Ralphy Velazquez is exploding onto the scene for the Cleveland Guardians

The Cleveland Guardians are beginning to have a logjam at the first-base position, but the question on who the future of the franchise is seems to be an easy one: Ralphy Velazquez.
Cleveland Guardians, CLE
Cleveland Guardians, CLE / Jason Miller/GettyImages

Lynchburg, VA. - Where the Single-A affiliate team of the Cleveland Guardians organization continues to uncover hidden talent. The Guardians are beginning to have a logjam at the first-base position, but the question of who the future of the franchise is seems to be an easy one: Ralphy Velazquez.

The team took him in the 1st round of the 2023 MLB June Amateur Draft with the 23rd overall selection, giving high praise to the talented youngster. Through the opening 27 games of the 2024 season with the Lynchburg Hillcats, the 18-year-old prospect has recorded an impressive .270 batting average, .352 on-base percentage, and a slugging mark of .478. 

For an individual still in his teenage years, Velazquez is showing signs of extreme promise.

In the 2024 season, he has knocked 30 hits, five doubles, and six home runs to go alongside 22 RBI. His power at the plate comes easily, as he does not need to produce a tectonic-plate-altering swing, something that will only grow   

With first baseman and players that showcase power as he does, the concern does arise on whether or not they are striking out a lot. Fortunately, he has 27 strikeouts to 22 walks, posing no real cause for negative attention just yet.

His profile on the MLB Pipeline describes him as "a disciplined hitter who recognizes pitches better than most teenagers, rarely chases them out of the strike zone, and makes repeated hard contact to all fields", something he has already showcased.

In the field

On the fielding side of things, the Guardians actually drafted him to play the catcher position, which he did for just one singular game: his debut. After that, the Hillcats moved him to first base to get the most effectiveness out of his abilities at the plate.

Prior to joining the big leagues, Velazquez did not even play catcher much, as he bounced around at other positions on the field in high school. Having little time to adjust to the position, he ultimately was moved to first base.

This spot has given him much more time to get acclimated to the new level of play in the minor leagues. His arm abilities to throw across the diamond if need be and leadership on the field make him a promising first baseman. 

Prospect rankings

Through his play on the field and contributions for the Hillcats this season, Velazquez has officially marched his way into the MLB Pipeline's Top 100 list. As of Wednesday, May 15, he is on the fringe at the 100 spot exactly. This new placement comes after his plate game is within the top 10 of batters in the Carolina League.

His mark of six home runs and 52 total bases puts him second in the league in those categories at just 18 years of age. At the first base position, the MLB Pipeline has him as the eighth-best prospect, making him the youngest on the board by far. 

Within the Guardians organization itself, he is the fourth-ranked prospect, putting plenty of weight to his name. For reference, the only other individuals ahead of Velazquez are OF Chase DeLauter, 1B Kyle Manzardo, who was called up to the majors just days ago, and teammate OF Jason Chourio.

What should you expect?

Since he is just 18 years old, the ceiling for him is incredibly high, with some saying he can make his way up to the High-A Lake County Captains this season. After he does that, he will certainly have to try and work on what position suits him the best in the field. Being drafted as a catcher will always leave that as an option if he ever isgiven the opportunity to go back to that position. However, the more likely scenario will see him playing first base to relieve current major league first baseman Josh Naylor when the time comes.

The Guardians normally wait to bring prospects up until they are around the age of 22 or 23. For Velazquez, that would be about five years from now, making Naylor 31 at that point. Fortunately, that is not something fans have to worry about at this point, with Naylor on fire for the major league team.

With his current track record of success and his young age, time is on his side. Throughout the next three seasons, Velazquez should surely be able to make his way up to the Double-A level, with a chance at making it to the Triple-A side in Columbus as well.

Plenty of prospects fall victim to the system as they look to make their way up to the majors will Velazquez be one of them? Or will he be one of the next big teenagers to put the league on notice?