The minor league season was back in 2021 after missing the 2020 season due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Players graduating from last year’s list: Owen Miller, Ernie Clement, Sam Hentges, and Daniel Johnson, have created room for some new blood to enter the fray. There has been a lot of movement since the start of last season as the Guardians continue to stock one of the deepest farm systems in the league. Let’s take a look at the 2022 Top 50.
Tier 1: Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years
Tier 2: Players with an above-average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have a high likelihood of making the majors but provide minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players of interest, worth keeping an eye on, who have an outside chance of making their team’s 40-man roster
Levels listed for each player are the highest levels player reached in 2021
1. George Valera, OF, 21, AA
Tremendous plate discipline and power potential puts Valera at the top of this list entering 2022. He put up 19 HR and 66 BB with a .910 OPS in 2021. Valera could be knocking on the door to Cleveland as early as late 2022.
2. Tyler Freeman, SS, 22, AA
A shoulder injury ended Freeman’s 2021 season after 41 games. He has done nothing but hit since arriving in 2017 posting a career .319 Milb average including .323 in 2021. Freeman may be the best pure hitter in the system.
3. Daniel Espino, RHP, 20, High-A
Espino’s overpowering stuff makes him the Guardians #1 pitching prospect heading into 2022. Will need to work on his control as he progresses to the next level. He struck out 152 batters for a 14.9 K/9 rate while allowing a .192 opponents average in 2021.
4. Brayan Rocchio, SS, 20, AA
The do-it-all Rocchio is most likely slated to be the Guardians SS of the future. He hit .277 with 15 HR & 63 RBI in 2021. Rocchio should begin 2022 at AA but a AAA promotion won’t be far off.
5. Gabriel Arias, SS, 21, AAA
2022 should be interesting for Arias as he has a shot to open the season with the Guardians big league club. His defense is well above average and his offense is developing nicely. He held his own as a 21-year old at AAA in 2021 hitting .284.
6. Nolan Jones, 3B/OF, 23, AAA
Jones played much better in the 2nd half of 2021 after a very slow start to the season. He should get a chance to compete for an OF spot with the Guardians in 2022.
7. Jhonkensy Noel, 3B, 20, High-A
Noel broke out offensively in 2021 hitting 19 HR in only 70 games including a pair of 485’+ bombs in one game. His power potential is off the charts. Noel posted a sparkling 1.005 OPS as well this past season.
8. Gavin Williams, RHP, 22, College
Williams, the hard-throwing 2021 1st round pick, should make a quick run through the Guardians system and could reach Cleveland by 2024.
9. Bo Naylor, C, 21, AA
Naylor struggled mightily at the plate in 2021 but continued his gold glove potential work behind the plate. Still plenty of time to develop his offensive game at only 21 years old.
10. Angel Martinez, SS, 19, Low-A
The offensive numbers aren’t flashy but the potential is. Solid defender with a high baseball IQ and good power potential.
11. Logan T. Allen, LHP, 23, AA
Allen is coming off a stellar 2021 season in which he went 9-0 with a 2.26 ERA over two levels. His advanced stuff could see him in Cleveland at some point in 2022.
12. Jose Tena, SS, 20, AA
Tena had a power surge in 2021 hitting 16 HR in 107 games after hitting only 2 in his first 95 games in Milb. He was rewarded for his solid 2021 season with a 40-man roster spot and a stint in the Arizona Fall League, where he was one of the top hitters.
13. Bryan Lavastida, C, 23, AAA
Lavastida continued to hit (.289) at three levels in 2021 starting out at High-A and reaching Triple-A. There is no doubting his offensive ability while his defense is still developing.
14. Richie Palacios. 2B/OF, 24, AAA
Palacios had an amazing offensive season in 2021 considering he missed all of 2019 & 2020. He hit .297 with 33 doubles and 58 BB combined at the AA & AAA levels. Could get a look in Cleveland sometime in 2022.
15. Cody Morris, RHP, 25, AAA
Morris dominated the AA & AAA levels in 2021 posting a 1.62 ERA with a 13.72 K/9 rate. He looks to be next man up for the Guardians rotation.
16. Oscar Gonzalez, OF, 23, AA
Gonzalez was re-signed by the Guardians on November 7th after becoming a minor league free agent. He led the Guardians affiliates in 2021 with 31 HR and 83 RBI.
17. Tanner Burns, RHP, 23, High-A
Burns had a solid first pro season at the High A level and seemed to get better as the season progressed. He posted a 3.57 ERA with a 10.82 K/9 rate for the season.
18. Peyton Battenfield, RHP, 24, AA
Battenfield was solid at the AA level after coming over to the Guardians in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. Mid 90’s fastball with great command of his pitches. Posted a 2.53 ERA with 11.45 K/9 and 1.66 BB/9 rates.
19. Konnor Pilkington, LHP, 24, AA
Pilkington pitched very well at the AA level after coming over from the White Sox in a trade for Cesar Hernandez. In 2021 he posted a 190/73 K/9 rate while allowing only a .178 opponents average.
20. Xzavion Curry, RHP, 23, AA
Curry burst onto the scene in his first pro season starting at the Low A level and finishing the season pitching in the AA Eastern League Championship series. He finished 2021 8-1 with a 2.30 ERA along with impressive 11.33 K/9 and 1.47 BB/9 rates.
21. Steven Kwan, OF, 24, AAA
Kwan has hit at every level including .311 in his first AAA stint this past season. He will have a chance to compete for an OF spot with the Guardians in 2022.
22. Ethan Hankins, RHP, 21, DNP
Hankins spent the 2021 season recovering from Tommy John surgery and is not expected to take the mound until July or August 2022.
23. Alexfri Planez, OF, 20, High-A
Planez finished 2021 strong after a slow start and displayed tremendous power potential. He posted 40 XBH (19 2B, 5 3B, 16 HR) in 2021.
24. Isaiah Greene, OF, 20, Rookie (ACL)
Greene had a solid first season of pro ball in the Arizona Complex League hitting .289 with 35 BB.
25. Petey Halpin, OF, 19, Low-A
The speedy Halpin held his own as a 19-year old at the Low A level in 2021. He hit .294 with 14 doubles and 6 triples.
26. Aaron Bracho, SS, 20, High-A
27. Doug Nikhazy, LHP, 22, College
28. Joey Cantillo, LHP, 22, AA
29. Tommy Mace, RHP, 23, College
30. Tobias Myers, RHP, 23, AAA
31. Carson Tucker, SS, 23, Rookie (ACL)
32. Nick Mikolajchak, RHP, 24, AA
33. Jerson Ramirez , RHP, 23, High-A
34. Josh Wolf , RHP, 21, Low-A
35. Carlos Vargas, RHP, 22, DNP
36. Lenny Torres Jr., RHP, 21, Low-A
37. Dayan Frias, IF, 19, Rookie (ACL)
38. Jorge Burgos, OF, 20, Low-A
39. Milan Tolentino, SS, 20, Low-A
40. Aaron Davenport, RHP, 21, Low-A
Lots of talent in Tier 4 for the Guardians. The highly touted Bracho will look to bounce back after a 2021 full of injury and inconsistencies. Nikhazy and Mace look to make their mark as they make their pro debuts in 2022. Myers should push for a bullpen spot in Cleveland. Frias and Burgos are two very talented youngsters to keep an eye on. Vargas is coming back from Tommy John surgery which sidelined him in 2021. Davenport had an impressive pro debut between the ACL and Low A ball.
41. Will Dion, LHP, 21, Low-A
42. Will Benson, OF, 23, AAA
43. Jose Fermin, 2B, 22, AAA
44. Junior Sanquintin, SS, 19, Rookie (ACL)
45. Gabriel Rodriguez, SS, 19, Low-A
46. Tanner Bibee, RHP, 22, DNP
47. Luis Durango Jr., OF, 18, Rookie (ACL)
48. Jake Fox, SS, 18, Rookie (ACL)
49. Mason Hickman, RHP, 23, High-A
50. Will Brennan, OF, 23, AA
51. Jonathan Rodriguez, OF, 22, High-A
Dion was unhittable (12 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 21 K) between two levels in his pro debut. Bibee will make his pro debut in 2022. Durango is a speedster who led the Arizona Complex League in stolen bases while hitting .308 as an 18-year old. Fox hit .405 in 42 at bats to start his career in the ACL. Brennan and Rodriguez are two under-the-radar prospects who had solid 2021 seasons.