism. Everything about this profile hints at hidden upside. With that comes risk of course and probably a slower path through the minors. Considering the sudden OF depth throughout the Guardians system, Lipscomb will most probably start his pro career in class A Lynchburg.

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