5 Guardians prospects named to Baseball America's Top 100 list for 2022

·3 min read
RubberDucks shortstop Tyler Freeman is ranked as the top prospect in the Guardians' organization by Baseball America. [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal]
RubberDucks shortstop Tyler Freeman is ranked as the top prospect in the Guardians' organization by Baseball America. [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal]

The baseball world is stuck in a lockout, but the prospect lists must go on.

Five Guardians prospects were named to Baseball America's Top 100 list this week, including infielder Tyler Freeman (63), pitcher Daniel Espino (65), infielder Brayan Rocchio (66), outfielder George Valera (68) and shortstop Gabriel Arias (100).

Freeman, 22 and ranked as the club's top prospect by MLBPipeline.com, hit .323 with a .372 on-base percentage, two home runs, 14 doubles, two triples, 19 RBIs and four stolen bases in 41 games with the RubberDucks before having his season ended after undergoing surgery to repair the labrum in his left shoulder.

The expectation is that Freeman will be ready for spring training, or whenever teams again report for baseball following the end of the lockout.

"That's the hope. He's actually out in Arizona rehabbing with our group out there and continues to make good strides," Guardians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti said in November. "So we expect him to be ready for spring training."

Espino, 21, in 2021 went a combined 3-8 with a 3.73 ERA, 1.124 WHIP and 152 strikeouts in 91⅔ innings between Lynchburg and Lake County and limited opposing hitters to a .192 average.

RubberDucks infielder Brayan Rocchio is ranked among the top 100 prospects in baseball by Baseball America. [Phil Masturzo/ Beacon Journal]
RubberDucks infielder Brayan Rocchio is ranked among the top 100 prospects in baseball by Baseball America. [Phil Masturzo/ Beacon Journal]

Rocchio, also 21 and one of the many talented middle infielders in the Guardians' farm system, last season earned his promotion to Double-A Akron and hit .294 with an .865 OPS, four home runs, 13 doubles, four triples, 30 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 203 plate appearances.

Outfielder George Valera is one of five Guardians prospects to make Baseball America's top 100. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]
Outfielder George Valera is one of five Guardians prospects to make Baseball America's top 100. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]

Valera, 21, has been the bright spot amongst Guardians outfield prospects. In 2021, which ended with Valera in Akron, he hit a combined .260 with a .405 on-base percentage and .505 slugging percentage, including 19 home runs, five doubles, four triples, 65 RBIs and 11 stolen bases.

Arias — you guessed it, he's 21 — just cracked the Top 100 list after hitting .284 with an .802 OPS to go with 13 home runs, 29 doubles, three triples, 55 RBIs and five stolen bases in Triple-A Columbus last season.

Freeman, Rocchio and Arias are contributing factors to a growing logjam amongst talented middle infielders in the Guardians' system, so much so that the club has had a need to find alternate positions in order to get all of them at-bats at varying levels. It also made the roster crunch prior to the Rule 5 Draft protection deadline even muddier.

"At least in the near term, we think we will continue to have opportunities for each of them based upon where they are and where we expect them to contribute next year," Antonetti said. "I do think you’ll probably see us with a few of those guys continue to give them opportunities at other positions to increase the flexibility and opportunities to contribute at the major league level for us.

"We view that as a good problem to have. You won’t find Mike [Chernoff] and I complaining about having too many good players at any position, especially positions as demanding as the middle-infield positions.”

Nolan Jones, ranked as the No. 3 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, was on the list in 2021 but fell off after a disastrous season in which he hit just .238 with 122 strikeouts.

Ryan Lewis can be reached at rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com. Read more about the Guardians at www.beaconjournal.com/sports/cleveland-guardians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: 5 Guardians prospects named to Baseball America's Top 100 list for 2022