Cleveland’s 40-man roster is loaded with pitching prospects, but who are a few beyond the 40-man to pay attention to this season?
Major League Baseball has reached a dangerous point with the Players Association, and with just under two weeks until spring training is set to begin, it appears it won’t be starting on time. The next step is the regular season, which isn’t in jeopardy just yet – though things are starting to get a little too close for comfort.
With that being said, it’s important to note that the minor-league teams will still play as scheduled. The majority of minor leaguers will be reporting to their respective camps soon, although if a player is on a 40-man roster, they are technically considered part of MLB and can’t report to spring training until a new CBA is agreed upon.
With that in mind, let’s look at a few pitching prospects to watch who aren’t currently on the Guardians’ 40-man roster. And if the season does get delayed, these pitchers could all be forced to grow up quickly since the organization’s depth could be somewhat limited for a while.
3 Non-40-Man Cleveland Guardians Pitching Prospects to Watch
RHP Daniel Espino
Espino was a first-round pick in 2019 out of high school, born in Panama and moved to Georgia when he was a sophomore. He was picked due to a strong performance at a showcase circuit and has established himself as the top pitching prospect in the Guardians’ organization. He can hit triple digits with the fastball, but averages 95-97 mph. His breaking stuff is also up to par with a nasty slider and curveball.
His slider is his second pitch, topping out in the low 80s. His curveball tops out in the high 70s. He is also working on a changeup, but he needs to refine his control. In 2021, he walked 39 batters in 91 innings, which is equal to almost four walks per nine innings. His strikeout numbers were off the charts with 152, which equals over 15 strikeouts per nine innings. These numbers are combined in Low-A and High-A last season, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him start in Double-A once the season begins. Espino projects as a future top-of-the-rotation arm with a floor as a dominant closer.
RHP Gavin Williams
Williams was a first-round pick in the 2021 draft out of East Carolina. Injuries derailed him the past two seasons, but in 2021 he was able to show he still has plenty of promise. Last season, he made fifteen starts and pitched 88 innings. He was 10-1 with an ERA under two and 130 strikeouts. He did so well, he was named the American Athletic Conference Pitcher of the year and also received All-American honors. He can also hit triple digits, and his average fastball is the same as Espino’s. His pitch mix is similar to Espino’s as well, with a curveball in the 70s and a slider that can reach the mid 80s. He also has the changeup, which is better than Espino’s. It’s difficult to say where he will start, but rookie ball or Low-A seems likely. If all goes well, he profiles as a mid-rotation starter in the big leagues.
RHP Tanner Burns
Burns was originally drafted by the New York Yankees in the 37th round in 2017, but he elected to go to college. He attended Auburn University after winning the Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year and National Player of the Year. In his final season at Auburn, he pitched just four games and had 32 strikeouts in 22 innings. He was selected 36th overall in 2020. His fastball tops out at 97 mph and routinely sits between 92-94 mph. His breaking pitch can be defined as a slurve when it’s on. He also features a sinking changeup, which could be a useful third pitch.
Last season in High-A, he pitched 75 innings with an ERA of 3.57. He had 91 strikeouts and 29 walks. With his size being under six feet, durability is a concern; Burns tends to wear down at the end of the season. His ceiling could be a second or third starter in MLB. And right now, with the 40-man roster guys possibly being out of the picture to start the year, he could start the season in Double-A.