Cleveland Guardians: A look at the loaded Akron RubberDucks

Bo Naylor, left, and George Valera in dugout before they are interviewed during the Akron RubberDucks Media Day at Canal Park in Akron.Akr Ducks Season Opener 08 03
Bo Naylor, left, and George Valera in dugout before they are interviewed during the Akron RubberDucks Media Day at Canal Park in Akron.Akr Ducks Season Opener 08 03 /

The Akron RubberDucks, the Guardians’ Double-A affiliate, are a loaded team full of talent that will one day do plenty of damage in the majors.

The Cleveland Guardians’ farm system will cause harm to other teams with their skill set now and, in the future, once some of them make the MLB. In a few recent games against the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate, the Somerset Patriots, these talents were on full display.

The Akron RubberDucks split those games, but they’ve both been hard-fought one-run games. In the first game of the series it was the RubberDucks with a comeback to force extras and win, while on June 8th it was a 2-1 loss where Akron starter Joey Cantillo carried a perfect game through 4 1/3 innings. This RubberDucks team no doubt has several players that will ultimately make an impact with the Guardians.

To start, let’s look at the RubberDucks’ leadoff hitter, catcher Bo Naylor. He of course is the brother of Guardians first baseman Josh Naylor, but he’s making a name for himself. He is Cleveland’s 15th-ranked prospect and could arrive in MLB as early as next season. With the Guardians’ poor catching situation, why not him? On the season, Naylor has a batting average of .280 with an OPS of .920. He also has six home runs, 21 RBIs and 11 stolen bases. For a catcher, he has a unique skill set, being able to lead off with his speed.

Next up is their second hitter, shortstop Brayan Rocchio. He is the Guardians’ fourth-ranked prospect and 76th in MLB’s top 100. He’s gotten off to a slow start with the bat, but has also stolen seven bases on the season. His expected arrival to the big leagues is also sometime next season, but it’s clear he’ll have to pick up his bat – his minor-league numbers in the past suggest he certainly will.

The last hitter is Akron’s third hitter, outfielder George Valera. He is Cleveland’s second-ranked prospect and 41st in MLB’s top 100. Unlike Rocchio, he has hit the ground running in 2022 with nine home runs, 38 RBIs and an OPS of .887. His arrival to the big leagues could also be sometime next season, and with the Guardians’ fluid outfield situation, it’s certainly realistic that it happens.

On the pitching side, Cantillo is not considered a top prospect at the moment, but he should be. He is a very underrated lefty who just won Eastern League pitcher of the month for May. During that span he went 2-0 and didn’t allow a run in 22 innings while striking out 33 batters. Last week against Somerset, he was lights out until he gave a hit and a walk in the sixth, got an out, and was then pulled. Two runs ended up scoring and he struck out five batters. It was still a very strong outing against a formidable Patriots lineup.

Cleveland’s best prospect is right-handed pitcher Daniel Espino. He has unfortunately been sidelined with knee soreness since the end of April. He is the 11th-ranked MLB prospect and had 35 strikeouts in 18 innings with an ERA of 2.45 before his injury. Once he returns, he should help the RubberDucks secure a postseason berth. All in all, Guardian fans have a lot of young talent to look forward to.