Second Core Player for the Cleveland Guardians; George Valera – OF
Wait, two outfielders on a list about Cleveland’s future? Must be a new Cleveland Guardians thing. George Valera has produced a seldom talked about, but definitely not unnoticed, meteoric rise through the ranks of Cleveland’s farm system and prospect rankings.
Valera, at just 20-years-old, was recently promoted to Double-A Akron as well as promoted to the Indians’ No. 2 overall prospect according to MLB.com, but he arguably may be Cleveland’s best prospect.
The pandemic season in 2020 wiped out Valera’s age 19 season, so before 2021 began Valera’s last live game action was as an 18-year-old split between short season Mahoning Valley and A-Ball Lake County. He began 2021 with now High-A Lake County, slashing .256/.430/.548 with 16 home runs and 55 walks in 63 games before being promoted to Double-A Akron.
Valera’s hit tool is obviously still developing, having a career .248 batting average in 128 minor league contests, but what really sticks out the most is a player who’s never had an OBP below .336 at any level during any stint (excluding six games with Lake County in 2019).
Defensively Valera has moved all across the outfield, committing a total of five errors so far in his minor league career, and has plenty of time left on his developmental timeline to clean it up. Valera has .300 batting average upside with potential for added power, potentially giving Cleveland an impact bat in the middle of the lineup from an outfielder for the first time since Michael Brantley departed after 2017. He should be a cornerstone player for this organization, roaming a corner outfield spot alongside Myles Straw, hopefully as early as next September.