It is an incredibly exciting time to be a Cleveland Guardians fan, and more specifically, the Guardians’ farm system. They already have one of the deepest farm systems in the league, and now get to add a group of very talented prospects next July in the 2024 MLB Draft, including the #1 overall pick. If you want to get more familiar with some of the prospects that the Guardians could select there, you can read this article below from Brendan Walsh. My personal favorite is JJ Wetherholt, but a lot can change in the next 8 months.
Now, back to talking about the prospects in our super deep farm system. There are a couple really exciting players on this list, one of them that could have a big impact on the MLB club this season. Here is how I view prospects 16-20.
16. OF Johnathan Rodriguez:
A third round pick by Cleveland in the 2017 draft, Rodriguez started his career as a switch hitter, until he decided to just focus on hitting exclusively from the right side in 2019. He was always an interesting prospect because of the raw power but he had a great season in 2022 when he hit .292/.346/.573 with a 148 WRC+ in 321 plate appearances at High-A Lake County in 2022.
In 2023, Rodriguez broke out in a huge way, slashing 286/.368/.529 with 29 home runs between AA Akron and AAA Columbus. Rodriguez lead the whole Guardians’ farm system in Batting Average, Hits, Home Runs, RBIs, OPS, WRC+, wOBA, and ISO. Between his 91.5 average exit velocity, 113.3 max exit velocity, and his 13.9% barrel rate, it’s clear that his power is very real.
So what is stopping him from being a top 5-10 prospect? a 32.7% K% in AAA certainly doesn’t help. While the power is very real, the hit tool and the plate discipline are both lacking. a 24% zone whiff rate in AAA is rough, and even though he’s been able to walk a good amount in the minors, I’m not sure how much that will translate to the MLB level with a 33% chase rate. The defense in the OF also is not very good, he does have a great arm though. I think Rodriguez can succeed, and I’m very excited to see if he can make an impact next season, he has clearly earned the opportunity to show what he can do.
17. 3B Dayan Frias:
Dayan Frias is one of my favorite prospects in the system. It was always unlikely, but I am very glad that he wasn’t taken by another organization in the rule 5 draft. After playing a bunch of SS/2B in his first couple seasons, Frias switched to 3B full time in 2023, and he was really good at it.
Frias had been on some Guardians’ fans radar the past couple years because of how well he has performed in the Colombian Winter League, and he even started for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic. We have just been waiting for him to put it together for a full season, and in 2023, he finally did. He slashed .260/.356/.426 with a 120 WRC+, good for 4th best in the entire farm system. What really got my attention is that after hitting 10 combined Home Runs in his first three seasons, he hit 11 in only 397 plate appearances last season. If Frias performs similarly in AA next season, he could easily jump up into the top 10 prospects for the Guardians.
18. SP Justin Campbell:
I was so excited to watch Justin Campbell in Lake County last season, I was pretty devastated when we were informed that he would be out for the season due to ulnar neuritis in his throwing elbow. Assuming he makes a full recovery and is back to start the season, he is one of the players I am most looking forward to watching.
The Guardians selected Campbell 37th overall in the 2022 draft from Oklahoma State, where he pitched to a 3.82 ERA and had 141 strikeouts to 25 walks in 101 innings pitched. Right now, he is your typical Guardians type pitcher, really good command and control with good secondary pitches. While his fastball currently sits around 91-93, his 6 foot 7 frame has a lot of scouts and evaluators thinking that there is plenty more velocity in the tank. We know how good the Guardians are at increasing pitcher’s velocity through various types of strength training. If Campbell performs how I expect him to next season, look for him to jump into the top 10 and maybe even the top 5 next season.
19. Parker Messick:
The Guardians selected Parker Messick 54th overall out of Florida State in the 2022 MLB Draft, and he had a great debut season. The stats will say that he struggled to adjust after his promotion to High-A, but those numbers were heavily inflated by his first two starts there. Despite the large gap in ERA, I actually came away more impressed after watching Messick in High-A than I was watching him in Single A. He was top 5 among all Guardians minor league pitchers in almost every single pitching statistic you can think of. He is yet another low velocity pitcher with great command/control and plus secondary pitches, mainly his changeup. He has a highly deceptive delivery, which makes his 89-91 mph fastball a little harder to square up. He has touched 93-94 a few times, and if he can get there consistently, it could raise his ceiling a ton. I’m very excited to see what Messick can do next season in AA Akron.
Parker Messick was s out again for the @LCCaptains, whiffing a career-high 11 over 5 scoreless frames.— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 9, 2023
The past 2 starts for the @CleGuardians' No. 16 prospect:
17 K pic.twitter.com/kgCZAxpnZW
20. SP Will Dion:
Will Dion, also known as baby Kershaw, just continues to shove. Selected in the 9th round in the 2021 draft, Dion is yet another typical Guardians pitcher with great command/control and plus secondary pitches. This ranking may be viewed as too high for some, and I get it, but it is impossible to ignore what he has done. Dion lead the entire farm system in ERA, FIP, xFIP, K/BB%, AVG, and WHIP last season. It’s hard to believe he’s been as dominant as he has with a fastball that sits around 88-90 mph. Maybe with some more velocity training this offseason, he can get up to 91-93, but until then, it’s hard to think of his ceiling as anything more than a 4th/5th starter. It will be very interesting to see how he performs in AAA Columbus next season, We’ve seen that jump be tough for some Guardians pitchers, I’m excited to see how he handles it.
#Guardians 23yr old LHP prospect Will Dion has a 1.59 ERA over his last 6 starts which included an 8 strikeout performance yesterday for Akron against Richmond.— Guardians Prospective (@CleGuardPro) September 6, 2023
Line - 5.0(IP) 2H 1R 1ER 0BB 8SO (79 Pitches 48 Strikes)
Last 6 - 28.1(IP) 25H 6R 5ER 7BB 33SO 1.59 ERA#ForTheLand pic.twitter.com/weaQJufNjv