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Revisiting the 2023 Guardians MLB Draft class after the conclusion of the minor league season.
Best Pure Hitter: Catcher Ralphy Velazquez (1) has an advanced swing that he pairs with a disciplined approach. He had a solid pro debut, albeit in just six games. He hit .348/.393/.739 with two home runs and three doubles, while showing strong swing decisions and rarely missing within the strike zone. The Guardians value bat-to-ball skills and the ability to control the zone and both first baseman CJ Kayfus (3) and catcher Cooper Ingle (4) possess those traits and showed an ability to translate them to pro ball.
Best Power Hitter: Even with an advanced approach and potential above-average hit tool, Velazquez’s power might be more impressive. He has a chance for plus power and showed great top-end exit velocities. The Guardians were also encouraged by the impact that Kayfus (3) showed in pro ball, and between 62 games with Miami and 17 with Low-A Lynchburg, he did homer 17 times in 79 games—not too shabby for a corner profile who needed power entering the spring season.
Fastest Runner: Cleveland has a few candidates for this category, though outfielders Tommy Hawke (6) and Jonah Advincula (8) are the best of the bunch and are either 60- or 70-grade runners depending on when you see them. Outfielder Barrett Riebock (17) is also a plus runner and stole 42 bags this spring, while shortstops Alex Mooney (7) and Christian Knapczyk (5) can move around pretty well too.
Best Defensive Player: Hawke’s (6) speed and all-out style of play should give him a chance to be an above-average defender in center field. Ingle (4) wasn’t known as a terrific defender in college, more of a solid one, but he has already earned positive reviews for his work behind the dish in pro ball, and each of Knapczyk (5), Mooney (7), Advincula (8), Riebock (17) and catcher Johnny Tincher (11) profile as up-the-middle defenders to various degrees.
Best Fastball: Lefthander Alexander Clemmey (2) has a huge fastball from the left side and has been up to 99 mph after signing. He should be regularly in the triple digits in the near future, but righthander Andrew Walters (2s) has had one of the best fastballs in college baseball for several years now, thanks to mid/upper-90s velocity and elite riding life from a low release point. Both could be 70-grade heaters.
Best Secondary Pitch: Clemmey (2) flashed a plus curveball as an amateur and the Guardians have already gotten him throwing the pitch with more velocity and intent. It’s probably turning into more of a mid-80s slider that could be a devastating pitch based on its movement and speed. Other candidates could be above-average changeups from both lefthander Matthew Wilkinson (10) and lefthander Jacob Bresnahan (13). Righthander Jay Driver (9) flashed an above-average breaking ball at times and that pitch has had solid reviews in pro ball.
Best Athlete: Mooney (7) isn’t the best straight line runner in this draft class, but his blend of power, speed and body control could make him the best bet. Similarly, Clemmey has a great combination of mobility and power on the mound that creates exciting upside in a player development system like Cleveland’s. A later pick who could be a dark horse for this category is righthander Keegan Zinn (12) who was also a center fielder and basketball player in high school who has excellent mobility testing.
Most Intriguing Background: Wilkinson (10) is an extra-large lefthander with a 6-foot-1, 270-pound frame. He has an 80-grade nickname and goes by “Tugboat.” Wilkinson was the 2023 NJCAA D1 pitcher of the year after posting a 1.07 ERA in 84 innings and striking out 136 batters compared to just 19 walks. The year prior, ‘Tugboat’ helped push Central Arizona JC to a world series and he also pitched for Team Canada’s 12U national team back in 2015 and punched out 16 batters in a five-inning game.
Closest To The Majors: Walters (2s) has yet to make his pro debut, but he is an advanced strike thrower and has been one of the best college relievers in baseball for years now. He could move quickly in the pen. Two other polished candidates include Kayfus (3) and Ingle (4).
Best Day Three Pick (Or NDFA): The Guardians are excited about the upside potential of Bresnahan (13), who was their big money signing on day three for $375,000. He has physical projection in the tank, a solid foundation of athleticism and strike throwing ability and feel for a changeup beyond his years. Another candidate is high school righthander Javier Torres (NDFA).