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Cleveland Guardians 2022 Top 10 MLB Prospects Chat

Brayan Rocchio (Photo by Mike Janes/Four Seam)

Following today's release of our new Guardians Top 10, Teddy Cahill answered your questions below. 

Teddy Cahill: Welcome to this year's Guardians' prospects chat. You've got questions, so let's get to them

Kyle Weatherly (Timmonsville, South Carolina):

    George Valera absolutely killed the pitching in A+ before moving up to AA where he slowed down. Having said all that he had a great year. Could he be a future star for the Guardians?

Teddy Cahill: Sure. He's had that potential since he signed in 2017 and there were Juan Soto comps thrown around. At that time, I don't think people that were using that comp realized that Soto would become a superstar as fast as he has and obviously Valera isn't on that accelerated track for a variety of reasons, but he can be a prototypical corner outfielder, middle-of-the-order hitter for the Guardians.

Kristin (San Diego,CA):

    Who should play 1st base for the Guardians in 2022? I am not sold that Bobby Bradley can be good enough.

Teddy Cahill: Realistically, you're looking at Bradley, maybe Josh Naylor or Nolan Jones, if the Guardians were limited to what's on their roster now. But once the lockout ends and free agency opens again, there are options to be had. They've gone that route before - Yonder Alonso, for instance - and maybe they look to bring in someone like Travis Shaw as more depth in case Bradley can't make the jump. That said, there's really no harm in giving him the ABs at the start of the season to see whether he can do it or not.

Elliot (Youngstown OH):

    I'm surprised that Angel Martinez, who had a weak second half in Low A, makes the top 10 ahead of Jose Tena who came on strong and won the minor league gold glove at SS. Or would you disagree with that award?

Teddy Cahill: I think you can make a case either way on Martinez vs. Tena. Tena certainly closed strong (and I'm much more interested in his AFL batting title than an MiLB fielding award) and if you get the handbook you'll probably see how close that call was reflected in the full top 30.

Elliot (Youngstown OH):

    Daniel Espino really racked up the srikeouts last summer and that earned him your Number 2 ranking in a strong field. Nothing wrong with a "strong throwing mid rotation starter" but you don't see as a good candidate for a No. 2?

Teddy Cahill: I think he's a candidate for an ace, tbh.

Michael (Raleigh):

    Tanner Burns had a solid if not spectacular season at High A. Given Cleveland's propensity to successfully develop unheralded prospects into MLB pitchers, what do you expect Burns' future will be? Many thanks.

Teddy Cahill: I don't really think Tanner Burns qualifies as unheralded - he was the 36th overall pick in last year's draft after all - but he has solid upside. I think he fits well with what Cleveland wants to do on the mound and he has a long track record of success. I'm excited to see what he does at the upper levels this year.

Ken (Lakewood CA):

    Always love the BA Prospect Chats. Thank you. Cleveland seems to have organizational upper level of prospects and have done a good job of building it. But they have fielded a poor OF line up at the major league level for the last few seasons. One of the things that has held them back, in my opinion. And Valera is the only quality OF prospect in their Top 10. Assuming money is an issue for this organization, but where is the future OF going to come from other than Valera? Trades? Or am I missing something?

Teddy Cahill: No, you've identified a question that has plagued Cleveland for several years now. But the thing is the organization previously put a lot of capital into the outfield - it took Tyler Naquin, Clint Frazier, Bradley Zimmer and Will Benson in the first round in a five year span. Cleveland also has tried the trade market - Oscar Mercado, Franmil Reyes, Josh Naylor, Myles Straw - with mixed results. So, I guess my point is, they've tried to find some answers and they'll keep trying. Whether that comes internally or externally, there are a lot of ways to go about this and just having outfielders in the top 10 doesn't guarantee their success.

James (North Carolina):

    I was surprised to see Joey Cantillo left unprotected from the rule 5 draft and then equally surprised to see him passed over. Does he still have a good chance to reach his ceiling or should I temper my expectations? Was the performance in AA the reason for the snub?

Teddy Cahill: To clarify - Cantillo has not yet been passed over in the Rule 5 draft. The Rule 5 draft that was held was the minor league version. Cantillo is eligible in the major league version, which won't be held until after the lockout ends. Pretty much, he got caught in a roster crunch in Cleveland. The Guardians found room to add 11 players to their 40-man roster in November, which is an absurdly high number. But they had even more quality candidates to add to the roster. Cantillo having missed almost all season due to injury and not having huge, huge stuff left him on the outside looking in. I'll be interested to see if any team takes him in the Rule 5 and then what it looks like if he does end up on a big league roster.

Roger (Cleveland):

    What does the future hold for Bryan Lavastida? Given the Guardians' affinity for catchers with plus framing skills, does Lavastida proficient enough behind the plate to think he could be a possible long-term answer?

Teddy Cahill: I think the jury is very much still out. Lavastida forced his way onto the 40-man with the way he played this year but he's still new to catching and is still learning. We also don't know how important some of those skills will be in the near-ish future if MLB goes to an automated strike zone. So, for now, you let him keep working on his catching and hope he makes the strides you're looking for and, if not, you have an athletic, versatile player who has a long track record for hitting who can at least be a backup catcher.

Elliot (Youngstown OH):

    Does Steven Kwan have defensive skills to be a big league left fielder? Was his 2021 the real thing -- he wasn't even on the top 30 last season, how high should we expect to find him on the 2022 list?

Teddy Cahill: Defense is not the concern for Kwan. He has very good instincts in the outfield and he has enough speed for left field for sure, and probably for center field too. The bigger question has always been his impact potential offensively. Was this year real? That's the big question. He hit and he hit for surprising power - but he did it in two offensive ballparks. The Guardians are willing to bet that he can repeat it, that's why he's on the 40-man, but we'll have to wait and see what it looks like at the big league level.

John W. (Maryland):

    Is Daniel Espino at least a full year away from reaching the majors, or could he ripen on the vine sooner? Potentially, who is the better prospect: Espino or Gavin Williams?

Teddy Cahill: Right now, I'd say Espino won't play in Cleveland in 2022. He has yet to throw 100 innings in a season, he has yet to see Double-A and he doesn't turn 21 until next month. But the thing about elite prospects is sometimes they simply force the issue and you can't really slow them down. So, is there a scenario where Espino simply blows through Akron and Columbus and gets to Cleveland down the stretch? I could probably craft it, but I think you're looking at him in 2023, realistically.

Adam (Boston):

    I'm very surprised Peyton Battenfield did not make the top 10. Any reason why? Seems close to the majors with mid rotation upside

Teddy Cahill: It's a hard top 10 to crack. Basically it comes down to that. He's a good prospect, there are just are more than 10 good candidates for the Top 10 in this system.

Sam (NYC):

    Hi - Thanks for the chat - What happened to Aaron Bracho??? He had a disappointing season, to put it lightly - What does he need to do to regain his luster? Thanks

Teddy Cahill: It's pretty simple - he needs to hit. One of the things that was talked about him the most at the outset of his career was his approach and discipline and that seemed to fall apart this year at Lake County. He needs to find a way to get back to being that kind of hitter to get back to where he was a couple years ago. Now, that said, he's been banged up and the lost 2020 season clearly didn't help. He really needs ABs. But at this point, 2022 looks like a pretty big year for him.

John (arizona):

    Do see Tucker Halpin and Greene playing in Low A or High A together?

Teddy Cahill: I don't think so. Tucker only played six games, while Halpin went off for about 55 games in low A. So, I think Halpin is going to be a level ahead of Tucker (and Greene, who didn't yet make it out of the AZL).

Isaiah Greene (#11-15?):

    After being traded from the Mets as part of the Lindor deal I performed well in my first taste of pro ball at the complex league. Am I somewhere in #11-15 range? Do scouts still see me as a Garrett Anderson/Michael Brantley type player? Would a 55 hit/50 power/55 speed projection be reasonable?

Teddy Cahill: Speaking of Isaiah Green - man is he tricky to deal with. It was a nice debut in the AZL this summer. But I would really have liked to see an ISO of more than .079 and it would have been nice to see Greene get to a higher level, though this is just part of the deal with no NYPL. So, count me as a little more skeptical right now, but he has a very intriguing skillset overall.

Casey J (Bothell, Wa):

    I'm curious as to what went into the decision on Freeman at 1, and Espino at 2? At a glance, it looks like a classic "certainty and floor" case vs an "upside with risk" guy, but does Freeman have more upside than I think, or is Espino's upside not as massive as I think? Thanks, Teddy. I appreciate the chat!

Teddy Cahill: I don't think there's a clear No. 1 in the system. I think you can make a fine case for any of Freeman, Espino, Valera and Rocchio. I went with Freeman ahead of Espino in part because of his proximity to the big leagues and the higher floor you get with a middle infielder who's proven himself as a hitter at every level vs. a hard-throwing righthander who hasn't yet advanced to the upper levels of the system. But if you prefer it to be flipped or even to put Rocchio or Valera at No. 1, I would understand where you're coming from.

Joe c (PA):

    What can we expect from Nolan Jones moving forward? Or in 2022 more acutely

Teddy Cahill: There might be no more important question in the system than this one going into 2022. If Jones can get back to what he was a couple years ago, it would go a long way to filling one of the holes in the Guardians' lineup. If he could take over in left field or at first base, it would be great news for Cleveland. But after a disappointing 2021, there's no way to know if that's going to happen this year. This is a very, very important year for Jones and his career in Cleveland.

Tony Mollica (Athens, Ohio):

    What player would you foresee being the "face of the franchise" for the Guardians five years from now?

Teddy Cahill: I'll take Triston McKenzie. But hopefully the Guardians find a way to keep at least one of Bieber and Ramirez around that long.

Bo Naylor (AA):

    Do I see time in the Majors in 2022?

Teddy Cahill: I'll say no, but I wouldn't be stunned if it ultimately happened. Naylor will have to be added to the 40-man roster after the season (assuming no rules changes for the Rule 5 draft in the new CBA), so if come August or September he's playing well and the Guardians have a need behind the plate, why not? But they've been pretty cautious with his work load and catching is a very difficult position, so I'd expect it to happen in 2023, not 2022.

Elliot (Youngstown OH):

    Xvanion Curry was a surprise. His numbers really impressed bu he can't to improve on his size. The curse of the short right-hander: is he good enough to have a shot to be a back of the rotation starter

Teddy Cahill: I first saw Curry pitch when he was in high school and I was very impressed then. He's always had a good feel for pitching, but the size makes it easy to overlook him at times. What he did in 2021 was really loud and you have to take him seriously as someone who can help the Guardians in some capacity. Is that starting? Maybe, but obviously that's a hard group to break into in Cleveland. His height is his height, but he does a really good job of shaping his pitches and playing them off each other to get the most out of his stuff.

Elliot (Youngstown OH):

    What relievers do see on the rise? How about Nick Mikolajchak?

Teddy Cahill: The last couple years have seen Cleveland graduate ready made relievers like Classe, Karinchak and Sandlin. I don't see a guy like that this year - at least not in the prominent, back-of-the-bullpen profile those guys fit. Mikolajchak is encouraging, for sure, and I think Will Dion was an interesting pick up in this year's draft class.

Patton (Berwyn):

    What does Jhonkensy Noel need to improve to become a major league regular. Thanks

Teddy Cahill: Like most big, young power hitters, it starts with his control of the strike zone. There's always going to be swing-and-miss in his game and that's ok, but the more he's able to refine his approach to limit it and make as much hard contact as possible, the better he'll be. He's potentially facing a tough profile as a right-right hitter whose value is mostly tied up in his bat. It just puts more pressure on him to keep hitting and hitting for power the way he did in 2021.

John (Strongsville, OH):

    The Guardians' 2020 first-round pick, Carson Tucker, has played just six professional games. He's still quite young, however. What is the injury update--and upside--of Tucker at this point?

Teddy Cahill: Tucker's upside hasn't really changed since he was drafted in the first round. He has an exciting set of all-around tools and a chance to stick at shortstop. He had the misfortune of the 2020 minor league season being canceled and then was sidelined most of this year with a hand injury. The good news is he'll play all of next season as a 20-year-old, so he'll be able to make up for the lost time.

Bill B (Glen Allen, VA):

    As a lifelong fan of Cleveland, with low payroll and a good (not great minor league system), looks like some lean years ahead. If you were GM, would you trade minor league SS depth for mid level major league arms from other teams or try a different tactic? Just seems that others in the division are passing us by. Thanks

Teddy Cahill: Considering Cleveland's ability to develop pitching, I would not be trading for major league arms. You get Bieber back this year and I like my chances with him fronting a rotation that includes Quantrill, Plesac, Civale and McKenzie with plenty of other options and Clase at the back end. No, if I'm trading from the middle-infield depth, I'm looking for bats, ideally in the outfield, but I'd be open to any ideas. The division is more competitive today than it was a few years ago - the White Sox and Tigers are in win-now mode, the Royals are trying to get there and the Twins can't be that bad again (right?) - but you've got a team that has two superstars and a good, young core of pitching. I don't think you have to take a big step back. You might have to get a little creative, but there still aren't world beaters in the division. I think the Guardians can compete if they make some good moves coming out of the lockout.

Mr. John (Cleveland):

    Do you think any of the Top 10 are really championship caliber players ?

Teddy Cahill: Yes

Teddy Cahill: Thank you everyone for your questions. If you enjoyed this, make sure to pre-order your prospect handbook, which you can do here at Plenty more fun to be had diving into all the reports and analysis in the handbook!

Evan Carter (Photo By Ben Ludeman Texas Rangers Getty Images) (1)

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