The Cleveland Guardians - while not officially - are essentially out of the postseason hunt. It is what it is, but now it's time to change our expectations on September (a topic discussed on the most recent episode of the California Penal League podcast) and hope the Guardians use it as a proving ground for the team's young players.
As the rosters expand slightly in September, one prospect who deserves a look with the big-league club is outfielder George Valera.
Why the Cleveland Guardians Should Bring Up George Valera in September
Valera, 22, has had a rough 2023 for the most part, as he has been sidelined with wrist and hamstring injuries, along with a six-game suspension for getting into a brawl against the Nashville Sounds.
But since July 1, there have been some encouraging signs from one of the organization's top prospects (even with that slight six-game interruption). In that span, Valera is slashing .234/.370/.427 with six home runs and 19 RBI, along with 27 walks to 40 strikeouts. A .288 BABIP suggests there is some runway as well for a higher average. But the truth is, the Guardians need someone who possesses serious home-run power and is willing to sell out for it at times. The good news here, though, is that Valera has a good sense of the strike zone and is more than willing to take his walks as well.
There's a good chance there will be a big adjustment period for Valera at the major-league level. He's got serious power, but a serious penchant for striking out - his career strikeout rate in the minors is just a touch under 31%. That doesn't necessarily spell doom, but why not get him acclimated to the majors now? The more at-bats for Valera heading into 2024 the better, because the Guardians will no doubt be counting on him at some point next season.
The Guardians desperately - and I mean desperately - need more hitters in their lineup who can put the ball over the fence. With just 101 home runs on the season, Cleveland is last in the majors by a mile, trailing the Washington Nationals by 18. It's a disgraceful display of home-run power and it's been one of a few reasons why the Guardians' season is now circling the drain.
Right now, unless Josh Naylor goes off in his return from injury, there's a good chance the Guardians will only have one hitter accomplishing that feat this season (obviously José Ramírez, who currently sits at 21 homers). The Guardians don't need Valera to be the second coming of Jim Thome, but they do need him to do what he does best: hit dingers. And the time to see if he can do it at the major-league level is now.