Guardians’ George Valera Ready To Provide Power Impact

Guardians outfielders ranked 29th in the majors last year in home runs. As a group, they combined for 28 homers, 34 fewer than Aaron Judge.

But help may be on the way. It’s conceivable that 22-year-old slugger George Valera could make his MLB debut in 2023.

Valera hit 24 home runs in 132 games last season, 15 for Double-A Akron and nine for Triple-A Columbus. That came after a 19-homer season at two levels in 2021.

The lefthanded-hitting Valera was the Guardians’ prized catch in the 2017 international class. Cleveland signed him for $1.3 million from the Dominican Republic, and it now appears Valera’s power and the Guardians’ lack of impact are a perfect match.

“George has demonstrated at each level that he can be selective in his swing decisions and drive the ball to all fields,” Guardians assistant general manager James Harris said. “His power is emerging and he is an exceptional teammate.”

Like many power hitters, Valera does have some quiet at-bats. He struck out nearly 26% of the time in 2022, but he balances that with a strong walk rate. In 2022 he hit .250/.353/.463.

The 6-foot, 195-pound Valera has ample experience at all three outfield spots, but his future could be in right field.

“Right field is probably where he is most comfortable,” Harris said. “but he has focused on his body and agility in the offseason to increase his versatility.”

The Guardians haven’t had a homegrown outfielder hit 20 or more home runs in a season since Manny Ramirez belted 38 in 2000. In 2022, Oscar Gonzalez became a revelation in right field and seems likely to start the season at that position this year.

But given Valera’s power, he should be a perfect fit in the lineup.

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