The Cleveland Guardians are on a constant, desperate hunt for power, and while it hasn't recently materialized at the major-league level, there are some compelling players in the minors who could potentially provide it.
First baseman/designated hitter (and maybe right fielder if we're really dreaming) Jhonkensy Noel is just 22 years old now and playing in Triple-A Columbus, where he has begun to display the prodigious power that makes him such an enticing prospect. In 2023, Noel hit 27 home runs and 23 doubles at Triple-A, where he spent the entire season. As you might expect for a 21-year-old at that level, his experience wasn't without its growing pains. Noel struggled at times, finishing with a .220/.303/420 line and 145 strikeouts in 585 plate appearances.
He did finish strong, with a September line of .247/.333/.507 with six home runs and 15 RBI.
Noel is a classic boom-or-bust player at the moment, and profiles much like other Cleveland sluggers of the past, like Bobby Bradley, Franmil Reyes, and even what Oscar Gonzalez quickly became. When it comes to guys like Noel - or George Valera, Johnathan Rodridguez, etc. - the question becomes what their swing selection ultimately ends up being. It doomed Gonzalez - will it doom this next crop of prospects?
Currently, Noel is hanging out on the Guardians' 40-man roster, and though he is young, time is likely running out to see if he'll be able to adjust his approach at the plate and be more consistent. Like many before him, Noel has such tantalizing raw power, but how will he adjust to even better pitching? One silver lining is that he only struck out roughly 25% of the time in 2023 (down from 27% in 2022) - in today's game, that will absolutely play at the major-league level, especially if we're talking about 30-homer potential.
There is no question Noel works hard, is continuing to get better, and is still very young to be playing in Triple-A. It's not a foregone conclusion that he'll flame out at that level or get to the majors and have limited success like players of a similar profile before him. But 2024 is going to be a big year for Noel to see what kind of progress he can make. The Guardians clearly see something in him to protect him on the 40-man roster; now he just has to reach that level consistently.