As we continue our coverage of the upcoming 2023 MLB draft, which begins July 9th, I’ll be reviewing three of the last four 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 three years ago, so just add three 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 then played 38 games at Single-A Lynchburg in 2022.
He’s repeating this season at Lynchburg in his age-21 season and his numbers have improved in a small sample size, but he’s still striking out at a whopping 39% through 11 games played and already has made a nearly two-month stint on the injured list.
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 pitched the entire 2022 season at Double-A Akron, where he had a respectable 3.55 ERA and struck out 9.34 batters per nine innings. He repeated this season at Akron and his numbers have improved, dropping his ERA to 3.39 and his walk rate by about half of a batter per nine innings. He could be in line for a promotion to Triple-A soon.
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.
In 2022, Allen was straight up dominant at Double-A, striking out 10 or more batters in an outing three times, which earned him a promotion to Triple-A. He struggled at Triple-A last season but bounced back this year, looking spectacular and earning a promotion to Cleveland, where he had a 3.47 ERA over 12 starts before being sent back to Triple-A to help manage his innings load. With Cal Quantrill’s recent injury, Allen could be back in Cleveland after the All-Star break.
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 in 2021, where he impressed with a 117 wRC+ as a 19-year-old.
Halpin was promoted to High-A Lake County in 2022, where he’s was above average, slashing .262/.347/.385, which was good for a 107 wRC+. He again was promoted to Double-A to begin this season and has struggled out of the gate, posting a career-high 23.4% strikeout rate while dropping his walk rate nearly two percentage points. He currently has an 86 wRC+ in Akron but at least has stayed healthy all season
5 (124). Milan Tolentino. SS/LHH. Age 18. $800K bonus.
Originally expected to be a glove-first middle infield prospect, Tolentino impressed on offense early in his 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 regressed.
He finished 2022 with a 97 wRC+ at Lake County and repeated this year at High-A, where he currently has a 95 wRC+ while slashing .225/.323/.347. He’ll need to do more if he wants to stand out from the crowded pack of middle infield prospects in Cleveland’s system.
6 (154). Mason Hickman. RHP. Age 21. $340K bonus.
A starting pitcher at Vanderbilt, Mason Hickman was tossed into the fire 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 repeated 2022 at High-A, where his strikeout rate increased from 26% to an elite 31%, but his walk rate also has increased and he was more hittable. Cleveland converted him to a reliever and he took off, dominating and earning a promotion to Double-A, where he had a 2.77 ERA over 10 games. He’s repeated at Double-A this season, dropping his walk rate and increasing his strikeout rate, although he’s been more hittable with a 3.93 ERA. The good news is his FIP is 1.36 runs lower than last year at Double-A.
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 at High-A Lake County in 2021, he helped out the younger pitching staff at regular Single-A Lynchburg in 2022 and followed them to Lake County this season, where he currently has an 86 wRC+.
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 in 2022, whiffing 44 batters in just 24 innings, earning a promotion to Double-A Akron.
The highlight of his young career was making Team Canada in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, where he pitched 1.0 inning and had a strikeout. He repeated this season at Double-A, dropped his walk rate by 1.5 batters per nine innings and was promoted to Triple-A in early June, where he’s still settling in.
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 in 2021. He pitched at Lake County, Akron and Columbus in 2022, but was primarily used to help fill gaps in the system. He pitched at three different levels this season before testing positive for a banned substance and had an 80-game suspension announced this past June.
Alonzo Richardson. RHP. Age 17.
Originally a high school shortstop, Cleveland transitioned Richardson to a starting pitcher with mixed results. He led the Arizona Complex League with a 1.93 ERA last season over 37.1 innings before being promoted to full-season ball at Single-A Lynchburg.
He’s struggled since, seeing his strikeout rate drop to 6.82/9 last season and then fall even further to 4.97/9 this year while repeating at Lynchburg. He currently has a 5.99 ERA through 15 starts and 70.2 innings pitched after going through a rough patch in June.
AAA: 1 (Logan Allen - 40-man roster, Cade Smith)
AA: 1 (Tanner Burns, Petey Halpin, Mason Hickman)
A+: 1 (Milan Tolentino, Joe Donovan)
A: 1 (Carson Tucker, Alonzo Richardson)
Suspended: 1 (Jaime Arias)
Signed players/Still in the organization (10/10)