Cleveland Guardians 2021 MLB Draft Report Card
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Best Pure Hitter: The Guardians took just two hitters in their 2021 draft class, so shortstop Jake Fox (3) is the easy nod here. He’s got a good hitting eye, loose swing and solid bat path and had a loud pro debut as well, hitting .405/.469/.429 in 13 games in the Arizona Complex League. He’s got a chance for an above-average bat, while outfielder Connor Kokx (12) had a breakout season with Long Beach State and could get to an average bat.
Best Power Hitter: Kokx hit seven home runs this spring with Long Beach State and has above-average raw power in the tank. Catcher Seth Caddell (NDFA) is coming off a 14-homer season with East Carolina and is worth mentioning as well.
Fastest Runner: Fox is a plus runner who went a perfect 7-for-7 in stolen base attempts during his pro debut, while Kokx is more of an above-average runner who went 5-for-6 (83.3%) in stolen base attempts in the Arizona Complex League. He also stole 14 bags in 17 tries (82.3%) this spring with Long Beach State.
Best Defensive Player: While Cleveland took just two hitters, both have a chance to be solid defenders at premium, up-the-middle positions. Fox could be an average shortstop but might be a better fit at second base thanks to fringy arm strength, but he could work to 60-grade defense at the keystone. Kokx has solid running ability and outfield instincts to be average or a tick better in center field, though he’s played all three outfield positions.
Best Fastball: Righthander Gavin Williams (1) had one of the best fastballs in the entire 2021 draft class and grades out exceptionally well across the board—in terms of velocity, spin, extension and performance generating whiffs in college. Righthander Franco Aleman (10) was previously a two-seam pitcher, but he transitioned to more of a four-seam fastball this spring with Florida, and is regularly in the upper-90s, while lefthander Doug Nikhazy (2) excels with riding life up in the zone from a high slot that is deceptive and helps him generate tons of whiffs.
Best Secondary Pitch: Williams has a chance for multiple plus pitches between his upper-70s curveball and mid-80s slider. Both pitches could have a case for this category, with his curveball perhaps being ahead now. Righthander Aaron Davenport (6) has a vertical hammer of a curveball in the upper 70s with plenty of spin, while lefthander Rodney Boone (8) and righthander Trenton Denholm (14) both bring plus changeups to the table.
Best Pro Debut: The Guardians were conservative with their assignments this summer given the late draft date, with just five players activated this year. Fox impressed with his contact ability and an .898 OPS, while Davenport struck out 38.9% of the batters he faced in Rookie Ball and Low-A while upping his velocity as well. If Cleveland had to go with just one player for this category, it might be RHP Alaska Abney (15), who posted a 0.56 ERA over 16 innings with a 34.9 K% and 11 BB% between the ACL and Low-A East. Abney would run away with ‘best name’ if that were a category as well.
Best Athlete: Fox is a plus athlete who doesn’t have much competition on the position player side of things for this category.
Most Intriguing Background: The background of Cleveland’s class itself is intriguing, with 19 of the team’s 21 picks being pitchers from four-year colleges. From an individual player perspective, righthander Jake Miller’s (20) father Michael played in the NFL. Fox’s father played pro baseball and now runs a baseball academy, while Boone is partially deaf and has a cochlear implant.
Closest To The Majors: Williams has explosive stuff and could miss high-level bats extremely quickly (or right now), while Nikhazy and righthander Tommy Mace (2s) have the sort of advanced feel for pitching that could have them moving fast through the system as well.
Best Late-Round Pick (Or NDFA): Cleveland is excited about a number of their day three picks, led by Miller, who was their final pick of the draft but signed for $300,000 and was seen as an easy day two talent. Denholm’s strike throwing ability pairs nicely with Cleveland’s track record of pitching development and he’s shown better velocity recently—sitting near 93 mph. Righthander Tommy Ventimiglia (19) has upside potential with a great frame and makeup, while righthander Hunter Stanley (11) had one of the best strikeout-to-walk rates in the nation this spring.
The One Who Got Away: Cleveland signed each of its 21 draft picks.