Lake County is the High-A affiliate of the Cleveland Guardians, which is three stops away from players making their MLB debuts.
The 2022 Captains finished an impressive 76-53, which was the best record in the Midwest League. The team was hurt by late-season promotions of some of its best pitching talent.
Here’s my best guess at what Lake County’s opening day lineup could look like today.
- Juan Brito, 2B
- Milan Tolentino, SS
- Jake Fox, CF
- Joe Lampe, RF
- Isaiah Greene, LF
- Junior Sanquintin, 1B
- Dayan Frias, 3B
- Will Bartlett, DH
- Joe Donovan, C
That’s a pretty damn impressive lineup, and it doesn’t even include one of the top Cleveland outfield prospects, Chase DeLauter, who is expected to miss at least another month after offseason toe surgery. I’d like to announce in advance that I’m nicknaming this team “Team BOB” due to the ridiculous amount of patience exhibited by the hitters in previous seasons.
Juan Brito walked at a 15.7% clip at Single-A last season, then led all of MLB in walks during spring training this year. Considering he’s already on the 40-man roster, I don’t expect him to stay in High-A for long, especially if he gets off to a hot start.
Milan Tolentino also walked at a 15% clip last season at both Single-A and High-A, although his strikeout rate spiked to above 30% at High-A as well. Jake Fox walked at a 15.7% clip at Lynchburg last year while stealing 21 bases and sporting a 118 wRC+.
Joe Lampe was Cleveland’s third-round pick in 2022 and got to play three games at Lynchburg last season and impressed Cleveland brass during spring training. He is the only 2022 draft pick to begin the season at High-A.
One of the prep returns in the Francisco Lindor trade, Isaiah Greene walked at a whopping 20.4% rate in 2022 at Lynchburg, although he still needs to work on his hit tool. Junior Sanquintin is a former bonus baby international middle infielder who has since converted to mashing first baseman.
Dayan Frias also is a top international middle infield prospect and was just barely below average last season at Lynchburg in his full-season debut.
Here’s my best guess at the team’s starting rotation to begin the year.
- Tommy Mace
- Rodney Boone
- Will Dion
- Aaron Davenport
- Ryan Webb
- Trenton Denholm/Reid Johnston
Cleveland still has high hopes for Tommy Mace, a second-round competitive balance pick, who perhaps was given a bit too high of a push last season by skipping straight to High-A, where he struggled with a 4.55 ERA, failed to miss bats and lost a tick or two on his fastball. Hopefully, the Cleveland pitching factory has patched him up over the offseason.
Rodney Boone absolutely dominated at Lynchburg last season and was one of the first players promoted in the Cleveland system, but he struggled at High-A as his strikeout rate dipped, his walk rate doubled and his ERA nearly tripled over a span of 13 starts.
Will Dion AKA “Baby Kershaw” also was sensational at Lynchburg and earned a late-season promotion to Lake County. He actually pitched even better after being promoted, but it was in a limited sample size of two starts and he could still use some experience at this level before moving on.
Aaron Davenport pitched an entire season at High-A, but he failed to stand out, walking 4.4 batters per nine innings and sporting a 4.21 ERA over 23 starts spanning 107 innings. Cleveland is hoping he can take a leap before moving on to Double-A.
Ryan Webb returned from Tommy John surgery and posted a filthy strikeout rate at Lynchburg last season, but he also struggled with his command, which is common among TJ recoveries. If fully healthy, he could be one of the top arms to keep an eye on this season at any level.
Both Trenton Denholm and Reid Johnston had flashes of brilliance last season and some inconsistent bits. One will start and the other will probably piggyback until someone can stand out from the crowd.
The most intriguing bullpen arms are former top starting pitching prospects Lenny Torres Jr. and Josh Wolf. Sergio Morillo throws wicked heat and Alaska Abney looked terrific out of the pen last season so don’t expect him to stay in Lake County for long.