Since the start of the 2021 campaign, the constant talk around the Cleveland Guardians has been about the abundance of talent within the organization's farm system. More recently, the team has greatly heightened its depth at the outfield position.
With the likes of outfielders Chase DeLauter, Jaison Chourio, Jake Fox, and countless others flooding the minor-league teams of the Guardians, the question starts to arise: Where does George Valera sit in the rotation for a spot within the big leagues?
The Guardians opted to bring in Valera in July of 2017 after he became one of the most sought-after power hitters internationally at the time. Since signing him over six years ago, the expectations around the organization and his development into a superstar have been high.
Early on, the Guardians utilized the young power hitter at the Double-A level with the Akron RubberDucks. During his time there, he batted over .260, knocked 110 hits, 20 doubles, three triples, and 18 home runs to work his way into the MLB All-Star Futures Game in the 2022 campaign.
His efforts would be noticed behind the scenes and the Guardians would place the 22-year-old in Triple-A with the Columbus Clippers. However, that is where the struggles started to begin.
He would be ruled out of numerous outings due to injury. Those injuries would occur to his wrist and hamstring, adding more concern to his reliability in staying healthy. Since joining the organization, he has not completed a full season without being injured.
Alongside injury concerns, Valera lost his temper in a contest against the Nashville Sounds resulting in punches being thrown at the opposition's catcher. This altercation resulted in Valera having to serve a six-game suspension.
He wrapped up this past July with a clean .234/.370/.427 slashing line to go along with six home runs and 19 RBI. His power has consistently shifted to each level he has been promoted to, proving that while his lines and stats may drop, the real catalyst to his game remains.
In his career, he has hit 63 home runs and batted in 226 runs. If those numbers can translate to the majors, the Guardians will be in good hands.
Is 2024 the year of the George Valera major-league experiment?
The simple answer? It has to be.
But the more elaborate answer is hard. The Guardians, just like they always have, seemingly have prospects oozing from each crack and crevice of the farm system.
One player who has been rumored to potentially get time in the big leagues is DeLauter. With similar, but better, statistics and attributes as Valera, DeLauter offers plenty of major-league-ready qualities and the organization no doubt wants to see what the first-round pick could offer sooner than later.
Recent rumors suggest he will be a focal point for the organization to monitor throughout spring training, with the chance to place him in Triple-A or the majors after just one season of pro ball being very realistic.
That means Valera has to stand out and find his way onto the major-league roster quickly to prove himself and find a spot where he'll stick moving forward. The most likely path as of right now is right field, where the Guardians still don't have a reliable everyday option (though the same could be argued about center field as well - things aren't super great in the outfield right now).
Nonetheless, at the age of 23, Valera still has a bright future ahead of him, and his talent will be showcased in the majors in due time. The only question is: Will it be in 2024?