8 prospects you’ll see in a Cleveland Guardians uniform next year
As the Cleveland Indians are set to become the Cleveland Guardians this offseason, they will also be looking towards a 2022 that is quite promising. With a rotation that should finally be healthy and one of the deepest minor league systems full of prospects ready to break into the Majors, Cleveland is setting itself up to contend next season and beyond.
Here are eight of those players you’ll likely see in a Cleveland Guardians uniform next year:
At just 21 years old, Arias has put up solid numbers at Triple-A Columbus in 2021, hitting .272/.343/.425 with 10 home runs, 32 RBIs and a 106 wRC+. Acquired as one of the key pieces in the Mike Clevinger trade with the Padres, Arias is known even more for his defense, which Cleveland is in desperate need of at shortstop.
Arias could very well start 2022 with the Cleveland Guardians, and absolutely should, but if for some incredible reason he doesn’t, he certainly won’t be spending much time in Columbus; there is already not much left for him to prove there.
Freeman, 22, has all the tools to be a great hitter in the Majors. He’s a career .319 hitter in the minor leagues, batting .323/.372/.470 with Double-A Akron this season. He doesn’t showcase much power, but the Guardians would absolutely take a guy who hits for average; he’d look especially good in the second spot in the order, right after the newly acquired Myles Straw. Freeman will likely start out at Triple-A Columbus thanks to Cleveland’s continued glut of middle infielders, but he’ll find his way to the Majors at some point in 2022.
Jones is an interesting case in that if he was hitting better in Columbus, he’d most likely already be in Cleveland. But he’s only had a .224/.343/.413 line with 11 home runs, 43 RBIs, 24 doubles, and a 104 wRC+. Jones, 23, also carries 112 strikeouts in 312 at-bats.
Aside from the average and strikeouts, those stats aren’t too shabby at all; he just needs a little more seasoning in Columbus. It’s hard to say how much development was pushed back because of the lost 2020 season, but it would probably serve the Guardians well to give Jones some extra time in Triple-A next year, or at least until he makes it impossible for them not to call him up. Best of all, Jones can play the outfield.
For all the talk of Cleveland’s seemingly hundreds of other infield prospects, Palacios (who also plays outfield) has somewhat flown under the radar, even as he’s hit a combined .296/.389/.476 with six home runs, 42 RBIs, and 29 doubles splitting time between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus (he was called up at the end of July).
Palacios, 24, was a third-round pick in the 2018 draft and was considered a solid prospect , but other names have surpassed him as he lost his 2019 season to a shoulder injury and his 2020 season to COVID. But now, Palacios has picked up where he left off and should see Cleveland in 2022.
Battenfield was acquired at the trade deadline this year in a deal with the Rays that sent Jordan Luplow and pitcher DJ Johnson to Tampa Bay. Battenfield, 24, has already made three starts at Double-A Akron and has a 2.16 ERA in 15 starts (17 total appearances) among three minor-league teams this season.
If this year has shown us anything, it’s that you really can never have too much pitching, and with college pitchers often getting fast-tracked to the Majors, you can expect to see Battenfield in a Guardians uniform at some point in 2022.
Speaking of college pitchers, Cody Morris is knocking on Cleveland’s door as well. Morris, who will be 25 to start next season, was a seventh-round pick out of the University of South Carolina in 2018 and has found his way to Columbus this year, where he has given up just one run in 12 innings.
Morris has a fastball that has reportedly topped out in the upper 90s, along with a slider and changeup, so there is potential for either the rotation or bullpen, depending on Cleveland’s needs moving forward.
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The 23-year-old Gonzalez was hitting a robust .330/.367/.601 with 13 home runs and 41 RBIs in Double-A Akron before getting the call up to Columbus, where he has hit .307 with another six home runs in 150 at-bats. Assuming he can cut down the strikeouts and walk a bit more after getting used to better pitching, Gonzalez should certainly find his way into what is quickly becoming a crowded Guardians outfield.
This would truly be a long shot to happen, but let’s just say Noel starts the 2022 season at Double-A Akron (he’s already been called up to High-A Lake County). And let’s just say Noel, 20, continues to tear up Double-A pitching the way he has everywhere else, earning an early-season call-up to Triple-A Columbus. Not out of the question at all, and once he’s there, anything is possible.
That would be an incredible rocket through the farm system that Guardians fans aren’t used to, but the right-handed Noel projects as a power-hitting first baseman who has recently been able to cut down on his strikeouts. He probably won’t be hitting .400 everywhere he goes, but Noel is playing so well he could even find himself on the 40-man roster as soon as this offseason.